XBRL on SEC's Back Burner, but Not out of Mind

Lora Bentley

Writing for Data Interactive early this month, Matt Kelly said eXtensible Business Reporting Language is no longer among the Securities and Exchange Commission's top priorities. Understandably, Chairwoman Schapiro is more concerned about correcting the problems within the organization, he says, than "the promise of easier comparison of financial data."


As a result, SEC participation in at least two XBRL projects slated for this year has been put off, and the regulator's XBRL taxonomy uses U.S. GAAP 2008 rather than the 2009 updates.


Kelly says the problem with XBRL, at least where the SEC is concerned, is maintenance. XBRL.requires consistent, day-to-day maintenance to be of the most use to investors and others. But just because the SEC can't be bothered with it right now doesn't mean that others aren't investigating the merits of XBRL tagging.


In another Data Interactive post, MIX's Scott Gaul makes the case for XBRL in microfinance. He says, in part:

When your core business has a tendency to engender surprise or confusion ("You lend only to poor people? Poor people can open savings accounts?"), transparency has its benefits. Open, voluntary exchange of information enables microfinance institutions to win the trust of investors, regulators, researchers, and other MFIs. XBRL can be a valuable tool for increasing the transparency of MFIs.


Similarly, JustSystems addressed the connection between XBRL and Semantic Web at the Semantic Technology Conference this week.

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Jun 21, 2009 5:31 AM Bob Schneider Bob Schneider  says:

Thanks much for mentioning two posts from Data Interactive, the Hitachi XBRL blog.

Readers interested in the use of XBRL for sustainability reporting may also want to view this recent post of Sean Gilbert of the Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI (http://tinyurl.com/n8wneu). 

Bob Schneider

Editor, Data Interactive


Jun 30, 2009 6:08 AM Peter Boritz Peter Boritz  says:

Financial transparency does not come without a price. Accuracy is only one of many subjects that need to be addressed with XBRL filings. How does the filer verify that what is described in the instance document and extension match what he/she thinks it does? How does the filer validate that the filing matches the paper/html filing? Are the extended labels correct? Is the filing properly mapped to respective dimension segments?

Not specifying a dimension segment will result in a mapping to a dimension default. This is not is not necessarily what is desired. For more complex reports, such as the statement of shareholders equity it would be syntactically acceptable, but would represent incorrect information in the filing.

What procedures and verification would an internal auditor be required to follow in order to minimize liability? How does the filing meet with SOX compliance?

XBRL is still in the birth stages of development. These are questions that must be address for it to be successful. Many preparers are not equipped to deal with these issues. This will change over time. Transparency and its many authentication issues are yet to be taken under consideration. There are many pioneers. Filers must ask the right questions and seek solutions as they move into the XBRL filing process.


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