February 15, 2008 / 10:06 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-US SEC site gives new view of company data

(Adds recommendation of advisory committee in paragraph 10)

WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission unveiled a Web site on Friday that lets investors launch charts and graphs to probe the financial data of a select group of companies that have signed on to the agency’s interactive data push.

The SEC's new Financial Explorer site, reached via www.sec.gov/xbrl , is a tool that lets users manipulate raw data derived from XBRL, or extensible business reporting language.

The agency is pushing companies to start filing their financial data in XBRL, which means that electronic tags much like bar codes would be attached to each piece of financial data.

More than 70 companies have signed on to the SEC’s XBRL pilot program, and the agency is expected to propose as soon as April that companies be required to file financial results in XBRL.

The Financial Explorer site uses interactive charts and diagrams, including “atomic models”, to represent data such as current assets, long-term investments and goodwill.

Users can also compare earnings, earnings, expenses, cash flows, assets, and liabilities for companies in the same industry.

“XBRL is fast becoming the universal language for the exchange of business information and it is the future of financial reporting,” said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox in a statement. “With Financial Explorer or another XBRL viewer, investors will be able to quickly make sense of financial statements.”

The site is currently limited to the 74 companies that are involved in the agency’s pilot program, which include General Electric Co (GE.N), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and United Technologies Corp (UTX.N).

Members of an SEC advisory committee, created to improve financial reporting, have voiced concerns about the financial cost for companies to implement XBRL and the liability that could be attached to faulty implementation.

The committee issued an interim report earlier this week that recommended the SEC go forth with a plan to require companies to file in XBRL, but urged a phased-in approach.

The agency has already launched other online viewers that let investors manipulate data instead of having to copy and paste into a spreadsheet.

The Executive Compensation viewer lets users compare pay data from 500 of the largest U.S. companies and the Interactive Financial Report viewer allows for the comparison of key disclosures from the companies in the XBRL pilot program.

The Financial Explorer site is open source, meaning technology and financial experts can update and improve the viewer tool.

The SEC said it sees the potential for investors and analysts to develop hundreds of Web-based applications that would further push along the development of XBRL. (Reporting by Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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