The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently launched a Download Center containing the XBRL data sets of publicly traded companies, which can be easily downloaded. These data sets have been available for public display by the SEC since 2009, but were limited to viewing and download one at a time. The recent launch of XBRL data sets download center, facilitates bulk download of public company data for easy analysis by investors and academic research groups. Archived for every calendar quarter, these data sets are available for free download.
The SEC mandated that publicly traded companies file readable XBRL format reports since 2009. Therefore, the data sets are available for download only from 2009. In recent times, there has been tremendous pressure on the SEC to improve the quality and availability of XBRL data to public. This launch is a significant development in making the data available to public.
Earlier in 2014, SEC took the following initiatives aimed at improving the XBRL data quality:
- Released a staff observation report on the custom tags (popularly known as ‘extended tags’). These extension tags are a deterrent for peer comparison and do not aid in quality data analysis. However, the usage of these custom tags is expected to reduce as there is heightened awareness including enhanced scrutiny by the regulators and by the industry.
- SEC sent letters (called ‘Dear CFO’ letters) to some of the public companies that were not complying with the practice to include calculation relationship in their XBRL report submissions. Some survey studies have indicated that the XBRL submissions after this letter by SEC have started showing significant improvement on that front.
While the XBRL data quality and availability is taking good shape, there is a threat to this technology advancement in the form of a Bill (H.R.5405) that might potentially remove availability of data to investors if it becomes a law. It is therefore important for SEC to continue to collect XBRL data from ALL of its registered listed companies and protect the investors’ funds by making the data available and by bringing transparency. As proposed in this Bill H.R.5405, smaller listed companies are striving for exemption from XBRL data disclosure. This could be a disaster for the following reasons:
- Denying investors continued availability of data in the format they are used to.
- While the rest of world moves forward in reporting technology, United States would be moving backwards.
- Smaller companies misusing XBRL reporting exemption which gives their CFOs an opportunity to massage financial facts.
It is therefore important NOT to exempt any company that handles public money (regardless of its size) from XBRL reporting requirements. Instead, these companies should continue to focus on the data quality initiatives taken by SEC and the market should look forward to quality analysis of data that is made available to the general public.
DataTracks US is part of DataTracks Services Limited, leaders worldwide in preparation of financial statements in EDGAR HTML, XBRL and iXBRL formats for filing with regulators. DataTracks prepares more than 12,000 XBRL statements annually for filing with regulators such as SEC in the United States, HMRC in the United Kingdom and MCA in India.
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