Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rank and Filed | SEC Filings for Humans

by: Paul C. Bevins, Account Executive

The new website Rank and Filed was published a few weeks ago by Maris Jensen. This site was built to make the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) EDGAR data usable “for humans”. The website aggregates all twenty-five million documents that are publicly available on the EDGAR database.

Rank and Filed currently “collects, links and presents data from different SEC filings” and makes it easy to access and understand. As such, it illustrates that eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) data can be presented in a way that is understandable to the average person.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Company filing data When you select a company, you are presented with a graph of all of the filings for your chosen company. The amount of data can appear to be overwhelming at first, but you can reduce “the noise” by filtering to focus on a particular filing type.
  • Company concepts and filing values You can browse several years of a company’s financials, comparing years of XBRL concepts and numerical data side-by-side, quarter-by-quarter.
  • Concept use insight A cursory review of Apple, Inc.’s (APPL) data illustrates that you can readily identify concepts used only in 10-Q’s (“Operating Leases Future Minimum Payments Due”, e.g.) and which ones have been recently dropped (for example, “Land and Buildings Gross” is not present in the either the 2013Q4 or 2013Q3 column).
  • Financial insight This same cursory review reveals that Apple’s “Assets” have steadily increased quarter-by-quarter from 2011Q4 through 2013Q4 (this timeline represents all of the data available).
  • Influence chart This chart shows the user how the chosen public filer is connected to different companies (through relatively-sized “ties”) and industries (through color-coding). Looking at Apple’s “Influence chart” quickly reveals Tim Cook’s stake in Nike (by hovering-over the Apple-Nike tie) and Fred Anderson’s stake in eBay. You can find this and more "influence information" here.
  • Management Discussion and Analysis The “MD&A” uses a “heat map” visualization of sort-able keywords. Also, hovering-over a block for a particular filing or amendment reveals the actual number of times that word was used.
  • Company identifiers The company profile includes all of the most common company “Identifiers” in one location, including CIK, IRS, and LEI numbers; the overall profile is further identified by the ticker symbol and public name.

Ms. Jensen says that she designed Rank and Filed for the public to use for free, and she did so to illustrate how much information is already out there for investors to use. You can read more from her in this interview by Alexander Howard at E Pluribus Unum.

With this context, one can also consider the conclusions drawn in a publication from Merrill Corporation. The article demonstrates that XBRL is more accurate and comprehensive than what you would find on Compustat, Google Finance and Yahoo Finance. And Rank and Filed demonstrates that XBRL can understandable and useful.

It is promising to see an illustration that XBRL can be the useful, comprehensive, accurate, and understandable standard that was expected. And the quality of XBRL will only improve as: 1) Filers become more conversant with XBRL standards and taxonomies; and 2) The SEC steps-up enforcement through the use of their automated Accounting Quality Model (AQM).

In meantime, using the words of Ms. Jensen, she’s “just trying to make the data available and understandable!” That much can be confirmed; she does a nice job of illustrating that XBRL can be understood and used by the rank and file human.

What do you think about this website? What additional insights were you able to harness from XBRL being presented to you in this manner?