The EDGAR system is about to get a makeover. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox last week announced a $54 million initiative to take the 1980's-era system into the interactive age. The SEC has contracted with three companies, each to undertake a different segment of the overhaul.

To date, the SEC has not required companies to file reports tagged and ready for Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), although Cox emphasized the agency's commitment to that goal for the future.

"The new system will make it easier both to file information with the Commission, and to use it," Cox said. "For investors and analysts, it will represent a quantum leap over existing disclosure technologies."

Already 8,200 financial institutions have used XBRL to submit reports to U.S. banking regulators, according to the SEC. The FDIC, Federal Reserve and Comptroller of the Currency already require it.

Cox has said that he wants the mutual fund industry to help serve as the program's pioneers, providing access to historical performance, fees and expenses and risks with a single click.

The three contracts awarded include a $48 million agreement with Keane Federal Systems to develop software and forms appropriate for a more modern EDGAR system. The second contract, worth $5.5 million and dedicated to developing universal taxonomies, has been awarded to XBRL US.

The final, $500,000 portion of the money will go toward separate contracts with Rivet Software and Wall Street on Demand to develop investor tools and streamline searches.

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

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