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My 2013 Financial Transparency Person of the Year Picks

December 20, 2013

By Ann Hollingshead

Ann Hollingshead is a Financial Transparency Coalition blog contributor, whose posts appear weekly. Formerly a Junior Economist at Global Financial Integrity, Ann is now pursuing a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of California Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnHollingshead.

Last year, inspired by TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, I picked ten individuals as nominees for a “Transparency Person of the Year.” Keeping with TIME’s definition, these would be people who influenced the news, for better or worse, on issues related to financial transparency. Keeping with the tradition, here are my picks for 2013.

DAVID CAMERON. The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister has led a charge to change worldwide standards on beneficial ownership. In October of this year, the Prime Minister promised to make information on the beneficial ownership of companies available on public registries. Through these registries, the UK will require companies, trusts, and foundations, to not only gather information about their beneficial owners, but also to publish it in the public domain, allowing journalists and members of civil society to access this information and hold criminals accountable. Cameron’s efforts may inspire action in the EU and on this side of the Atlantic, creating momentum toward stronger rules on beneficial ownership worldwide.

GERALD RYLE. After a three year investigation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and their director, Gerald Ryle,  published information about the illicit and questionable dealings of ten offshore jurisdictions including the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and Singapore. The ICIJ data include details on 122,000 offshore companies or trusts, nearly 12,000 intermediaries, and 130,000 records on the people and agents who are behind these companies, either secretly or otherwise. Armed with these data, 86 investigative journalists from 46 countries mined the information and published stories about tax evaders and other criminals, in what is now the largest cross-border investigative collaboration in journalism’s history.

KOFI ANNAN. The former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Laureate is now the Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, a group of individuals who promote equitable and sustainable development for Africa. This year, the Africa Progress Panel made illicit financial flows the focus of its annual report and urged world leaders to tackle the problem. In advance of the report, Annan released a statement calling out the importance of transparence and accountability, and asking the U.S. and Europe to demand new transparency from companies that work in Africa.

SHARON BOWLES. Many individuals and organizations contributed to the European Union’s directive mandating full country-by-country reporting for the banking sector in March and commitment extend this to all sectors in May. However, Sharon Bowles—Member of the European Parliament and Chairwoman of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee—should not be ignored for her efforts to push this agenda forward. Alongside her EP colleagues Udo Bullmann and Philippe Lamberts, she persistently pushed the European Commission to mandate country-by-county reporting and launched an international campaign to highlight tax dodgers called “Own up, Pay Up!”

POPE FRANCIS. TIME’s Person of the Year also appears on my list for his work and attention toward reforming the Vatican Bank. Over the last few years, Vatican Bank has been connected to and involved in cases of money laundering, tax evasion, and other suspicious financial activities. Vatican Bank now has a commission to brief the pontiff on the bank’s operations and ensure it adheres to the Church’s mission. In August Pope Francis issued new regulations for the Bank on financial transparency. The Vatican’s Pontifical Commission also passed laws designed to bring the Bank into compliance with international anti-money laundering laws and to prevent terrorist financing. The Pope even warned that if the institution were unable to adapt to the new standard of financial transparency, he might see it shut down.

Now you. Any additions, suggestions, or objections? Who deserves the win?

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Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated to be the views of the Financial Transparency Coalition, the opinions expressed on this blog are solely the opinions of the individual blogger and are not necessarily those of the Financial Transparency Coalition.

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