SYNOPSIS

Concerns about high rates of government corruption in resource rich countries have led transparency advocates to urge oil and gas firms to disclose payments to host governments for natural resources. Transparency, they argue, can increase government accountability and mitigate corruption. However, we find a low frequency of voluntary disclosures of payments by oil and gas firms, and negative stock price reactions for affected firms at the announcement of regulations mandating disclosure. This suggests that sample firm managers and their investors perceive that such disclosures generate private costs, despite any public benefits. We document that industry self-regulation has generated information to substitute for the gap in voluntary company disclosure and that such disclosures are accompanied by lower country corruption ratings. This suggests that collective action could be an effective way for companies to manage the private costs of disclosure and respond to public pressure for transparency that could provide public benefits.

JEL Classification: M441; M48; H41; G38.

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