Disclosure in annual reports : an agency theoretic perspective in an international setting
Over the recent years 'transparency' or better information disclosure has been the buzzword of various corporate governance bodies due to the failures of the system of corporate governance, which arise from an agency relationship. However, there are arguments by 'free market' advocates suggesting that information is voluntarily disclosed. This study discusses and compares the disclosure of information relating to directors' behaviour in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Sweden. These countries were selected because they represent the developed countries with different accounting systems. Furthermore, they are also the board member countries of IASC and OECD. 'Transparency' relating to directors' behaviour for the six countries were measured using disclosure indices, i.e. the disclosure point average for dichotomous, modified dichotomous, weighted dichotomous and weighted modified dichotomous indices. These weighted indices were established by analysing survey responses of investment analysts. The results show that there were significant differences in the disclosure of information relating to directors' behaviour among the six countries. There is also a very low level of 'transparency' in all the countries except the United Kingdom. These results suggest that information relating to directors' behaviour is not voluntarily disclosed and therefore regulation is necessary in order for it to be more transparent as suggested by the various corporate governance bodies.