SEC's suspension of anti-terrorism Web tool praised

The top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee is pleased by the Friday announcement that the Securities and Exchange Commission will temporarily suspend the availability of a controversial Web tool that tracks corporations with investments in countries considered by the United States to sponsor terrorism.

"Retooling this Web site -- which previously provided access to incomplete and extraneous information -- will enhance its usefulness to citizens seeking to determine whether their investments are being used to finance terrorism or genocide," Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama said, in a statement.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the agency plans to work to improve the Web tool, which permits investors to view company disclosure documents on business interests in countries that the secretary of State has designated to be "state sponsors of terrorism." These countries include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. This tool, which Cox said has experienced "exceptional traffic" since it was unveiled on June 25, has generated criticism from some lawmakers and businesses.

According to Cox, the commission received many positive comments about the usefulness of the Web tool but also negative comments, "primarily from the registrants whose disclosures were findable using the Web tool," as well as from those concerned by the lack of updated information beyond what a company has included in its most recent annual report.

Both Bachus and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., recently sent letters to Cox regarding the list. Bachus said the "ill-conceived" initiative links companies with no apparent link to terrorist-financing states and leaves off the list other publicly traded companies that have significant operations in such nations. He said the list was seemingly created by performing a cursory word-search using the SEC's EDGAR database.

Frank said "the concept of a list generated in this fashion strikes me as unfair and perhaps counterproductive." Frank also said "it is a significant concern to me that by developing its list without any clear criteria, the SEC's efforts will dilute the effectiveness of publicizing the names of companies that do have material investments in the economies of rogue states."

SEC Republican Commissioner Paul Atkins reportedly said last week that the SEC should fix the Web tool if possible or remove the page.

SEC "staff is considering whether the use of interactive data tags applied by companies themselves could permit investors, analysts and others to easily discover this disclosure without need of an SEC-provided Web tool at all," Cox said in his statement. While the Web tool is offline, the companies' disclosures regarding their business contacts in the specified countries will be available through the SEC's EDGAR database, he said.

Cox disputed claims that the Web site's content was generated from a "mere keyword" search of the SEC's EDGAR database. He also said the SEC's only commentary with the search results stated that a company's disclosure does not mean the entity directly or indirectly has supported any improper activities.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.