The CFA’s Investor Forum 2017, developed by XBRL US and held in sponsorship with CFA Institute and CFA Society New York, recently explored numerous issues applicable to the use of XBRL in the financial data analysis and reporting industries. During the conference, Michelle Savage, Vice President of Communication for XBRL US, and Scott Theis, CEO of Novaworks, LLC and Chairman of XBRL US’s Domain Steering Committee, discussed an earnings release case study that discussed how building an XBRL taxonomy to represent the data held within the release could be beneficial to the financial and investment communities.
CFA Investor Forum Explores an Earnings Release Case Study
Ms. Savage first explained the role XBRL could play in the area of earnings announcements. Expanding the use of structured data reporting from the currently available 10-K and 10-Q filings provides an opportunity for investors to gain access to information that was previously not tagged in a very meaningful way. Most notably, applying XBRL to the MD&A, proxy statements, and earnings release statements would open the doors for obtaining and analyzing data that is timely and market-moving. Many companies post their earnings releases through news media via various dissemination routes (e.g., Reuters, Associated Press, commercial wire services), but they are also required to report their earnings release information to the SEC through Form 8-K. Wire services perform some tagging of earnings release information as they receive it, including dates, cities, stock ticker information, and so forth.
However, as Ms. Savage said, the information can vary, both in its presentation and in its placement in the earnings announcement. This can in turn lead to large amounts of manual data aggregation and entry for analysts as earnings announcements are released (typically within a short time frame for any particular industry). “To me,” Savage said, “[earnings release information] is an opportunity that is ripe for XBRL for structured data because all that data is being keyed in. There’s a lot of labor involved before the data can actually be acted upon.” She then discussed the urgent need for developing XBRL tools to tag earnings release data so that these structured data can be used by investors in a meaningful, timely manner.
Mr. Theis then explained the efforts of XBRL US to establish a subcommittee within the Domain Steering Committee to explore developing an XBRL taxonomy for earnings announcements. “The primary goal [of the subcommittee] is to improve the timeliness and the accuracy,” Theis said. He went on to lay out the subcommittee’s process, including its initial exploration to develop a so-called “whitepaper”, which can then be used to generate feedback from the industry before creating a taxonomy. The US-GAAP Taxonomy would be incorporated into this new earnings release taxonomy, which could itself have numerous mandatory or optional items. A rule-making step would then follow before final implementation.
This is a long process involving study of the benefits of tagging earnings information as structured data, computing cost analyses for registrants, filing agents, preparers, and other involved parties, and exploring the risk analysis (such as the impact of data errors and quality issues, risk mitigation, and impact of Form 8-K processing at the SEC).
The subcommittee is encouraging XBRL developers, stakeholders, industry experts, and interested parties to participate in the initial exploration of these topics. “You can influence the standards,” Theis said of involvement in the development of the earnings release taxonomy. “You can help make this a better process.” Questions pertaining to this topic or for the Domain Steering Committee can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the 2017 Investor Forum and to view this and the other panels that were conducted, visit XBRL US’ website.