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New tool to track corporate ownership around the world

Web Foundation · April 3, 2017

Today, on the first anniversary of the Panama Papers leak, OpenOwnership, an online tool to track the true owners of companies, will be released to the public for the first time. Watch the launch live at 2:30 BST.

The Panama Papers – which detailed the offshore assets of hundreds of thousands of people across the world, including politicians and heads of state – revealed a complex web of fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.  These illicit and illegal activities impose a tremendous drain on global development – squandering resources which could otherwise be used to build schools, health clinics, roads and bridges or to deliver vital social services. These are unacceptably high costs for citizens –  and businesses, too.

In response, seven civil society organisations have come together to create OpenOwnership, the first global, open database of company ownership information, bringing the true owners and beneficiaries of companies into the open. This builds on commitments made by over 40 countries, led by the UK, to tackle corruption. Of these, several countries have committed to or are considering public beneficial ownership registers.

The OpenOwnership Register currently pools beneficial ownership data from the UK and Slovakia as well as data from reports submitted to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The data available in the platform will continue to grow as more governments implement public company ownership registers, providing users with access to global beneficial ownership information within a single, streamlined platform. Companies are also invited to submit their own ownership data, allowing ethical businesses in jurisdictions which do not yet have central public registers to be transparent. The data will be available in an open format for anyone to access, download and reuse, free of charge.

The register will be a powerful tool to help governments crack-down on crime and corruption. It  will enable companies to better understand who they are doing business with, and will empower journalists and civil society to reveal and campaign against injustice.

Zosia Sztykowski, project coordinator for OpenOwnership said:

“We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks like the Panama Papers to find out who owns and controls the companies that affect our lives. This project is about establishing a culture of transparency to ensure that companies are accountable to governments, citizens, and each other.”

Today’s public beta launch demonstrating the platform’s functionality will be broadcast online at 2.30pm BST and feature speakers from three of the steering committee members: Web Foundation, Transparency International and the B Team.

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