“Michael Bommarito II and Daniel Martin Katz, legal scholars at the Illinois Institute of Technology, have tried to measure the growth of regulation by analyzing more than 160,000 corporate annual reports, or 10-K filings, at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In a pre-print paper released Dec. 29, the authors find that the average number of regulatory references in any one filing increased from fewer than eight in 1995 to almost 32 in 2016. The average number of different laws cited in each filing more than doubled over the same period.”
From the Abstract: Over the last 23 years, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has required over 34,000 companies to file over 165,000 annual reports. These reports, the so-called “Form 10-Ks,” contain a characterization of a company’s financial performance and its risks, including the regulatory environment in which a company operates. In this paper, we analyze over 4.5 million references to U.S. Federal Acts and Agencies contained within these reports to build a mean-field measurement of temperature and diversity in this regulatory ecosystem. While individuals across the political, economic, and academic world frequently refer to trends in this regulatory ecosystem, there has been far less attention paid to supporting such claims with large-scale, longitudinal data. In this paper, we document an increase in the regulatory energy per filing, i.e., a warming “temperature.” We also find that the diversity of the regulatory ecosystem has been increasing over the past two decades, as measured by the dimensionality of the regulatory space and distance between the “regulatory bitstrings” of companies. This measurement framework and its ongoing application contribute an important step towards improving academic and policy discussions around legal complexity and the regulation of large-scale human techno-social systems.