In March 2014, the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of establishing registers for companies and trusts, which would publicly disclose their beneficial owners. The new Parliament, elected in May, is currently negotiating the legislation with the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, chaired by Italy.
Back in December 2013, David Harvey, Chief Executive of STEP, wrote to key MEPs to outline the potential impact of proposals of the proposed directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering and terrorist financing (the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive). In summary, such a public trust register would:
- impose significant administrative burdens and costs on UK families
- threaten their basic rights to confidentiality in financial affairs
- do little in practical terms to tackle the problem of illicit financial flows.
STEP also hosted a policy workshop on trusts and beneficial ownership attended by UK Treasury officials and industry representatives, in November 2013. The workshop emphasised the wide variety of trusts in the UK and thus that the impact of a public register was far-reaching. Similarly, STEP is in ongoing communication with the UK government with regard to the development of a registry of company beneficial ownership information.