Press release | Feb. 6, 2018

Global Witness Statement on U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on ending anonymous companies and the TITLE Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today will convene a hearing to discuss legislation that would put an end to the use of anonymous companies to facilitate money laundering and a host of other illicit activities, a move long called for by Global Witness.

The bipartisan “True Incorporation Transparency for Law Enforcement (TITLE)” Act (S. 1454), first introduced by Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, would require States to collect information about the real owners of companies (the so-called ‘beneficial’ owners) when they are first formed and to keep that information up to date. The bill would also allow law enforcement to access that information upon formal request, as well as financial institutions, in the course of conducting anti-money laundering due diligence practices required by law. While historically there have been several Congressional hearings to discuss similar legislation, this is the first hearing on such legislation held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mark Hays, Anti-Money Laundering Campaign Leader for Global Witness, issued the following statement:

“Each day, the news headlines offer another compelling reminder of why the need to adopt this critical transparency measure is so great. Anonymous companies have helped obscure human trafficking networks, financed the opioid epidemic, facilitated sanctions evasion and have helped underwrite terrorist plots – to say nothing of the billions lost to corrupt oil, gas and mining deals each year through anonymous companies in dozens of countries worldwide. Today’s hearing is good news, because it shows momentum continues to build in Congress for a bipartisan solution to this insidious problem. However, time is short – as long as the US continues to fall behind other major financial centers in taking action to implement this critical piece of the anti-money laundering puzzle, it risks becoming an even more attractive haven to launder and hide illicit funds linked to corrupt and criminal activity.”

Today’s hearing comes as the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance considers similar bipartisan legislation, and just after the Senate Banking Committee held two hearings on the same topic last month. Additionally, late last year the European Union adopted an updated anti-money laundering directive that requires its 28 member states to establish public registries of beneficial ownership information for all companies formed in the EU. The EU joins the UK and a number of other countries around the world that are bringing new company ownership registries online.

The Committee hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m., Eastern, and is being held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226, in Washington, DC. A link to more information on the hearing can be found here.



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