Anonymous shell companies are used to move and hide ill-gotten gains from crime and corruption. When the limited liability company was originally created to enable innovation and risk taking, it was not mean to provide a shield to owners’ identities. Anonymity in markets can undermine market stability (for example, many institutions did not know how exposed they were to the Lehman Brother’s collapse due to complex and opaque structure), integrity, and trust.
From 2014, I worked with The B Team, an advocacy alliance of global business and civic leaders, to bring progressive business into the campaign for greater transparency in company ownership that had been initiated by groups like Global Witness, Transparency International, Global Financial Integrity and OpenCorporates.
Since then, we have built relationships and coalitions between companies, business leaders and civil society in support of transparency. B Team Leaders have engaged in advocacy at the G20, EU, US, UK, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Ukraine and to groups such as the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative. This has contributed, along with the efforts of many others, to significant commitments and reforms in the G20, EU, UK, Kenya, Ukraine, Ghana and EITI amongst other places.
Building business support involved engaging closely in business fora, such as the B20, where I worked with colleagues to lead a series of workshops in 9 countries (Morocco, Panama, France, United Kingdom, USA, Kenya, India, U.A.E, and China) with over 250 companies, and articulating the business case and avenues for action through reports, op eds, videos, animations and a dedicated website. Unilever and Natura demonstrated their leadership by pro-actively publishing their ownership information in 2016, helping to spur greater government action at the London Anti-Corruption Summit.
Global Witness have also gotten support from B Team, a group of global business leaders that includes Richard Branson and telecoms entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, that aims to catalyze a better way of doing business and campaign for more transparency. “This support is already having a transformative effect,” says Gooch. – Chairman Gooch, co-founder of Global Witness speaking at TED Global