As I understand it a bearer share is a share that is issued "to the bearer." This allows one to hold and/or transfer a large amount of wealth completely anonymously. In recent years jurisdictions have been making bearer shares illegal outright, or requiring that they be made "immobile," i.e., they must be stored in a financial institution, and the financial institution must record the name of their owner - making it subject to subpoena by governments or ex-spouse lawyers.

Taking that into account, why do people still use immobile bearer shares? What benefit do they provide?


2 Answers 2


For the most part, people don't still use them, in the sense that they're rarely bought and sold anymore in most countries. They still exist in a legal sense because people & companies have them from before regulatory changes made them immobile.


A bearer share company can still hold title to assets anonymously. This can be used to hide ownership of properties, can be used to hide trade secrets, trade patterns, discourage creditors, and discourage the creation of people that wish to become creditors.

People don't become creditors when they don't covet your money, and it doesn't always matter to the owners if the government can technically find out who owns something.

When privacy is desired, there are levels of privacy.

When bearer shares are 'immobile' and automatically registered with the local government, Private actors will still never know who owns them and state actors such as enforcement agencies of that government and foreign governments will never know who owns them until there is a CRIMINAL sanction being levied (distinct from a strictly monetary civil sanction). So for owning intellectual property, real estate, yachts, and other businesses, bearer shares still have their place in simply assigning the title to that property.

Title/holding companies don't need bank accounts. So the "problem" of not being able to open a bank account isn't really relevant. But the footnote is that you only need 1 single banker to break that pattern, and some banks really just don't care as they will never strain their relationship with the local government and international community.

For the second half of this decade and onwards, nobody really needs banks to do business, especially smaller operators, given that cryptocurrency is liquid enough and functions better for cross-border commerce, leaving it up to the final recipient to exchange it for unsanitary government paper currency in their local jurisdiction. So this revitalizes the use of bearer shares if so desired.

I would add that bearer shares are mostly preferential formality anyway, as there are plenty of ways to have anonymous fractional ownership of property, so your observations are correct.

  • 1
    "cryptocurrency is liquid enough and functions better for cross-border commerce". LOL.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 23:25
  • @RonJohn does your 2019 opinion on digital assets undermine your 2019 opinion on what I wrote about bearer shares?
    – CQM
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 23:57
  • The unnecessary second half of your answer negatively outweighs the first half.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 23:58
  • @RonJohn how much liquidity do you think a business needs? the spreads on exchanging bitcoin - for example - into local currency is lower than what you would get from a bank of currency exchanger at the airport - when talking about a few million USD a pop - so when does that observation affect your opinion? I'm just here to watch the goal post move. The point of the second half is necessary to show that alternatives to de-anonymizing banking have grown as fast as governments could regulate intermediaries of bearer shares, practically undermining those regulations.
    – CQM
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 0:01

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