Thursday, January 7, 2010


We're off to a new year and hopefully some new and more positive attitudes towards transparency when it comes to disclosure of basic business entity information. Or perhaps not???

We've been working closely with a number of our clients over the years to verify information about firms registered in "secretive" jurisdictions (that does not mean that they leak by the way). Many of these tend to be in warm climates (although CNBC recently conducted a poll and found that the most secretive jurisdiction on the planet happens to be a little over an hour plane ride South East of Toronto where I'm writing this now - take a look

The fundamental problem that we all face in trying to learn about companies we might like to transact with is that many of them incorporate in jurisdictions where they have no obligation to tell anyone else that they even exist. And if these firms don't have to publish anything about themselves, you as a financial institution or client simply need to trust what they tell you. Who's going to argue? Indeed this is one of the reasons that firms incorporate in such jurisdictions.

So the question is this. In such a huge, interconnected, leveraged and complex global economy, shouldn't we adopt some very basic yet universal standards around transparency if we are to minimize the chances or at least impact of another economic crisis? For example, shouldn't it be necessary for every registration authority in every jurisdiction to publish on a read only website, at no cost to the viewing public, the legal name and registered address of all entities registered in their jurisdiction? And shouldn't that registration authority (the one that typically has the legal mandate to prosecure the owners of a firm should they lie) also inform the public if each entity registered with them is active or not? Companies House sets a nice example of this in the UK. This information is also consolidated on Avox's where it has been multiply sourced from various authorities.

This basic data serves as a kernel for a lot of other information however that core bit of data, if reliable and maintained in each jurisdiction by the authority with penalty inflicting power goes a long way to helping everyone converge on what is real, accurate and up to date. We call this Authoritative Source Convergence or "ASC". It's not an Avox product but a general initiative which we are working on with our clients, partners and a growing number of willing Authoritative Sources. This basic level of disclosure is vital for universal business entity identification (read "the holy grail").

Let us (and everyone else for that matter) know if you are interested in joining this initiative. We believe it can make all the difference.