What the German company data tells us so far

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You might have noticed that last week OpenCorporates launched the German company data.

Bringing in the German company data was a mammoth task, as we’ve already started writing about – and we’ll be publishing more blog posts about the precise details of this in the near future. In the meantime, many eyes makes better data; if you’re using the German company data and have spotted a quality issue, be sure to flag these using our issues tracker.

With the help of Open Knowledge Deutschland, we also made this data available as an open dataset at offeneregister.de, where you can analyse networks between companies and officers – for example, this network of German digital publishing house Axel Springer.

Despite signing up to Open Government Partnership in 2016, this report by Transparency Germany shows Germany lags far behind the rest of Europe in terms of access to open data. As a result, we wanted to use this launch to show why the German government needs to open up company register data proactively – which is why we worked with some of Germany’s leading journalists to show why German company data needs to be openly available.

Outside of the journalists stories, we’ve also had an incredible response from our community, with anti-corruption NGOs, politicians, open data users proving why public records must be open data. We’ve listed these stories, some responses to the launch, and analyses of the dataset below.

The stories

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Süddeutsche Zeitung and NDR found a company connected to alleged Mafia transactions, currently under investigation in Konstanz in the south of Germany. Using data provided by OpenCorporates, the journalists identified a company registered at a private address, which even law enforcement failed to spot. While it’s not yet known if the company was used for criminal purposes, we think this shows the importance of journalists having access to structured data.

SZ also discovered lobbying by Stiftung Familienunternehmen against the German beneficial ownership register (Transparenzregister) being made publicly available in January 2017. They illustrated the real world impact of this secrecy using the example of Hannibal II, a residential property in Dortmund that was evacuated after fire safety concerns – although no one has yet found out who is responsible.

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Alongside working with Süddeutsche Zeitung on their investigation, NDR cross-referenced the OpenCorporates dataset with the Panama and Paradise Papers. In particular, they found that offshore corporate structures are often used in the real estate sector. They also discovered a company farm in Pullach, near Munich, where more than 1000 companies are registered.

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Continuing the property theme, CORRECTIV combined OpenCorporates German data with that from Malta, Luxembourg, the Bahamas, and other offshore jurisdictions to show that offshore property ownership in Germany is more common than previously thought. It’s possible these complex corporate structures are developed so that little tax is paid – something described by the journalists as “partly legal, partly illegal, but always hard to understand”.

Reactions

Worked on something we haven’t included? We want to hear about it! Contact us: community@opencorporates.com


Cover image by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

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The collection of the German company data has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 780247TheyBuyForYou

 

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