SEC Chairman Backs Internet Access To Corporate Records
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. pledged Tuesday to keep the agency’s vast library of corporate records accessible through the Internet.
``I think it’s enormously impressive that so many members of the public found this service useful,″ Levitt said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ``Because of this, I raise this issue to highest priority at the commission.″
The Edgar files are a vast repository of corporate annual reports, proxy statements and other filings made by nearly 75 percent of the nation’s public companies.
An experimental project operated by Internet Multicasting Service and New York University has provided free access through the Internet computer network to the Edgar since 1994.
The project will close Oct. 1 because it’s running out of grant money, although the public has viewed about 3.1 million documents total from the database, an average of 16,700 per day.
Alternatively, Edgar files can be obtained through commercial services. Such services are expensive, but quicker than the Internet, which provides documents at least one day late and in a form that is difficult to print out.
Two of the SEC’s options to keep Internet access involve hiring a private company to run the project or offering access through a government electronic bulletin board service known as ``Fedworld,″ Levitt said. The SEC chief hopes to make a decision this week.
Reports of the Oct. 1 deadline led one entrepreneur, Clifford Boro of the Internet Financial Network in Davie, Fla., to announce formation of a private group that will finance Internet access to the Edgar files. Boro said he’s been discussing proposals with the SEC staff and has sent a letter to Levitt about his ideas.
SEC Commissioner Steven M.H. Wallman, in a separate interview Tuesday, agreed. ``It will stay on the Internet and it will be available to the public,″ Wallman told the AP. ``I feel very, very strongly about that.″
Carl Malamud, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Internet Multicasting Service, which performs research on the global Internet computer network, said today he was ``thrilled″ with Levitt’s announcement.
The project’s sponsors say the newly passed Paperwork Reduction Act compels the government to offer Internet access to the documents.
The Internet project began in 1994 with a grant from the National Science Foundation, partly due to the work of Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., the ranking Democrat on a House subcommittee overseeing the SEC.
Malamud has said Internet access to Edgar files could cost about $175,000 a year.