News in Brief

SEC pushback, faulty tax forms and hackers at State

SEC official pushes back on data bill

An official at the Securities and Exchange Commission spoke out against legislation that would eliminate requirements for some public companies to file financial statements in machine-readable markup language.

Rick Fleming, the SEC's investor advocate, criticized a provision in a bill by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) that would exempt public companies with annual revenues of less than $250 million from submitting financial statements in the Extensible Business Reporting Language, a markup language that structures data and supports software-driven analysis of financial data. The bill passed the House in January.

"If passed by the Senate and signed into law, I believe this bill would seriously impede the ability of the SEC to bring disclosure into the 21st century," Fleming said in a speech at the SEC Speaks conference in Washington on Feb. 20. "If action is needed, it should be used to press the SEC to move forward in its efforts to make disclosure more accessible and useful for investors."

The Office of the Investor Advocate was established under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. Fleming took up his post in February 2014.

He also criticized the SEC's aging database of financial filings -- the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system, which dates back to the early 1990s. Despite some improvements, "much of the information on EDGAR is still difficult to find and use efficiently," he said. "To be candid, I believe the SEC has been painfully slow to adapt to changing technologies that will benefit investors."

CMS sends faulty tax info to 800,000 customers

The government sent incorrect tax information to about 800,000 people who received subsidized health insurance under the 2010 health care law.

The glitch is the result of a miscalculation of the benchmark monthly premium amount that is used to determine subsidies. It is keyed to the second lowest priced Silver plan available to a customer in his or her state. That information, presented on the new 1095-A tax form, is used to calculate the total tax credit available to a filer for the year.

Taxpayers who receive coverage under the law are required to reconcile any advance tax credits with their premium costs and their income for the year. Some people will owe tax on advance credits, based on changes in their income.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are investigating what went wrong with the forms and said revised tax documents will go out in early March. Filers can also get their benchmark rates via a tool on HealthCare.gov.

Report: State Department hackers still on network

Three months after the State Department confirmed a breach of its unclassified email network, the government is still unable to kick the hackers off the network, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The State Department shut down the unclassified email system in November to bolster security after a reported cyberattack in early October. But according to the newspaper, hackers have repeatedly evaded attempts to block them from the network.

Kicking a hacker off a network is no easy task, said Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer at cybersecurity firm Tripwire.

"If an attacker gains a foothold inside of your network, they can wait until your attention has shifted to other things before infecting a new machine, making it much easier for them to move around in your infrastructure," he said in a statement responding to the Wall Street Journal article.

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