Westlaw information: A treasure trove for journalists?

You’d expect lawyers and law librarians to appreciate Westlaw but our legal product is also getting plaudits from a less likely source: Our news reporters.

Brian Grow, Special Enterprise Correspondent on Reuters’ Global Enterprise Team, along with fellow journalist Kelly Carr, used Westlaw to peel back the mystery around a small house in Wyoming where more than 2,000 companies are registered. They wondered why and found out about on the murky world of shell and “shelf” companies.

It turns out the house was the headquarters for a company called Wyoming Corporate Services, which specializes in establishing shell and “shelf” corporations, which are companies that exist only on paper without assets or operations.

Some of the findings from Brian’s investigation include:

  • Companies registered at the Wyoming house have been named in a dozen civil lawsuits alleging unpaid taxes, securities fraud and trademark infringement since 2007, a review of Westlaw data shows.
  • State and federal tax authorities have filed liens against companies registered at the address seeking to collect more than $300,000 in unpaid taxes, according to Westlaw.
  • The owner of a shelf company at the address was indicted in April for allegedly helping online-poker operators evade a U.S. ban on Internet gambling. The owner of two other firms there was banned from government contracting in January for selling counterfeit truck parts to the Pentagon.

“I couldn’t have done this story without Westlaw,” said Brian. “You’ve got to have your sleuthing hat on and follow the information trail wherever it leads. After all, a lot of these shell companies are purposefully trying to stay off the radar. Westlaw data fills in the details and absolutely helps us tell the real story of what’s going on.”

Brian worked with Westlaw contacts Mary Kivimaki and Leah Hauge, both former reference attorneys, to gather research and documentation on the house in Wyoming.

Read Brian’s full story, Special Report: A little house of secrets on the Great Plains, or the Legal Current post about it.