Good Practice

Focus 14: Disclosure of Beneficial Ownership after the Panama Papers

July 20, 2016

Publication of the so-called “Panama Papers” focused public interest on how politicians, celebrities, and other elites can use elaborate corporate structures and offshore tax havens to conceal their beneficial ownership of companies and obscure their personal assets. Rather than taking the Panama Papers as an indication of the need for more and stricter disclosure and reporting rules, this paper advocates an alternative approach. We need to start by acknowledging that many companies are currently experiencing “disclosure and reporting fatigue,” in which the constant demand for “more” and “better” transparency and reporting is having the unintended effect of promoting indifference or evasiveness. The practice of disclosure and reporting is widely perceived as an obligation to be fulfilled and not as an opportunity to add value to a firm.




Authored by Mark Fenwick and Erik P.M. Vermeulen, foreword by Joseph A. McCahery

Disclaimer: This paper is one in a series commissioned by the IFC Corporate Governance Group and intended as a thought piece to encourage debate on important corporate governance topics. The conclusions and judgments contained in this report represent the views of the authors and should not be attributed to, and do not necessarily represent the views of the IFC or its Board of Directors or the World Bank or its Executive Directors, or the countries they represent.