Susan Toman


In the shadow of a mountain of scandalous behavior exhibited by both government and business, it is easy to lose trust that any regulatory method can be effective. Transparency holds promise as a means to hold business and government accountable; particularly when both mandatory and voluntary disclosure are driven and shaped by their intended audience: Consumer/customer, employee, supplier, regulator or investor. With the beginning of the Obama Presidency, there is hope for increased governmental legislation and support for disclosure in all sectors (Obama, 2008). Transparency first was a term adopted by the business community to “describe the obligation to disclose basic financial information…” (Tapscott, 2005). Transparency has strong supporters regarding financial information. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was enacted to increase transparency in corporations. High-level officials in the financial market support transparency. SEC chairman Christopher Cox has proposed a requirement that companies disclose the pay of all highly compensated employees, including nonexecutives. “I have a feeling that when people are forced to undress in public, they’ll pay more attention to their figures” (Krunacher, 2006). Transparency has come to encompass far more than financial disclosure. “People and institutions that interact with firms are gaining unprecedented access to all sorts of information about corporate behavior, operations and performance…The corporation is becoming naked” (Tapscott, 2005). The internet provides a new tool for transparency involving the potential for dialog between government and business and their various constituencies. Transparency could become a two-way street in which public services are responsive to service users as well as answerable to them” (Stirton, Lodge 2001). Transparency can give the public the ability to watch what is truly happening in government, in business, in schools, and all the places in which there is a vested public interest. It can act as a stimulus for good behavior. As Jeremy Bentham said, “The more strictly we are watched, the better we behave.” (The Bentham Project, 2007)