Global Witness: dedicated to getting rid of anonymous companies

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This year’s TED Prize winner – Charmian Gooch of Global Witness, with whom I have now worked for a decade – has announced that she will use the prestigious million-dollar award “to make it impossible for criminals and corrupt dictators to hide behind anonymous companies.” The announcement was made live and online from the TED stage in Vancouver, with support from leading members of the business, political, law enforcement and campaigning community.

Delivering a powerful talk, Charmian described the abuse of anonymous companies as a “devastating problem that spans the globe…negatively affecting all of us.” Describing the ease with which people can hide their identities behind anonymous companies, Gooch recounted harrowing tales of the impact of this problem, particularly on some of the poorest people in the world. She called on leaders around the globe to make a simple commitment “to enact laws to create public registries which list the true owners of companies, and that can be accessed by all – with no loopholes.”

Describing the problem as “entirely fixable,” Gooch shared her 2014 TED Prize wish:

“My wish is for us to know who owns and controls companies, so that they can no longer be used anonymously against the public good. Let's ignite world opinion, change the law, and together launch a new era of openness in business.”

Since 2005, the TED Prize has been awarded to an exceptional individual with a creative and bold vision to spark global change. The $1 million dollar award, combined with the resources of the TED community, helps conceive and launch a high-impact project – and brings this powerful idea to a global stage.

Charmian Gooch is one of three Co-Founders and Directors of Global Witness – a non-profit organization that, for 20 years, has run pioneering investigations and campaigns uncovering the links between natural resources, corruption and conflict. Global Witness’s research and campaigning has made the organization a leading global voice on what can be done to stamp out the abuse of anonymous companies.

“Every year, we award the TED Prize to an inspirational individual tackling a critical issue – from education and environmental degradation to the power of art to give people a voice,” said Chris Anderson, TED Curator. “We are thrilled to award Charmian Gooch the 2014 TED Prize and further Global Witness’s ongoing work to challenge global corruption. As a pro-business entrepreneur, I am thrilled to see this year’s prize being used to make business more transparent.”

“I’m honoured and excited to have been given this award,” said Charmian Gooch, Global Witness Co-Founder and Director. “I can’t imagine a better stage to launch a global conversation and campaign to stop anonymous companies being used to steal, evade tax and loot billions from some of the world’s poorest countries. As a lifelong campaigner, I know this devastating problem is fixable if we work together. But we need your support. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you can help - please join the conversation, show your support and help us inspire action.”

ACTION STEPS

Importantly, the TED Prize wish signals the start of a conversation and action to create a global movement for change. To achieve success, Charmian and Global Witness are looking to TED and its extended community to:

Join the movement for global change

Build a global movement to make it impossible for criminals and others to hide behind anonymous companies. Global Witness – along with partners around the world – is leading a campaign to end anonymous companies.

- “Like” and share the End Anonymous Companies page on Facebook

- Share the short animation illustrating the problem of anonymous shell companies

- Tweet support for the wish using #AnonymousCompanies and follow @global_witness and @charmian

- Keep informed as to what’s happening with legislation in the EU, US and around the world via the Facebook page

- Visit the Global Witness website to find out more about the campaign

Mobilize your communities 

The first step to ending anonymous companies is to educate people, encourage them to join the campaign and inspire others to take action.

- Share Charmian's TED Prize talk (coming soon)

Translate Charmian's TED Prize talk

- For local groups, civil society, and TEDx organisers, here’s a checklist of ways to support

- Tell us what your community is doing to support the wish on the Facebook page and Twitter

Contribute to the public registry

Help create the first-ever prototype of a public registry for collecting and publishing critical information on who ultimately owns a company. This prototype will serve as a guide for governments that want to end anonymous companies.

Help us make this prototype public registry a reality. Email us at ted@globalwitness.org to contribute funds and technical expertise.

Convene the business community
Transparency is good for businesses and consumers. We all want to know whom we’re buying from and whom we’re doing business with. If you own or work in a company — big or small, publicly listed or privately held—join the global campaign, take part in the conversation, and support this wish.

We're going to bring together as many companies as possible to a meeting in NYC to figure out how we can collectively advance a movement away from anonymous companies, and towards transparency. Join us. Email ted@globalwitness.org.

Add your businesses name to those calling for an end to anonymous companies. Email ted@globalwitness.org