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This edition of Data Transparency News reports on the SEC's first-ever public enforcement of the quality of structured-data corporate financial statements; OMB's missing Open Government Plan, and Brazil's successful transformation of its financial re implementation of the DATA Act standards; the Coalition's participation in the GovLab and Department of Commerce open data roundtable; and the Coalition's upcoming third Data Transparency Breakfast.

Data Transparency News


SEC Enforces XBRL Reporting Requirements - Finally!


The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken its first foray into enforcing the accuracy of corporate financial information filed in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) structured data format. On Monday, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance announced that letters had been sent to certain companies whose XBRL financial statements had failed to include necessary data.

The SEC’s requirement for public companies to submit a structured data version of each financial statement, alongside the old-fashioned document version, for each financial quarter has been in place since 2009, but this is the first public call for corrections.

The agency systematically reviews the document version of each financial statement for potential errors and issues--but does not apply the same quality control to the structured data version. Errors are rampant throughout the SEC's XBRL data set, well documented by Calcbench and TangniFi. These errors make the data very difficult for investors and the agency to use. Many investors and infomediaries don’t trust the data.

Since its founding in 2012, the Data Transparency Coalition has called on the SEC to apply quality control to the structured-data financial statements it receives from public companies.

Accurate structured data would bring the benefits of open data to investors, markets, enforcers, and the companies themselves. XBRL financial data, if made reliable, would help investors make better decisions, allow the agency to use analytics to find accounting fraud, and provide an opportunity for public companies to automate compliance tasks. In addition, as analysts' coverage costs drop, they would be able to cover more companies--helping smaller companies get more attention from investors.

The Coalition will continue to advocate for the SEC to eliminate the current duplication and collect a single submission from public companies--one that is both human-readable and machine-readable. The SEC should also re-start its stalled transformation from documents to data by adopting data standards for all the information it collects under the securities laws.

The Coalition supports the reintroduction of the Financial Industry Transparency Act, which would require all U.S. financial regulators to replace documents with structured data throughout all the information they collect under the securities, commodities, and banking laws.
Still Waiting on OMB's Open Government Plan

The five-year anniversary of President Obama's Open Government Directive is less than six months away, but some agencies, including the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), have missed the Directive's deadline to update their Open Government Plans.  The most recent round of updates was due on April 7, 2014, but we are still waiting on OMB's required update.

The Treasury Department's updated Open Government Plan, released on June 12, 2014, failed to mention Treasury's lead role in implementing the DATA Act - through the plan was released over a month after President Obama signed the new law.

When President Obama signed the DATA Act on May 9, 2014, he enacted the nation's most significant open government law since President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act on July 4, 1966.  The DATA Act requires the executive branch of the U.S. government to transform all of its spending information from disconnected documents into open data.  The first step in implementation is for the Treasury Department and OMB to establish government-wide standards for federal spending - no later than May 9, 2015. 

Given the importance of the DATA Act's mandate to open government, both Treasury and OMB should incorporate their DATA Act work into their Open Government Plans--or at least mention the new law.

Or does the White House believe the implementation of the DATA Act and American's right to an open government are unrelated? Enquiring minds want to know.

Lessons in Open Data from Brazil

The U.S. has been slow to move toward open data in government spending. While the Treasury Department and the White House OMB are just beginning to implement the DATA Act, some countries are years ahead.

Brazil faced a similar challenge after a change to its national Fiscal Act required each layer of its government to publish more granular spending information. The Brazilian national treasury met the challenge by adopting a single data standard to govern reports prepared by the central government, 26 state governments, one federal district government, and 5570 municipalities. The data standard allows the Brazilian treasury to collect and automatically validate reports from all levels of government - and instantly publish spending information as open data.

Like the expected implementation of the DATA Act, Brazil's project brought together several distinct types of spending reports, including accounting, financial, and budget, into a single structure. Unlike the DATA Act, Brazil's project covered state and local finances as well as national.

Want to learn more? Watch a Brazilian treasury representative summarize the project at the World Continuous Auditing and Reporting Symposium (VIDEO) and join us for the Coalition's Data Transparency Breakfast on July 29. At the Data Transparency Breakfast, our speakers will explore the successful adoption of data standards for government reporting outside the United States, including the Brazilian project.

Open Government Dashboard
To track all Open Government Plans, the White House established an Open Government Dashboard.


July 29: Data Transparency Breakfast

The Coalition's third Data Transparency Breakfast, presented by PwC, will explore the world's most innovative transformations in government reporting. The breakfast is an opportunity for U.S. open government advocates to learn from the best use cases of open data reporting from around the world.  For more information, or to reserve a space, click here.
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July 10, 2014


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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.
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