Companies House changes ‘hampering’ work of investigative journalists

Companies House changes 'hampering' work of investigative journalists

Changes to the way Companies House collects data on directors is severely hampering the ability of investigative and business journalists to hold businesses to account and expose frauds and criminals, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said.

Company directors are no longer required to provide the day of their date of birth or their home address, which journalists say is often vital when verifying the identity of a director.

In one case highlighted by the union, an award-winning journalist was unable to publish a story because he could not prove to his editor that the director of one company as the same person who was director of another company.

The NUJ has urged the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Companies House to reverse the changes, and has also given its backing to proposals to introduce a unique verification number/code for directors.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Journalists have a job of holding businesses to account. Companies House is a vital part of our democracy and plays an important role in ensuring there is corporate transparency.

“Nothing should be done – deliberately or inadvertently – to make it more difficult to access the information it holds, and creeping secrecy should be rolled back. The object must be maximum transparency and easy access to information presented in a meaningful way. Whether as citizens, employees or customers, we need to know that companies are not avoiding or evading tax, ripping us off, acting fraudulently, or borrowing beyond their means.

“Journalists make it their business to follow the fortunes of companies and root out the rogues. To do this they need accurate data. They need not only to be able to follow the money, but also to do background checks on directors in the knowledge that they cannot mask misdeeds by subterfuge or move on from one disaster to another. Verification of directors’ identities is key to this task.”

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