I came across an interesting analysis of financial disclosure rates by regions around the world. The blog, written by Mark Bodnar, a librarian at Simon Fraser University (British Colombia), observed limited financial disclosure in North America and much of AsiaPac, but broader financial availability in Europe.
Of the 18 million North American companies covered, only about 35,000 have detailed financials. That’s about 0.19%. Those would be from the relatively rare cohort of publicly traded companies we mentioned earlier. The other 99.81% of the companies are privately held, and in North America that means that they are under almost no obligation to reveal their financials.
Compare that to Western Europe, where about 10 million of their 30 million companies in the database have detailed financials…
Oceania (incorporating AUS, NZ, and many wonderful island nations) is also down around 0.2%, largely because there are detailed financials for only about 0.15% of the companies based in the biggest country in the region, Australia.
While none of this would be a surprise to people in the business information sector, it was a good way to surface the information for students and non-experts. European countries have a long history of requiring non-public (aka non-quoted or non-listed) companies to publicly file annual returns. The depth of filing varies by country and size of company, but Europe has a deep set of financials available to assist with credit and supplier risk analysis, prospecting, company research, KYC/AML, and market analytics.
In the US, disclosure is limited to public companies, non-profits, and financial services companies. Of these, only public company financials, which are filed via EDGAR (SEC), are fully transparent with few accessing state insurance filings, IRS 990 filings (non-profits), or the FDIC (banks).
I would take the author’s analysis of countries with deepest coverage of financials with a grain of salt. It is likely that many of the countries with the highest disclosure rates have limited coverage of companies not subject to financial disclosure. Furthermore, some of the filing regimes do not require financials for smaller companies.