Large Banks Support Bid to Eliminate Anonymous Shell Companies

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WASHINGTON — The biggest banks are supporting a bill that would ensure that all U.S. companies submit beneficial ownership information to authorities, arguing it would help combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

In a letter by The Clearing House Association, which represents the largest U.S. banks, the group said it opposes the existence of anonymous shell companies that can be used to launder assets.

The legislation "would assist public sector efforts to identify money laundering and terrorist financing through the disclosure of the beneficial owners of corporations," said Greg Baer, the president of the group and a former Treasury Department official in the Clinton administration. "We can see no justification for allowing corporations to shield their ownership."

But The Clearing House is also seeking changes to the legislation. It wants lawmakers to allow financial institutions to access beneficial ownership data reported to the states under the bill.

"Under the current regime, many if not most of the resources devoted to identifying money laundering and terrorist financing are provided by financial institutions," Baer said. "Denying them access to this important information would significantly undermine the goals of the bill."

The letter was addressed to the four lawmakers who are sponsoring the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act: Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

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