Last year Nevada passed a law that requires a company to maintain a record of beneficial ownership and to make the record available to the Secretary of State on request during the course of a criminal investigation. The company must also respond to interrogatories that would assist in the investigation. (Nevada Revised Statutes, Section 78.152). Specifically, the statute requires a corporation to maintain "(a) a current list of its owners of record; or (b) a statement indicating where such a list is maintained." The corporation must also provide the name and contact information of the custodian of the list. Failure to provide the list or to answer interrogatories submitted by the Secretary of State that would assist in a criminal investigation could result in suspension or revocation of the charter.
The statute is notable in several respects. First, Nevada is often considered the “Delaware of the West,” in that it promotes itself as a state of incorporation for businesses, regardless of their place of business. As a result, Nevada statutes, like Delaware's, are considered business friendly. So a statute requiring maintenance and disclosure of certain information would seem inconsistent with this reputation. Second, in the face of corporate scandals and malfeasance, financial regulators have been heavily criticized for lax oversight and enforcement. Therefore, laws like Nevada's could give future regulators a tool to use against suspected corporate misconduct and could be adopted by other states. So it will be interesting to see if other states take an approach similar to that of Nevada.