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May 7, 2015
Data Transparency News
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The latest:
  • The DATA Act is turning one!
  • Members of Congress question true costs of open data at the SEC
  • Calls for FOIA reform at Senate Judiciary hearing 

The DATA Act is turning one!

One year ago this Saturday, President Obama signed the DATA Act. May 9th marks the first deadline of the nation's first open data law: the Treasury Department and the White House must announce data standards that will make the whole universe of federal spending fully searchable.

Follow the Coalition on Twitter @datacoalition for updates on this important announcement.

We're all set to celebrate the DATA Act's first birthday. June 9th and 10th at DATA Act Summit & DATA Demo Day we're bringing together the Congressional supporters, lead implementers at the Treasury Department and the White House, agencies, recipients of federal funds, and the tech industry. 

Members of Congress question true costs of open data at the SEC

Rep. Robert Hurt’s (R-VA) recently-reintroduced Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act, now H.R. 1965, was considered by the House Financial Services Committee’s capital markets subcommittee on April 29, 2015. By eliminating the mandate for the Securities and Exchange Commission to collect financial information in the XBRL open data format from the majority of U.S. public companies, H.R. 1965 would effectively derail the open data transformation at the SEC.

At the hearing, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) criticized H.R. 1965. Rep. Maloney told her colleagues she believes the free availability of searchable data on public companies’ financial performance encourages investment. Ellison, who originally supported the bill when it was first considered by the House Financial Services Committee in March 2014, said he had changed his mind and now opposes the bill.

Reps. Maloney and Ellison cited a study by the the American Institute of CPAs, which found that for smaller issuers ($75 million in revenue and below) the median annual cost to prepare XBRL filings is approximately $8,000 per year. The AICPA finding is contrary to Rep. Hurt’s main justification for the Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act — that XBRL reporting is too expensive for small companies.

At the hearing Rep. Hurt asked Theresa Gabaldon, a law professor at George Washington University, to comment on testimony by her fellow witness, PTC Therapeutics CFO Shane Kovacs, that his company spends $50,000 annually on XBRL. Ms. Gabaldon rightly called PTC Therapeutics an “unfortunate outlier.” Indeed, according to the AICPA study, $50,000 is the highest amount that any company in PTC Therapeutics’ class spends to prepare structured-data filings.

As Rep. Maloney stated, the true cost of XBRL, reflected by the AICPA study, is simply not an onerous one for a U.S. public company. Investors need access to financial data on all public companies, even if they are getting it through intermediaries rather than directly, in order to make decisions.

Before Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) expressed a desire to bring supporters and detractors of XBRL together to agree on long term modernization goals. In a letter to the leadership of the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Issa pointed out that H.R. 1965 would impede the long-term transformation of the SEC’s disclosure system from documents into searchable data.

For the full blog post and Rep. Issa's letter, click here.

Calls for FOIA reform at Senate Judiciary hearing 

It was standing room only this Wednesday, May 6, as the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing examining what the Administration has done to fulfill its promise of a more transparent, accountable government. President Obama's May 2013 Open Data Policy commanded all agencies to move toward standardizing and publishing their data. But the Open Data Policy does not impose specific mandates on domains like spending.
 
Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) both noted in their opening statements that for almost 50 years there has been no greater tool for ensuring open government than the Freedom of Information Act. But as Associated Press General Counsel Karen Kaiser testified at the hearing, FOIA is in dire need of reform. “Non-responsiveness is the norm. The reflex of most agencies is to withhold information, not to release, and often there is no recourse for a requester other than pursuing costly litigation,” Kaiser said.

The Coalition supports FOIA reform. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 would, as its name suggests, make a series of improvements to FOIA. The bill codifies the “presumption of openness” standard so that agencies proactively disclose more information, makes it easier to file FOIA requests with a consolidated online request portal, and improve electronic access of agency records.
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White House's Mader to address DATA Act Summit

DATA Act Summit & DATA Demo Day

June 9: DATA Demo Day on Capitol Hill
June 10: DATA Act Summit at Washington Convention Center
Hudson Hollister joined Tom Temin to discuss how data standards and the DATA Act can help agencies

One step backward for corporate accountability

"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."
Bipartisan Coalition Launches Transitions in Governance 2016 Initiative to Devise Government Reform Agenda
 
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About Us

The Data Transparency Coalition advocates on behalf of the private sector and the public interest for the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data. Data transparency strengthens democratic accountability, enhances government management, reduces compliance costs, and stimulates innovation.
Copyright © 2015 Data Coalition, All rights reserved.


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