Asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders and, thus, the transaction costs can be reduced if there is readily available information on the financial condition of borrowers and especially on their history of credit performance. In particular, two areas of the information infrastructure should not be neglected: (a) transparency in borrowers’ financial statements enables lenders to assess borrowers’ creditworthiness on present and past financial and operational performance, and (b) readily available credit information on borrowers enables lenders to assess borrowers’ creditworthiness according to their past performance within the financial system.8
Credit registries, if they exist, vary widely in the information that is being collected and that is available to financial institutions; hence, they vary in their effectiveness in improving access. The effect on access is influenced by characteristics such as (a) which financial and nonfinancial institutions provide data and have access to the data (the more the better); (b) whether only negative information (i. e., on defaults and delinquencies) or also positive information, including interest rate, maturity, and collateral, is collected and provided (positive information improves the potential use of the registry for credit appraisal); (c) for what kind of loans is the information collected; and (d) for how long is information kept. While there are reasons to expect privately owned registries to outperform those operated by public agencies, there are instances of effective publicly owned registries. Local conditions can influence the choice here. Existing credit registries should be evaluated not only on their design features, but also on how they have performed in practice. The legal and regulatory environment is important for existence and effectiveness of credit registries and other financial information vendors. While protection of consumer privacy is important, unduly restrictive rules here can hamper information sharing on borrowers to the detriment of their access to credit.
Credit registries may be complemented by other providers of financial information on borrowers. Commercial information vendors, such as Bloomberg or Reuters, trade associations, chambers of commerce, or credit-rating agencies, might also contribute to transparency in the financial market. Finally, there might be private information-sharing agreements between financial institutions outside the formal structure of a credit registry.
Accounting and auditing standards and practices are important elements of the information environment in that they govern companies’ disclosure of financial information to the public. A full assessment of the accounting and auditing standards (see chapter 10 for further details on these standards) in this area might not always be practicable, but the standards, nevertheless, represent the overall goals that should be aspired to and can be used as a reference for identifying information-based barriers to enhanced financing for the corporate sector.