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Reynolds’ Carr, Grow tackle prevalence of U.S. shell companies

Reuters Shell Games Kelly Carr Brian GrowKelly Carr, a Reynolds Center staffer, and Brian Grow, a Barlett & Steele Award winner, are creating some buzz this morning with an investigative story about the use of U.S. shelf companies.

Reuters Special Report: A little house of secrets on the Great Plains

The story, which came out of a yearlong investigation by Carr is the first in a Reuters series exploring the extent and impact of corporate secrecy in the United States.

Carr is senior online producer on BusnessJournalism.org. Brian Grow was one of a team that won the Barlett & Steele Award for Investigative Business Journalism in 2008 for BusinessWeek’s “Prisoners of Debt.”

Carr’s curiosity led to this investigation into the use of U.S. shelf companies :”A little house of secrets on the Great Plains”

She took her research and story idea to Reuters which is turning it into a series exploring the extent and impact of corporate secrecy in the United States.

Yahoo Reuters story Carr traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., to get a first-hand look at red brick house that serves as a little Cayman Island. The unassuming home, 2710 Thomes Avenue, serves as headquarters for some 2,000 companies. Carr and Grow investigated the activity in that house, which belongs to Wyoming Corporate Services, a business-incorporation specialist that establishes firms which can be used as “shell” companies, paper entities able to hide assets.

“This story was a classic investigative hunt that involved intense records digging to connect the dots. We began by searching state incorporation records and later tallied more than 2,000 companies that all listed the same address in Cheyenne, Wyoming,” Carr said. “The address turned out to be a single-family home that also served as a headquarters for a mass incorporation business selling aged corporations.

“When we visited the home and saw that the living room was filled from floor to ceiling with mailboxes, we knew we were onto something,” she said. “We sought to understand why thousands of companies would choose this little Cheyenne home as their headquarters and who were behind those entities.”

What they found is that all the activity at 2710 Thomes is part of a little-noticed industry in the U.S.: the mass production of paper businesses.

And the buzz?  Just over an hour after the story was posted on the Reuters home page, it has been Tweeted nearly 350 times and liked on Facebook about 550 times. And it had been put on Yahoo’s home page.

Video: Paper businesses can mask shady dealings

In Basics, Best Practices, Featured, Investigation, Small | Private | Non-profit.

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