August 2, 2018, Washington, D.C. – Twenty-four attorneys general from across America issued an unprecedented letter today calling for an end to anonymous shell companies in the U.S. The group of law enforcement officials with bipartisan leadership, Attorneys General Bob Ferguson (D-WA) and Cynthia Coffman (R-CO), urge Congress to act immediately and require American companies to disclose their ultimate owners when they are created – something Global Witness strongly supports.
“Our laws should not enable criminals to exploit these loopholes for their financial gain,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson from Washington State. “We must ensure that our investigators have the information and access they need to solve crimes.”
“These attorneys general have had enough,” said Alexandria Robins, Assistant Policy Advisor at Global Witness. “As the top law enforcement officials in their state, their voices are a strong reminder that anonymous companies continue to be used as vehicles for criminals, drug and human traffickers to get away with their crimes.”
“The vast majority of law enforcement investigations are conducted at the state and local level, and until we give law enforcement the tools they need to keep up with criminals, the U.S. will continue to be a top choice for the world’s criminals and corrupt to hide,” said Robins.
Earlier this month Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that he wants to make corporate ownership information available to law enforcement within the next six months. Continuing this trend, the Delaware Secretary of State also recently endorsed a bipartisan federal proposal to require companies to disclose their true owners.
“Time and again we’ve seen how secretly-owned American companies are used to move suspect funds through the financial system,” said Robins. “Law enforcement has continually been thwarted by these opaque corporate structures. We must urgently raise the bar in the U.S. and make it more difficult for criminals to move, enjoy, and hide their dirty money.”
Twenty-four attorneys general have signed the letter calling on Congress to end anonymous companies, including:
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman - Colorado
Attorney General Bob Ferguson - Washington
Attorney General Xavier Becerra - California
Attorney General George Jepsen - Connecticut
Attorney General Matthew Denn - Delaware
Attorney General Karl Racine - District of Columbia
Attorney General Russell Suzuki - Hawaii
Attorney General Lisa Madigan - Illinois
Attorney General Tom Miller - Iowa
Attorney General Janet Mills - Maine
Attorney General Brian Frosh - Maryland
Attorney General Maura Healey - Massachusetts
Attorney General Lori Swanson - Minnesota
Attorney General Jim Hood - Mississippi
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal - New Jersey
Attorney General Hector Balderas - New Mexico
Attorney General Josh Stein - North Carolina
Attorney General Edward Manibusan - Northern Mariana Islands
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum - Oregon
Attorney General Josh Shapiro - Pennsylvania
Attorney General Wanda Vázquez Garced - Puerto Rico
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin - Rhode Island
Attorney General T.J. Donovan - Vermont
Attorney General Mark Herring - Virginia
Global Witness has shown how anonymously-owned American companies allow a wide range of criminals to cheat justice and rip off ordinary people – from multi-million-dollar schemes robbing the elderly of their life-savings, to forcing vulnerable families into foreclosure, and luring individuals from overseas into a human trafficking scheme stretching across the U.S.
“Attorneys general are sending lawmakers a clear message – the clock is ticking for them to get the policy right by giving state and local law enforcement access to this vital information,” said Robins. “If Congress fails to act, criminals and fraudsters will continue to operate undetected and profit at the expense of the American people.”
Alexandria RobinsPolicy Advisor
Julie Anne Miranda-BrobeckHead of US Communications and Global Partnerships
Notes to editor:
• The full letter from the attorneys general can be downloaded here.
• A press release about the letter from the office of the Washington state Attorney General is available here.