Railroad annual reports in the post-World War II era (1946–1975): A study in voluntary compliance

Kevin Feeney, Pace University


For much of the twentieth country, the shareholder annual reports of railroads were unique. Through 1975, these reports were exempt from the accounting regulations and disclosure rules of the SEC, because railroads were common carriers subject to the rules and regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). This study would be classified under accounting history. Its purpose was to systematically analyze the shareholder annual reports of U.S. Class I railroads from 1946 to 1975. The research tool was content analysis which was used to examine the specific formatting, accounting and disclosure practices in a sample of annual reports as the railroads voluntarily moved from an ICC-based accounting and reporting model to one increasingly based on GAAP. The paper begins with the founding of first American railroads in the late 1820s and reviews their early accounting procedures and financial reporting practices, including voluntary shareholder annual reports. The paper continues through the establishment of the ICC and its efforts to establish a uniform system of accounts for railroads, the early attempts by the investment community to use the industry's standardized financial reports, and reviews early industry practices with respect to internal and external audits. Overall, the results of the study are both qualitative and quantitative. In aggregate, the results show gradual voluntary change in the formats of the annual reports and in the accounting principles used until around 1960, after which, the rate of change increased. Perhaps the most significant findings related to the voluntary presentation of audited financial statements which were not required railroads until 1976.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Feeney, Kevin, "Railroad annual reports in the post-World War II era (1946–1975): A study in voluntary compliance" (2004). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3126010.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)