IN A first for the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a group of 13 bloggers were invited to a special conference call Friday to talk about XBRL ahead of the SEC’s meeting to consider making the financial tagging language mandatory.
I was one of the bloggers on the call with David Blaszkowsky, director of the SEC’s Office of Interactive Disclosure, and Kristin Kaepplein, head of the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. Even SEC chairman Chris Cox put in an appearance near the end, something I caught the tail-end of on my way back from the coffee machine.
While I didn’t learn a whole lot new from the SEC (except that Japan now requires XBRL), I did learn a lot from my fellow bloggers. What’s clear is that we want that XBRL data, and we want easy and free ways to get it.
Bloggers call for open access to XBRL data via API
Bill Cara, a former brokerage firm executive and born trader who dedicates much of his time these days to helping the “little guy” on Main Street, kicked things off by raising the issue about the costs and challenges that retail investors face when trying to get access to financial data.
The same theme came up again in questions from Christian Gross at InvestorGeeks.com, Deepak Ramachandran at Wikinomics.com, and George at FatPitchFinancials.com, who I think (he did) suggested that the SEC provide an API for EDGAR so anyone can create software or mashups that incorporate XBRL data. There seemed to be real interest in this idea, including from the SEC.
The fact is, XBRL data isn’t much good if it isn’t easily and freely accessible to anyone who wants it. Right now, and despite things like Regulation Fair Disclosure, there is an uneven playing field in the corporate data business. A few companies with deep pockets control the flow of information or have preferential access to it, even from the SEC.
But free up that data, let thousands of talented developers have easy access to it, and watch innovation thrive.
From the other bloggers:
Bill Cara posted a piece after the call that I didn’t see until hours after my own post: “I’d like to see the average person access the SEC database with the use of computer bots so that a level playing field is possible. I suspect that, regardless of the new standards, the Reuters, Bloombergs, Yahoos, Googles, CapitalIQs, S&P’s, etc have zero incentive to help the little guy, so maybe the SEC offers promise in this regard.”
George at FatPitchFinancials.com, who had the brilliant idea for an EDGAR API, which would solve Bill’s problem, has written a comprehensive recap of the call, along with this conclusion: “I encourage the SEC to promote free accessibility, ease of use, open standards, and the creation of third party apps (widgets, mashups, etc.).”
Cate Long at Shopyield.com, who has a deep interest in fixed-income markets and technology, reflects on the call saying: “It will be a mighty river of data that pours forth from the SEC when XBRL goes live … it’s really hard to imagine all the new methods of presenting and delivering data which will tell the story of America’s public companies … this will be transparency to the nth degree…”
I can’t help now think how effective this conference call was. The SEC got invaluable input from real people who care about financial data. These are the same enterprising and passionate individuals who will create applications with XBRL that no one has yet dreamed of.
They’re pretty hard to ignore.
When is your first blogger conference call?
The SEC doing a conference call with bloggers is a great idea. It’s something companies should be doing, especially when bloggers like those syndicated via Seeking Alpha have huge audiences — bigger than Merrill Lynch or T. Rowe Price, according to Nielsen Online, NetView.
So if it’s good enough for the SEC, it should be good enough for your company.