Thursday, December 18, 2008
The SEC voted to require public companies and mutual funds to use interactive data for financial information. With interactive data, all of the facts in a financial statement are labeled with unique computer-readable "tags," which function like bar codes to make financial information more searchable on the Internet and more readable by spreadsheets and other software. Investors will be able to find specific facts disclosed by companies and mutual funds, and compare that information with details about other companies and mutual funds to help them make investment decisions.
For public companies, interactive data financial reporting will occur on a phased-in schedule beginning next year. The largest companies who file using U.S. GAAP with a public float above $5 billion will be required to provide interactive data reports starting with their first quarterly report for fiscal periods ending on or after June 15, 2009. This will cover approximately 500 companies. The remaining companies who file using U.S. GAAP will be required to file with interactive data on a phased-in schedule over the next two years. Companies reporting in IFRS issued by the International Accounting Standards Board will be required to provide their interactive data reports starting with fiscal years ending on or after June 15, 2011.
Companies will be able to adopt interactive data earlier than their required start date. All U.S. public companies will have filed interactive data financial information by December 2011 for use by investors.
Mutual funds will be required to begin including data tags in their public filings that supply investors with such information as objectives and strategies, risks, performance, and costs. A mutual fund also would be required to post the interactive data on its Web site, if it maintains one.
The SEC earlier this year unveiled its new financial reporting system — IDEA (Interactive Data Electronic Applications) — to accept interactive data filings and give investors faster and easier access to key financial information about public companies and mutual funds. The new IDEA system is supplementing and eventually replacing the agency's 1980s-era EDGAR database, marking the SEC's transition from collecting forms and documents to making financial information itself freely available to investors.