Some companies minimise tax payments by setting up subsidiaries in jurisdictions which are referred to loosely as tax havens. These companies are shell companies because they have no trading function and are used only to hold assets for the purposes of avoiding tax. Every company needs officers such as a director and secretary. Normally, officers have to be resident in the jurisdiction, and so an industry has grown up of "nominees". For example, if you want to set up a shell company in Gibraltar, you can find residents of Gibraltar who are willing to be appointed as company officers (for money). They are nominees only because you still take all the decisions about the company wherever you are and tell them to sign some official paperwork from time to time. The nominees act as your agents.