Friday, October 31, 2008

Victims of the Crisis (I): XBRL?

This is the first installment in an loose series about victims of the current market crisis. We'll do a triage of the patient with a bit of a health check for cases of potential resilience. To be sure: we don't think the crisis is over ...

Just a few months ago, the XBRL bandwagon seemed unstoppable, set to take the world of financial reporting in a storm. Now,  we're not so sure. The all-important US SEC rule to make XBRL mandatory for US filers is overdue, and some doubt whether it will be coming forth at all, given the SEC's backlog of far more urgent things to do and only a few more weeks to go until the administration changes. 

On top of that, XBRL is increasingly seen to acquire a stigma of failure in the public eye because it is often identified as the hobby horse that detracted Chairman Cox from attending to his real job, for which he is under heavy fire. If that stigma persists, then Mr Cox' successor may be loathe to finish up, even if he were to share a similar level of enthusiasm for XBRL (which is a tall order). 

The user community is well known for suffering from ADD, so if the momentum of the move towards global XBRL disclosure is seen to be broken and availability of comprehensive XBRL coverage becomes a thing of the distant future, it will quickly loose what little interest it has had so far.

All that being said, the case for XBRL is as strong as ever. In fact, if accounting standards convergence is on the back-burner for the foreseeable future (more on that in a later installment), then a new use case for XBRL as a meta-standard for comparison and valuation purposes could emerge. 

1 comment:

Bob Schneider said...

Along with the pessimistic outlook for a forthcoming XBRL mandate linked above, the Hitachi XBRL blog has also published an optimistic one by Gary Purnhagen titled "SEC Will Likely Adopt Final XBRL Rule This Year." It can be read at http://hitachidatainteractive.com/2008/11/04/sec-will-likely-adopt-final-xbrl-rule-this-year/