Global Financial Integrity

 

GFI Engages, First Quarter 2015

A Quarterly Newsletter on the Work of Global Financial Integrity from January through mid-April 2015

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 release of this quarter’s newsletter was delayed in order to include the high level roundtable GFI held on April 17. The following items represent just a fraction of what GFI has been up to since December, so make sure to check our website for frequent updates.

GFI’s High Level Roundtable: IFFs, FfD, and SDGs: Global Perspectives

Global Financial Integrity was pleased to host a high level roundtable on April 17 that focused on the relationship between illicit financial flows (IFFs), Financing for Development (FfD), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Respected members of the public, private, academic, civil society, and multilateral sectors from around the world provided their perspectives on how to tackle IFFs, improve domestic resource mobilization, and strengthen the development of financial management.

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A Brief, Recent History of Beneficial Ownership Transparency on the Global Agenda

Slow but Steady Progress towards Curtailing the Abuse of Anonymous Companies

In June 2013, G8 leaders met in Lough Erne and agreed to a set of principles on beneficial ownership transparency. The principles state that companies should maintain their beneficial ownership information and that the information should be available to law enforcement and other competent authorities; additionally, countries were to consider making such information available to financial institutions and other regulated businesses. Trust information should be collected and available, the principles explained, but only to law enforcement. These principles were largely reiterated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—the body setting international anti-money laundering standards—in their Guidance on Transparency and Beneficial Ownership in October 2014 and by the G20 in their High Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership in November 2014.

Despite the establishment of this baseline, momentum is building since Lough Erne to raise the bar. In July 2013, the UK began the process to establish a central register of information and, after a public comment period, determined that the register should be publicly available—a position strongly supported by Global Financial Integrity (GFI). In April 2014, the European Parliament approved provisions requiring formation of public registers as part of their draft of the European Union’s Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), but the E.U. Council and the E.U. Commission have yet to take a public position on the AMLD, delaying its final adoption. Just last month, Denmark announced that it, too, would create its own public registry of beneficial ownership information.

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GFI: G20 Fails to Make Substantive Progress on Financial Transparency and Illicit Flows

World Leaders’ Weekend Summit Misses Opportunity to Act on Beneficial Ownership or Country-by-Country Reporting

Work Remains to Ensure Developing Countries Benefit Fully From Global Automatic Exchange of Financial Information, but Agreement to Include Developing Countries in OECD BEPS Project an Encouraging Move

WASHINGTON, DC – G20 leaders met this past weekend in Brisbane, Australia for their annual summit, issuing a communiqué full of ambitious proposals for growing the global economy, but noticeably lacking in responses to illicit financial flows, one of the largest drags on development worldwide. Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, expressed its disappointment at the underwhelming result.

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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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