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FORTUNE: One step backwards for corporate accountability

In his article One step backward for corporate accountability published by Fortune, Ethan Rouen reaches the following conclusion:

XBRL is broken, but that does not diminish its potential importance to markets and regulators. By voting to eliminate reporting requirements for a majority of publicly traded firms, Congress is doing a disservice to investors and signaling to companies that make questionable accounting decisions that they have a sympathetic ear in Washington.

What is needed for XBRL now is not a step back to reflect, but a sprint forward to increase oversight and improve its usability.

I agree with Ethan that a "sprint forward" is the way to go, particularly since 95% of all SEC XBRL financial filings are less than 5 errors away from having fundamentally useful information.

I don't agree with the statement "Extensions damage XBRL's usability." As I have pointed out before, it is not extensions which cause problems, it is inappropriate extensions which cause problems.  Extensions are actually a good thing, if used appropriately.

One interesting thing is that Ethan pointed out the same flaw in EXXON's financial report relating to the extension of revenues that I pointed out.

I find this statement quite interesting: (emphasis is mine)

In research I conducted with 28msec, a company that has developed a platform to extract information from XBRL filings, I found evidence that companies may be learning how to use extensions to effectively hide bad results.

I look forward to seeing that research. I have been able to find accounting anomalies, but I never looked for a correlation between those accounting anomalies and extensions or poor earnings results.

And oh, by the way...I have used the 28msec platform for analyzing SEC XBRL financial filings.  It is quite nice and should be broadly available very soon.  It will put a lot of analysis power into the hands of the average accountant.

Stay tuned for more information.

Posted on Friday, April 25, 2014 at 08:29AM by Registered CommenterCharlie in | CommentsPost a Comment

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