Insight and investigations from our expert reporters
Wyoming Secretary of State talks back
On Tuesday, a Reuters Special Report called “A Little House of Secrets on the Great Plains ” explored the questionable – and sometimes illegal practices – of several businesses incorporated at a single-family home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The 1,700-sq. ft, brick house is the address of a business incorporation specialist called Wyoming Corporate Services, which has set up more than 2,000 companies there, according to incorporation records.
The article launched a Reuters series which will explore the extent and impact of corporate secrecy in the U.S., which stands in stark contrast to its call for greater transparency in global transactions to lift the veil on shadowy money flows.
In an interview published Wednesday by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, the local newspaper in Cheyenne, Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield defended the state’s business incorporation laws, while acknowledging they can still be improved.
Maxfield said legislation enacted in 2009 had allowed the state to “dissolve 7,000 phony or fraudulent shell” companies, according to the story, and banned companies from operating in the state without a physical presence. Reuters cited the change in Wyoming law in its Special Report. Maxfield added that “many of the troublesome companies registered to the 2710 Thomes Ave. address were dissolved in recent years,” according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
In a May interview with Reuters, officials from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office said Wyoming Corporate Services, which operates from 2710 Thomes Avenue, complies with state law. They did not indicate any firms at that address had been dissolved. Reuters requested an interview with Maxfield during its reporting, but officials said he was not available.
Reuters found that firms registered at 2710 Thomes Avenue have been involved in selling knock-off parts to the U.S. Department of Defense, processing payments for consumer scams and illegal online gambling operations, and allegedly hold assets controlled by a jailed former prime minister of Ukraine. On its web site, Wyoming Corporate Services advertises that companies it incorporates can be used as a “fall guy, a good friend, a servant or a decoy.”
Maxfield told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that he would support new legislation that would give the state power to issue “cease and desist” orders against companies when it cannot dissolve them. He was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
The story has caused quite a stir — watch Rachel Maddow’s take on it here.