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Is a new global standard in sight?

The week in corruption, 8 January 2021

Photo: Thomas Hawk on Flickr

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Transparency Int'l

One week into the new year, a lot has happened on Capitol Hill.

Before this week's siege of the US Capitol by pro-Trump extremists – an assault on democracy incited by the President himself – the country’s legislators had achieved the most significant anti-corruption reform in a generation.

On 1 January, the US Congress passed the historic Corporate Transparency Act into law, effectively banning anonymous shell companies in the country. The bill’s passage – which Transparency International’s US office helped to craft – marks the culmination of over a decade of civil society campaigning and coalition-building.

This momentous win should pave the way for a new global standard on beneficial ownership transparency.

We are inviting businesses, academia, civil society and other stakeholders to take a stand and help make anonymous companies a thing of the past everywhere by joining our call for public access to beneficial ownership information.

Transparency in company ownership for the common good

Appeal to UNGASS 2021

The letter – currently supported by over 200 signatories – will contribute to the preparatory process of the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption, UNGASS, scheduled for June.

And when country delegates gather in New York in six months for UNGASS 2021, the US government will be led by a new president. Cracking down on global corruption and illicit finance were among the incoming president Joe Biden’s early election promises. In particular, he pledged to lead international efforts to bring transparency to the global financial system. This could not be timelier.

The US is now catching up with our allies in the European Union and elsewhere, and can help champion transparency as a critical global standard.
Gary Kalman Director of Transparency International’s US office

The US has been one of the easiest places to set up anonymous companies – legal vehicles routinely abused for corruption, money laundering, terrorism and other grave crimes.

That's about to change. But until we have a new global standard, criminal and corrupt actors will find other jurisdictions where they can hide behind companies that exist only on paper.

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