A political economy approach to regulated Australian information disclosures

Haigh, Matthew and Guthrie, James (2009). A political economy approach to regulated Australian information disclosures. Business Ethics: A European Review, 18(2) pp. 192–208.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8608.2009.01557.x

Abstract

In an effort to improve comparability between socially responsible investment products and standardize investment terminology, Australian legislators recently required investment managers to report to retail investors the extent to which ‘social considerations’ are used in portfolio construction. Using a lens of political economy, this paper assesses whether the objectives of the legislation to standardize investment terminology, promote inter-product comparability and encourage the accountability of product claims have been met. The context of legislative development is examined in Australian Parliamentary debates. Practised accountabilities are identified by examining a representative sample of the initial set of regulated disclosures issued. The quality of regulated information disclosures is assessed by the degree of correlation with legislators' objectives and the regulatory requirements. Initial disclosures were poor, providing little basis for comparability. In some instances, the quality of information had declined relative to the information supplied on a voluntary basis before the legislation took effect. The evidence supports a criticism of a regulatory laissez faire approach to self-reporting and an argument for more directed regulation of management processes.

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