How much is too much, how little is too little?

Author:Westfall, Christopher

The push and pull between financial executives and investors is nothing new and is certainly as old as this magazine and Financial Executives International as an organization. But despite the decades long debate regarding subjects like proper disclosure, accounting transparency and financial statement clarity, arguments seem to center around two issues: how much is too much, how little is too little. A recent study from professors at the University of Notre Dame tries to get at the heart of the debate by measuring one simple metric: how often financial filings are used. Tapping into data from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR system, the study examined the "consumption" of financial information in filings from 2003 through 2012.

It came up with some interesting findings.

Robots--or computer programs likely combing investment trading firms looking to download all company filings--have "spiked" since 2008, while requests from individual investors (non-robots) have remained flat. In addition, many of the required filings are not actively downloaded by individual retail investors. For example, while there are more than four million Form 4 fillings on EDGAR (usually executive moves and compensation), the number of nonrobot requests for those flings totaled a miniscule 137,013 between 2003 and 2012, the study says.

"From a policy perspective, if the download...

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