TAP-INFO - An Internet newsletter available from listproc@tap.org


Crown Jewels Campaign - EDGAR

August 21, 1995

Vendor Makes Sham Offer for Free EDGAR Access

by jamie love (love@tap.org, 202/387-8030)

WASHINGTON, DC -- August 21, 1995. At a 4 p.m. news conference, the Washington DC based Global Securities Information, Inc. ("GSI") announced that it would provide "free" Internet EDGAR service (FREE LIVEDGAR) to begin Oct 1, 1995. GSI officials hope that this offer will deter the SEC from providing its own government funded free Internet dissemination program. The problem with the GSI proposal, however, is that the limits on the free access are extremely restrictive, and the plan is little more than a commercial for the more functional "value added" service that GSI sells. Among the problems:

In essence, GSI says it will provide a very limited browsing service, and them charge hefty fees for anyone who wants to download or print the data. GSI officials are trying persuade the SEC that this very limited service would satisfy SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt's recent promise that "the Commission is committed to ensure that EDGAR filings are accessible to the investing public on the Internet." At today's press conference, last monday's EDGAR conference, and in other forums, GSI has complained bitterly about having to "compete" against a "taxpayer supported" free Internet service. For more background on GSI, check out their rather limited web site (http://www.gsionline.com).

The SEC is trying to decide what it can do to keep the present Internet EDGAR service available to the public. Carl Malamud, the wizard behind the Internet Multicasting Service (IMS), has offered to loan the SEC the computers and other hardware needed to run the current Internet service, and provide the SEC with free training and software. Apparently the service can be run by a single new staff position, and would cost the SEC less than $200,000 per year (compared to more than $60 million per year to "collect" the information for the full disclosure program), plus the cost to the SEC of buying its down data back from LEXIS (the firm which has a contract to "sell" the EDGAR data for the SEC).

Several commercial vendors, like GSI, are expected to make pitches to the SEC for "private sector" solutions to the dissemination program, which involved any number of strings or limits to the public access. GSI and some of the less innovative data vendors saw the IMS/NYU free EDGAR Internet dissemination project as a threat to their fee based commercial services.


TAP is setting up a temporary unmoderated Internet discussion list (edgar-action, subscriptions from listproc@tap.org) to share information about EDGAR developments. To subscribe, send at note to listproc@tap.org, with the message:

You should also contact the key members of the SEC and Congress who are going to make decisions on this issue. Let them know, for example, what you think of a "free" Internet service that will require proprietary software, and will not allow downloading or printing of data. Remind them also that EDGAR is a database of public records, which you have alread paid $60 million per year to collect. TAP suggests that you send your thoughts by fax to the following persons.

TAP-INFO is an Internet Distribution List provided by the Taxpayer Assets Project (TAP). TAP was founded by Ralph Nader to monitor the management of government property, including information systems and data, government funded R&D, spectrum allocation and other government assets. TAP-INFO reports on TAP activities relating to federal information policy.

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