Strategy & Operations » Governance » Cable cracks down on opaque company ownership structures

COMPANIES will be forced to reveal who their true owners are on a public register as part of government plans to tackle “the darker side of capitalism” unveiled by business secretary Vince Cable.

Under the rules, which require parliamentary approval, shareholders with more than a 25% stake in a UK-registered company will have to provide personal details such as their name, nationality and date of birth to a register of information held by Companies House.

As part of the measures to force company owners out into the open, the government will also outlaw so-called bearer shares, which allow investors to hide their identity and to transfer control untraceably, with anyone owning one forced replace them with registered shares.

The measures are intended to help authorities crack down on tax evasion, money laundering and improve the investment climate in the UK.

“For consumers, investors and the wider public to really trust a company they need to know who is really in charge,” Vince Cable said, adding the government will “take tough action tackling the darker side of capitalism and the smoke and mirrors that have existed for too long”.

“No longer will UK companies be able to use complex structures and trails of paperwork to hide information and keep the public in the dark.”

Cable said the government will also limit the use of corporate directors – where a company instead of an individual is director – though there will be some exemptions for lower risk cases which is subject to further discussion with business.

At the same time, the government announced it will simplify the way companies are required to file their accounts as part of wider measures to cut red tape for business.