Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Harvey Pitt announced on May 30, 2002 that the Commission's Web site will now provide free, real-time access to the filings of companies registered with the SEC. In the past, EDGAR filings were delayed by at least 24 hours on the free site, while some commercial EDGAR service providers supplied up-to-the-minute filings for a fee.
The announcement follows closely on the heels of a rule-making proposal to speed up the availability of corporate filings by shortening the filing deadlines for quarterly and annual reports. Some companies are opposed to the proposal. But a recent poll of investors conducted by the Motley Fool showed strong support. Of the 1,390 respondents to the survey, fully 67% said that anything that gets information into their hands more quickly is crucial, and an additional 24% said faster is better but it's not that big of a deal. (Companies Oppose SEC Plan to Speed up Filings Deadlines, Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2002.)
The SEC's EDGAR service has also been updated with better search engines and other features designed to help investors understand the corporate reports. Examples:
- In addition to company name, users can also search the database of filings by state, CIK number or SIC number, and they can quickly view the most current filings received by the Commission.
- The searches will also provide a CIK number that will serve as a link. By clicking on the CIK, the system will return a company's information as well as all of its filings in reverse chronological order.
- For those unfamiliar with the alphabet soup of form numbers, the names and descriptions of forms will be included in the search results.
The SEC requires all public companies (except those with less than $10 million in assets and fewer than 500 shareholders) to file registration statements, quarterly and annual reports, and other forms electronically through the EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval) system. Starting November 4, 2002, filings from foreign registrants will be included as well as filings from U.S. registrants. Technical questions concerning the newly-enhanced system should be addressed to the SEC's webmaster.