China and Russia Said to Have Greater Corporate Transparency than the U.S.

Thursday, May 15, 2014
(photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images)

The United States may be a democratic, open society, but it’s got nothing on China, Russia, or even Albania when it comes to letting people know what corporations are up to.


In other words, corporate transparency is not America’s strong suit. In fact, it ranks 26th in the world, according to Arachnys Information Services, a business watchdog group based in the United Kingdom. Its worldwide rankings were based on the availability of details like who owns corporations, who’s suing them and how much they won, and the size of the news media industry in 215 nations.


New Zealand came out on top, followed by the U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Croatia, Netherlands, Finland, Estonia and Hong Kong. The U.S. also lagged behind Albania (11th), China (20th), Venezuela (21st) and Russia (23rd).


Margot Williams at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists summed up America’s problems this way: “Here in the U.S., the search for public records, corporate registration and potential litigation is a challenge, even in the era of online access. Companies can be registered in any or several states, each with its own regulations, system of record keeping and variations of access, free or fee, online or behind the counter or microfilm machine at a records office in a distant state capital. Lawsuits can be filed at the federal level, in the states, or even at a county courthouse. In Texas alone, there are 254 counties!”


Some states intentionally make corporate information difficult to find. Delaware, where many large corporations are registered, have weak disclosure requirements.


On the bright side, the U.S. isn’t Canada, which came in at No. 70. “Canada is let down by its inconsistent data provision across different provinces and territories, with the most important province from the point of view of businesses, Ontario, being particularly opaque,” according to Arachnys.


Which is the least transparent of the nations surveyed? The Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos came in at No. 215 for its “reputation as an opaque and high-profile tax haven, with a total lack of corporate and litigation information,” according to the report.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

China, Russia Beat Us in New Corporate Transparency Report (by Margot Williams, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

Country Rankings (Arachnys Compass)

The 2014 Arachnys Open Data Compass (Arachnys Compass)

Obama JOBS Act Helped Big Companies Avoid Transparency (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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