The Corporate Accountability Network (CAN) is a new initiative that will be the first ever NGO / CSO aimed specifically at targeting the weaknesses in the accounting disclosure of all companies. Its aim is to ensure that the accounts of all companies are prepared for the benefit of all its stakeholders. The CAN thinks that those stakeholders of a company are:

  • the suppliers of its capital;
  • its trading partners;
  • its employees;
  • regulators;
  • its tax authorities, and
  • all in civil society that it might engage with.

At present, the rules set by the regulators of the accountancy profession suggest that only the first group – the suppliers of capital to a company – are of concern when accounts are prepared. This means that accounting data that many who engage with a company might need to manage the risk that a company imposes on them –  not least because of the fact that its shareholders enjoy the enormous privilege of having limited liability with regard to its debts – is not available for them to use.

The Corporate Accountability Network has launched its website today – 1 May 2019. This describes what the Corporate Accountability Network is; who is behind it and how it might be funded. It also explains the nature of the problem it wants to tackle, and why it thinks it is important. And it describes the first projects the CAN wants to take on. These include a project on Accounting for the Local Economy (ALE from the CAN) and Accounting for People (People CAN). There are other planned worked programmes in development.

CAN’s director, Richard Murphy, who is a chartered accountant, a long term tax and economic justice campaigner and at present Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City, University of London, said of the website launch:

The Corporate Accountability Network is tackling an issue that no one has addressed before, which is why the accounts of companies are not addressing the needs of most users of those accounts. This is an issue that goes right to the heart of the problem at the core of the mdoern economy, which is that people are losing faith in business because they feel alienated from it.

We believe that business, government and communities can and should work closely with each other. However, that is only possible if people have the information that they need to appraise the businesses with which they engage. That in turn means businesses have to learn to trust people with this data, which it is their right to have because the owners of all limited companies enjoy the enormous advanatge of limited liability that has been granted to them by society at large.

Our aim is to work with business, the accountancy profession, academics, civil society organisations, trade unions and others to build a consensus on how society might in future deliver the accounting data that people need to make appropriate appraisal of the risks arising from engaging with a company, which is not available in most cases at present. Our new website is the first stage in this process.

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