Speech by SEC Chairman:
Opening Address to International Roundtable on Interactive Data
Chairman Christopher Cox
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
June 10, 2008
Good morning, and welcome to the SEC's International Roundtable on Interactive Data.
While the title of today's Roundtable is focused on the main ingredients of the new 21st-century investing, the reason that leading market participants from all over the world are here this morning is that we're excited about what these technological ingredients can produce for investors.
It is certainly interesting that interactive data operates using a computer language called XBRL, and that this computer language can be used to write data tags that act like barcodes for financial information. But it's a good deal more interesting that, whereas today an ordinary investor can't compare the financial results of 6 or 12 or 24 companies without an enormous amount of work, in the near future that power will be at his or her fingertips, probably for free, on just about any financial website.
It is even more exciting that our ordinary investor will not only be able to compare U.S. companies, but companies around the world. That's because interactive data is being built to accommodate at least 30 different spoken languages, and it is being introduced in nearly every major market around the world. Today, the same XBRL data tags that provide investors with financial summaries from annual filings with the Tokyo Stock Exchange are being used by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — the FDIC — to organize reports from over 8,300 banks, and by the national securities and banking authorities of the Netherlands, Singapore, China, Israel, Spain, India, Colombia, and dozens more.
We are fortunate to have with us today more than 10 representatives from countries that have already adopted or are considering interactive data reporting for public companies. Our panelists this morning also include Stefano Natella, who is the head of Global Equity Research for Credit Suisse, and who will address from the investor's standpoint how investors can best take advantage of the capabilities of interactive data.
I would particularly like to thank our moderator, Terry Savage, the well-known syndicated personal finance columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times, who will guide today's discussion. Terry is a best-selling author, a nationally-known expert on personal finance, and a regular television commentator on CNN, CNBC, PBS, and NBC on issues related to investing and financial markets. She is known for advice that is well grounded in both discipline and common sense, and that's just as useful to the sophisticated investor as those just getting started. Her common-sense thinking will help ensure that today's Roundtable doesn't stray into technobabble or geek speak, and remains focused on what investors are really interested in — so that we can all learn and benefit from what is said.
I also want to thank every one of our panelists, many of whom have traveled great distances in order to share their experiences with interactive data. We appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy schedule to help the Commission better understand the benefits and challenges of interactive data around the world. I am confident your knowledge will assist the Commission in our deliberations on this important topic.
Today's Roundtable comes on the heels of a proposed rule issued by the Commission on May 30, 2008 titled Interactive Data to Improve Financial Reporting. The timing of the Roundtable means the discussion today will contribute to the public record for the proposed rule.
Companies in many of the countries that have mandated interactive data filing rely on tags that correspond to International Financial Reporting Standards. For that reason, we are fortunate to have Olivier Servais, the XBRL Team Leader at the IASC Foundation, here to join us. His participation is especially important because our rule proposal, if adopted, would apply both to issuers reporting using International Financial Reporting Standards and to issuers using U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
Financial reporting using interactive data is taking off around the globe. Today we have the benefit of hearing about the implementation experience in seven countries. The panelists will consider important questions such as how investors can benefit from company filings in interactive data; the different ways investors are already using interactive data; and the way issuers around the world are responding to the requirement that they provide their financial reports in interactive data format.
To our audience here and on the Web, I hope you will take full advantage of the discussion, consider the proposed rule, and provide us with your comments. Again, I wish to thank our panelists for their willingness to share their insights and experiences.
And now, Terry, it's over to you.