Why companies should publish their accounts in full on public record

The Corporate Accountability Network wants all companies, whatever their size, to publish their accounts in full and on public record with no cost being made to anyone seeking a copy. There are three reasons for doing so.

Firstly, the limited liability shareholders enjoy means that they do not have to settle the debts of their companies if those companies go bankrupt. Society picks up the cost instead. That means shareholders are granted an extraordinary privilege by society. That privilege creates an obligation to account for its responsible use. And that means the full accounts of all companies must be available on public record. Whatever is required for a shareholder to appraise the risk arising from investing in a company is the minimum that anyone else needs to appraise the risk that they might face from engaging with it.

Secondly, because no one knows which companies will, and will not, create risk for society at large it follows that all companies must account in full and on public record in case they are the one that does so.

Third, unfortunate experience suggests that the secrecy that not requiring full accounts on public record creates can provide cover for fraud of many sorts. To eliminate this risk, for the benefit of all honest companies as well as society at large, all companies must be required to put their accounts on public record.