ONLINE POLL Make ownership public, says majority

Companies and financial entities should be required to share their ownership information, according to most people who participated in the latest poll conducted by the Caymanian Compass. 

The poll respondents also felt that this did not necessarily mean that the public at large ought to have the right to access such information. 

Some 83 people (26.5 percent) of the 313 who took part in the ballot selected “The information should be completely open and accessible to members of the general public.” This, added to the 81 (25.9 percent) who selected “Only regulatory and tax authorities and law enforcement agencies should have access to this information,” made 52.4 percent of the total. 

This slight majority was countered by the 99 people who selected “It should only be released if a court orders it.” That equated to 31.6 percent, the highest single selection. Another subset of 45 people (14.4 percent) went even further, picking the option of “It’s confidential information and should not be released to anyone.”  

The remaining 5 people, or 1.6 percent, picked “Other.” 

Of those who felt that the information ought to be available to everyone, one respondent commented simply, “It’s time.”
On the other side of the coin, commenters who had selected the option that ownership details should only be released under court order came up with arguments of their own.  

“It is a person’s personal business,” wrote one poll participant. “Governments have no need to know UNLESS it is deemed illegal by an unbiased court of competent jurisdiction.”
Another person thought that two of the options were similar, writing “Court [and] No Release [are] about the same option.”
Responding to the option of the information being released only to law enforcement or tax agencies, one person wrote, “Unless the company is publicly traded, the public should not have access to such confidential information.” 

Another who selected “Other” from the options provided had a different take on matters. “Ownership of local companies should be easily available,” wrote the participant. 

Another individual who had clicked on “Other” had a hybrid solution in mind. “Companies [should reveal ownership] to their shareholders and banks [should reveal their ownership] to the general public,” the person wrote. 

There is a large amount of information at stake in this discussion. According to the Cayman Islands Department of Commerce and Investment website, the Trade and Business License requirements require the applicant to provide proof that the applicant is Caymanian. Evidence for this is in the form of a birth certificate, a Caymanian Status certificate or an acknowledgement letter confirming possession of Caymanian Status.  

On renewal of a Trade and Business License, Caymanian-controlled companies are required to provide a current register of directors, officers and members (shareholders) in the business. This includes nationality and date of birth of each person. If shareholdings have changed since the license was first granted, then proof that 60 percent of shareholders and directors are Caymanian is also required. This 60 percent rule does not apply if the licensee holds a Local Companies (Control) license. 

United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said in October 2013 that the country needed to know who owns and controls companies in the U.K. “Not just who owns them legally, but who really benefits financially from their existence,” he said. “This summer at the G8 we committed to do just that – to establish a central register of company beneficial ownership. And today I’m delighted to announce that not only is that register going to go ahead – but that it’s also going to be open to the public,” he said. 

Next week’s poll question 

What can be done to encourage teachers to remain in Cayman’s schools? 

  • Management needs to give more support to teachers. 
  • A specialist unit should be set up for disruptive and abusive children.  
  • Tell the teachers what to expect when they start the job. 
  • Better pay. 
  • All the above. 

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