I’ve been mulling over this new register of persons with significant control, of which full details are given in Schedule 3 to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. With regard to the register, and to quote from the Act, “the Secretary of State may exempt a person (whether an individual or a legal entity) [from the register] [and] the Secretary of State must not grant an exemption under this section unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that, having regard to any undertaking given by the person to be exempted, there are special reasons why that person should be exempted”.
This echoes the requirement in Article 29 of the finalised draft (dated 12 January 2015) of the Fourth Money Laundering Directive that “Member States may provide for an exemption to the access to all or part of the beneficial ownership information [as held in the required central register] on a case-by-case basis in exceptional circumstances, if this would expose the beneficial owner to the risk of fraud, kidnapping, blackmail, violence or intimidation or if the beneficial owner is a minor or otherwise incapable”.
But there is a difference. With the exemption under the Act, you can be exempted from supplying your information to the register. But with the exemption under the Directive (and I may need a lawyer’s eye on this), it seems to me that you always have to supply the information, but the exemption means that no-one can look at it.
And I do wonder just who is going to decide, on that much vaunted “case-by-case basis” while looking at the “special reasons”, what is quite special enough to warrant exemption (either of supply or to access). After all, in these days of Internet trolls and Twitter bullying, isn’t anyone with the slightest sniff of publicity about them vulnerable to (at the very least) intimidation? I write a weekly article for our local newspaper, on the most anodyne of subjects, and even that has attracted email stalking. And surely everyone with either an email address or a telephone number has already been targeted a dozen times by attempted frauds – are these “vulnerabilities” really going to be exceptional enough for exemption?