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Transparency and financial reporting in mid-20th century British banking


  • Billings, Mark
  • Capie, Forrest


Until 1970, British banks were firm believers in the merits of ‘non-disclosure’, which obscured their ‘true’ profits and capital through profits smoothing and the use of hidden reserves. Many other companies adopted the same view for as long as legislation permitted, but there were special reasons why non-disclosure endured for longer in banking. This paper examines the persistence and demise of non-disclosure in banking, placing it in the context of the wider development of financial reporting in Britain, and highlights similarities and differences in financial reporting between banks and other types of company.

Suggested Citation

  • Billings, Mark & Capie, Forrest, 2009. "Transparency and financial reporting in mid-20th century British banking," Accounting forum, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 38-53.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:accfor:v:33:y:2009:i:1:p:38-53
    DOI: 10.1016/j.accfor.2008.07.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cox, Howard, 2000. "The Global Cigarette: Origins and Evolution of British American Tobacco, 1880-1945," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292210.
    2. Tadesse, Solomon, 2006. "The economic value of regulated disclosure: Evidence from the banking sector," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 32-70.
    3. Michael Collins, 1998. "English Bank Development within a European Context, 1870–1939," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 51(1), pages 1-24, February.
    4. A. J. Arnold, 1997. "'Publishing your private affairs to the world': corporate financial disclosures in the UK 1900-24," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 143-173.
    5. Josephine Maltby, 1999. "'A sort of guide, philosopher and friend': the rise of the professional auditor in Britain," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(1), pages 29-50.
    6. Capie, Forrest & Billings, Mark, 2004. "Evidence on competition in English commercial banking, 1920 1970," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 69-103, April.
    7. Mark Billings & Forrest Capie, 2007. "Capital in British banking, 1920-1970," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(2), pages 139-162.
    8. Harold James, 1992. "Financial flows across frontiers during the interwar depression," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(3), pages 594-613, August.
    9. Forrest Capie & Mark Billings, 2001. "Accounting issues and the measurement of profits - English banks 1920-68," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 225-251.
    10. A.J. Arnold, 1998. "UK Accounting Disclosure Practices and Information Asymmetry During the First Quarter of the Twentieth Century: The Effects on Book Returns and Dividend Cover," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(7&8), pages 775-794.
    11. Janette Rutterford, 2004. "From dividend yield to discounted cash flow: a history of UK and US equity valuation techniques," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 115-149.
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    Cited by:

    1. Knott, Samuel & Richardson, Peter & Rismanchi, Katie & Sen, Kallol, 2014. "Financial Stability Paper 31: Understanding the fair value of banks’ loans," Bank of England Financial Stability Papers 31, Bank of England.
    2. repec:kap:jmgtgv:v:22:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10997-018-9418-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:crpeac:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:273-287 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Bholat, David & Lastra, Rosa & Markose, Sheri & Miglionico, Andrea & Sen, Kallol, 2016. "Non-performing loans: regulatory and accounting treatments of assets," Bank of England working papers 594, Bank of England.


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