Congressman Malinowski Fights for the Corporate Transparency Act
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Malinowski delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bipartisan Corporate Transparency Act, which passed the House yesterday. Congressman Malinowski is an original co-sponsor on the legislation. Here is the link to the video and below you can find his remarks:
“Mr. Speaker, this is a rare moment in this House. We have a bipartisan bill. A bill that we have worked together, Republicans and Democrats in the House. We’ve worked together in the Senate, there’s a companion piece of legislation. It has been praised by the Trump Administration. We have a chance to do something tremendously good here, and the bill says something very simple: no one should be able to establish in the United States a shell company with completely secret ownership, secret even from law enforcement.
We are saying that we are not Panama; we are not the Cayman Islands; we are not some little island nation tax shelter that puts out a welcome mat for drugs dealers, and arms dealers, and dictators hiding money from their people. We are the United States of America. We are a nation of laws that does not tolerate corruption at home, and that fights corruption around the world.
Mr. Speaker when I was running the Human Rights Bureau at the State Department, I would often speak to dissidents fighting for freedom in countries like Russia, and I would say to them, “What can we do to help you”?
And they would say, “You know what we don’t ask you to fight all of our battles for us, but just don’t be complicit in what our dictatorship does to us”.
And I’d say “What do you mean complicit”, and they would say “You know what, because the money that people like Putin and their oligarchs steal from us all goes into banks and real estate in America and in Europe and they do it through shell companies”.
And they were right, under our current laws, anyone can set up an anonymously owned company to hide the proceeds of corruption or crime. Fentanyl dealers do it, terrorists do it, human traffickers do it, foreign dictators do it. The wildly corruption son of Equatorial Guinea’s former president, for example, set up a shell company in the United States to launder millions of dollars in bribes from international logging companies. Corrupt officials in Nigeria use shell companies to steal aid that we sent them to fight Boko Haram. Next time you’re in New York City, check out 650 5th Avenue. You can go shopping in the Nike store on the ground floor, get some shoes. You probably wouldn’t realize that the building was owned for 20 years by the government of Iran, once again using a shell company.
And let's be clear, shell companies not only allow foreign bad actors to hide dirty money in the United States, they allow them to use that dirty money to corrupt our system. Yeah, I know it’s illegal for foreigners to contribute to our campaigns, but if you launder your money through a front company with anonymous ownership there is very little we can do to stop you.
Now this amendment, I’m thrilled to hear my Republican colleagues say they’re concerned about privacy and civil liberties, but this bill already has extraordinarily strong privacy protections. Law enforcement can only ask for access for this data if there is already an ongoing law enforcement investigation. They whole process is overseen by civil liberties and privacy officer at FinCEN and the information is so simple: My name, Tom Malinowski. My address, 86 Washington Street, Rocky Hill, NJ 08553. My date of birth, 09-23-65. My driver’s license number is too long to read, but you know what the government already has it. What the government does not have is the names of the owners of companies that are set up here by foreign kleptocrats, drug lords, and criminals. Law enforcement should have access to that information.
So, let me just close by reminding this House who is for this bill: The National Association of Attorneys General, the National District Attorneys Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service Association, the Small Business Majority, the Main Street Alliance, the American Sustainable Business Council, the Bankers Association of every single state that we represent in this body. Virtually every major human rights and anti-corruption group in the United States and around the world. Please join them, join me, join the bipartisan champions of this blow we are about to strike against corruption, reject this MTR, support the bill. Thank you very much.”