Public disclosure is a situation in which information that was formerly not known to the general public is willingly presented or disclosed to the populace. Disclosures of this type are common in business operations, public service work, and in the world of investing. There are a number of different ways to manage the process of public disclosure, including the use of print media, press conferences, and electronic media such as television or the Internet.
In many countries, there are specific laws that govern the process of public disclosure. These disclosure regulations not only specify what types of information must be provided to the general public, but also often define what types of information are not subject to disclosure. For example, disclosure laws may require that food companies publicly identify the ingredients found in their products, but not require the amount of each ingredient used in the final product.
Corporations are usually the focus of much of the public disclosure activity that occurs on a daily basis. Depending on applicable laws, a business may be required to release certain information about a new product, such as a general listing of what components make up the new device. Often, patents are filed before the public announcement and sale of the product commences. However, in some countries, the company can move forward with making the public announcement and initiating sales of the product, as long as the patent is properly filed within twelve calendar months of the public disclosure.
When it comes to investments, the proper disclosure of information is an important factor in maintaining the ethics and propriety of any type of investment market. Public disclosure helps to ensure that all investors have access to the same data regarding the performance of various stocks, bonds, and other securities. As such, everyone participating in the marketplace has an equal opportunity to make use of the information as they see fit. This type of public disclosure helps to minimize the occurrence of fraud.
When disclosure fraud is found to take place within an investment market, most markets have policies and procedures to deal with the situation. For example, NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) disclosure procedures expressly forbid the use of insider information to create investment deals. Should it be determined that illicit trading took place, there are often heavy financial penalties, a suspension of trading privileges, and possibly incarceration if a court of law finds the defendant guilty of insider trading.
Public disclosure can be managed with the use of print media. This medium is often used by companies to make their quarterly and annual earnings known to the general public. Television and radio have long been used to advise the public of new knowledge or events that may be of interest. Today, the use of the Internet to make public announcements and effect disclosure has become very common, with companies posting online press releases, holding investor meetings via web conferences, and even the releases of commercials that are streamed across the Internet.