Tuesday, March 20, 2007
New Software Boosts SEC's Ability To Police Corporate Finance
The SEC has introduced exciting new software changes that will make it much easier for researchers to ferret out specific information about a company's finances, such as executive pay and stock option backdating. SEC is replacing its Edgar online reporting system, which has provided electronic information on company filing since the 1980's, with a new slick new "interactive" system written in something called XBRL. XBRL stands for "extensible business reporting language", and is based on XML and similar data transfer products. According to Forbes magazine, "Rather than treating financial information as a block of text - as in a standard Internet page or a printed document - XBRL language provides a unique identifying tag for each individual item of data, such as company net profit or a stock-option grant to an executive, for example. That will enable users to extract specific information more easily from SEC filings, run calculations and aggregate data as desired. Company revenue or an executive's compensation, for example, could be tracked over several years without having to open up and review multiple filings."
The new system will be in place at SEC's website by June 2007. This will coincide with the introduction of more detailed filings mandated by rules that went into effect in December 2006. According to FDIC IT architect Richard Campbell, the implementation of the new XBRL software won't necessarily make more data available - the regulations will do that - but it will make its retrieval much faster and more convenient.
"Easier to Dissect Executive Pay Data" from Forbes
"SEC making executive pay data more accessible" from International Herald Tribune
"Richard Campbell: The New Language of the Bottom Line" from CGN