The American Bar Association – which represents the country’s lawyers – is opposing a new bill aimed at fighting money laundering by creating greater transparency in the business sector.
The Corporate Transparency Act proposes to end the creation of anonymous shell companies, which are routinely used to facilitate money laundering and finance terrorist and other criminal activity.
The bill would require newly incorporated businesses to provide basic information about their largest owners to the US Treasury Department. It is supported by among others the Fraternal Order of Police, the FACT Coalition, the National District Attorneys Association and small business advocacy group the Main Street Alliance.
The ABA’s opposition letter stated that “Section 3 of the bill would require small businesses with twenty or fewer employees and gross receipts or sales of $5 million or less to disclose detailed information about their beneficial owners – including their names, dates of birth, addresses, and passport or driver’s license numbers – and then update that information continuously during the lifespan of those businesses.” This is “would impose burdensome and costly” requirements, it said.
The ABA added that: “In addition, the legislation would not be effective in fighting money laundering, terrorist financing, or other crimes.”
While anti-corruption campaigners have fought hard for such a measure, more recent support from the banking industry and national security hawks has brightened prospects for backing, the Washington Post reported recently. It quoted Democrat Representative Carolyn B. Maloney as saying: “It is absurd that the US allows criminals to launder their money here. We’re the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t already require disclosure” of company ownership.
The bill would require companies established in the United States to disclose their real owners to the Treasury Department, making it harder for criminals, terrorists and kleptocrats to anonymously launder money or evade taxes.
“Support for this bill has increased as a range of unlikely allies now see this as a tool to combat a wide variety of criminal and corrupt activities, from human trafficking to insurance fraud and everything in between,” said Mark Hays, an anti-money-laundering campaigner at the non-profit group Global Witness.