Innovation in the semantic representation of a Legal Entity Identifier


Following the 2008 financial crisis, the importance and benefit of a universal Legal Entity Identifier (LEI*) became clear. Regulators worldwide acknowledged their inability to identify transactions from entities across markets, products, and regions. This ultimately hindered the ability to evaluate systemic and emerging risks, to identify trends, and to subsequently take corrective steps. Recognising this incapacity, authorities working with the private sector developed the framework of a Global LEI System (GLEIS) that will, through the issuance of unique LEIs, unambiguously identify actors engaged in financial transactions.

In 2011, the G20 called on the Financial Stability Board (FSB) to provide appropriate recommendations for a global Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) and a supporting governance structure. This led to the development of the Global LEI System, which through the issuance of LEIs now provides the unique identification of legal entities participating in financial transactions across the globe.

Established in June 2014, the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) is a not-for-profit organisation created to support the implementation and use of the LEI. GLEIF services ensure the operational integrity of the Global LEI System.

A new approach to the semantic representation of a Legal Entity Identifier

The Common Data File (CDF) Format is the standard by which a global LEI or legal entity reference any data that is expressed in XML files, defined by the XML schema. We proposed a concrete RDF/OWL specification of LEI data named the General Legal Entity Identifier Ontology (GLEIO) that is not only compliant with the CDF Format but also allows for the representation of changes in LEI and related LEI reference data over time.

We focus on the benefits that can be gained by using a semantic representation. Among them are:

  • Transparent data semantics from the LEI
  • Persistent global identification of the entities - allowing for de-referencing URLs and the acquisition of entity information
  • Flexible representation, allowing for easy extensibility (e.g., in the scope of the Linked Open Data environment)
  • Possibility of using the content negotiation mechanism
  • Easy accessing and sharing of current and historical LEI data with the SPARQL endpoint protocol service.

MakoLab LEI resolver

The GLEIO has been used to create a web application allowing for the storing and displaying of LEI information. It is compliant with the Linked Data policies, i.e.:

  • All entities in GLEIO are uniquely identified by HTTP URLs.
  • By using entities' URL browsers and other applications, it is possible to obtain information about these entities (such retrieving is known as de-referencing URLs).
  • GLEIO entities are described by natural language annotations, describing the meaning as well as by formal axioms constraining the meaning, thus guaranteeing data coherency, consistency and differentiation.
  • Content negotiation allows a user to retrieve data that matches a query. Human agents receive a website, artificial agents receive RDF/OWL responses.
  • GLEIO can be easily linked with other resources. Currently, some of the classes and properties are linked with the financial ontology, FIBO.
  • SPARQL endpoint allows for the querying of the global LEI data in any way you want. External applications may take advantage of the endpoint and create their own applications, utilising data stored by Makolab. So, when querying LEI data or tracking changes one does not have to go through extensive and elaborate XML files and compare “strings”. It is enough to know the address of the endpoint in order to formulate a proper query.

* LEI - The Legal Entity Identifier, a unique 20-character alphanumeric code based on the ISO 17442 standard developed by the International Organisation of Standardisation. This code is assigned to legal entities that are counter-parties in financial transactions.

The full GLEIO white paper is available here
Download and see the Axioms of the General Legal Entity Identifier Ontology
Download the Class Taxonomy Picture

If you wish to learn more, try the LEI application or contact us at

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