The increasing number of jurisdictions implementing public beneficial ownership registers, and jurisdictions making existing closed beneficial ownership registers open, has resulted in significant debate, both about specific added value of making beneficial ownership data public, and whether this is proportional to privacy and personal security concerns.

This briefing demonstrates that making beneficial ownership registers public gives a number of user groups access that generates a range of benefits, contributing to various policy areas. In certain policy areas (such as fighting financial crime), a number of these benefits could, in a hypothetical perfect system, be achieved with closed registers.

However, recent examples show that the global architecture for fighting financial crime is far from perfect, and until a perfect system is in place, these gains can be quickly achieved with open registers. Additional policy aims, such as accountability in procurement, can only be achieved with open registers. 

Whilst the body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of public registers over closed registers is still emerging, there are sufficient reasons to state that public registers serve the public interest.

The UK was the first country in the world to commit to making beneficial ownership registers transparent. In 2016, it launced the People with Significant Control (PSC) register, making it the first country in the G20 to create a public register of  beneficial owners of UK companies. We have published a report providing details of the UK’s approach and case studies of the impact it has had. 

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