Global Issues TED Prize

The TED Prize wish: What you can do to end anonymous companies

Posted by: Tedstaff
Charmian Gooch shares the question that has guided so much of her work at TED2014. Here's how you can help her TED Prize wish come true. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Charmian Gooch shares her wish for the world with the TED community at TED2014. Here’s how you can help her TED Prize wish come true. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

By Natasha Scripture

Anti-corruption activist Charmian Gooch stood up on stage at TED2014 tonight and revealed her TED Prize wish: to get rid of anonymous companies once and for all by making who owns and controls them public knowledge.

Charmian Gooch: My wish: To launch a new era of openness in businessCharmian Gooch: My wish: To launch a new era of openness in businessAs head of Global Witness, a UK-based non-profit that has been campaigning for transparency for the last 20 years, Gooch is a long-time champion for human rights. In recent years, she has focused on uncovering the owners of anonymous companies structured that way in order to hide the identity of corrupt politicians and businessmen who use them to loot resource-rich developing countries and move the money through banks around the world. And it isn’t just the corrupt who use these companies to launder money—arms traffickers, drug smugglers, tax evaders and even terrorists use anonymous companies to facilitate their crimes.

Gooch’s mission is to jumpstart a worldwide campaign that puts an end to anonymous companies and penalizes crooks behind them. “Let’s ignite world opinion, change the law, and together launch a new era of openness in business,” said Gooch, calling on the masses to support her campaign’s goal of creating the first-ever public registry for companies.

Sure, it sounds like a big job, but if every single person contributed in some way, we can all make Gooch’s wish come true. Here are some simple ways you can help right now:

If you have a Facebook account:

If you have a Twitter account: 

If you’re a techy:

  • We need your help designing the first-ever create the first-ever prototype of a public registry that lists the true owners of companies. Email us at ted@globalwitness.org to contribute funds or volunteer as a technical expert.

If you’re a persuasive writer:

  • The opinion section is the most widely read part of the newspaper and your elected officials regularly monitor it to see what is important to constituents. So bring attention to the problem of anonymous companies by submitting letters to the editor, op-eds and blogs.

If you’re an artist or filmmaker:

  • 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 us at ted@globalwitness.org 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. Stay tuned for details.

If you’re a business leader:

  • If you own or work in a company — big or small, publicly listed or privately held — we’d love you to join the global campaign. We’re going to bring together as many companies as possible to a meeting in New York City to figure out how we can collectively advance a movement away from anonymous companies and towards transparency. Join us. Email ted@globalwitness.org.

If you are a local activist:

  • Mobilize your community. There’s a variety of ways that you can get involved, from writing to influential politicians within your country to starting a petition calling for anonymous companies to be outlawed. We can help link you up with local organizations working on this issue to provide more context and guidance. Email us at ted@globalwitness.org.

If you are part of a TEDx community:

  • Hold a TEDx event on corruption and find examples from your community of how anonymous companies are harming people, not to mention the credibility of local business. Your stories and experiences can help to spread the message. The more evidence we can bring together, the better, as it will help build momentum and outrage. Send your stories to: ted@globalwitness.org.