Anti-Corruption Measure Depends on Senate Override of Vetoed Defense Bill

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Criminals and rogue nations launder trillions of dollars each year through anonymous shell companies worldwide, many based in the Cayman Islands, Dubai, Singapore and even the United States. Photo Credit: Heidi B./Pixabay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The most sweeping anti-money-laundering reform in decades could die this week, depending on whether the U.S. Senate is able to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill.

The Corporate Transparency Act, part of the larger National Defense Authorization Act, would require shell companies to declare the name of any person with a significant ownership stake.

Clark Gascoigne, senior policy advisor for the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition, said criminals use anonymous shell companies to launder hundreds of billions of dollars a year through the U.S. economy.

“A host of bad actors utilize these anonymous shell companies to carry out their crimes and launder the proceeds with impunity,” he said, “and for the first time ever, we’re going to be putting an end to that.”

He said American shell companies are routinely used by rogue nations to undermine national security and evade sanctions. They’re also used by corrupt individuals to evade taxes or pay bribes, and by human traffickers and drug cartels to conceal their crimes.

Gascoigne added that the United Kingdom and the European Union already require this kind of corporate transparency, so the United States is playing catch-up.

“We’re the easiest place right now, according to a number of academic studies, to set up an anonymous company to launder your wealth,” he said. “Now that we’re moving forward, we’re going to be able to push other countries to clean up their act.”

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, has championed this legislation and pushed to have it included in the defense bill. Trump vetoed the defense bill because it also includes stripping the names of Confederate generals from some U.S. military bases. He also wants Congress to add a provision to make social-media companies liable for comments posted by their users.

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