Tuesday, June 24, 2008
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox announced a wide-ranging internal inquiry, called the "21st Century Disclosure Initiative," to examine fundamental questions about the way the SEC acquires information from public companies, mutual funds, brokers, and other regulated entities and the way it makes that information available to investors and the markets. The goal is to outline the attributes of the disclosure system for the future that incorporates technology, the new ways in which investors get their information, and recent developments in how companies compile and report the information in their SEC-mandated disclosures. The first phase of the study will be completed by the end of 2008, when a follow-on advisory committee will be appointed to consider the questions in more detailed fashion through a public and consultative process.
The study will be undertaken by a staff of experts to be led by Dr. William D. Lutz of Rutgers University. Dr. Lutz previously played an important role in advancing the SEC's Plain English initiative by preparing the SEC's Plain English Handbook., a manual to help mutual funds and public companies write clear and understandable SEC filings.
The study will include a review of all existing SEC forms and reporting requirements, as well as the manner in which information is provided to the Commission, with a special focus on needless redundancy. It will also include consideration of various alternative strategic approaches to acquiring and publishing disclosure information. In addition, the study will consider ways that regulatory requirements for the collection of information might be tailored to get the best real-time distribution of financial and narrative disclosure to investors. Finally, the study will examine how best to integrate public disclosure with the SEC's proposed new post-EDGAR architecture for investor search, assembly, and comparison of data.