Charmian Gooch eyes anonymous companies

The wish

Global Witness

The winner

Charmian Gooch

The year


My wish is for us to know who owns and controls companies, so that they can no longer be used anonymously against the public good. Let's ignite world opinion, change the law, and together launch a new era of openness in business.

The plan

Corrupts officials siphoning funds, terrorists buying arms, corporations evading taxes, and organized crime networks laundering money all use the same thing to hide their activities — anonymous companies. These companies are like get-away cars, enabling nefarious actions. Charmian Gooch and her colleagues at Global Witness want to end anonymous companies, by creating a first-of-its kind public registry for company ownership. This requires concerned citizens, business leaders, government officials and so many others working together. By launching a global campaign to increase awareness of this complex and critical issue, Global Witness hopes to catalyze public pressure to change laws all around the world and end the era of anonymity.

Get involved

Get involved: Join the movement

1. Join the movement for global change

Global Witness and their partners need your support to make it impossible for criminals to hide behind anonymous companies. You can:

Get involved: Tell the story

2. Share the story

The story of how anonymous companies effect real people remains largely untold. Writers, animators, broadcasters, photographers, app designers — bring your gifts to bear. Or:

Get involved: Mobilize your communities

3. Mobilize your communities

The first step to ending anonymous companies is to educate people. Become the voice of this wish in your community and encourage people to join the campaign. Some resources:

Get involved: Contribute to the public registry

4. Contribute to the public registry

It will take wide support to create a prototype register for collecting and publishing critical information on who ultimately owns a company. It will serve as a guide for governments — and you can help make it a reality. Email

Get involved: Convene the business community

5. Convene the business community

Transparency is good for both businesses and consumers. If you own or work in a company -- big or small, publicly listed or privately held -- take part in the conversation and support this wish. Email to join the movement.

Current status

Since 2014, Global Witness has helped bring the issue of anonymous companies out of the shadows. The organization contributed to The New York TimesTowers of Secrecy series, which led to increased tracking of real estate purchases by shell companies in the US. In an investigation featured on 60 Minutes, Global Witness showed just how easy it is to move questionable funds into the US through corrupt law firms. And in the the wake of the Panama Papers, Global Witness participated in the first-ever global gathering on corruption, the Anti-Corruption Summit 2016, which led to six countries pledging to create registries of who owns and controls companies.

But keeping the momentum will be a challenge. Global Witness has joined with other organizations in this space to become a part of Open Ownership, an effort to create a global registry in the public interest.

About Charmian

Global Witness co-founder Charmian Gooch is the 2014 TED Prize winner. At her NGO, she exposes how a global architecture of corruption is woven into the extraction and exploitation of natural resources. Learn more about Charmian

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Anonymous companies infographic
What are anonymous companies? Like Russian dolls, you can have one inside another. Learn more in our Anonymous Companies Infographic. Other helpful links:

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