TRACE International, a non-profit business association that pools resources to provide members with anti-bribery compliance support, today launched TRACEpublic, the first global registry of beneficial ownership.

A beneficial owner is any individual or entity that enjoys the benefits of owning an asset, regardless of whose name the title of the business, property or security is in. Hiding, disguising and misrepresenting companies’ beneficial ownership structures is a standard practice of  companies that engage in illegal business activities, including bribery, tax evasion, embezzlement and money laundering.

Developed in direct response to the risks inherent in secret company ownership, highlighted by the Panama Papers, TRACEpublic enables companies to voluntarily and publicly provide their ownership information as a means to enhance corporate transparency and facilitate meaningful due diligence. Although identifying the beneficial owners of third-party intermediaries, joint venture partners, distributers, suppliers and agents is a basic due diligence requirement, in most countries this information cannot be easily obtained. Calls for greater transparency and full disclosure underscore the need for a global registry of beneficial ownership.

“TRACE has been collecting beneficial ownership information as part of our due diligence process for 15 years,” said Alexandra Wrage, president and founder of TRACE International. “After the Panama Papers broke we realized we needed to provide companies with a way to make this information available to the public, if they chose to.”

Increasingly, governments around the world—including the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark—are requiring companies to disclose beneficial owners at the time of incorporation and restricting the use of anonymous companies. “While some countries are establishing their own national registries or advocating for their development, TRACEpublic is the only global registry and allows companies to voluntarily distance themselves from the reputational stigma of secret companies,” Wrage said. “It also provides multinational companies with a starting point for due diligence.”

TRACEpublic is a well-timed solution to the current groundswell of concern that companies often do not identify and document 100% of all beneficial owners for their third parties to determine potential legal and reputational risks. The registry is designed to collect and make publicly available the beneficial ownership data of thousands of companies around the globe. Companies may list their beneficial ownership or search the database at no cost. Users need only the name of a company or one owner to conduct a search.

TRACEpublic provides companies with a platform to voluntarily share their beneficial ownership information regardless of country of headquarters. The information displayed includes: legal name of entity, common name if different, company website, type of entity, city, country of headquarters, ownership information including percentages and the date ownership information was last updated. Companies are required to provide 100% of beneficial ownership.

Companies that conduct or contemplate conducting business with a private company, partnership or sole proprietorship can initiate due diligence on participating business entities after identifying these entities’ beneficial owners on TRACEpublic.