New, more rigorous requirements for filing some documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission may be the spark that eventually results in a user-friendly version of Edgar, the SEC's electronic filing system. Meanwhile, to meet the speedier deadlines and electronic filing mandates imposed by this year's Sarbanes-Oxley Act, companies might want to consider a crop of new compliance product offerings.

Before Sarbanes-Oxley, companies had until the 10th day of the next month to notify the SEC about an insider transaction using Form 3, 4 or 5, known collectively as Section 16 forms. Section 16 forms are among the few that the SEC has still been accepting on paper, and companies took advantage of that fact: In 2001, more than 90% of Form 4s were filed on paper. The new law not only cuts the filing time to two days, it requires that by July 2003 at the latest, all Section 16 forms be filed via Edgar.

Even under the old rules, many companies turned to law firms and financial printers to handle their Edgar filing headaches. In response to the tighter deadlines, financial printers and software companies are stepping up with a variety of solutions, many accessible via the Web, that speedily convert Section 16 forms to the Edgar format and file them.

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