XBRL US 2013 National Conference – Keynotes Rewind

XBRL Cage Match Round 2:  Congressman Issa vs. SEC Chair White

The 5th Annual XBRL US National Conference kicked off this morning with two highly anticipated keynotes opening the event:  Rep. Darrell Issa, and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Craig Lewis.  The conference air was thick with tension, as attendees anticipated a few body blows in the continuing Cage Match saga started by Issa’s letter to the SEC two weeks back regarding XBRL.

First up was Issa who delivered his presentation via a pre-recorded interview-style video.  While most of his remarks focused on the importance of structured data, at the end he waded directly into Cage Match land by chastising the SEC on two fronts.  First, when addressing how structured data improves transparency and analytic capabilities, he commented that he had “…very little faith that the SEC will get better analytically [even with structured data in play]…” but took an interesting turn by suggesting maybe they don’t need to given how structured data could turn us common folk into corporate watch dogs and whistle blowers. Interesting segue, right?  Next, Issa took a shot at the SEC’s web site by deeming it to be “…outdated and in dire need of a [structured data] makeover”.  He believes the SEC web site should be more data repository-like and provide structured data that allows anyone from investors to programmers to democratize data.

SEC Lewis then took the stage and opened by saying it was too bad Rep. Issa was not here in person so he could address some of Rep. Issa’s comments directly and personally.  Conference attendees sensed a forthcoming smack down and eagerly anticipated the post-disclaimer portion of Lewis’ presentation.  Unfortunately, Lewis’ delivered remarks left him more “floatin’ like a butterfly” than “stingin’ like a bee” as the majority of his comments were canned remarks on the Accounting Quality Model (AQM).  Good content, don’t get me wrong, but something he’s been talking about since last December.

Not content to let the Cage Match fizzle, conference attendees attempted to draw Lewis into the ring a bit by asking questions related to the timing of tagging of MD&A in XBRL, XBRL comment letters and XBRL data quality.  Unfortunately Lewis begged off answering the first two questions as being outside of his focus at the SEC (and thus best left for others to address), but he did engage on XBRL data quality.  While first stating that XBRL errors were to be expected but would diminish over time given XBRL’s still “relative newness”, he took an interesting turn by tying in the AQM and pointing out companies that made and continued to make XBRL mistakes would eventually “stand out” in the scoring done by the AQM.  Before wrapping up his presentation, Lewis reinforced his belief that Inline XBRL is the “…next logical step” when it comes to XBRL at the SEC.  I guess that’s a good thing, especially since the SEC put out the solicitation to build their next-generation XBRL viewer based on Inline XBRL but I digress.

Blake’s Take:  Good keynotes don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to Cage Match quality, very disappointing.  Since Issa did get in two direct blows to the SEC while Lewis took the high road, I’m giving the second round of the Cage Match to Issa.  Given Issa took the first round via the letter itself, it’s 2-0 Issa for those keeping track at home.

Is the SEC going to engage in this Cage Match?  The question to me is not really “if” but “when”.  Those hoping that time was today were left disappointed, but let’s see how things play out over the coming 1-2 weeks.  I’m sure the SEC isn’t going to let Issa continue to ground-and-pound on their Interactive Data turf without some kind of response.

(Read More About Round 1 Here)