Washington (June 18, 2003) -- The federal government has awarded a $39 million contract for reporting system modernization at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which will incorporate XBRL, the Internet-based reporting language for business reports.

The contract is by far the biggest step forward for XBRL, which has been under development since 1998 by a consortium led by the American Institute of CPAs. "This is truly a milestone that will hopefully lead to even wider acceptance of XBRL," said Louis Matherne, the AICPA's director of business assurance and advisory services and president of the XBRL International consortium.

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council awarded the contract to a group of information and technology companies led by Unisys Corp., to implement a system that the FDIC will use to gather periodic "call reports" from the approximately 9,000 financial institutions it regulates. Other vendors in the award include Microsoft Corp., PricewaterhouseCoopers and UB Matrix, founded by Charles Hoffman, a Spokane, Wash, CPA who developed the original XBRL language, which has since been modified by the AICPA-led consortium. With the exception of Unisys, all are long-term members of the consortium.

The new FDIC system, to be phased in through 2004, will consolidate the collection, editing, and access of reports into a repository, that the FFIEC said should "reduce burden on the industry, while providing data to the public in a more timely and flexible manner." XBRL is the business report derivation of Extensible Markup Language, a framework that establishes individual "tags" for elements in structured documents which allows specific elements to be immediately accessed and grouped to meet the needs of users.

Matherne said the deal could set the stage for wider government adoption of XBRL, noting the FFIEC also oversees the Federal Reserve Board and the Comptroller of the Currency. Matherne and other XBRL developers are also hopeful that bank industry buy-in will hasten the use of XBRL by banks' commercial business customers.

"We fully expected this to culminate in what we are seeing today," Matherne said. The FDIC, as reported by Accounting Today and Electronic Accountant in August 2002, has been interested in using XBRL for its call reports for more than a year.

-- John M. Covaleski

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