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Towards a Level Playing Field,
second edition.


Report undertaken by Stikeman Elliott on behalf of the ITIO and STEP.

 


WHAT IS TOWARDS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ABOUT?

Towards a Level Playing Field: Regulating Corporate Vehicles in Cross-Border Transactions seeks to plug the gaps in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's poorly researched but nonetheless influential work on corporate vehicles

It was jointly commissioned by the ITIO and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and undertaken by international law firm Stikeman Elliott.

Towards a Level Playing Field has proved very popular and a second edition was published in October 2003. There is clearly a pent-up demand for facts with which to challenge what can often seem old-fashioned, big-country protectionism.

The inspiration was an OECD study of November 2001, Behind the Corporate Veil: Using Corporate Entities for Illicit Purposes. This urges governments and regulatory authorities to ensure they could obtain information on the beneficial ownership and control of corporate vehicles in order to combat their misuse for illicit purposes.

“Corporate vehicles” are taken to include companies, trusts, partnerships and foundations.
   
To reduce potential for tax evasion, money laundering, bribery and corruption, creditor avoidance or securities and market frauds, the OECD proposes increased disclosure and regulation to track and exchange data concerning beneficial ownership and financial information for corporate vehicles.

The OECD’s proposals have serious implications for personal financial privacy and for the economies of many non-OECD countries.

Yet the OECD’s data is weak and the organisation is coy about turning the spotlight on its own members.

In contrast, Towards a Level Playing Field provides a comprehensive analysis of the regulation of corporations, trusts and limited partnerships in fifteen OECD and non-OECD countries alike.

This is the first time such directly comparable and transparent information has been made available.

On the basis of empirical data collected in a series of tables, Stikeman Elliott assessed the validity of the assumptions, scope and conclusions of the OECD report and considered the regulation and restrictions proposed on the flexibility of the corporate form
   
By submitting the data for review by law firms within all the jurisdictions surveyed, they ensured close factual accuracy and attention to detail. The results were striking and show the value of taking a global approach.

Towards a Level Playing Field reveals that leading OECD member states now actually lag behind regulatory developments in the principal non-OECD financial centres in important respects.

For example, corporate service providers are generally not regulated in OECD countries, whereas they are in the leading non-OECD ones.
   
Equally, OECD jurisdictions are mostly unable to regulate or control the quality or fitness to practice of their trustees and lack the power to impose standards of competence and probity. The non-OECD countries examined, however, have extensive trustee legislation. Indeed, the OECD has acknowledged that these regimes could serve as useful models for their own members.

The results may come as a surprise to those who think big countries have nothing to learn from small ones.

By taking a global and inclusive view, Towards a Level Playing Field clearly demonstrates that the only way to develop new standards for corporate vehicles is to proceed on the basis of non-discrimination and a level playing field.

Otherwise, criminals may simply turn to those centres in the OECD itself where regulation is weaker.


Download Towards a Level Playing Field

Please note that the report is available in PDF format only. To download a copy of Adobe Reader, please click here.



 

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