What is the LEI system?

The Global Legal Entity Identifier System (sometime abbreviated to GLEIS) is designed to address the problems of corporate identity, particularly in the financial markets. Names of corporate entities are very unreliable ways of identifying them, as many discovered to their cost in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the financial crisis. The names are often abbreviated, the same legal entity often changes name multiple times, names are reused, and entities can even have multiple legal names (in different languages). For this reason, it is useful to assign a persistent identifier to each corporate entity, unconnected with its name.

This identifier is called an LEI (Legal Entity Identifier)
Who is behind the LEI system?
The LEI system is being set up at the behest of the G20, who tasked the Financial Stability Board with the job of creating it. It will be a federated system, with entities being issued by Local Operating Units (LOUs), overseen by a Central Operating Unit, which will coordinate their work and the data in the system. This in turn will be an arm of the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation, which is currently being set up by the Financial Stability Board.

There is also the Regulatory Oversight Committee (ROC), which is made up of government financial regulators, and will oversee the whole system. More information on the ROC and the formal structure of the GLEIS can be found at The LEI ROC website

A central principle of the LEI system is that the identifiers, and the data within the system, are free to use without any IP restrictions.
If the Foundation and Central Operating Unit hasn't been set up yet, what are the LEIs on Open LEIs?
While the GLEIS is still being formed, some regulators have already begun to require market participants to have LEIs. These are being issued by so-called pre-LOUs (Local Operating Units), the federated bodies who will actually be registering entities in the LEI system. These LEIs match the format of the LEI, and can work as basic identifiers, although some are missing required fields, and there are data compatibility and integrity issues. By providing a 'live' dataset they are also performing the valuable role of helping identify quality, structure and data problems with the system