Corporations are required to disclose specific types of information to the public, but only the federal securities laws impose generalized disclosure obligations that produce a holistic overview of corporate operations. While these disclosures are intended to benefit investors, they are accessible to anyone, and thus have long been relied upon by regulators, competitors, employees, and local communities to provide a working portrait of the country’s economic life.

Today, that system is breaking down. Congress and the SEC have made it easier for companies to raise capital without triggering securities reporting obligations, allowing modern businesses to grow to enormous proportions while leaving the public in the dark about their operations. Meanwhile, investors’ governmentally conferred informational advantage allows them to tilt managers’ behavior in their favor, at the expense of consumers, employees, and other corporate stakeholders. As a result, securities disclosures do not provide the comprehensive picture necessary to maintain social control over corporate behavior.

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