SEC demands more disclosure

As part of its knee-jerk reaction to the Enron scandal the US financial regulator plans to make companies to speed up the disclosure of quarterly financials and of transactions been executives and their companies.

The SEC also wants to expand the list of events that require immediate disclosure and it wants companies to explain more clearly the reasoning behind their accounting policies.

US companies are currently obliged to file their quarterly financial statements with the SEC. As well as reducing the quarterly SEC filing window from 45 days to 30 days the regulator also wants companies to display their SEC filings on their own website at the same time. The deadline for year-end filings will be shortened to 60 days from the current 90-day window.

The regulator is also looking for practical ways to force companies to make electronic filings disclosing insider transactions and it hopes to eliminate a controversial rule that allows executives to wait until the end of the fiscal year to disclose the sale of shares back to the company. If the proposal is passed companies would need to report these type of transactions on a current basis.

Peter Gleason, VP of research for the National Association of Company Directors, said: ‘If you’re going to have to disclose for inside transactions one way or another accelerated disclosure will help investors. It’s a purely administrative matter for the executive.’

The SEC plans to make companies immediately disclose events including executive departures, customer gain or loss, waivers of corporate ethics rules, changes in rating agency decisions and events including the beginning or end of lock out periods for employee stock option or benefits plans.

The Commission will consult the public before implementing these rules.

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