Open Data

SEC advances open data rule

Shutterstock image (by R.T. Wohlstadter): blue binary tunnel, fractal illustration. 

Two commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to approve a rule change that would require public companies to submit certain financial filings in an open data format.

The vote by sitting commissioners Michael Piwowar and Kara Stein represents SEC's taking another step closer to adopting the inline XBRL format as its primary filing.

Since 2009, public companies have been required to submit two sets of financial statements: a text document and an electronic one. In June, SEC began allowing companies to file annual and quarterly financial statements in inline XBRL format on a voluntary basis.

"Our document-driven, text-based disclosure system is out of date," said Stein at a March 1 SEC meeting.

The inline XBRL format represents "a happy merger of those two worlds" that allows for easier automated analysis of financial data, and decreases the likelihood of filing errors, Data Coalition Policy Director Christian Hoehner.

If passed, the new rule would mean "we're going to see an end to the duplicative filing that we have currently, and we're going to have a single filing that computers can quickly parse and humans can read," Hoehner said. "It's costly to file twice, and it's also confusing to the research and investment communities."

The vote will advance the rule to a period for public comment before reaching another commissioner vote, when it can be finalized.

President Donald Trump's pick to head the SEC, Wall Street attorney Jay Clayton, has not publicly indicated where he stands on the issue, nor has he yet had a Senate confirmation hearing.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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