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SEC Chair Responds To Trump’s Tweet on Ending Quarterly Earnings

Jay Clayton
The Associated Press

Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that President Donald Trump’s Friday morning tweet about ending quarterly earnings reporting requirements for U.S. companies “highlighted a key consideration for American companies.”

Here is Clayton’s statement:

The President has highlighted a key consideration for American companies and, importantly, American investors and their families — encouraging long-term investment in our country.  Many investors and market participants share this perspective on the importance of long-term investing. Recently, the SEC has implemented — and continues to consider — a variety of regulatory changes that encourage long-term capital formation while preserving and, in many instances, enhancing key investor protections. In addition, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance continues to study public company reporting requirements, including the frequency of reporting. As always, the SEC welcomes input from companies, investors, and other market participants as our staff considers these important matters.

Some background from the Associated Press:

In a tweet early Friday, Trump said that after speaking with several top business leaders, he’s asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to determine whether shifting to a six-month reporting requirement would help companies grow faster and create more jobs.

Trump later told reporters the idea was especially urged on him by Indra Nooyi, a prominent business figure who is CEO of PepsiCo, who is stepping down in October.

“So we’re looking at this very, very seriously,” Trump said. “We’re looking at two times a year rather than four times a year.”

The SEC requires public companies to report profit, revenue and other figures publicly every three months. The requirement dates to the establishment of the agency in the 1930s Great Depression, as a way to give investors confidence in company information.

Experts have long asserted that the practice of companies publicly forecasting every quarter how they expect earnings to shake out puts too much stress on short-term performance and stock price gains. That can pressure executives to engage in reckless practices to hit quarterly targets or even to manipulate earnings reports. But quarterly reports on results are distinct from the so-called earnings guidance that company executives provide as a forecast.

Scrapping the quarterly requirement “is a solution in search of a problem,” said Charles Elson, a professor and director of the University of Delaware’s Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance. “Earnings manipulation can take place whether quarterly or every six months.”

Quarterly reports are “early warning signs of other bigger problems,” Elson said.

Business executives pressing for less frequent financial reporting maintain that the costs of putting together quarterly as well as annual reports are burdensome.

 

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