November 6, 2014

Recommendations from GW/CAQ Initiative on Rethinking Financial Disclosure Provided to SEC

Students present innovative ideas to improve effectiveness of financial disclosure for investors

Washington, DC – Officials at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were briefed on a new report from graduate students participating in a groundbreaking effort to improve the effectiveness of financial disclosure for investors. The report, issued through the Initiative on Rethinking Financial Disclosure (the Initiative), presents a set of innovative recommendations on the content, presentation, and creation process of corporate filings. 

Announced in May 2014, the Initiative is a partnership of the Institute for Corporate Responsibility (ICR) at the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) and the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ). It responds directly to SEC Chair Mary Jo White’s challenge to improve the effectiveness of corporate disclosure to investors. 

As a part of the Initiative, multiple teams of graduate students from the GW School of Business spent months intensively studying the top concerns regarding financial corporate disclosure through the SEC mandated 10K. They have developed 11 recommendations to address those concerns.

“Effective disclosure is an indispensable component or world-class capital markets,” said Cynthia Glassman, Senior Research Scholar, ICR-GW. “The students have made a real contribution to this vital public policy issue through their thoughtful and unique recommendations.”

“I applaud the students for their effort and focus on this important issue,” said Cindy Fornelli, Executive Director, Center for Audit Quality. “The recommendations in this report show that the Initiative is a promising model for generating fresh perspectives. The students’ insights will be of value to the SEC and others contemplating disclosure effectiveness.”

In addition to working closely with ICR Associate Director John Forrer, Faculty Adviser Susan Kulp, and Barbara Van Allen, CAQ Senior Director of Stakeholder Relations, the students had the counsel of an advisory committee—co-chaired by Cynthia Glassman, Senior Research Scholar, ICR-GW and CAQ Executive Director Cindy Fornelli—comprised of leading academics, practitioners, and others. They also met with SEC Commissioners during the process to discuss their hypotheses and ideas.

Among the many worthwhile suggestions, the report recommends:

  • Providing executive summaries that highlight only the changes made compared to last year’s submission; 
  • Stratifying risk factors according to non-company-specific and company-specific issues;
  • Requiring a “Strategic Report” that illuminates the company’s objectives and strategies; and,
  • Creating a “Muse Project” that solicits open sourcing ideas on better ways to disclose information, particularly as related to reporting on risks.

 “Through these recommendations, GWSB is bringing new and innovative thinking to complex, present day issues at the intersection of the public and private sectors,” stated Susan Kulp, GWSB Faculty Advisor. “GWSB’s eight students made recommendations that have the potential to improve the quality, transparency, and effectiveness of mandatory corporate disclosure.”

For additional information on the student's research and the Initiative visit: http://business.gwu.edu/about-us/research/institute-for-corporate-responsibility/research-projects/rethinking-financial-disclosure/

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About the CAQ

The Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) is an autonomous, nonpartisan public policy organization dedicated to enhancing investor confidence and public trust in the global capital markets. The CAQ fosters high quality performance by public company auditors, convenes and collaborates with other stakeholders to advance the discussion of critical issues requiring action and intervention, and advocates policies and standards that promote public company auditors’ objectivity, effectiveness, and responsiveness to dynamic market conditions. Based in Washington, DC, the CAQ is affiliated with the American Institute of CPA. For more information, visit www.thecaq.org.

Contact: Erica Hurtt, CAQ
202-591-2601

About The George Washington University School of Business
GW’s School of Business is an international leader in education and research, which prides itself on training future leaders to be global problem solvers and socially responsible managers. The school leverages its prime location—in the heart of Washington—by attracting visiting scholars and leaders in the business community to work, teach and engage with students on campus. The depth and variety of its academic and professional programs, including five specialized master’s programs, provide rich opportunities for academic engagement and career development for students in the school’s core Bachelor of Business Administration, Master of Business Administration and doctoral programs. 
Visit: business.gwu.edu.

Contact: Dustin Carnevale, GW
(202) 994-3674

About The Institute for Corporate Responsibility 

The Institute for Corporate Responsibility (ICR) officially received its Charter from George Washington University in October, 2006. The institute is devoted to the development and dissemination of scholarship, including research and teaching pertaining to corporate responsibility. It serves as a vehicle for continuing education, curriculum development, conferences and seminars each of which will address needs of the School of Business, GW University, and the wider Washington, D.C. community. 

ICR leverages its location to become a leading resource to the business community through business associations and the policy community through federal agencies, Congress, local and regional governments, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations. By fostering such a business-university-government partnership—US and global—the ICR presents a unique knowledge creation and dissemination asset on our campus, building scholarly capacity for our faculty and students, and enhancing GW's prestige worldwide. The aim of the ICR is to be the world's leading intellectual center for scholarship in the field of corporate responsibility and to be recognized as such. For more information, visit business.gwu.edu/icr.

Contact: John Forrer, ICR
(202) 994-5248