Press release | April 3, 2016

Shell Companies, Secrecy and the U.S.

Global Witness, has several experts available to talk about these new revelations: contact Andy Stepanian, 001.631.291.3010, [email protected]. 

The recent exposé by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and their media partners have once again shown the insidious role that tax havens, corporate secrecy and shell companies play in aiding widespread crime, corruption and violence. These threaten the safety, security and well-being of people around the world.

What’s less well known is that, despite stereotypes portraying the problem of tax havens and shell companies as an ‘offshore’ problem, this is a big and homegrown issue in the U.S. as well.

  • Global Witness’ investigations, including the groundbreaking undercover work profiled by the 60 Minutes program, Anonymous, Inc. in January, show that the U.S. is a critical player in this global web of secrecy.  

  • The U.S. is one of the easiest places to set up an anonymous shell company to move ill-gotten gains around the world. It’s also one of the most popular places to do so for the criminal and corrupt.

  • Examples (below, in Global Witness’ The Great Rip Off report, and on our on-line interactive map) show how these anonymously owned companies are what unite all crimes that generate money.

Anonymous companies have been created  in the U.S. to carry out questionable or illegal activities that harm our national security, taxpayers, vulnerable populations, businesses, poor countries, and more.  A few examples include:

Time for Action: Global Witness is playing a leading role in a national movement to end the corporate secrecy that allows U.S. companies to be hijacked as getaway cars for criminals and other illicit actors.

  • From April 11-13 faith leaders, small business owners, voices from law enforcement and other community activists from over 25 states will gather in Washington, DC to call on Congress to pass legislation that would end anonymous companies.

The Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act (H.R. 4450 and S. 2489House and Senate bill fact sheets) would require all American companies, with a number of exceptions, to disclose the real people who own or control them when they are formed, and to keep that information updated.



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