Timing is everything, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sure seems to have that sorted out. On the day that over 400 people (including Issa himself) attended the “Data Transparency 2013” conference in Washington DC focused on the DATA Act, Open Data Policy, and SEC Reporting, Issa throws down to the SEC about their lack of advancement and use of XBRL via a 5-page letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White. The entire 5-page missive can be found in all its grumpy glory here and is well worth a quick read.
While Issa touches on a number of key points to reinforce his view that the SEC isn’t using XBRL like they should be, more interesting is the tight time-frame he puts on the SEC to respond to his concerns. He gives the SEC 7 days to provide documentation on his information requests (which there are many), and 13 days to designate minions and brief the Oversight Committee in person. Ouch.
Blake’s Take: At a tactical level, Issa’s pressing of the SEC to address his XBRL concerns will at a minimum benefit SEC registrants as they glean insight into potential XBRL forthcoming validation and comment letter changes. Strategically, other government agencies looking to adopt XBRL for data collection/interchange will undoubtedly be sitting cage-side, taking notes on how to avoid a “Beat-down from Issa.”
While Issa’s fighting tactics may be questionable, he manages to kick up an important question often overlooked around the topic of XBRL at the SEC: How fast (and far) is good enough? Depending on where you sit in the disclosure external reporting supply chain, your answer most likely varies: Registrants: “you can slow down (or stop) any time”… SEC: “doin’ just fine, thank you very much”… Analysts: “meh”… Issa: “my Grandma runs numbers faster and cheaper than you.”
Viewpoints aside, Issa’s letter points out simple realities around the SEC’s Interactive Data mandate. Truth be told, not much has changed since the start of the mandate in 2009 and outside of SEC Chief Economist Craig Lewis, no one at the SEC really talks about XBRL (first rule of SEC XBRL Fight Club?). When the SEC does talk about XBRL of late, they admit to many of the things Issa’s letter focuses on: “Yes, there are errors in the XBRL submissions and yes, we’re just starting to use the XBRL data for review-related purposes.”
I love a good cage match as much as the next, so make some popcorn, grab a good seat and let’s see how the SEC responds to Issa’s first punch over the coming two weeks. Things are bound to get a wee bit interesting.