Making Securities and Exchange Commission filings searchable through extensible business reporting language (XBRL) is empowering the SEC, reports SEC Chairman Christopher Cox as saying. In fact, it’s the primary reason the Commission unearthed the backdating stock options scandal that has more than 170 companies under the SEC’s glare.

Cox even went so far as to compare SEC staff members to the cast of the TV show “Heros.” While they may not have the super powers of the show’s cast, Cox said, “by sheer willpower and hard work, they routinely accomplish great deeds. And to all the Americans who depend on them, they are very real heroes, in every sense.

The SEC recently began requiring firms to submit stock options information within two days of the grant in an interactive format.

“Once real-time disclosure was combined with interactive data, we began to find clues that had previously gone undetected,” Cox said, speaking at a Practising Law Institute event. “That led directly to the discovery of what we now know were billions of dollars of backdated stock option awards.”

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