New Data: 37% of Manhattan Properties Owned by Secretive LLC Shell Companies – 5x NYS Average

Experts Say New York’s Real Estate LLCs Play Key Role in Global Money Laundering

Watchdog group Reinvent Albany published a new analysis of New York State property ownership downloaded from the New York State and New York City open data websites and compiled by BetaNYC’s Civic Innovation LabResearch and Data Assistance Requests (RADAR), and JustFix.NYC

Data Shows True Owners of Property in NY Already Overwhelmingly Publicly Disclosed Online  Secretiveness of Manhattan Property Ownership is Glaring

  • NY State: 93% of properties’ true owners are publicly disclosed versus 7% hidden behind Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).  
  • Statewide Outside NYC: 94% publicly disclosed versus 6% hidden behind LLCs.
  • NYC Only: 88% publicly disclosed versus 12% hidden behind LLCs – 2x state average.
  • Manhattan: 37% LLC ownership is 5x state average.
  • Manhattan: 37% LLC ownership is 3x average of next largest cities in NY.

At the Summit for Democracy on December 9, 2021, US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen highlighted New York’s global importance to international money laundering:

There’s a good argument that, right now, the best place to hide and launder ill-gotten gains is actually the United States. And that’s because of the way we allow people to establish shell companies … Many corrupt actors can hide their money in Central Park skyscrapers … an LLC can be listed as the owner. Sometimes the only thing these luxury properties are home to are ill-gotten gains – they’re money laundromats on the 81st floor.

LLC Transparency Act Passed Legislature, Waiting for Governor Hochul to Sign
Anti-corruption, housing, and labor groups are urging Governor Hochul to sign the LLC Transparency Act, which passed the Legislature earlier this year and requires LLCs to disclose their human owners to the state for publishing in a public database. New York’s bill mirrors the federal Corporate Transparency Act, which requires LLCs to disclose their true owners to the Treasury Department starting in January 2024. However, the federal LLC database will be accessible only to law and tax enforcement agencies. 

Reinvent Albany strongly supports the LLC Transparency Act, and we note the repeated high-profile warnings from the US Treasury and the World Bank/UN, in addition to detailed investigative reporting from New York Magazine and the New York Times, that real estate LLC shell companies in New York City play a significant role in global money laundering and corruption.

Other Major Cities in New York State
Below are LLC ownership rates in major cities other than New York City using 2022 property assessment data. 

Counties Outside NYC – Properties Owned by Limited Liability Companies (2022)

Data Sources