U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he had asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to study the impact of allowing companies to file reports with the financial regulator every six months instead of every quarter.
Publicly traded companies in the United States currently file their earnings reports every three months, or four times a year. The potential shift would allow them to reduce these filings to two a year.
Trump’s tweet marked the first time he has personally weighed in on the issue, and will likely boost hopes of business and exchange lobbyists that more can be done to loosen filing rules. Still, as an independent commission-led agency, the SEC cannot be forced by the president to implement any rule changes.
In speaking with some of the world’s top business leaders I asked what it is that would make business (jobs) even better in the U.S. “Stop quarterly reporting & go to a six month system,” said one. That would allow greater flexibility & save money. I have asked the SEC to study!
Such changes would have to be voted on by the regulator’s sitting commissioners who are political appointees. Any move to scrap quarterly filings would likely come up against fierce opposition from the agency’s two Democratic-leaning commissioners, Robert Jackson and Kara Stein, long-time champions of strong corporate governance.
With the tweet, Trump entered a long-running debate on corporate disclosure. Company executives have argued that quarterly reporting leads to an unhealthy focus on short-term profits, while investors typically favor more disclosure. Trump said he urged the SEC to consider the change after talking with various business leaders.
He said one executive suggested the change as a way to boost business, although he did not name the individual or the company. Trump recently hosted a number of top 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.
The Trump administration has said it would like to reduce red tape that it believes is responsible for a 50 per cent decline in listings over the past two decades, including relaxing some of the disclosure and compliance requirements for listed companies and firms looking to go public.
In a report published by the U.S. Treasury in October, the administration laid out a detailed policy blueprint for a range of changes to capital market rules it hoped would revitalize listings. Still, the report did not go as far as to suggest scrapping quarterly reporting obligations for companies.
The SEC and commissioners’ offices were not immediately available for comment.