The Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) is a unique global identifier for legal entities participating in financial transactions. Also known as an LEI code or LEI number, its purpose is to help identify legal entities on a globally accessible database. Legal entities are organisations such as companies or government entities that participate in financial transactions. An individual person may not obtain an LEI. The identifier is used in regulatory reporting to financial regulators and all financial companies and funds are required to have an LEI.
The drivers of the LEI initiative, i.e. the Group of 20, the FSB and many regulators around the world, have emphasized the need to make the LEI a broad public good. The Global LEI Index, made available by GLEIF, greatly contributes to meeting this objective. It puts the complete LEI data at the disposal of any interested party, conveniently and free of charge.
The identifier is formatted as a 20-character, alpha-numeric code based on the ISO 17442 standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It connects to key information that enables clear and unique identification of legal entities participating in financial transactions. Each LEI database entry contains information about an entity’s ownership and thus answers the questions of ‘who is who’ and ‘who owns whom’. Therefore the publicly available LEI data pool can be regarded as a global directory of non-individual participants in the financial market.
In response, the LEI system was developed by the 2011 G20 in response to this inability of financial institutions to identify organisations uniquely, so that their financial transactions in different national jurisdictions could be fully tracked. Currently, the Legal Entity Identifier Regulatory Oversight Committee (LEI ROC), a coalition of financial regulators and central banks across the globe, is encouraging the expansion of the LEI. The U.S. and European countries require corporations to use the legal entity identifier when reporting the details of transactions with over-the-counter derivatives to financial authorities. Today, authorities of 45 jurisdictions mandate the use of LEI code to identify legal entities involved in different financial transactions.