Washington, D.C., August 27, 1995 -- In a speech today in Nashville, Tennessee, before the 45th Annual Investors Congress of the National Association of Investors Corporation, SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt announced the agency's plans to make its electronic database of corporate information widely available to the public through the Internet.
"This fall, the SEC will use the Internet to make available to all American investors, large or small, its public database of corporate information within 24 hours of when it's filed with us," said Chairman Levitt. The database is known as EDGAR, which stands for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval.
"It is a major Commission priority to use electronic communications to bring clearer, faster, more complete disclosure to investors as well as to reduce costs for issuers. This represents a logical step in our efforts to better inform investors.
"One of the main reasons the SEC was created was to act as a library for corporate information and make it available to investors. We receive about 12 million documents a year. We've been thinking about how to make EDGAR better for years," continued Mr. Levitt. "At the same time, the National Science Foundation sponsored a pilot project that put EDGAR out on the Internet and proved it could be done. That experiment ends on October 1st. We've had many creative offers from the private sector to keep EDGAR on the Internet after that date, but all of them would in some way limit the amount of information available, or else attach too many commercial strings.
"Taxpayers and shareholders have already paid to compile this information -- they should not have to pay again. And a library that charges people by the page, or by the minute, is no longer a library.
"Technology is so advanced that the cost to the Commission is quite modest. With a personal computer and a modem, you'll be able to have the entire SEC Public Reference Room in your own living room. You'll be able to research information and download documents. Nothing could be better for investors -- and nothing could be better for the market, which thrives on accurate information. The service will be free."
In close cooperation with Congress, particularly Congressmen Jack Fields (R-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, Dan Frisa (R-NY) who has worked closely with us on this project in recent weeks, John Dingell (D-MI) and Ed Markey (D-MA), the Commission has been undergoing a thorough review of its use of technology to better communicate with investors and to simplify requirements and cut costs for corporate filers. This review included an SEC technology conference held on August 14 in Washington, D.C. to solicit public input on how to improve the EDGAR system. This initiative is the first of a series of EDGAR improvements envisioned by Chairman Arthur Levitt and Commissioner Steve Wallman.