SEC plans to require new hyperlinks in filings

The proposal is intended to make exhibits more accessible.

SEC filers would be required to include a hyperlink to exhibits in their company filings if a recent proposal by the commission is adopted.

The proposal would require a hyperlink to each exhibit listed in the exhibit index. The proposed requirement would apply to registrants that file registration statements and periodic and current reports that are subject to the exhibit requirements under Item 601 of Regulation S-K, or that file on Forms F-10 or 20-F.

To enable the use of hyperlinks, registrants also would be required to submit electronic filings in the HTML format. That would be a change from current rules that allow electronic filings in the ASCII format as well as the HTML format. Documents filed in the ASCII format can include a cross-reference but cannot support a functional hyperlink.

According to the SEC, over 99% of filings in 2015 that were made on the forms that would be affected by the new proposal were filed in HTML.

The proposal is intended to provide readers of company filings with an easy way to access exhibits in electronic filings. Currently, a reader who is interested in an exhibit has to find it in the exhibit index and then search through the registrant's filings to locate the relevant filing that includes the exhibit. A hyperlink would make the exhibit available with a simple click.

Comments on the proposal were to be accepted for 45 days following publication in the Federal Register, with instructions available at the SEC's website.

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