Big Brands Level the Playing Field

Over a month has passed since the SEC implemented the "Selective Disclosure and Insider Trading" rule, better known as Regulation FD (for Fair Disclosure). What have companies done to conform to the new rules? Here's a sample of what Motley Fool Research Analyst Bob Fredeen found.

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By Bob Fredeen (TMF Bobdog)
December 8, 2000

Looking at Nike's (NYSE: NKE) investor relations website the other day, I stumbled across an announcement that the company has altered its disclosure policy because of the SEC's Regulation FD. Nike stated that it has placed its recent analyst meeting on the Internet, and that it will no longer issue guidance on futures or business units except during the quarterly conference calls, which are also available to the public. Nike is just one of many companies making more information available to the investing public in order to comply with Regulation FD.

Fools have been talking about Regulation FD for quite a while, even receiving thanks from SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt for the groundswell of support the measure received during the public comment period. The regulation, which went into effect on Oct. 23, states that all companies must make material information available to all investors at the same time. Previously, companies felt that telling several analysts on a conference was sufficient disclosure; now all companies must make important information available to everyone.

Here are a few changes that I've noticed on company websites:

PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) -- The company now makes its quarterly conference calls available to all investors over the Internet or by a call-in number. Pepsi also put its three-hour conference call detailing its merger with Quaker Oats on its website. For those folks who don't want to listen to the file, they can download a transcript, with the analyst questions, from any website serving up SEC filings. Pepsi even filed the accompanying slide show.

Nike -- The shoe king has put several of its last conference calls online, so this isn't news. However, it also just put a three-hour presentation from its October analyst conference online as well. The Nike Biz website is great for finding all types of information on the company.

Gap (NYSE: GPS) -- Investors have recently been able to access conference calls and presentations online, as well as call into the company for monthly sales recordings and even management presentations delivered at investor conferences. All of these services are available through the company's investor relations website.

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF) -- The clothier was a bit of a poster child for why we needed Regulation FD in the first place, after releasing important information to a single analyst a day before making the information public. Since then, Abercrombie has instituted monthly sales announcements and put its conference calls on its website.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) -- The company has recently been announcing the phone number for individuals to call in to listen to conference calls. Wal-Mart also provides easy access to a large amount of information through its investor relations website.

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) -- After its analyst conference in October, Starbucks made the slide show presentations available for downloading from its website. Unfortunately, I could not find the presentations during my most recent visit. Press releases and other information are readily available.

Obviously, this list isn't meant to be inclusive of what every company is doing to meet the new disclosure requirements. However, these well-known companies are making important strides in getting information out to all investors in a timely manner, which is exactly what the SEC -- and individual investors everywhere -- hoped would happen.