IoM rejects UK beneficial ownership call

The Isle of Man has become the latest offshore jurisdiction to say it will resist UK prime minister David Cameron’s calls for transparency on company ownership, according to a published report.

In defying the PM’s initiative – which would force individuals with a 25% or more interest in a company to be publicly registered – the Isle of Man is following the lead of Bermuda, Jersey and Guernsey, according to the Financial Times, which reported the Isle of Man’s position on the issue today.

At issue are concerns that if some countries published the details of corporate ownership and others did not, those company owners interested in hiding their ownership status would register their companies in countries that did not require disclosure, including the US.

“We won’t have a public register. We believe our system is working well,” Isle of Man chief minister Allan Bell was reported as saying in an interview with the paper.

“We are working on a model that will provide the prime minister with the reassurance he is seeking that the Isle of Man is … a good partner in providing defense against abuse,” Bell said. However,  the jurisdiction would not simply “roll over” because it is small, he stressed.

“We see no indication that the rest of the G20 is taking meaningful steps to follow Mr Cameron’s lead. There has to a be a global solution or it is meaningless.”

Cameron first announced his plans for a public register of company owners in October 2013, when his government was still in coalition with Liberal Democrats. The registry, he said, would include individuals with more than a 25% interest in a company’s shares or voting rights.

“We need to know who really owns and controls our companies. Not just who owns them legally, but who really benefits financially from their existence,” he said, adding that the register would be publicly available.

After a number of delays, the government announced in November last year that it expects to make the initiative law in June 2016.

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