Public Ownership Registry Triggers Privacy Worries in Germany

Our partner Dr. Oliver von Schweinitz was quoted in Bloomberg’s BNA International Tax Monitor in an article on German privacy worries, triggered by the public ownership registry.

Changes to European legislation mandating public access to information about company owners is likely to stir up trouble when the time comes for privacy-obessed Germany to transpose the rules into national law, attorneys told Bloomberg Tax.

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“With respect to the beneficial ownership registry, most EU countries already had open access – this is mainly a Change for Germany,” Oliver von Schweinitz, a partner and tax adviser with GGV law firm in Hamburg, told Bloomberg Tax June 13 .

And while attorneys expect to see furious debates about what information individuals deem appropriate to share and lawsuits in the future, they say in the end, Germany will likely have to bend to the law.

“It was pretty controversial in Germany, but that will have to end,” von Schweinitz added. “EU law takes supremacy over national law.”

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In Germany, a country with a turbulent history of state-sponsored surveillance during Nazi and later communist rule in the post-war period, full public access to the beneficial ownership register was omitted from the transposition of the fourth anti-money laundering directive because lawmakers’ feared it could subject firms’ beneficial owners to undue public scrutiny and even harm.

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But given the social ramifications in Germany of giving the public unrestricted access to beneficial owners’ information, von Schweinitz said a a debate is needed – even if all-out public access to the register is now law. While he doesn’t anticipate court challenges to the new EU law, individual beneficial owners will likely fight for the right to omit certain details of their personal information from the register.

“I believe that it’s wrong,” he said, referring to open access. “Typically, you need to state an address, so I believe if you put the address of the Institution, then their personal assets will come into play. It’s quite sensitive information, and I sometimes wonder if there’s too much transparency.”

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To read the complete article see attached PDF.

 

Dr. Oliver von Schweinitz  advises entrepreneurs and companies in Hamburg and Frankfurt on national and international tax law as well as commercial and real estate law. His support also comprises advice on project management..

Subjects: banking regulatory law (dual banking legislation, Dodd Frank Act), commercial and tax laws – also with regards to US law, information exchange laws (QI, FATCA, CRS), private equity, real estate and real estate tax law, the taxation of open and closed-end fund

Office Hamburg, Tel. +49 40 369633-56, schweinitz@gg-v.de