For shining a light on corporate secrecy.
“When people say something is really crazy or naive, that’s when you know you’re onto something,” says Charmian Gooch of her latest campaign to end corporate secrecy laws. These are the tangle of rules–common in states such as Delaware and in countries around the world–that Gooch says enable drug dealers, mafia groups, and dictators to use anonymous shell companies to launder money. Corporate secrecy is a problem that’s more entrenched and less sexy than the crusades that made Gooch famous: a 1998 exposé that showed, for the first time, how the diamond industry had been underwriting a civil war in Angola, and her effort to end illegal logging. But Gooch’s 80-person team of campaigners, lawyers, researchers, and investigative journalists is already attracting high-profile attention to the cause. Last year, Michigan Democrat Carl Levin introduced a transparency bill to the U.S. Senate, and in March, Gooch was awarded the $1 million TED Prize. She pledged to use the money to create an online registry that will include ownership information on companies around the world. The plan is ambitious. Gooch says that’s the point.