Having a public beneficial ownership register means that law enforcement, businesses, journalists, and citizens from around the world can easily access information on the beneficial ownership of companies, subject to relevant privacy laws. Having widespread third party use of data can drive up data quality, and increasing the user base beyond authorities will increase impact. For instance, publicly available beneficial ownership data can reduce the cost and complexity of due diligence and risk management for the private sector, thereby leveling the playing field and increasing competitiveness. Evidence shows that data in a public register is used much more widely when it is available without use of barriers such as registration, payment, or identification. This can be particularly important for enabling international users to access the data, for example when tracing transnational links between companies.
Disclosure and publication of beneficial ownership information has legitimate public interest purposes, and can be compliant with data protection and privacy legislation. This can be seen by the current beneficial ownership systems in operation globally, as well as the analysis of the rationale and risks of publishing data about people who are beneficial owners. In practice, this means that the fields of data that are collected and published, (including identifiers) should be developed in the context of local legislation, while maximising availability of information that supports effective data use.
Many jurisdictions around the world are considering implementing public registers of benefcial ownership. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions by policymakers and implementers about public benefcial ownership data.
This is a research report from OpenOwnership, The B Team and The Engine Room in which we consider the legal implications of public beneficial ownership data to the public, evaluated from both the perspective of the companies holding that information and the authorities requiring it to be disclosed publicly, and the relationship with data protection and privacy laws.