Is Corporate Transparency the Solution to Political Failure on our Greatest Problems? A Discussion of Darendeli, Fiechter, Hitz, and Lehmann (2022)
Christensen, H. B. 2022. Is Corporate Transparency the Solution to Political Failure on our Greatest Problems? A Discussion of Darendeli, Fiechter, Hitz, and Lehmann (2022)
Journal of Accounting & Economics (JAE), Vol. 74, No. 2, 2022
22 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2022 Last revised: 11 Jan 2023
Date Written: August 19, 2022
Advocacy groups have responded to the lack of political solutions to some of the greatest problems we face - from climate change to armed conflicts—by lobbying for securities regulation that increases corporate transparency. They aim to incentivize corporations to address problems that lack other political solutions. I discuss what we can (and cannot) learn about the efficacy of reporting mandates from the findings in Darendeli et al. (2022) and related papers that stakeholders respond to greater availability of corporate social responsibility information. I support my arguments with evidence from mandatory conflict mineral disclosures - to date, the only related US securities regulation. Although stakeholder responses are likely necessary to incentivize changes in corporate behavior, they are insufficient to justify a mandate. A convincing justification must explain how reporting mandates lead to socially beneficial real effects, are best overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and are less costly than alternative policy instruments. So far, proponents of reporting mandates have, at best, provided incomplete justifications. These circumstances are problematic given the current push for mandatory reporting related to issues such as climate change and workplace diversity.
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