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TED Prize Winner Charmian Gooch Announces Global Campaign to Abolish Anonymous Companies

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, March 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- This year's TED Prize winner – Charmian Gooch of Global Witness – has announced that she will use the prestigious million-dollar award "to make it impossible for criminals and corrupt dictators to hide behind anonymous companies." The announcement was made live and online from the TED stage in Vancouver, with support from leading members of the business, political, law enforcement and campaigning community.

Delivering a powerful talk, Charmian described the abuse of anonymous companies as a "devastating problem that spans the globe…negatively affecting all of us." Describing the ease with which people can hide their identities behind anonymous companies, Gooch recounted harrowing tales of the impact of this problem, particularly on some of the poorest people in the world. She called on leaders around the globe to make a simple commitment "to enact laws to create public registries which list the true owners of companies, and that can be accessed by all – with no loopholes."

Describing the problem as "entirely fixable," Gooch shared her 2014 TED Prize wish:

"My wish is for us to know who owns and controls companies, so that they can no longer be used anonymously against the public good. Let's ignite world opinion, change the law, and together launch a new era of openness in business."

Since 2005, the TED Prize has been awarded to an exceptional individual with a creative and bold vision to spark global change. The $1 million dollar award, combined with the resources of the TED community, helps conceive and launch a high-impact project – and brings this powerful idea to a global stage.

Charmian Gooch is one of three Co-Founders and Directors of Global Witness – a non-profit organization that, for 20 years, has run pioneering investigations and campaigns uncovering the links between natural resources, corruption and conflict. Global Witness's research and campaigning has made the organization a leading global voice on what can be done to stamp out the abuse of anonymous companies.

"Every year, we award the TED Prize to an inspirational individual tackling a critical issue – from education and environmental degradation to the power of art to give people a voice," said Chris Anderson, TED Curator. "We are thrilled to award Charmian Gooch the 2014 TED Prize and further Global Witness's ongoing work to challenge global corruption. As a pro-business entrepreneur, I am thrilled to see this year's prize being used to make business more transparent."

"I'm honoured and excited to have been given this award," said Charmian Gooch, Global Witness Co-Founder and Director. "I can't imagine a better stage to launch a global conversation and campaign to stop anonymous companies being used to steal, evade tax and loot billions from some of the world's poorest countries. As a lifelong campaigner, I know this devastating problem is fixable if we work together. But we need your support. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you can help - please join the conversation, show your support and help us inspire action."

The TED Prize will also have support from a wish advisory board. Members include: Jamie Drummond, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ONE; Julie McCarthy, Director of the Fiscal Governance Program at Open Society Foundations; Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation; Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, Participant Media, and the first President of eBay; and Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. All have added their support to the wish, as well as their expertise, advice and continued practical support.  

"Charmian Gooch's 'wish' is the right move at the right time. Trillions of dollars have been lost over the last decade to illicit money flows from corrupt deals in the developing world," said Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation, and the first President of eBay. "Charmian and Global Witness received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship earlier this month because their quest to expose corruption, conflict, and environmental degradation is poised to put an end to the 'resource course' that has kept millions of the world's poorest people in poverty."  

"I've seen the harm that poor governance and a lack of accountability has caused across the developing world, which is why as a philanthropist and a businessman I support Charmian's TED wish to fight corruption and to end anonymous companies," said Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Law enforcement has also chosen to support the wish. Jon Adler, National President of the US Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), said: "The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) would like to recognize Charmian Gooch and Global Witness for their unrelenting leadership on the corporate transparency campaign. As supported in bi-partisan legislation currently in Congress, we must eliminate the corporate fox-holes that criminals cower in, and ensure business accountability and transparency. Requiring corporate filers to disclose who the beneficiaries are isn't an invasion of privacy; it's a proclamation of integrity."

The TED Prize wish signals the start of a conversation and action to create a global movement for change. To achieve success, Charmian and Global Witness are looking to TED and its extended community to:

Join the movement for global change

Build a global movement to make it impossible for criminals and others to hide behind anonymous companies. Global Witness – along with partners around the world – is leading a campaign to end anonymous companies. 

Mobilize your communities 

The first step to ending anonymous companies is to educate people, encourage them to join the campaign and inspire others to take action.

  • Share Charmian's TED Prize talk (link coming soon)
  • Translate Charmian's TED Prize talk
  • For local groups, civil society, and TEDx organisers, here's a checklist of ways to support
  • Tell us what your community is doing to support the wish on the Facebook page and Twitter

Contribute to the public registry

Help create the first-ever prototype of a public registry for collecting and publishing critical information on who ultimately owns a company. This prototype will serve as a guide for governments that want to end anonymous companies.

Help us make this prototype public registry a reality. Email us at [email protected] to contribute funds and technical expertise.

Convene the business community

Transparency is good for businesses and consumers. We all want to know whom we're buying from and whom we're doing business with. If you own or work in a company — big or small, publicly listed or privately held—join the global campaign, take part in the conversation, and support this wish.

We're going to bring together as many companies as possible to a meeting in NYC to figure out how we can collectively advance a movement away from anonymous companies, and towards transparency. Join us. Email [email protected].

Add your businesses name to those calling for an end to anonymous companies. Email [email protected]

Tell the story

Creatives, animators, broadcasters, photographers, and app designers: this wish needs you. The story of anonymous companies and their effect on real people's lives remains largely untold. Bring your communicative and artistic gifts to bear on this global problem and, in doing so, inspire others to act.   

Email [email protected] if you have an idea and want to collaborate with us, and our partners around the world.

Filmmakers can respond to the Sundance Institute request for proposals to make a film on this issue.

Notes to Editors:

About the TED Prize 
The first TED Prize was awarded in 2005, born out of the TED Conference and a vision by the world's leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and entertainers to change the world – one wish at a time. The original prize: $100,000 and the TED community's range of talent and expertise. What began as an unparalleled experiment to leverage the resources of the TED community has evolved into a $1 million award and an ambitious effort to spur global-scale change.

From Bono's the ONE Campaign ('05 recipient) to Jamie Oliver 's Food Revolution ('10 recipient) to JR's Inside Out Project ('11 recipient) and Sugata Mitra's School in a Cloud ('13 recipient), the TED Prize has helped to combat poverty, take on religious intolerance, improve global health, tackle child obesity, advance education, and inspire art around the world.

For Press Inquiries: Erin Allweiss +1 202 446 8265/[email protected]

About Global Witness 
Founded in 1993, Global Witness is a UK non-profit organization based in London and Washington DC. Global Witness investigates and campaigns to change the system by exposing the economic networks behind conflict, corruption and environmental destruction. The organization focuses on undertaking hard-hitting investigations into matters of public interest that expose the companies, the corrupt, the bankers, the corporate executives, and the middlemen of various kinds who willfully enable corruption to take place on a grand scale. Global Witness reports on these matters, and launches campaigns that change the terms of debate and set the global agenda.

For press inquiries: Andrea Pattison +44 7703 671 308/[email protected] 


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