Jersey: 10 Reasons Why Public Register Arguments Are Flawed

The end of October marked five years since former UK PM David Cameron announced plans for the UK to adopt a public register of beneficial ownership.

Clearly, a lot has changed in the past five years, but interestingly, one thing that hasn’t changed much at all is the lobbying for public registers as the primary solution to combatting financial crime. 

Fittingly, late October also saw the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) take place in Copenhagen, attended by around 1,000 people from 100 countries, at which a joint-statement was published on the issue of beneficial ownership: 

“We welcome measures that improve transparency in the beneficial ownership of companies, consistent with the principles of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)…We encourage all countries to prepare adequate laws and enforce these, and ensure that competent authorities have access to adequate, accurate, and timely beneficial ownership information. We commit to exploring ways to improve the implementation of the FATF guidance on beneficial ownership, which may include public registries.”  

Meanwhile, with the UK Budget earlier this month confirming that the government would publish an updated offshore tax compliance strategy in the new year and with the UK’s Economic Crime and Security Minister launching in the same week a new Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, debates around how to crack down on financial crime will continue. 

And quite right too, because financial crime and corruption are amongst the most challenging aspects of international trade and finance today, undermining trust and impacting ordinary people all over the world. We need to have sensible, joined-up conversations around how to combat them effectively. 

However, debates around public registers are, to my mind, an example of a disjointed global approach to tackling financial crime - as the statement from the IACC suggests, standards around the world in this area differ wildly. 

Jersey has had a register containing all the beneficial ownership of entities registered there for three decades and it shares information on it with authorities around the world. It’s proven to work and it’s in line with the FATF standards referred to at the IACC. And, as the IACC statement recommends, Jersey has explored ways to improve on its system by committing to exchanging information on its register in up to an hour in certain cases. Not many other places can do that. 

In Jersey, we think there is a very workable, and superior solution to public registers – here are ten reasons why we think arguments around public registers are flawed:  

  1. What’s the problem: public registers are often put forward as the solution to cutting off illicit money that is alleged to flow through IFCs – but this narrative makes no distinction between IFCs. And there’s no evidence of swathes of illicit flows through IFCs anyway, it’s based on speculative assumptions. Often IFCs have better regulatory controls than other larger countries. 
  2. No evidence: it’s often claimed that public registers help deter criminal activity, but there is little evidence to back this up – in fact most evidence supports systems where data is verified. 
  3. Inaccurate data: in cases like the UK, public registers are self-reporting meaning that the data is not checked. So there is no guarantee that the information is accurate, or that it helps individuals know who they are doing business with. 
  4. Ineffective policing: public registers don’t necessarily deter dishonest declarations, as is often claimed. It might be a criminal offence to provide false information, but if no-one is ever prosecuted for doing so, there is no real incentive to ensure the information is accurate and criminals involved in grand corruption will have no qualms about providing false information. To date, there has been only one successful prosecution for filing inaccurate beneficial ownership information: 65-year-old businessman, Kevin Brewer, who acted to uncover a loophole and has been prosecuted for his troubles. 
  5. No added value: public registers don’t add anything to ensuring governments are enforcing tax rules and other laws. Under the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS), relevant authorities in 100 countries around the world are already exchanging information – so this information is already available to those who need it. 
  6. Leave it to the experts: supporters for public registers make the assumption that the general public is somehow better placed than specially trained law enforcement officers to review, analyse and assess information, which simply cannot be the case.  In fact, those pursuing civil cases, even with the best of intentions, may well jeopardise investigations being pursued by the authorities. 
  7. Further criminal activity: putting too much information in the public domain potentially opens up the potential for further criminal activity - the risk of identity theft or even, in some places, kidnap or extortion. 
  8. No level playing field: the public register model only works if other countries are doing the same, otherwise other countries get the benefit of publicly available data without the expense of doing it themselves, and data quality will vary significantly. At present there is no international standard that requires public registers, so the playing field won’t be level. Jersey follows the FATF standard. 
  9. Risk to due diligence: businesses could use the register to do their own due diligence checks on new customers or creditors – but if information isn’t vetted or accurate, this poses a number of knock-on risks. 
  10. Conflicting objectives on privacy: it’s not at all clear how the raft of information that would potentially be made available through public registers would comply with the requirements of data protection legislation, in particular the EU’s GDPR. 

 Jersey stands side by side and ready to work with all countries and parties to clamp down on financial crime – but we believe that doing so should be coordinated and based on thorough, independent research and in full knowledge of the facts.

Linkedin -
Twitter - @jerseyfinance
Youtube -

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions