PHOENIX - Investment Company Institute President Paul Schott Stevens announced last week that his organization has launched an initiative that would eventually move mutual fund disclosure documents almost exclusively online.

Speaking at the ICI's 2006 Mutual Funds and Investment Management Conference, held here last week, Stevens said the initiative would develop an XBRL, or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, for mutual fund shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission has already been working extensively with XBRL, but its efforts have been focused primarily on financial data, which Stevens said isn't awfully investor-friendly.

In short, the SEC's solution would create a search, retrieval and analysis method that would make it easier for fund complexes to report financial data to the regulator, while the ICI's solution would enable investors who want to go online to compare, for instance, the performance of two funds in an apples-to-apples environment.

"Building on the Commission's efforts, we hope to lay the groundwork for providing interactive mutual fund data that will serve the needs of investors and other interested parties," Stevens said. He did not elaborate further, but called it a "substantial undertaking" and encouraged funds to participate in the SEC's XBRL efforts. "XBRL represents an important step," he continued. "But it must be part of a broader road map that will take us from paper-based disclosure to new and improved approaches."

(c) 2006 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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