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A coalition of consumer, small business and faith-based organizations joined together to commend the Oregon Legislature for passing House Bill 2191, a bill that will provide state officials with new tools to combat the abuse of anonymous shell corporations in Oregon. In recent years, Oregon’s lax incorporation transparency laws and lack of tools for law enforcement have made the state a hotbed for the use of shell corporations for criminal activity including money laundering, consumer scams and tax evasion.
“For too long, Oregon’s incorporation process has been abused by those who have no interest in legitimate business,” said Jesse O’Brien, OSPIRG Policy Director. “With the passage of HB 2191, state officials will have more tools to protect consumers and taxpayers from anonymous shell corporations. But more work remains to be done.”
HB 2191 provides the Department of Justice and Secretary of State’s office with important tools to combat the abuse of shell corporations for illegal activity by requiring names and contact information for living representatives of the corporation and a physical brick-and-mortar address at the time of incorporation, and giving law enforcement new powers to take action against and even dissolve a shell corporation if it is shown to be used for illicit purposes. The legislation also empowers individuals harmed by the illegal activities of shell corporations to sue the people responsible.
“This legislation is a victory for Oregon small businesses,” said Khanh Le, State Director of the Main Street Alliance. “Small business owners need a level playing field and fair rules of the road, and this bill will help establish that by taking important steps to prevent bad actors from taking advantage of Oregon’s incorporation rules.”
However, the coalition expressed concern that HB 2191 did not go far enough to address the problem. The original version of the bill included a requirement that corporations disclose their “beneficial owners”—the real individuals who control and profit from their existence—but this was amended out of the bill due to opposition from the business community. Without this provision, law enforcement will still lack critical tools to end the abuse of anonymous shell corporations.
“Providing more tools to crack down on illegal activity by shell companies will be a step forward not only for Oregon law enforcement but for global economic justice,” said Roberta Badger-Cain, Jubilee Oregon steering committee member. “Shell companies have long been used for money laundering by corrupt officials from foreign governments and organizations, and more aggressive law enforcement could help prevent that. But without beneficial ownership disclosure, it still may not be possible to follow the money all the way back to the source of the illegal activity.”
“HB 2191 is a step forward, but stronger action is urgently necessary,” said O’Brien. “The US Congress is currently considering the Corporate Transparency Act and the True Incorporation Transparency for Law Enforcement (TITLE) Act, both of which would create the beneficial ownership transparency we really need. We urge Congress to make action on this bipartisan legislation a top priority.”
OSPIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan statewide consumer and taxpayer advocacy organization. OSPIRG stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon represents main street small businesses in Oregon from boutique retail shops, general contractors, and tech firms to startup small businesses. The Alliance works to advance public policies that are good for businesses, employees and communities.
Jubilee Oregon is an inter-faith-based chapter of the Jubilee USA Network. Jubilee Oregon represents 10 Jubilee faith congregations dedicated to promoting economic justice.
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