WASHINGTON, DC — The Data Transparency Coalition today applauded the introduction of legislation that would require federal financial regulators to adopt consistent data standards for information they collect under the securities, commodities, and banking laws. The Financial Transparency Act of 2015, introduced today in the House of Representatives by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and several bipartisan cosponsors, seeks to transform financial regulatory reporting from disconnected documents into open, searchable data.
“Too often, U.S. financial regulators are using non-searchable plain text documents and PDFs to collect information from the financial industry,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. “Even where data formats are used, they’re often too different from agency to agency, and even between offices in the same agency, for meaningful data analysis. The Financial Transparency Act changes all that by mandating data standards – and directing agencies that they should be interoperable wherever possible.”
The bill directs the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research to set data standards, including a common identification code for regulated entities, for the whole financial regulatory sector. It also directs the eight other agency members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to adopt data standards for the regulatory information they collect, and to follow the OFR’s lead where applicable.
For all information required by other laws to be made public, the bill directs each agency to publish such information as open data – machine-readable and freely downloadable.
“Open data helps investors, regulators, and the financial industry,” said Hollister. “The companies of the Data Transparency Coalition are ready to republish financial information for investors; analyze it to help regulators find leverage and fraud; and automate reporting to ease compliance costs for regulated entities. All these opportunities depend on the agencies’ mandate to standardize and publish the information as open data – a mandate to be provided, for the first time, by the Financial Transparency Act of 2015.”
Announced original cosponsors of the Financial Transparency Act, along with sponsor Issa, include Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D-MN), John Delaney (D-MD), and David Schweikert (R-AZ).
Washington, D.C. — A Congressional panel yesterday considered a proposal that would require the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to stop collecting searchable data from most public companies. Rep. Robert Hurt’s Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act, recently reintroduced for the new 114th Congress as H.R. 1965, would exempt companies under $250 million in annual revenue — some 60% of all U.S. public companies — from the SEC’s existing requirement to file financial statements in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).
Yesterday’s hearing of the House Financial Services Committee’s subcommittee on capital markets featured sharp disagreements over whether the SEC should continue using searchable data to collect corporate financial information. The full Financial Services Committee is expected to vote on H.R. 1965 during its next business meeting, which could take place as early as mid-May.
The Data Transparency Coalition, representing the technology industry, called on members of the Financial Services Committee to oppose H.R. 1965. “The Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act is based on justified frustration with the SEC’s very real failure to make its existing data reporting requirement work properly for investors, companies, and internal use,” said Coalition Executive Director Hudson Hollister. “But the proper response should be for Congress to direct the agency to improve the quality of the data, stop collecting a duplicative document version of each financial statement alongside the searchable data version, and make a plan to modernize its whole corporate disclosure system. Unfortunately, H.R. 1965 would make modernization harder by directing the agency to simply stop using data altogether for most companies.”
The bill stirred spirited debate at today’s hearing. Shane Kovacs, Executive Vice President and CFO of PTC Therapeutics, Inc., testified his company spends $50,000 each year to translate its document-based financial statements into XBRL data to be filed with the SEC. Supporters of data reporting, including Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Keith Ellison, responded by citing a study by the American Institute of CPAs finding that the median cost for smaller reporting companies like PTC Therapeutics is only $8,000 annually.
Rep. Hurt, who introduced H.R. 1965, told the panel that the SEC’s data reporting was well intended but “the costs outweigh the benefits.” Thomas Quaadman, Vice President of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, testified in support of Rep. Hurt’s bill while calling for a “better delivery system” for corporate financial information. Reps. Maloney and Ellison disagreed, with Maloney opining that “the more information is easily available,” the more investors will find opportunities to invest in public companies. Prof. Theresa Gabaldon of The George Washington University testified that the benefits of searchable data — including the SEC’s ability to spot suspicious patterns — are “well worth the steadily declining costs.”
Ellison, who voted for the bill when it was considered by the Financial Services Committee in March 2014, said he had changed his mind. “You don’t hear Members of Congress say that often, but the reason is I’ve done some research and found the [cost of XBRL filings] are lower than expected. I think that it’s a good idea to move toward a 21st-century searchable electronic database,” said Ellison.
Washington, D.C. – The Data Transparency Coalition, the only industry organization advocating for the transformation of the federal government’s information into open data, unveiled a brand new website this morning on the heels of its third anniversary. The new website, designed by CareTecher, showcases the issues critical to the industry and the leaders that make up the Coalition.
“We have come a long way from the first day of the Data Transparency Coalition. The group has grown from our inaugural member, Teradata, to 25 corporate members today. We’ve also seen our first major priority accomplished with the DATA Act becoming law last year. But we’re not done yet,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director and Founder of the Data Transparency Coalition. “We are thrilled to mark our third year with the creation of a new website that showcases the issues the Coalition will be tackling in our next phase. We’re seeking to transform government management, markets and economy, and law and regulation into open data – all underpinned by consistent data standards and consistent publication.”
Just last week the Coalition orchestrated its first Congressional “fly-in” for corporate members, capped off by the release of the 2015 Data Transparency Agenda.
“The cause of data transparency has gained momentum and supporters with each passing day. The transformation from documents into data is now embraced by the tech industry, good-government advocates, and individuals who believe that the best way to fully realize the benefits of government information is to publish it as freely-searchable and machine-readable data,” continued Hollister. “The reception we received from Members and staff during last week’s ‘fly-in’ illustrates the increased focus on the issue and the wide-ranging positive ramifications of prioritizing data transparency.”
To inaugurate the new website, the Coalition teamed with the Aspen Institute today for a new blog that highlights a provision in the President’s FY16 budget that presses for mandatory electronic filing of IRS Form 990, the primary tax form for nonprofits. The form, which contains important information on U.S. nonprofits such as finances and governance, would be available in an open, computable format, facilitating large-scale analysis and greater transparency for the nonprofit sector.
The electronic home of the Data Transparency Coalition is: www.datacoalition.org
Washington, D.C. – On the first full day of business for the new Republican Congress, the House of Representatives barely fell short of passing a regressive piece of legislation that would have set back data transparency efforts in financial regulation. H.R. 37, the "Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act“, includes Rep. Robert Hurt’s Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act, which would exempt 60 percent of public companies from filing searchable financial data with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“Each time this bill has come to the floor, the number of Members who have opposed it has increased. Over the coming days, we will work to educate Members of the wide-ranging ramifications and damage that the Hurt provision could cause by erecting a permanent legal barrier to the transformation that is desperately needed at the SEC,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition.
“While Rep. Hurt had a point when he said that the SEC does a poor job of integrating data into the corporate disclosure system, Congress should be directing the SEC to fix these problems – not simply eliminating data reporting altogether for most companies.
‘If the SEC is forced to stop collecting searchable data from most public companies, it will be unable to use data tools to illuminate potential fraud and protect investors. We urge the House leadership to break up the bill so that Members can consider the Hurt provision on its on merits,” he concluded.
Washington, D.C. – The Data Transparency Coalition (DTC) today applauded the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for knocking down virtual walls and creating a tool that will eliminate a major hurdle for investors and other users of SEC financial data.
In a release earlier today, the SEC announced that the thousands of XBRL submissions it receives, as separate files each quarter will, for the first time, be available as a single database. This is good news for investors, markets and companies because easier use of structured financial data means more use of financial data.
Hudson Hollister, Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition, which is the leading advocate for the switch from documents to data in government filings, released the following statement in reaction to the news:
“The SEC’s release of financial statement information as a single data set, rather than thousands of separate files, will make life easier for investors and the research data companies serving them.
Today’s announcement caps off a year of incremental progress toward fixing longstanding problems in the quality, completeness, and accessibility of U.S. corporate disclosures. In July, the SEC started enforcing the quality of financial statement data for the first time, and in September, the agency’s five-year strategic plan made data a centerpiece.
This action is another step forward to data transparency in financial regulation but we’re not there yet.
To truly modernize, the SEC should stop requiring companies to submit two duplicative versions – document and data – of each financial statement, and should adopt consistent data formatting throughout the hundreds of document-based forms it currently collects.”
Previously, the SEC published each of the submissions in separate files, which would require users to assemble the information into a database.
For more information on today’s development, visit our blog.
We believe open data facilitates public accountability, enables data-driven government management, and automates compliance. Open data also enables many of our members to pursue new business models and create high-tech jobs. For all these reasons, we believe the federal government should transform the information it collects and generates from disconnected documents into open data.
Washington, D.C. – The Data Transparency Coalition (DTC) today urged the House of Representatives to postpone the vote on H.R. 5405, the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act , which is scheduled for this evening. Certain provisions in the bill would be detrimental to the push for more accountability and transparency in financial reporting.
DTC Executive Director, Hudson Hollister, released the following statement.
“We strongly urge the House to take a closer look at H.R. 5405 before voting on it. Each and every provision should be examined because, as they say, the devil is in the details.
We believe the bill is well intentioned but there are several provisions that will set back financial transparency and corporate accountability, including the exempting of nearly 60 percent of public companies from filing data-based reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The SEC has just recently started enforcing the accuracy of the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) data format for corporate financial information, yet the exemptions in H.R. 5405 would dramatically restrict the availability of this searchable corporate financial data to investors–and to the tech companies building investment tools.
By encouraging, instead of discouraging, the move toward data-based financial reporting, the House would achieve its goal of reducing the burden on all businesses. More paper-based forms and longer response time will be a result of the passage of H.R.5405 – exactly the opposite of the bill’s intention.”
The Data Transparency Coalition, and its members, have been advocating for the further adoption of structured data throughout the SEC’s disclosure system. Accurate structured data, utilizing XBRL and other standards, would help investors make better decisions, allow the agency to use analytics to find accounting fraud, and provide an opportunity for public companies to automate compliance tasks.
This would result in a drop in analysts’ coverage costs drop, enabling them to cover more companies – meaning smaller companies get more attention from investors.
A few days ago, Mr. Hollister published a blog detailing the ramifications of H.R. 5405 on data transparency
Washington, D.C.-The Data Transparency Coalition (DTC) and the Health Data Consortium today applauded Congress for including forward-looking open data provisions in the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act but urged the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to standardize all the data that will now be produced.
Included in the bill were several provisions that move the VA forward as envisioned by President Obama’s May 2013 Open Data Policy including a mandate for information covering patient safety, quality-of-care and outcomes be published as “a comprehensive database” within 180 days.
The bill does not explicitly require the department to use consistent data standards to make the newly published information fully searchable and comparable.
“The VA Reform bill has provided a wide opening for the VA to take the already Congressionally-mandated publishing of comprehensive performance metrics to the next level by applying consistent, nonproprietary data standards, such as common fields and formats. Data standards would make the information significantly more useful,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition, the world’s only trade group focused on the adoption of data standards within government.
The bill also requires VA facilities to participate in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’ “Hospital Compare” open data portal which provides the public with information concerning a number of measures including rates of readmission, infection and 30-day mortality rates.
“The VA Reform bill provides much needed transparency that can enhance health outcomes and improve the delivery of care for our veterans.” said Dwayne Spradlin, President & CEO, Health Data Consortium (HDC).
“We are especially encouraged to see the VA participate in HHS’ Hospital Compare portal that can foster even more accountability and greater patient engagement. We also hope that going forward, the VA will report these measures in a manner that is consistent with other public programs and the private sector to empower patients and their families when making decisions about their healthcare.”
The two organizations will monitor the VA’s implementation work, especially its collaboration with the White House to apply the principles of the Open Data Policy to the newly published data sets and any efforts to establish department-wide data standards.
“Our Coalition members are eager to use standardized government data to help citizens hold their government accountable, assist federal leaders in monitoring performance, and automate compliance reporting,” said Hollister.
Leading Federal IT Contractor Joins World’s Only Trade Group Advocating for Open Data Standards within Government
Washington, D.C. – The Data Transparency Coalition (DTC) today welcomed Citizant to the outstanding community of public and private sector groups that are advocating for the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data.
Based in Chantilly, VA, Citizant designs and delivers business and IT transformation solutions to the U.S. government and is the first member of the Data Transparency Coalition offering federal systems integration and implementation support.
“We are thrilled to welcome Citizant as our newest Regular Member,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. “By supporting the policies that are needed to bring about the open data transformation, Citizant is well-positioned to help federal agencies benefit from robust data standards, cheaper analytics, and automated processes.”
With Citizant’s addition, the companies of the Data Transparency Coalition represent the full range of necessary capabilities to help the federal government transform its spending and performance information from disconnected documents into open data.
“Citizant wholeheartedly supports the federal government’s adoption of consistent data standardization and publication policies to bring enhanced democratic accountability, improve agency management, and automate formerly-manual compliance tasks,” said Alba M. Alemán, CEO of Citizant. “Citizant’s data management and business process experts have been on the forefront of government transparency initiatives since inception, so we look forward to working with the Data Transparency Coalition to encourage and guide the development of federal data standards. Our proven ability to consult and collaborate with CIOs and Chief Data Officers will benefit federal agencies as they seek sure, clear paths toward success implementation of the DATA Act.”
The Data Transparency Coalition is the world’s only trade group focused on the adoption of data standards within government. The Coalition celebrated the success of its top legislative priority when President Obama signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act into law May 9, 2014.
Earlier this month, Citizant published the first-ever white paper on federal DATA Act implementation. The white paper explains how the government-wide data standards adopted under the new law will allow federal agencies to improve data quality and enhance data-driven efforts to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.
Proposal Threatens to Deprive Investors and Markets of Searchable Corporate Financial Data
WASHINGTON, DC — A group of tech sector firms issued a letter today calling on the House Financial Services Committee to direct the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to fully enforce the quality of the financial disclosure data it collects, rather than eliminate open data reporting for most public companies. The joint letter follows the Committee’s March 14 approval of H.R. 4164, which would exempt companies under $250 million in annual revenue from existing requirements to file financial statements as machine-readable open data.
“H.R. 4164 is based on a flawed diagnosis that blames open data tools for the symptoms of poor data quality,” said Hudson Hollister, the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. “Instead of decimating this critical data set, Congress should direct the SEC to stop accepting inaccurate submissions, so the data set becomes useful. Once the data set can be analyzed without costly corrections, analysts will be able to expand their coverage, and smaller public companies will get more attention. Our capital markets want quality data — not less of it.”
Under H.R 4164, the SEC would stop requiring financial reports formatted in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) from companies under $250 million in annual revenue, regressing to a document-based system. The exemption would remove about 60% of publicly traded companies from existing open data reporting requirements.
Today’s letter asks the House Financial Services Committee to modify the proposal to direct the SEC to enforce data quality. If the SEC delivered more reliable data, companies would be able to benefit from expanded and more cost-effective coverage.
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