NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said meetings with corporate executives had prompted him to ask the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to study letting public companies file financial reports every six months instead of every quarter.
Half-yearly reporting would mark a huge change in U.S. disclosure requirements and put it in line with European Union and United Kingdom rules. By tweeting that the switch would give companies more flexibility and reduce costs, Trump waded into a long-running debate on how often public companies should report.
Investors have mostly argued for more transparency, while some executives say too-frequent reporting creates an unhealthy focus on short-term targets. The SEC is an independent commission-led agency, and the president cannot force it to implement rule changes.
On Twitter, Trump said that one executive had suggested the change as a way to boost business, but did not name the individual or the company.
"I'd like to see twice, but we're going to see," Trump later said to reporters outside the White House, when asked about his tweet about changing SEC reporting requirements. He said outgoing PepsiCo Inc CEO Indra Nooyi had brought it up to him. PepsiCo was not immediately available to comment.
Trump recently hosted a number of company leaders while on vacation at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, including the heads of Apple Inc, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Boeing Co, FedEx Corp, and Honeywell International Inc.
Any move to scrap quarterly filings would have to be voted on by the SEC's sitting commissioners, who are political appointees.
While capital market rules are not traditionally a partisan issue, such a major rule change would likely meet opposition from the agency’s two Democratic-leaning commissioners, Robert Jackson and Kara Stein who have generally advocated for strong corporate governance.
The SEC declined to comment. The Commissioners' offices did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under Trump appointee chairman Jay Clayton, the SEC has taken steps to relax rules for issuers, including allowing firms going public to file information confidentially, and is currently discussing relaxing some other compliance rules.
But scrapping quarterly reporting is not currently on the SEC's near-term agenda, according to public records.
Some investors on Friday said quarterly disclosures were essential to making informed investment decisions and supported richer U.S. valuations, and that shares could become more volatile if companies report only twice yearly.
But executives and other investors said Trump’s argument made sense because it would cut costs of compiling and filing results and remove short-term distractions for those running companies.
Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk stunned investors last week by announcing a plan to take the electric carmaker private, a move he says would benefit shareholders by removing short-term pressures associated with being a public company.
“I do believe it will help upper management ... We start preparing three weeks in advance every quarter, essentially taking almost a third of executives’ time each quarter,” said Bryan Sheffield, chief executive of shale oil producer Parsley Energy Inc.
But he said energy companies would probably still report some oil and gas well data every three months to please investors.
OPENING CORPORATE BOOKS
The Trump administration has said it would like to reduce red tape it blames for a 50-percent decline in public listings over the past two decades.
Last fall it laid out a blueprint for changes to capital market rules in a U.S. Treasury report, but did not advocate scrapping quarterly reporting.
"If public companies moved from quarterly to semi-annual reporting, that would deprive investors of timely information and dramatically increase the potential for insider trading," said Robert Pozen, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who has studied the issue.
Companies that want to move away from short-term scrutiny should instead stop publicly projecting the next quarter's earnings, Pozen added.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon wrote in the Wall Street Journal in June that U.S. companies should move away from giving quarterly guidance, arguing it holds back spending on hiring, investment and research, but did not call for an end to quarterly reporting.
The Council of Institutional Investors (CII) believes that public companies should continue to report quarterly on their financial performance.
“Investors and other stakeholders benefit when regulations ensure that important information is promptly and transparently provided to the marketplace,” said Amy Borrus, CII’s deputy director. “Investors need timely, accurate financial information to make informed investment decisions.”
(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne, Susan Heavey, Michelle Price, Makini Brice, Richa Naidu, Pete Schroeder and Ernest Scheyder; Writing by Meredith Mazzilli; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Aug 18, 2018 00:05:31 IST