Shell Companies and Anonymous Owners: A Pandora Papers Report
Dhivya Sridar/MEDILL

In January 2022, the team at the Medill Investigative Lab began digging into an obscure Wyoming company connected to a scandal thousands of miles away in Poland.

There, according to Polish media, sick patients had been offered questionable medical care for a fee of tens of thousands of dollars.

We began to search corporate records, quickly finding the name of a Wyoming resident who served as the company’s registered agent. Across the United States, so-called registered agents are often the sole point of contact for limited liability companies with anonymous ownership. And with scant oversight, registered agents have at times opened doors for bad actors to do business in the United States and around the world.

Over several weeks, we reviewed hundreds of corporate records and interviewed experts across the country. We traveled to Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne, to track down prominent registered agents in the state. We also spoke to top officials about Wyoming’s secrecy laws and the state’s limited oversight of LLCs.

Ultimately, our reporting helped identify Wyoming companies linked to oligarchs, criminals and online scammers.

Our work became part of a Washington Post and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) investigation published as a 2022 installment of the award-winning Pandora Papers, which exposed the covert movement of wealth around the world.

This kind of reporting taught us the importance of collaboration in investigative journalism. With the ICIJ and the team effort at the Medill Investigative Lab, we were able to help produce a revelatory story about a largely unregulated arm of the U.S. financial system.

— Michael Korsh and Emily Anderson Stern

Published Stories

Debbie Cenziper

Debbie Cenziper is an associate professor and the director of investigative reporting at Medill. She also oversees the Medill Investigative Lab. Besides teaching, Cenziper is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and nonfiction author who writes for The Washington Post. She spent three years at The George Washington University before joining the faculty of Medill.

Over the years, Cenziper’s investigative stories have exposed wrongdoing, prompted Congressional hearings and led to changes in federal and local laws. In her classes at Medill, Cenziper and her students focus on social justice investigative reporting.

Cenziper has won dozens of awards in American print journalism, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award for reporting about human rights and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 at The Miami Herald for a series of stories about corrupt affordable housing developers who were stealing from the poor. A year before that, she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for stories about dangerous breakdowns in the nation’s hurricane-tracking system.

Cenziper is a frequent speaker at universities, writing conferences and book events. Her first book, “Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality,” (William Morrow, 2016) was named one of the most notable books of the year by The Washington Post. Her second book, “Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America,” was released by Hachette Books in November 2019.

Cenziper is based on Medill’s Washington, D.C. campus, working with undergraduate and graduate students on investigative stories.