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Anti-Corruption Watchdogs Slam New U.S. Rules on Money Laundering

Anti-corruption watchdog groups say the newest U.S. rules to prevent corporate money laundering don't go nearly far enough. (iStock)
Anti-corruption watchdog groups say the newest U.S. rules to prevent corporate money laundering don't go nearly far enough. (iStock)
May 9, 2016

CARSON CITY, Nev. – On the eve of this week's anti-corruption summit in London, consumer watchdog groups maintain the Obama administration's response so far to the Panama Papers money-laundering scandal is inadequate.

They're saying it could worsen Nevada's and the U.S.'s reputation as a haven for corporate crime.

Last week, the White House finalized a Treasury Department rule requiring banks to determine who really owns a company, as a way to root out shell corporations laundering money.

But Elise Bean, a former chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, says the rule doesn't make the bank verify that the "beneficial owner" named by the company is the true owner, not a stand-in.

"We're inviting people who want to hide their identity to U.S. banks, because the only person they're going to have to name is the manager of their corporation, which could be a law firm employee or an offshore corporate-service provider," she states.

The Panama Papers include records from an offshore law firm that revealed shell companies incorporated in Nevada are linked to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from schemes to defraud Medicare, elderly investors and people in the armed forces.

The Obama administration also released the outlines of forthcoming legislation to improve transparency.

Mark Hays, a senior policy adviser at watchdog group Global Witness, stresses it still has gaping loopholes.

"We believe it needs to have a strong, beneficial ownership definition, that the information needs to be collected in a timely fashion, and that information needs to be kept up-to-date,” he states. “And then, there needs to be broad access to that information – at a minimum, access for many levels of law enforcement."

On the other hand, he says Global Witness is praising more comprehensive bills recently introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.

The United Kingdom is bringing together leaders from what it calls "civil society" this week, to brainstorm ways to expose corruption and punish the perpetrators.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV