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Beneficial ownership registers: Progress to date

In the wake of the Panama and Paradise Papers, and the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016, beneficial ownership registers have gained significant attention. This policy area is still at an early stage, yet there is growing consensus of the importance of registers. Much evidence will be needed before a robust ex-post evaluation of their effects can be undertaken. However, this Helpdesk answer has been able to review policy developments, implementation track records, and existing evaluations of the impact of beneficial ownership registers. It assesses what has been achieved, challenges that have impeded progress, and where future improvements might be made.

7 April 2020
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Beneficial ownership registers: Progress to date

Main points

  • Important progress has been made in promoting the establishment of public, centralised registers of beneficial ownership since 2016. The foremost example of this to date is the Fifth EU Directive on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-terrorist Financing.
  • However, implementation remains uneven. Uptake has generally lagged behind national and international policy commitments. Few fully public registers exist, with the majority concentrated in the EU.
  • Emerging evidence shows that registers have important roles to play in assisting in the detection and prosecution of money laundering cases by enforcement agencies.
  • In addition to ensuring implementation, further progress is needed in embedding verification elements into the design of registers and ensuring that regulatory arbitrage is avoided.

Cite this publication

Van der Merwe, T.; (2020) Beneficial ownership registers: Progress to date. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2020:6)

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Theo Van der Merwe


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)