The Treasury Department will begin tracking the masked buyers of high-end properties in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, the New York Times reported.
The new initiative will require real estate companies to reveal the names of people who purchase properties behind shell companies, often in all-cash transactions.
The practice of using LLCs to hide a buyer’s identity is fairly common, and it is legal.
In an investigation conducted by The Times in 2015, it was revealed that nearly half of homes sold for more than $5 million across the country were purchased by shell companies. That number would presumably be higher in more competitive real estate markets, like in New York and Miami.
In Manhattan, rows of super-tall buildings along 57th Street — One57, 432 Park, and Nordstrom Tower, just to name a few — are rife with these kinds of purchases.
At the Time Warner Center near Central Park, it was found that dozens of owners who had been hidden by shell companies and were actually under investigation by the government. Among these hidden owners were former Russian senators and a businessman tied to the Malaysian prime minister.
“We are concerned about the possibility that dirty money is being put into luxury real estate,” said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said to the New York Times. “We think some of the bigger risk is around the least transparent transactions.”
The new initiative will specifically require title insurance companies to find out buyers’ identities and submit their discoveries to the Treasury.