How anonymous companies hurt young people


This animated video collaboration with TED Prize shines a light on anonymous companies and the negative effects that they can have on people around the world. Here’s what you need to know:

Anonymous companies are often used to cover up crime. Global Witness, the anti-corruption organization co-founded by TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch, calls anonymous companies the “getaway cars for the world’s criminals and corrupt.” In this animated video, Global Witness explains how it works.

These crimes frequently impact young people. One example: In their case report on anonymous companies, Global Witness notes that in Ohio, one school district’s IT manager set up a number of anonymous companies and billed his school district for $3.4 million in products and services never rendered. Then, there’s the case of American mobsters Nicodemo Scarfo and Salvatore Pelullo, who opened anonymous companies in the name of their children, and used these entities to steal $12 million and “buy fast cars, jewelry and a yacht they named ‘Priceless,’” as well as firearms. And the case of Interfarm, an anonymous company based in Oregon that sold vaccines to the Ukrainian government for double their real cost, leading to fewer children receiving their required vaccines, including the one against polio.

Young people are connected around the globe. This all speaks to an even larger point, says Mark Hays of Global Witness. “Anonymous companies are the vehicle all these different bad actors use to pull off schemes. In essence, the institutions created by people in one country are helping support these activities; sometimes enthusiastically and other times by turning a blind eye,” he says. “What this can teach a student, at any age, is that the notion that injustice in one country is somehow not connected to the actions and responsibilities of other countries is just false. If they want to be a part of challenging injustice, they need to understand the systemic ways these problems occur.” Read Global Witnesses’ case report on anonymous companies.

Knowledge can help you challenge injustice. With the 2014 TED Prize, Charmian Gooch called for the first public registry of who owns companies — a big leap toward ending the practice of anonymous companies. As the animated video explains, knowing this simple information could “allow us as the general public to understand the flow of enormous sums of money that impact politics, our daily lives and the health of our world.” Watch Charmian Gooch’s TED Prize talk to learn more.

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