In what is apparently “a big moment” for Companies House, The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill has gained Royal Assent and has become law (and is therefore now The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023).
This is because Companies House can now play a much greater role in disrupting economic crime and preventing abuse of the Register of Companies.
As we have reported before in CPD TAP 485, the measures set out in the Act will give Companies House new and enhanced powers to improve the reliability and quality of their data, and will be able to act more quickly if people tell them that their personal information has been used without consent.
The measures include:
** Introducing identity verification for all new and existing registered company directors, people with significant control, and those who file on behalf of companies
** Broadening Companies House powers to become a more active gatekeeper over company creation and a custodian of more reliable data
** Improving the financial information on the Register so that the Register is more reliable and accurate, reflects the latest advancements in digital technology, and enables better business decisions
** Providing Companies House with more effective investigation and enforcement powers, and increasing our ability to share relevant information with partners
** Enhancing the protection of personal information to protect individuals from fraud and other harms
The act has introduced 4 new objectives for the Registrar of Companies. They will promote these objectives while carrying out their duties:
** To ensure that anyone who is required to deliver a document to the Registrar does so (and that the requirements for proper delivery are complied with)
** To ensure information contained in the register is accurate and that the register contains everything it ought to contain
** To ensure that records kept by the Registrar do not create a false or misleading impression to members of the public
** To prevent companies and others from carrying out unlawful activities, or facilitating others to carry out unlawful activities
** They have reported, however, that some of the measures will take time to be introduced as secondary legislation will be needed, and systems will need to be developed.
The Act has also provided additional powers to law enforcement to enable them to seize and recover cryptoassets more easily when they are the proceeds of crime or associated with illicit activity such as money laundering, fraud and ransomware attacks.
Its sister act, the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, was reportedly introduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in order to crack down on Russian money in the UK, and created the Register of Overseas Entities to help stop foreign criminals using UK property to launder money.