Using reliable identifiers for corporate vehicles in beneficial ownership data

Why publishing reliable identifiers for corporate vehicles matters

Collecting and publishing information about how companies and other corporate vehicles [4] are owned and controlled can serve many purposes. In all cases, clarity about the identity of the corporate vehicles is paramount.

BO information can be meaningful and useful in itself, but most often it will need to be brought together with information from other sources to achieve intended policy outcomes. For example, when determining eligibility for licensing or procurement processes, information from relevant corporate registries will need to be accessed and sanctions lists checked, alongside BO data. Alternatively, in instances when it is necessary to understand the major shareholders in an entity which is part of a large corporate network, the public filings of related entities will need to be examined alongside ownership data. Bringing company information together from various registers that contain basic BO information about companies and other corporate vehicles is also a critical part of verifying submitted details.

Relying simply on the name of an entity in any of these cases could lead to a false impression. It is common for different entities within the same corporate network to have similar names: for example, “BP America Inc” and “BP America Holdings Ltd”. Rebrands, mergers and partnership formations can also complicate the identification of corporate vehicles by name only. The misspelling, abbreviation or imitation of a company name, whether done accidentally or intentionally for fraudulent purposes, can also be misleading. This challenge of determining the true identity of an entity and finding information about it from different sources is well known. It has led to a proliferation of service providers and processing technologies around entity resolution promising to find matches in data and reduce duplication.

This challenge can be tackled at the root by registrars collecting and using unique, persistent and recognisable identifiers for entities in BO and company registers. When reliable identifiers, such as company registration numbers, appear in data sources, users can rely less upon the third-party data processors or technology providers whose role is to clarify the identity of business entities. [5]

An important question for those working on BO registers and those using the data they provide is, therefore, how to judge the reliability of company identifiers.


[4] Here, “corporate vehicle” refers to any legal entity or arrangement through which control or ownership of an asset can be exercised.

[5] Sayari (2023), “Guess Who: Disambiguating Entities with Identical Names”. Retrieved from:

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