SEC Activates Computerized Filing System

Article excerpt

By Kurt Eichenwald

N.Y. Times News Service

With the flick of a switch, the Securites and Exchange Commission has begun to automatically accept electronic document filings on the computer system that will someday be used as a central depository for the filings of publicly traded companies.

The first day of tests for the system, known as Edgar, for Electronic Data Gathering Analysis, represented a giant step for the longlayed $75 million project. It proceeded with just one glitch, government officials and corporate officers said, and by Wednesday evening more than 110 filings had been made by almost 50 publicly traded companies.

The SEC accepted electronic filings on a separate pilot system for some time for a selected group of companies participating in the development of Edgar.

The goal of the pilot program was to determine if electronic filing was feasible and, if so, to make suggestions on how to proceed.

The pilot had few of the final system's advantages _ it did not accept filings automatically, for example, and the information it received was not easily distributed electronically.

"This is probably the most significant thing that has happened in the Edgar project since we started," said John Penhollow, director of the SEC's office of Edgar management. "This is a banner day."

The Edgar project was designed to allow the SEC, which is swamped with more than 5 million pages of records and securities registrations each year, to become a paperless agency. Two desired benefits are that public companies will be able to provide information to investors faster and that the public will be able to sift data more easily with the help of computers. …