30 Nov 22

Register of Beneficial Ownership: Access by the Public Suspended

On 22 November 2022, the European Court of Justice ("ECJ") ruled that provisions whereby member states must ensure that the information on the beneficial register of companies should be accessible to any member of the public is invalid. In its judgement, the ECJ noted that the general public’s access to information constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data, enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Access to the central registers of beneficial ownership has been suspended in several member states, including Ireland, as a result of the ECJ’s ruling.

Originally, in accordance with Directive 2015/849 (the "EU Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive"), member states were to ensure access in all cases for the following persons:

a. Competent authorities and EU Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), without restriction;

b. Obliged entities, within the framework of customer due diligence; and

c. Any person or organisation that can demonstrate a legitimate interest.

Subsection (c) was later amended to “any member of the general public” in 2021 under Directive 2018/843 (the "EU Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive"), removing the requirement to demonstrate a legitimate interest.

The ECJ’s ruling relates only to the condition granting unconditional access to any member of the general public due to a conflict with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. The potential consequences for the data subjects resulting from possible abuse of their personal data are compounded by the fact that once the data has been made available to the general public, it can be freely retained and disseminated.

Our Legal and Compliance team has significant experience in compliance with statutory regulatory reporting obligations and legal administration functions which are critical to the success of our clients' businesses. The team provide safe hands to assist you in ensuring that you do not suffer financial or reputational harm as a result of non-compliance with local laws and regulations. For further information please contact Máiréad Lyons or Kelvin McHugh.