Government agencies: 3 ways transparent company data helps

Government agencies increasingly use data and technology to help tackle financial crime, protect the integrity of financial markets and promote a healthy business environment more widely.

A high quality and transparent dataset of all companies that exist in their jurisdiction or the wider world – like the data provided by OpenCorporates – is uniquely useful to government agencies seeking to provide regulatory oversight and investigate the activities of companies. 

Just recently for example, the Isle of Man Financial Intelligence Unit recently chose to acquire our API to help enable proactive investigations and streamline their SAR reporting process.

In this blog, we look at three key areas where government agencies benefit from transparent company data.

1. Financial crime investigations: Enabling insights

Government investigators cover a broad area of financial crime, from money laundering to sanctions breaches and tax evasion. These cases are often complicated by individuals and entities using opaque corporate structures, including shell companies, to conceal the flow of money or assets across jurisdictions.

Investigators therefore find it invaluable to have access to data, particularly as entire datasets, that identifies companies and their directors across jurisdictions the world over. This can help investigators to join the dots across borders and uncover red flags that wouldn’t otherwise be visible with siloed company registry data – and which warrant further investigation.

Government agencies are increasingly using technology and advanced analytics to leverage data for investigations. When the current Director of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office took up her role for instance, she made it a key priority to invest in new technology to improve data management

These technological tools benefit from data that has clear provenance. In a recent podcast interview, Todd Conklin, Chief Data Officer and Chief Information Officer at the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, spoke about this, and about the role of transparent company data in investigations.

2. Anti-fraud: Critical reference data

Government agencies tasked with tackling fraud need access to an authoritative account of the foundational information about companies, including their exact name, their directors and officers, their registered address and their date of incorporation. 

In the last two years alone, our transparent company data has been useful for similar anti-fraud investigations conducted by journalists: 

  • The Miami Herald found evidence indicating that US companies had successfully claimed Paycheck Protection Program loans despite being incorporated after the eligibility date of 15 February 2020.

  • An investigation by The Times found that 7,000 companies registered to only five addresses made claims to the UK’s Covid furlough scheme.

We also provided our UK data to a Data Sprint organised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority – to help them identify ways to fight Covid-related fraud.

Our data can shed light on different fraud typologies, not just Covid-related fraud schemes. One example is “phoenixing”, which is defined by the UK government as “carrying on the same business or trade successively through a series of companies where each becomes insolvent in turn”. Data on the names of company directors and when and where companies were incorporated can flag suspected examples of such schemes for further investigation.

3. Regulatory oversight: A view of the company universe at large

Any regulatory body that oversees the activities of companies in its jurisdiction – from a tax authority to a labour body – will find that transparent company data can make their operations more efficient and they’ll uncover greater insight. Their oversight will be sharpened by having a high-quality set of data on which companies exist in their jurisdiction, as well as how they connect to other jurisdictions. This can help them strengthen policy or regulatory oversight.

It’s especially critical that data on all jurisdictions can be accessed in one place. For example, company data in the US is siloed in over 50 company registries. Yet a regulator in a US state or a US federal agency may need to understand the activities of companies across multiple states. 

OpenCorporates offers fresh data from around the world in one place – so government agencies can gain greater insights quicker.

You may also be interested in…

  • Isle of Man Financial Intelligence Unit integrates OpenCorporates’ data to detect financial crime
  • How transparent company data helps identify fraud
    Read our blog on how alleged fraud of the US government’s Paycheck Protection Program schemes was exposed – with help from OpenCorporates’ data.

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