January 13, 2015

Anti-data transparency provision set for House vote

Less than one week after an unexpected, but temporary procedural defeat, H.R. 37 will be back on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon. As House leaders moved to bring the multi-part financial services legislation to consideration, data transparency supporters offered an amendment to remove the crucial anti-XBRL provision from the package. Meanwhile, the White House signaled President Obama will veto the entire bill if it reaches his desk.

H.R. 37 is a package bill bringing together many different, and mostly incremental, changes to U.S. securities laws. Included as Title VII is Rep. Robert Hurt's proposal to require the Securities and Exchange Commission to stop collecting searchable financial data from most companies, and gather that information only in non-searchable documents. This isn't H.R. 37's first rodeo. The House passed it once before, last September, when it was known by its previous number, H.R. 5405. Last week, House leaders sought to bring the bill to quick passage using the fast-track suspension procedure, which requires a two-thirds majority. Democrats unexpectedly united against the bill, causing it to fall a few votes short of two-thirds.

Today's vote will not require two-thirds - only a simple majority.

Late yesterday afternoon, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress who support data transparency - Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Jared Polis (D-CO) - submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee that would strike Title VII and remove it from the bill. Issa championed last year's DATA Act, Ellison has questioned the SEC on its data practices, and Polis is also a longtime supporter of data transparency and the Data Transparency Coalition.

However, since the Rules Committee later decided that no amendments to H.R. 37 would be considered, the House will not get a chance to vote on the pro-data transparency amendment. The only substantive vote will be on the entire package, which includes many popular and bipartisan provisions.

Another morning, another House vote against data transparency.
The SEC began requiring public companies to file financial statements in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), an open data format, in 2009. But the agency didn't stop collecting the old-fashioned document versions, and has not fully enforced the quality of the XBRL submissions. As a result, investors still distrust the XBRL data - which means companies aren't enjoying the reduced capital costs and greater market visibility that freely-available open data should generate.

Rep. Hurt and other proponents of getting rid of XBRL are acting on justified frustration. But the right response would be to direct the agency to fix this data - not eliminate most of it.

The larger package bill, H.R. 37, will likely not become law. The White House issued a statement yesterday suggesting President Obama will veto the bill if it is passed by both the House and the Senate. However, data transparency supporters should be concerned if the House votes today in favor of regressing from standardized, open data to non-searchable documents.

On the House floor last week, Rep. Hurt argued that small public companies shouldn't have to spend "tens of thousands" of dollars to create XBRL filings when they are already submitting the same information as documents. According to the American Institute of CPAs, the true average cost to small companies is just over $10,000, with a median of $8,000 - a very small amount compared to the investment required to maintain a listing on a public securities exchange.

As SEC chair Mary Jo White told the Financial Services Committee last year, Rep. Hurt's proposed exemption would harm investors' interests because it would restrict investors' and the SEC's ability to "search and analyze the financial information dynamically and ... [compare] financial and business performance across companies, reporting periods, and agencies."

Consideration of H.R. 37 is scheduled for 1:15 pm, Eastern time, this afternoon. Even though the Rules Committee rejected their amendment, Issa, Polis, and Ellison are expected to deliver remarks on the House floor supporting data transparency at the SEC.

January 7, 2015

Cliffhanger in the House: Anti-data transparency measure barely fails

This afternoon the House of Representatives barely fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass H.R. 37, Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick's Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act. H.R. 37 included, as one of 11 separate pieces, Rep. Robert Hurt's proposal to require the SEC to stop collecting standardized financial data from most U.S. public companies and regress to documents. The bill received 276 yeas and 146 nays, with five members not voting. A two-thirds majority required 285.

H.R. 37 required a two-thirds majority because it was being offered under the special "suspension of the rules" procedure. Most likely, the supporters of H.R. 37 intend to try again under regular procedures, which only require a bare majority, within the next few weeks.

The Coalition will continue to educate Members of the House on the negative impact that Rep. Hurt's proposal would create for data transparency in financial regulatory reporting. Moreover, today's setback may help persuade the Senate that the proposal should not be considered without careful consideration, including hearings.

House to vote today on anti-data transparency measure

UPDATE: H.R. 37 barely failed to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary for passage under the special suspension procedure.

 Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick's "Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act" (H.R. 37) is on the House of Representatives' calendar TODAY. This is bad news for supporters of data transparency.

H.R. 37 is the same package bill that the House passed last September that included Rep. Robert Hurt's proposal to require the SEC to stop collecting standardized financial data, and regress to documents-only, from 60 percent of public companies - hastily reintroduced for the new Congress. The Hurt proposal—Title VII of the Fitzpatrick bill—is a step backwards for data transparency. It would erect a permanent statutory barrier preventing the SEC from modernizing its whole disclosure system. The anti-XBRL proposal is one of 11 different titles in the larger package bill.

On the Majority Leader’s House calendar you will find a list of proposals to be considered today. Rep. Fitzpatrick’s bill is second on the list. You’ll notice that no bill number has been assigned yet.

We are not sure when the House will consider H.R. 37 today but we think it will likely be either noon or 2:00 pm. Since the bill is being considered "under suspension of the rules," it requires a two-thirds majority for passage. The procedure is typically used for non-controversial bills without opposition, such as bills naming post offices. When the bill was being considered in September, Reps. Maxine Waters and Keith Ellison spoke out against the procedure. They criticized the whole package's wide-ranging complexity arguing that it should not be considered under suspension of the rules. Rep. Ellison said, "This is not a non-controversial bill."

In 2014, the SEC made an impressive shift, in rhetoric and in action, towards modernization. Open data—standardized and published—could transform financial regulation from disconnected, unsearchable, unstructured documents into structured information, easily distilled into actionable insights. The benefit to investors, regulators, markets, and filers would be immense. But not if Congress sends the message to the SEC that they do not want the agency to modernize.

Weighing in on Rep. Hurt's proposal, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said that the exemption would harm investors' interests because it would restrict investors' and the SEC's ability to "search and analyze the financial information dynamically and ... [compare] financial and business performance across companies, reporting periods, and agencies" (page 3). 

Rep. Hurt's proposal would be a huge blow to data transparency in financial regulation. It would incapacitate the nation's top financial regulator by taking away the technology it needs to effectively keep up with Wall Street.

It is tremendously disappointing to see that one of the first actions of the new Congress is to put forward legislation that would harm American competitiveness and deal a major setback to data transparency in financial regulation.

Help us oppose H.R. 37:

First, retweet and follow updates from: @DataCoalition

Second, contact your representative in the House to voice your opposition.

If you are able to make contact with a staff member, please explain that you oppose the "Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act," currently introduced as one of the component pieces of H.R. 37, because it would set back financial accountability and transparency.

December 30, 2014

Modernization in U.S. corporate disclosure: small steps, big potential

Today the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced it is publishing a database of corporate financial statement information. That announcement is more consequential than it might appear.

In 2009, the SEC started requiring U.S. public companies to report their financial statements in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) structured data format. In XBRL, each line item and each number has a unique electronic tag, which means a structured-data financial statement can be automatically read by software.

The SEC’s adoption of XBRL was one of the U.S. government’s biggest and earliest open data efforts. In fact, it happened so early that the term “open data” wasn’t even in common use yet.

XBRL should have been the start of a complete modernization of the SEC’s disclosure system. It should have transformed the U.S. capital markets. But it wasn’t and it didn’t.

In theory, the SEC’s adoption of structured data should allow investors to make better decisions. It should support analytics tools to help SEC staff review filings and spot potential accounting fraud. And it should allow filers to automate formerly-manual compliance burdens – just as happened in the 1990s when the IRS adopted an XML format for individual tax returns that permitted companies like Intuit to roll out products like TurboTax.

The members of the Data Transparency Coalition have already developed the solutions that can do these things. Platforms like Calcbench can crunch through financial data to help investors find patterns and insights. Products like Contexxia and companies like Information Builders can help agency staff check the math of financial statements and notice potential problems. Disclosure solutions offered by RR Donnelley, RDG Filings, and Workiva can automate compliance for companies.

But the SEC didn’t take the follow-up steps that would have allowed tech companies to deliver all these benefits.

First, the agency made it very hard for investors, and the infomediaries that serve them, to use the structured-data financial statements. Each XBRL financial statement is published on the SEC’s EDGAR website separately. To make proper use of this valuable data, investors and tech companies must assemble thousands of separate files into a database. That complex step became a barrier to entry for casual coders and startup innovators.

Second, the agency continued to collect the old-fashioned document version of each financial statement alongside the new data version. To this day, companies must report the same information twice: once as an XBRL file, and again as a plain-text document. As a result, companies and SEC staff view the XBRL version as an added compliance burden and a supplemental exhibit that is distinct from the truly important, if old-fashioned, disclosure document it accompanies. (To this day, the agency doesn’t use XBRL data to check the mathematics of financial statements. Instead, SEC attorneys and accountants print out the financial statements and use calculators to do that.)

Third, for the first five years, the agency took no concrete steps to enforce the quality of the XBRL financial statements companies filed. As a result, data quality was so bad that investors didn’t trust the XBRL versions and refused to use them. Infomediaries followed their customers’ mistrust and didn’t make much use of the new data resource either. The SEC finally announced its first data quality letter to companies last summer. But it still doesn’t treat errors in the XBRL version the same way it treats errors in the document version. Errors in the document version earn a reprimand from the Division of Corporation Finance. Errors in the data version might result in a phone call from the SEC, a few times in the past five years.

Finally, after adopting XBRL for corporate financial statements, the SEC stopped right there. It didn’t continue its transformation from documents to data. Financial statements are an important piece, but only a piece, of a vast system of corporate disclosure. The SEC collects all sorts of information that could be, but isn’t, electronically searchable. Lists of each company’s subsidiaries, disclosures of each company’s stock structure, names of directors and officers, compensation details, and much more are still collected as plain text – which must be manually reviewed or expensively OCR’d in order to be useful. And without any clarity about the SEC’s future plans, our industry can’t invest in developing the next TurboTax for corporate disclosure.

Without these missing follow-ups, the SEC’s big move five years ago has, so far, been a failure. Investors don’t make much use of XBRL data; SEC staff are still using manual checks instead of software; companies still spend more time and money than they need to on compliance.

And consider the missed opportunity for U.S. capital markets. XBRL should make it cheaper for analysts to follow a wider range of stocks – which means small companies get more attention from investors. But if XBRL isn’t getting used by analysts, it isn’t helping small companies reduce their capital costs.

It isn’t surprising that Congress is frustrated. Some in Congress have called on the SEC to fix data quality and expand the universe of information collected as data. But others, unfortunately, have proposed simply getting rid of data altogether and regressing to document-only disclosures for most companies. Last spring our Coalition called on Congress to fix XBRL, not eliminate most of it.

But today’s announcement addresses the first of the four missing follow-ups. By making the corporate financial data it receives more readily accessible – no database assembly required! –  the SEC will facilitate more use by investors, companies, and innovators.

Today’s announcement also provides some hope for the future – both the short term and the long term. The agency really is serious about making data work.

In 2015, the SEC could put itself back on a path to modernization by taking a few more short-term steps: finishing the publication job it started today; exercising better data quality enforcement; adopting inline XBRL; and starting to use the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI). In other words, modernization at the SEC does not need to begin with expensive, expansive IT projects.

Here is what our Coalition is hoping the SEC will do next year – and what might help persuade Congress that the whole XBRL project should be fixed, not mostly ended.

1.    Publish the rest of its existing XBRL-formatted financial statement data. Today’s announcement covers the “face” financial statements – in other words, companies’ balance sheets and income statements will now be available as a consolidated database. Today’s announcement promises that the footnotes, which are also filed in XBRL, will be published as a consolidated database in 2015. To finish the job it started today, the SEC should do this.

2.    Switch from documents-plus-XBRL to inline XBRL.
The SEC has already developed the necessary technology to stop collecting a document version plus an XBRL data version of each financial statement. A format called “inline XBRL,” or iXBRL, would allow companies to submit a single version, both human-readable and machine-readable. The SEC’s staff has already prepared a draft rule to replace documents-plus-XBRL reporting with iXBRL reporting; filing vendors are ready to support this change at no cost to registrants; Financial Executives International (FEI) supports iXBRL; and Chair White has confirmed she is considering the change. But until the SEC acts, public companies continue to file two versions of every financial statement. The need to confirm that these two versions agree creates additional compliance costs for filers.

3.    Better enforce the quality of existing XBRL-formatted financial statements.
Until July 2014, the SEC had taken no action to enforce the data quality of XBRL-formatted financial statements. As a result, investors and markets do not trust, and have been slow to begin using, XBRL data. In July 2014, the SEC issued a Dear CFO letter outlining common XBRL errors and informally contacted a few companies whose XBRL submissions included a large number of errors. But until the SEC incorporates XBRL data quality into its regular review process, and addresses errors as part of comment letters from the Division of Corporation Finance, data quality will remain questionable.

4.    Adopt the LEI for Exhibit 21 to the 10-K.
The Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) has been adopted by financial regulators in over 60 countries, plus the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), to identify regulated entities and their parent entities. The U.S. Treasury Department has called for all U.S. regulators to use the LEI instead of their existing non-compatible identifier codes. Universal use of the LEI would allow investors and tech companies to automatically match an SEC registrant’s data with information filed by the same entity with other regulators. It will take time to replace legacy identification numbers with the LEI across the SEC’s hundreds of forms. However, one immediate change would save investors a great deal of time and money: incorporating the LEI in the existing Exhibit 21 to the annual report on Form 10-K, the list of subsidiaries. Exhibit 21 is currently submitted as plain text. Variations in company names make it nearly impossible for software to match Exhibit 21 with other data reliably. Replacing the plain text list with a simple electronic form, and requiring the LEI of each subsidiary, would instantly allow software to automatically match every public company’s subsidiaries with other records. This simple step would also be a first move toward the total modernization that the disclosure system desperately needs.

Over the long term, of course, there is much more work to be done. The SEC needs to embrace a total transformation from documents to data throughout its disclosure system. Standardized data is better for investors, agency staff, and registrants. If the SEC switched its disclosure requirements from documents to data, investors could use the data for better decisions, agency staff could deploy Big Data analytics to find errors and potential fraud, and registrants could automate their compliance tasks. The SEC should adopt consistent data formats for all existing disclosures and consistent identifier codes for public companies, firms, officers/directors, and other entities.

But we aren’t asking for all that to happen right away – or even in 2015. If the SEC is serious about open data, these four steps in 2015 will put it on the road to total modernization.

December 11, 2014

Final Data Breakfast of 2014: Federal CFOs Take on the DATA Act Transformation

It was standing room only on Monday for the final installment of this year’s Data Transparency Breakfast series, presented by PwC, exploring the impact of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) and similar reforms across government.

For the first time, we were joined by the federal financial officers who will be responsible, under the DATA Act, for applying government-wide data standards to make federal spending information fully searchable, interoperable, and open to all. Our panel—Dorrice Roth, Deputy CFO, Treasury; Sheila Conley, Deputy CFO, HHS; Mark Reger, Deputy Controller, OMB; and Stacy Marcott, Deputy CFO, DHS—explored the challenges and opportunities of this transformation.

The hour-long panel session was packed with insight—perspectives on how the DATA Act will benefit agencies’ internal management, what the current focus of implementation should be, deadline concerns, new business opportunities for the private sector, and more. We’ve outlined our key takeaways below – and you can check Twitter for the play-by-play.

Government-wide data standards for federal spending should allow agencies to improve internal management—without forcing them to redesign or replace their systems.

OMB’s Reger put it this way: "We’ve got to use data as a management tool and we've got to make the data we're collecting valuable to the people who collect the data. The DATA Act is a new orientation for federal government management." Each federal financial manager represented had a unique take on how standardized data would help their agency better manage itself.

To Sheila Conley at HHS, data is critical to the agency’s functionality. With 300 programs and $1.4 trillion in resources in 2014, HHS would rank in the top ten countries in the world. Conley explained that the DATA Act provides an impetus to standardize across all programs, giving the agency the ability to evaluate performance and manage risks.

Conley said her “Aha moment” came during a predictive analytics pilot program at HHS seeking to identify grantees that might be at risk. The agency faced a series of problems while attempting to provide data for analysis: 1) access to data is difficult, 2) the attainable data had quality issues, and 3) the format was seldom machine-readable. Conley explained that federal grant making is what HHS does; it’s how the agency carries out its mission. And “structured data is key to knowing whether or not HHS is making a difference.”

Stacy Marcott of DHS stressed that her agency has six accounting systems, none of which links to the resource management systems that manage grants and contracts: “We’re as stove-piped as it gets.”

“Standards are scary,” admitted Marcott, “[but] I need a way to be able to pull the data from those systems and map it to a standard format.” For example, she explained, securing the U.S. border involves three different DHS entities—each with different programs, systems, and procurement—all aligning to a common goal. If DHS could align the data of all the different programs involved in border security, the agency could more effectively manage its border security spending. Marcott is hopeful that Treasury and OMB's government-wide data standards can provide a smarter way to align individual assets, evaluate, and manage organizations better than the current no-standards system.

Treasury and OMB are working on a way to map federal spending data to a standard without requiring agencies’ systems to be changed. The panel agreed that this, as Marcott put it, would be “way easier.”

The executives in charge of the DATA Act and complying agencies agree on a key implementation priority: government-wide data standards start with common data elements for common concepts.

OMB Controller David Mader
The panel agreed on the importance, and difficulty, of establishing a government-wide data element dictionary for federal spending. This comes on the heels of comments made last Wednesday (Dec. 3) by OMB Controller David Mader at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's hearing on DATA Act implementation. Mader indicated that OMB's current implementation focus is on "intellectual work," which he said meant establishing a data dictionary, rather than "moving data around."

Agreeing on definitions for each individual data element is a key aspect of the government-wide data standards. The fact that agencies and the executives in charge of the DATA Act are on the same page and, as the saying goes, "putting first things first" is great news during these early days of implementation.

Agencies seem to be fully aware, but not fully embracing, the aggressive timeline of DATA Act implementation.

The DATA Act puts Treasury and OMB on an aggressive timeline to establish the data standards by May 9, 2015, with agencies starting to use them for financial, payment, budget, grant, and contract reporting by May 9, 2017.

About midway through the breakfast Monday morning, moderator Joe Kull of PwC offered an opportunity for the agencies represented to “give advice to OMB.” The agency officers suggested some deadlines might not be met. Dorrice Roth of Treasury outlined that it’s “meeting the intent” of the DATA Act that is of paramount importance, not necessarily meeting deadlines. “Let’s get this right,” Roth said. Conley also underplayed the importance of looming deadlines, “We need to take a long view of ‘how do we comply and meet statutory requirements.’ Let’s take this as an opportunity to think about our data longer term.”

OMB on the future of implementation: “There is a ton of work to be done.”

OMB’s Mark Reger compared the DATA Act to the Full Employment Act, noting, “there is a ton of work to be done.” Reger said that the input from data transparency consultants, contractors, and data specialists is needed to tell the implementing federal executives what data is most important and help with analysis.

The DATA Act could bring unprecedented accountability for U.S. citizens and advances in management for federal agencies—but it all depends on implementation. To that end, our Coalition will keep scrutinizing the federal government’s progress.

Last month we issued a formal comment explaining what federal spending data standards must look like in order to be effective. Next year we’ll be connecting with Treasury, OMB, and implementing agencies through informal Coalition member roundtables and through public events.

December 3, 2014

Here's what DATA standards should look like. (Dump DUNS.)

Last week, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the U.S. Treasury Department collected formal comments from all interested parties on the crucial first step of implementing the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). By May 2015, Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must establish government-wide data standards for federal spending.

Data standards will transform U.S. federal spending from disconnected documents into open, machine-readable data. So it's crucial for Treasury and OMB to get the data standards right.

The Data Transparency Coalition's comment - full text available here - runs over 20 pages. If you prefer a quick summary to the full text, you're in luck. Here's what we said.

Data standards, done right, will make your laptop look like this!

Sing from the Same Data Hymnbook!

Once government money managers start singing from the same data hymnbook, taxpayers and their representatives in Congress will be able to follow the money. Agencies will be able to use Big Data tools to better manage their own finances. And recipients of federal grants and contracts will be able to save money by reporting automatically. Data standards can deliver these benefits.

But in order to deliver the promised benefits, the standards, and the way they're maintained and used, must meet certain basic criteria.

1. The data standards must be complete. The law requires that the standards cover all of the existing reporting regimes that agencies and recipients use to report how they receive and spend federal money.

Agencies report their spending through five key reporting regimes: (1) Financial Account Balances, reported to Treasury; (2) Payment Requests, submitted to Treasury; (3) Budget Actions, reported to OMB; (4) Contracts, reported to the GSA; and (5) Grants and Other Assistance, formerly reported to the Commerce Department but now reported to Treasury. For recipients, the picture is more complicated. Grantees and contractors might report to the agency that gave them the funds; to various systems at the General Services Administration; and to the FFATA Subaward Reporting System, if they've packaged the money they received into sub-grants or sub-contracts.

The data standards have to incorporate all these reporting regimes - and must link them together with common data elements. In our comment, we discussed five groups of core concepts that could become a government-wide core taxonomy, or basic data element dictionary, for federal spending:

What for? (Transaction Subject), How much? (Dollar Amount), Who? (Payor/Payee), When? (Time), and Where? (Location).

2. The data standards must be fully accepted. Treasury and OMB should start with data elements and data formats that others have already built, like the Legal Entity Identifier for grantees and contractors and XML / XBRL to format reports.

3. The data standards must be nonproprietary. The data standards can't be restricted by licensing requirements, or the data won't be truly open. There's more (much more!) on this topic below.

4. The data standards must be adopted incrementally. Treasury and OMB should start with the reporting regimes they already control and encourage the others to start using the data standards more gradually.

5. The data standards must be fully enforced. The failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission to enforce the quality of the structured financial data that it collects from public companies shows it's crucial to reject, and correct, submissions that don't adhere to the data standards.

6. The data standards must be fully sustainable. There should be some sort of governance framework to maintain the data standards and update them as needed. There's more on this below.

7. Once federal spending information is reported using the data standards, these reports must easily support validation. It should be easy for agencies and recipients to submit standardized spending reports, see where there are errors, and correct the errors.

DATA Implementation needs a Governance Structure.

Treasury and OMB can't create and maintain the data standards on their own. They must create a government-wide advisory body, involving everybody who participates in the existing reporting regimes. This advisory body can provide input on what the data standards should look like - and later be responsible for harmonizing the different reporting regimes to conform to the data standards.

The Data Transparency Coalition comment encouraged Treasury and OMB to create an advisory body representing each existing reporting regime. These regime-specific advisory bodies could supplement the work of the government-wide DATA Act inter-agency advisory committee that Treasury and OMB have already established. Working together, the inter-agency and regime-specific advisory groups could recommend first a government-wide core taxonomy and then regime-specific supplements to that core, each mapping to the core taxonomy. After the announcement of the first version of the standards (by the legislative deadline of May 9, 2015), the regime-specific groups could be put in charge of harmonizing their own reporting regime with the core and with its own regime-specific taxonomy.

Our comment includes examples of standards governance and the lessons lessons already learned. For example, we noted that National Information Exchange Network (NIEM) handles many disparate domains, from health care to homeland security, with varying needs for extensibility. The NIEM program offers two types of standards updates: major and minor releases, so we suggested that Treasury and OMB could choose to maintain DATA Act data standards in a similar manner.

Want DATA to work? Dump DUNS.

If high quality government spending information is to be freely available to taxpayers and their representatives in Congress, then the government needs to use a non-proprietary identifier for grantees and contractors. Treasury and OMB must choose to stop using the proprietary Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, which is owned by Dun & Bradstreet, Inc.

The government’s continued reliance on the DUNS number prevents federal spending data from being truly open. And it unduly restricts competition in the transparency marketplace.

Why is the method of identifying recipients so important? Here's one example.

Our comment describes Treasury’s collection of payment requests and GSA’s collection of contract summaries, which both require agencies to identify the recipient of contract payments. Today the two reporting regimes express this information differently. Most payment requests submitted to Treasury identify the recipient using an Employer Identification Number (EIN). In contrast, contract summaries identify the contractor using the DUNS number. If these two reporting regimes used the same number, it would become possible to match payments to recipients.

(Dun & Bradstreet’s own comment to Treasury has a different perspective.)

The Data Transparency Coalition generally encourages the government to engage industry - companies like Dun & Bradstreet - to help improve the quality of data. However, the core “Who” element is so central to federal spending that no one company should hold a monopoly on how it's expressed.

Increase Transparency, Reduce Compliance Costs, and Create Tech Jobs.

If implemented successfully, the DATA Act will deliver cost savings within government by reducing red tape and allowing information to flow better between silos. The DATA Act has the potential to modernize government, giving stakeholders the tools to understand, monitor, predict, and make decisions using timely data on actual expenses – just as America’s leading corporations do already. The DATA Act could also relieve the burden of compliance on industry through automated reporting of data rather than documents.

Our members have business opportunities to pursue, too.

The DATA Act's enactment and successful implementation has been a primary motivator for the Data Transparency Coalition’s founding in 2012. As the nation’s only open data trade association, we represent leading technology and consulting firms, including both industry leaders and growing startups. Some of our members offer software solutions and platforms. Others offer solution-agnostic expert advice. The DATA Act transformation will also enable many of our members to pursue new business models and create high-tech jobs.

We're confident that Treasury and OMB can deliver data standards that will do all these things. We'll be watching to make sure.

December 2, 2014

We're Expanding! Job Opening: Director of Development

The Data Transparency Coalition is seeking a full-time Director of Development. We are offering a competitive salary and benefits, with the potential for performance-based bonuses.

The Data Transparency Coalition (datacoalition.org) is the only trade association pursuing the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data. Through advocacy, education, and collaboration, the Coalition supports policy reforms that require consistent data standardization and publication. Data transparency enhances accountability, improves government management, reduces compliance costs, and stimulates innovation. Representing a cross-section of the technology industry, the Data Transparency Coalition membership includes market leaders such as Teradata Corporation, Workiva, RR Donnelley, PwC, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CGI Federal and growing startups such as FindTheBest, Enigma.io, and Level One Technologies.

Interested candidates should submit a resume to info@datacoalition.org.


1. Reporting to the Executive Director, develop and execute an annual development plan aimed at building the Coalition's membership base of Executive, Partner, Regular, Startup, and Individual Members.

2. Identify and pursue potential new Coalition members and potential membership upgrades.

3. Research, recommend, and execute potential opportunities to establish and fund complementary organizations such as a research foundation and a political action committee.

4. Work with our events and member services team to coordinate services to existing members with outreach to potential members.

5. Work with our events and member services team to ensure that Coalition events are structured to maximize new member recruitment.

6. Work with our communications team to ensure that Coalition messaging communicates the opportunities and benefits of Coalition membership.

7. Work with our policy team to align the Coalition's advocacy and development efforts.

8. Work with our Executive Director to ensure that members of the Coalition's Board of Directors and Board of Advisors participate actively in development efforts.

9. Manage corporate and supporter constituency lists within the Coalition's overall contact management system.

10. Recruit and supervise a development intern.


1. Bachelor's degree.

2. Four or more years of development or sales experience.

3. Background in successfully securing gifts or donations in the $10,000 - $50,000 range.

4. Strong communications skills.

5. Experience in volunteer management.

6. Basic design skills.

7. Experience in membership-based or political organization management.
Welcome to the official mouthpiece of the Data Transparency Coalition.