Highlights from the XBRL.US National Conference - Part 1 of 2

October 11, 2011

The XBRL.US National Conference was held the last week of September, a gathering of more than 300 regulators, industry participants and of course primarily public company CFOs, Controllers and SEC reporting staff from across the country. This was the fourth such national conference, and it certainly reflected the growing importance and value of XBRL in the SEC reporting process and beyond.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated addresses given was by J.W. Mike Starr, Deputy Chief Accountant, Policy and Market Monitoring, of the SEC. Noting the rapid maturation and growing adoption of XBRL, Mr. Starr declared it a "disruptive technology" – one which provides improvements so significant and sometimes unanticipated, that it eventually displaces existing technologies in the market. In his personal view, he sees XBRL as the impetus to send prior text-based reporting mechanisms the way of the printing press. But this is still years away, he reminded the audience. In the meantime, he had lots of insights to share on the current and near-term situation. Some of the most notable include:

  • June 2011 Filing Statistics
    • 95 percent of Phase 1 and Phase 2 XBRL filings were filed on time.
    • 5 percent were filed within the 30 day grace period
    • 80 percent of Phase 3 XBRL filings were filed on time.
    • 2 percent has not filed within the grace period
      • Of these, 90 percent were small reporting companies and of these, one third were shell companies.
  • Structured data has allowed regulators to be much more enabled and has increased the levels and capability for data analysis. Specifically, the SEC is now able to identify disclosure outliers and to focus attention on them respectively. As a result the SEC has already been issuing comment letters based on evaluation of the XBRL portion of company filings.
  • The SEC has seen in 2011, the number of companies bringing the XBRL tagging activities in-house begin to accelerate and believes that trend will continue.
  • Structured data reporting cost is declining and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. There are a number of technology companies that are developing very specialized tools for authoring XBRL that reduce the effort required to tag information. [He must have been speaking about WebFilings.] The typical expense for compliance is currently consistent with or below the SEC's original expectations.
  • The SEC is aware of a number of start-ups and existing companies that are working on products to facilitate individual consumption of XBRL data. [Note: This is at least in part a reference to the XBRL.US sponsored $20k Challenge -- "The XBRL Challenge is a contest that invites participants to contribute open source analytical applications for investors that leverage corporate XBRL data." There are now over 50 applications for entry.]
  • The SEC has seen and expects to see more evidence that the use of XBRL has prompted filers to clean-up their disclosures, including eliminating material that has gathered in reports over the years.
Read part 2 of this blog series in which I share examples of how XBRL has or will transform certain reporting situations other than the SEC filing requirement.
Timothy Randle

About the author

Timothy Randle is a Director of XBRL Solutions at Workiva. He has over 27 years of professional experience including over 5 years focusing on XBRL.