SEC mulls consultation on easing quarterly reporting rules

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in a notice that it will consider seeking public comment on ways to ease the quarterly reporting burden on publicly listed companies.

The notice, published late on Tuesday, comes two months after President Donald Trump asked the regulator to consider stepping back quarterly disclosures, saying on Twitter he had heard from business leaders it would “allow greater flexibility & save money.”

The SEC said in a public notice that the Division of Corporation Finance was considering “recommending that the commission seek public comment on ways to ease companies’ compliance burdens while maintaining appropriate levels of disclosure and investor protection.”

“This subject is something the staff has been considering, even before the President tweeted about it,” a SEC spokeswoman said in a statement.

However, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, a Trump appointee, last week told an audience in Washington that the regulator was in no rush to change quarterly reporting requirements for large publicly-traded companies.

“I don’t think quarterly reporting is going to change for our top names anytime soon,” said Clayton. But he said the SEC could study the disclosure requirements for smaller firms.

A move to semiannual reporting would mark a significant shift from decades of quarterly reporting by American companies, and put the United States in line with European Union and United Kingdom rules.

Less frequent reporting could result in lower costs for companies and remove short-term demands and expectations, according to some analysts. But others insist the quarterly system provides critical information to investors and reduces volatility in markets.

The notice does not commit the SEC to a policy change and any move to reduce disclosure would likely be hotly debated and may take months, if not years, to come to fruition.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson and Pete Schroeder; Editing by G Crosse and Nick Zieminski