Joint NGO media reaction
Financial Transparency Coalition – Eurodad – Global Witness – Oxfam
A cross political party agreement in the European Parliament puts pressure on EU member states to step up the fight for corporate transparency
Brussels, February 20, 2014
Soon it might be a lot harder for criminals, tax evaders, corrupt politicians and other money launderers to hide their identity and their illicit funds behind anonymous shell companies, following a key vote today in the European Parliament.
Today European parliamentarians from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committees voted in favour of public registries which would provide information on the real, or ‘beneficial’, owners of companies. The long-awaited vote, which recommends significant improvements to the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) and would make it much harder for criminals to launder their money using European companies. It would require each member state to establish registries that are open to the public upon online identification.
“By voting for publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership, European parliamentarians have made a major breakthrough in the fight against international organised crime and industrial scale tax evasion” explained Koen Roovers, EU advisor for the Financial Transparency Coalition. “It will bring greater financial transparency and strengthen corporate accountability.”
The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition today praised Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for the introduction of the Sequester Delay and Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. Among other things, this legislation would close or tighten tax loopholes that have been used by some of the most profitable multinational corporations – Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Nike – to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Some tax loopholes allow corporations to use complex accounting schemes to make it appear that profits earned in the United States are actually generated in other countries, often a tax haven with little or no tax on profits.
As an added benefit, closing these loopholes will also generate over $220 billion over the next ten years, which can be used to delay some of the automatic budget cuts that Congress put in place through sequestration.
The FACT coalition contends that the use of these loopholes by corporations to move jobs and profits offshore drains the U.S. of much-needed resources and economic activity. As it stands, Congress is struggling to make up the required revenue needed to maintain our national security and provide for a functioning government.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 offers a warning that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world.
More than two thirds of the 177 countries in the 2013 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).
“The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 demonstrates that all countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.
Some of the world’s most infamous secrecy jurisdictions, such as the British Virgin Islands and Jersey are considering becoming more transparent, whereas several G8 countries lag behind, said campaigners today. A new report,  published by Global Witness and Christian Aid today on the eve of a meeting between the UK government and the heads of the Overseas Territories, grades each of the G8 countries and the UK’s tax havens as to how easy it is to find out the names of the ‘beneficial owners’ of companies – the people who ultimately own and control them.
“Tax dodgers, child traffickers, corrupt politicians and other money launderers all rely on the use of anonymous shell companies to hide their identity,” said Rosie Sharpe, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness. “To tackle this sort of financial crime, the names of the beneficial owners of companies need to be made public for all to see.”
Abuses of anonymous shell companies have received high-level political attention recently. At the G8 summit in June 2013 all the G8 countries as well as the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories produced plans to tackle hidden company ownership. Some are better than others. Those places that promise more transparency deserve recognition, whereas the places that have not yet embraced this move towards greater transparency deserve exposure.
Most European Union countries fail to legally protect whistleblowers enough from retaliation in the workplace, shutting out an important actor in the fight against corruption, according to a new report from Transparency International.
Whistleblowers play a prominent role exposing and preventing corruption, yet only four EU countries – Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom – have advanced whistleblower protection laws in place, according to the report Whistleblowing in Europe. Only in these four countries would a government or company employee who discloses serious wrongdoing be adequately protected by law from being fired or harassed.
Of the remaining 23 EU countries in the study, 16 partially protect employees who report wrongdoing, while seven have either no or very inadequate laws in place.
London, October 31, 2013 – David Cameron is expected to become the first leader of any country to commit to introducing a public register to reveal the true beneficial owner of companies.
The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) strongly welcomes this move, as we have been calling on world leaders to put these public registries in place since our founding in 2009. We believe public registers of beneficial ownership will go a long way towards reducing corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.
The UK government must use the Open Government Partnership summit in London next week to end the secrecy surrounding who really owns millions of UK companies, campaigners said today. Discussions are underway right now at the highest levels of government and campaigners are expecting a decision to be made by the end of this week.
WASHINGTON, DC – Global Financial Integrity (GFI) welcomed the introduction late Wednesday night in the U.S. House of Representatives of two pieces of legislation aimed at stemming the flow of trillions of dollars in dirty money through the U.S. financial system. The Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization noted that the two bills would bring the United States in line with certain international anti-money laundering (AML) standards, target individuals responsible for laundering money, and bring an end to the abuse of anonymous U.S. shell companies.
African civil society organisations and a coalition of leading international development organisations have called for global policymakers to adopt measures to counter the hundreds of billions of dollars siphoned out of the continent through money laundering and industrial scale corporate tax avoidance.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, September 30, 2013 – The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) and Tanzania’s Policy Forum, will host the highly anticipated conference Towards Transparency: Making the Global Financial System Work for Development at the White Sands Hotel on October 1 and 2, 2013. Topics to be discussed include the detrimental effects of illicit financial flows on the extractive industries (oil, gas, timber and mining), conflict and instability, illicit wildlife and arms trade. An expected two hundred guests from over 30 countries will look at how to make the global economy work for rich and poor by increasing financial transparency.
WASHINGTON, DC September 4, 2013 – As G20 leaders gather in Moscow to discuss continued global economic instability and the pressing need for increased growth, the Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) urges them to consider recent milestones as a foundation for action.
“Moscow’s G20 focus on ‘growth through trust and transparency’ as one of three summit priorities is commendable. Without greater transparency in financial markets, the chances of a real global financial recovery – one that benefits poor and rich alike – remain slim,” said Porter McConnell, Manager of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “Corruption, tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance do very real damage to people and communities around the globe. If G20 leaders ignore the corrosive effects of a dysfunctional financial system, they will be imperiling the global growth and stability they seek to establish,” she added.
LONDON – Global Witness joins Members of Congress and investors representing more than US$5.6 trillion in assets in calling on the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to re-issue a strong ruleunder Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—a vital piece of bipartisan US transparency legislation.
Specifically, Section 1504 requires U.S.-listed oil, gas and mining companies to publish details of their revenue payments to governments, such as taxes, royalties and licence fees, on a country- and project-level basis so that citizens in resource-rich countries can ‘follow the money’ and ensure it is used for their benefit.