SEC to Publish Comment Letters Online

The commission's Web site will feature correspondence with finance and investment-management filers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission will make available on its Web site the thousands of pieces of correspondence concerning company and mutual-fund filings reviewed by the SEC’s Corporation Finance and Investment Management divisions.

The SEC will start releasing comment letters and responses to them concerning disclosure filings made after August 1. The commission intends to announce the date of the release soon.

For many years, the two divisions have supplied filers with comments on how certain filings could be improved. The comments offered only staff positions on a particular filing and are limited to its specific facts. Many of the comments lead to back-and-forth discussion on such critical matters as IPO disclosures or accounting issues, according to the SEC.

The commission reported that its decision to release the letters and responses was triggered by the growing number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it’s been getting. The public will no longer require a FOIA request to see the correspondence. “We stand for transparency,” said Alan Beller, the director of the agency’s division of corporation finance, which reviews the documents filed by public companies, according to The New York Times. “Investors and issuers and advisers should have a transparent view of our process.”

Beller stressed that the agency will maintain its policy of not disclosing trade secrets and confidential commercial information that would hurt companies if they’re disclosed, according to the paper.

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