Global Financial Integrity

 

Archive for October, 2014

Are International Institutions Failing to Grasp the Big Picture on Beneficial Ownership?

Everyone Should Be Able to Determine with Whom They Are Doing Business, Writes GFI’s Heather Lowe

On Monday of this week, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the body setting international anti-money laundering standards, published new Guidance on Transparency and Beneficial Ownership, detailing a variety of ways in which countries can comply with FATF Recommendations 24 and 25 (which relate to transparency and beneficial ownership of legal persons and arrangements) and sending the message that complaining about the difficulty of compliance is no longer an option.  FATF consulted with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on this publication, recognizing that identification of the beneficial owners of legal entities and arrangements is not only a money laundering issue, but a fundamental element of the OECD’s new multilateral automatic exchange of financial information.  What neither FATF nor the OECD appears to have yet grasped, however, is that beneficial ownership – knowing who is ultimately behind a company – is a matter of sound business practice.  Everyone should be able to determine with whom they are doing business.

That lack of understanding was evident on page 21 of the Guidance, where FATF made it clear that it was supportive of countries choosing to create publicly accessible registries for information, as the UK is in the process of creating.  FATF stated that:

“although this is not required by the FATF Recommendations, some countries may be able to provide public access to information through a searchable online database.”

The rationale behind this, they say, is that it:

“would increase transparency by allowing greater scrutiny of information by, for example, the civil society, and timely access to information by financial institutions, DNFBPs and overseas authorities.”

While we civil society folks appreciate what appears to be an attempt by FATF to demonstrate that they have heard civil society’s drumbeat on this issue, unfortunately what this shows is that they have not yet understood the variety of reasons for that drumbeat.

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GFI Engages, Third Quarter 2014

A Quarterly Newsletter on the Work of Global Financial Integrity from June through September 2014

Global Financial Integrity is pleased to present GFI Engages, a quarterly newsletter created to highlight events at GFI and in the world of illicit financial flows. We look forward to keeping you updated on our research, advocacy, high level engagement, and media presence. The following items represent just a fraction of what GFI has been up to since May, so make sure to check our new website for frequent updates.

U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

The big news this quarter was the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C. in early August, which brought together leaders from fifty African nations with President Obama, and included a ground-breaking announcement that a joint high-level working group on illicit financial flows would be formed. GFI participated in the summit’s Civil Society Forum as well as several additional side events, and were proud to partner with the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and other organizations to host the event “Resources for the Future: Partnering with Civil Society for Transparency and Accountability in Africa,” which celebrated the role of civil society in advocating for transparency and accountability in Africa and discussing ways to make further progress. The high-caliber roster of speakers are too numerous to list here, but included Vice President Joseph Boakai of Liberia; George Soros, founder of OSF; Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; and Mojanku Gumbi, a trustee of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation. The public event was followed by an African-U.S. civil society working session.

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