SYNOPSIS

Mandatory existence disclosure rules require an organization to disclose a policy's existence, but not its content. We examine policy adoption frequencies in the year immediately after the IRS required mandatory existence disclosure by nonprofits of various governance policies. We also examine adoption frequencies in the year of the subsequent change from mandatory existence disclosure to a disclose-and-explain regime that required supplemental disclosures about the content and implementation of conflict of interest policies. Our results suggest that in areas where there is unclear regulatory authority, mandatory existence disclosure is an effective and low cost regulatory device for encouraging the adoption of policies desired by regulators, provided those policies are cost-effective for regulated firms to implement. In addition, we find that disclose-and-explain regulatory regimes provide stronger incentives for policy adoption than do mandatory existence disclosure regimes and also discourage “check the box” behavior. Future research should examine the impact of mandatory existence disclosure rules in the year that the regulation is implemented.

Data Availability: Data are available from sources cited in the text.

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