An end to the secret “love” letters…

letter.jpegAlthough the SEC officially began releasing comment letters last year, actually finding those comment letters on the site has been a bit like searching for hen’s teeth. Or old love letters from high school. Even when the company in question disclosed in one of its filings that it had received a comment letter from the SEC (as I footnoted here regarding Ford Motor Co. (F)), it was impossible to find the letter on the SEC site. That’s changing dramatically, as shown here (hat tip to for catching the change).

Now, with over 14,000 comment letters available so far for 2006 — many of them added to the site in the past few weeks — the trick is finding what you’re looking for. A quick search for F and "upload" — the SEC-code for letters that they send to a company (the response from the company is called "corresp") — returns these four letters, the first of which dates back to June 16. Remember, Ford first disclosed the existence of these letters in the 8-K it filed on Oct. 20.

Maybe this seems like a bit of inside baseball — the type of thing that only a true SEC geek could get excited about. After all, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that Ford’s in a bit of trouble. But a quick check of a far more healthier company like IBM (IBM) shows that the company has received two comment letters this year. Yet a quick search of IBM’s filings shows that the company never disclosed the existence of those letters in any of its other filings. Ditto for Apple Computer (AAPL), which has received two SEC comment letters since August, but hasn’t disclosed either of those in its filings based on a quick search of its other filings.

With all of those letters floating around out there — the majority of them added to the SEC database in the past few weeks — there’s lots of new searching to be done. Let’s hope this puts an end to most of those secret love letters.