The Economist: Shells and shelves
SEARCH online for “company incorporation” and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Hundreds of so-called formation agents ply their trade online, offering to set up companies, trusts and foundations cheaply and discreetly, with minimal fuss (and in some cases minimal documentation) almost anywhere in the world. The customer need only click on the company desired, perhaps adding some optional extras such as a bank account, an offshore credit card, mail-forwarding or letterhead, and then heads to the checkout. Just £349 ($560) buys you a company in the Seychelles, with no local taxation, no public disclosure of directors or shareholders and no requirement to file accounts. Prices rise to £5,000 for more sophisticated corporate structures in places like Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Bad publicity makes many in the industry gun-shy. Almost all the providers are privately held and reluctant to give details of their trade. But interviews with some big ones (mostly on condition of anonymity) paint a picture of an industry buffeted by a regulatory assault but still churning out healthy returns. It is subject to familiar commercial forces, such as globalisation (the rise of the Asian client) and consolidation (arranged in some cases by buccaneering private-equity firms)…….Learn More
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