Robert Kugel of Ventana Research argues in a recent article, called The Danger of XBRL, that there's a chance the Securities and Exchange Commission will use XBRL as a "back door" to regulating the structure of corporate charts of accounts.
Some readers didn't like hearing that.
Colm O hAonghusa of EuroReg Consulting, in Dublin, Ireland, called the story "McCarthyism journalism." I don't know what that means, but he seems dedicated to the idea. In a point-by-point e-mail responding to Kugel, O hAonghusa said, among other things, that the Financial Accounting Standards Board and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board "don't need XBRL as a Trojan Horse for a standardised chart of accounts. They will come in the front door if that is what they want. A standardised chart of accounts will bring more Enrons, not better accounting transparency which is what XBRL can bring."
O hAonghusa also pointed out that companies' reported financial information is already parsed and tagged by third-party intermediaries before it's sold to equity analysts. The data is made to conform to intermediaries' standards when this happens -- which in effect results in the creation of a standardized chart of accounts. XBRL, he noted, is designed to correct this problem.
Mike Willis, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, seconded O hAonghusa's position. (In fact, he matched it verbatim, word-for-word in parts. This leads me to believe that either Willis is reading O hAonghusa, O hAonghusa is reading Willis, or they're both reading someone else.) At any rate, Willis added, "XBRL will likely eliminate existing third party definitions applied to company reports and [enable] companies to provide users exactly what they report in a highly reusable and explicit manner."