The mandatory use of eXtensible Business Reporting Language by large public companies began in 2009 and was extended to smaller filers in 2011. And while it has made searching for SEC filings a breeze, it was the sincere hope of the SEC that XBRL would also be a serviceable tool for companies to do similarly fancy data analysis for their internal purposes. Well, it didn't happen!
Yes, XBRL may be nice and slick for those people that like cruising 10-Ks and 10-Qs for useful information, accounting brass around the country aren't so convinced and CFO recently got some testimonials from those who are less than impressed.
For starters, it's hasn't amounted to much, other than an exhaustive compliance exercise.
“I really just think it’s a regulatory platform right now. This is something we need to comply with. This isn’t something we find useful. This isn’t something I’ve heard my analysts say is useful,” said Nick Cyprus, vice president, controller and chief accounting officer at General Motors
“The regulators thought that most companies would eventually use this data tagging internally. But we see absolutely no use for it. It’s just redundant to what we already have,” adds Stephen J. Cosgrove, vice president, corporate controller, and chief accounting officer at Johnson & Johnson
And it's not practical, according to Ken Kelly, the controller at McCormick & Company:
“It was a nice theory.”
But a funny thing happened on the way to XBRL implementation says Michael Kaplan, a partner at law firm Davis Polk:
“It’s really meant for the investing community on Wall Street,” says Kaplan. The SEC initiated the automated financial reporting requirement to help investors (as well as the SEC) to more easily compare financial information across corporations.