Beyond Disclosure: Developing Law and Policy to Tackle Corporate Influence

American Journal of Law and Medicine, 46 (2020): 275-296

21 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2020

Date Written: June 11, 2020


Corporate influence is one of the most pressing issues in public health. It cuts across many of our most intractable problems — from obesity to the opioid epidemic. Companies develop close relationships with public health agencies, research universities, academic medical centers, professional societies, and patient advocacy organizations — often funding medical research and public health interventions intended to address the very challenges these corporations are creating or exacerbating. How we view relationships with industry, including how these relationships are framed in ethical discourse, shapes our legal and policy responses to them. In recent years, fueled in part by the opioid epidemic, the ethical framing of industry relationships has begun to evolve in significant ways. But legal and policy responses have not yet caught up. In this article, I develop a temporal account of corporate influence, and legal and policy responses to corporate influence. This account clarifies the limitations and adverse effects of conflicts of interest disclosure, especially when implemented as the sole legal or policy response. Disclosure can illuminate corporate influence — but policymakers cannot and should not rely on disclosure to eliminate corporate influence or its effects. Nor should we allow disclosure to crowd out structural and systemic responses to corporate influence — including sequestration of and separation from private-sector entities.

Keywords: corporate influence, conflict of interest, disclosure, transparency, separation, sequestration, regulation

JEL Classification: I18, K19, K29, K32, L31, L32, L38

Suggested Citation

Marks, Jonathan H., Beyond Disclosure: Developing Law and Policy to Tackle Corporate Influence (June 11, 2020). American Journal of Law and Medicine, 46 (2020): 275-296, Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan H. Marks (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

135 Sparks Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States
814-865 5938 (Phone)


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