In 1903, US Steel released the country’s first annual report, a slim and delightfully direct volume where the only padding was 21 pages of photos of smoky factories and sturdy railway cars owned by the corporate giant — which went on to become the first $1bn company in history. Such reports were entirely voluntary, but the wreckage of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression triggered a revolution in corporate disclosure. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 required all US public companies to publish standardised periodic financial information to help investors assess their prospects. Since then, there has been a one-way movement towards greater corporate transparency, as further regulations and investor demands have pushed companies into sharing like social media-obsessed teenagers. But there is now growing talk that the trend towards more frequent and detailed corporate reporting may have gone too far because it feeds short-term thinking among company executives and th...

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