Press release | Dec. 11, 2020

Congress passes historic anti-corruption provision, culminating decade-long fight to end anonymous companies in the US

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congress sends a landmark provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the President’s desk that will close the book on a decade-long effort to end the role of US anonymous shell companies in enabling global illicit finance. It is the first time in history both Chambers have passed such a provision.

The NDAA passed the Senate Friday with a veto-proof 84-13 majority. This beneficial ownership provision, known as the Corporate Transparency Act, is the major step in closing the loopholes allowing financial crime to thrive in the US. The provision requires companies to disclose their true owners and keep such information up to date.

Alexandria Robins, Global Witness policy advisor, said: “This transparency reform is a milestone. Unmasking these corporations has been years in the making and will undoubtedly have real impact on the safety and wellbeing of citizens. The United States has been one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymously-owned company, enabling fraudsters, mobsters, money-launderers, tax-evaders and corrupt politicians around the world to cover their tracks, stash dirty cash and evade authorities. With the adoption of the Corporate Transparency Act, we are thrilled to see the United States take a stand against kleptocracy and corruption. Abolishing the gaping hole in the anti-money laundering system will reverberate around the world.”

For over 10 years, Global Witness has documented how terrorists, narco-traffickers, and corrupt officials have exploited this vulnerability in US anti-money laundering efforts. We’ve shown how secret company owners have put troops at risk and harmed American taxpayers, and served as getaway cars for the criminal and corrupt all over the world.

Global Witness applauds the Congressional champions who have fought for corporate transparency by ending the exploitation of anonymous companies, including Representatives Maloney, King, Luetkemeyer, Waters, and Senators Crapo, Brown, Cotton, Warner, Wyden, and Rubio. We also thank Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer for prioritizing this provision’s inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The successful passage of this legislation follows years of building blocks laid by a broad, bipartisan coalition including national security groups, human rights organizations, law enforcement, the real estate sector, labor unions, financial services, and the business community.

The passage of today’s historic anti-corruption provision is the result of a culmination of key milestones over the last few years, including passage of the bipartisan Corporate Transparency Act (H.R. 2513) in the House of Representatives in October 2019 and introduction of the ILLICIT CASH Act (S.2563) into the Senate Banking Committee by a bipartisan group of Senators in September 2019.

The NDAA now moves to the President’s desk as a must-pass piece of legislation.

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