Reading list: Beneficial Ownership Transparency

This is the first in an occasional series of resources for background reading on corporate transparency space (see also Impact of Open Company Data), to help new OpenCorporates staff and the wider open data community get up to speed. These are also works-in-progress, and a call for contributions; tell us what we’ve missed and what else should be covered!


What is Open Data?

Open Definition 2.1, which sets the main international standard, outlines in brief that data “is open if anyone is free to access, use, modify, and share it — subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness”.


What is beneficial ownership?


The business case for corporate transparency

  • The Business Case for Ending Anonymous Companies: Business has a critical role to play in driving for full transparency. The B Team Beneficial Ownership Working Group’s research report articulates the business case for Beneficial Ownership Transparency and, more broadly, a transparent environment for business. [by B Team]
  • B20 15 Business Use Cases for Beneficial Ownership data: Findings from a workshop with representatives from 30 businesses and organisations. The businesses involved included representatives of banking, construction, pharmaceutical, publishing, legal and professional services organisations. The use cases demonstrate that the business impetus for beneficial ownership transparency goes far beyond compliance, contributing to risk management, and even in some cases, competitive advantage. [2015]
  • CHANCING IT: How secret company ownership is a risk to investors: A report demonstrating that the criminal and corrupt are able to hide behind secret or anonymously-owned companies exposes shareholders to all types of risk—both financial and non-financial. [by Global Witness and Global Financial Integrity]
  • Building a Culture of Corporate Transparency: OpenOwnership Register Launch – OpenOwnership’s launch panel, hosted on the one year anniversary of the Panama Papers. Featuring Josema Alonoso (Web Foundation), Maggie Murphy (Transparency International), May Miller-Dawking (The B Team), and Zosia Sztykowski (OpenOwnership).
  • An Idiot’s Guide To Money Laundering: A step-by-step guide to show how easy it is to launder money these days. [by Global Witness]
  • Mystery on Baker Street: Big chunks of Baker Street are owned by a mysterious figure with close ties to a former Kazakh secret police chief accused of murder and money-laundering. [by Global Witness]
  • Undercover in New York: Global Witness goes undercover and approaches 13 New York law firms, deliberately posing as someone designed to raise red flags for money laundering. The results were shocking; all but one of the the lawyers had suggestions on how to move the funds. [by Global Witness]


Challenging privacy arguments

One of the common blockers to progressing policy on beneficial ownership transparency is resistance from businesses (as was the case in Germany) and other groups over the risks of “data misuse, kidnapping and blackmailing”. We believe data be made accessible to the public, and in an open data format. Here is some analysis on why these arguments are a smokescreen.


If you want to have a play with beneficial ownership data yourself, have a look at OpenOwnership.

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