Five of a kind…

June 26, 2007

images-22.jpegYesterday, the SEC announced that it had released a new tool that would make it easier for investors to figure out which companies do business with countries that are on the State Department’s official “state sponsors of terrorism” list: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. The list is based on the company’s disclosures in its 2006 filings and it shouldn’t be too surprising that most of the companies are based outside of the U.S.

A quick scan shows that Iran is the most popular country for doing business with 43 companies; North Korea, with only 5 companies, is the least popular. Three companies — Credit Suisse (CS.N), HSBC Holdings (HBC) and Siemens (SI) — have business in all five countries. Clicking on the country and then one of the companies takes you to the section in the 10-K (or 20-F) where the company talks about its business in a particular country. For example, by clicking here you can see that HSBC has a “small representative office in Tehran” — a new disclosure based on a skim of earlier filings.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine exactly how useful this sort of thing will really be to the typical investor. It’s interesting, but how many people are really making an investment decision based on HSBC having an office in Tehran? Though it’s nice to see the SEC looking at different ways to parse the large amounts of information it receives every day, one would hope that their resources might be used on more significant projects to benefit the investing community, like making it easier to read comment letters or other forms of communication between the agency and various companies.

Speaking of which, don’t forget to set your Tivos for 2 pm (est) today (or watch it live on the web). That’s when all five SEC commissioners will appear before the House Financial Services Committee. Talk about must see TV!

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