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A half-century of resistance to corporate disclosure

Alex Cobham (), Petr Janský () and Markus Meinzer

UNCTAD Transnational Corporations Journal

Abstract: As the complexity of transnational corporations (TNCs) grew in the post-war period, their effective degree of disclosure diverged from what is standardly expected of single-country firms. Country-by-country reporting is the key proposal to reestablish appropriate TNC disclosure, and ultimately TNC accountability – and as such, has been consistently resisted by many TNCs, professional services firms and some key headquarters countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This paper charts two main waves of pressure for progress. The first, most visible from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, reflects the claims of the New International Economic Order and the rise of the G77 group of countries, while the second saw international civil society take a leading role. The current phase sees these two impulses combine and may finally deliver meaningful progress. The paper addresses both the political underpinnings and the developing technical component to the claims for deeper TNC disclosure, ultimately shaped into the pursuit of an international standard for public, country-by-country reporting – and the resistance to it. The paper also provides illustrative results based on the existing country-by-country reporting data for banks. It concludes with a discussion of the prospects for country-by-country reporting.

Date: 2018
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