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TRACE International

Revelations of tax-dodging, money laundering, conflicts of interest and outright bribery have roiled business, sports and politics in the past few years, as key players’ ties to undisclosed foreign financial interests have been exposed.

Differences in national laws governing privately held companies can make it legal, if not always ethical, to keep secret company ownership. These same legal differences also can make hiding illegal or unethical deals easier.

That’s what led TRACE International CEO Alexandra Wrage to develop TRACEpublic, the first global register of beneficial ownership.

TRACEpublic enables anyone to search online, free of charge, to identify ownership of companies that agree to include that information in the TRACEpublic database.

“There’s a very strong sense that companies can collectively raise the standard,” Wrage said.

More than 300 companies use TRACE International, a non-profit membership association, for multilingual anti-bribery training, support, referrals and other shared resources. Many also use TRACE Inc., for customized due diligence research, advice and services.

They were the springboard Wrage and her TRACE team tapped to invite already-vetted third party intermediaries, venture partners, suppliers and distributors to voluntarily include their ownership information on the free searchable TRACEpublic database.

TRACE has also invited companies not familiar with the association to share their ownership information on TRACEpublic without paying a fee or buying any TRACE products.

Sharing ownership information on TRACEpublic shows a company’s commitment to transparency and ethical business practices and helps shift norms toward disclosure until disclosure becomes a requirement, Wrage said.

“We will continue to build the TRACEpublic database by encouraging companies worldwide to voluntarily disclose,” she said.