Ron Gruner - Fast 50 2003

THE BEST COMPANY IS AN OPEN COMPANY

Individual investors may never enjoy a level playing field with Wall Street insiders, but Ron Gruner's company does what it can to help. Shareholder.com uses a range of digital technologies to provide investors with access to earnings estimates, analyst calls, and other key sources of financial information.

Ron Gruner
President, Shareholder.com
Maynard, Massachusetts
http://www.shareholder.com

FROM RON'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
For over 10 years, Shareholder.com has provided over 750 public companies with better ways to communicate with the investment community, evolving from mail fulfillment and phone-based systems to today's earnings webcasts and corporate governance guidelines. In 2000, the SEC passed Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD), which required companies to simultaneously disclose financial information to individual and institutional investors. But while Reg FD was designed to level the playing field between these two parties, the individual investor—who has lost a huge amount of their investments during this bear market—still has no access to information like earnings call schedules that institutional investors do. Furthermore, companies no longer have control of their own earnings expectations and must meet or beat third-party estimates set by analysts and outside parties who often base their decisions on outdated or incomplete information.

What was your moment of truth?
Many of our clients had lamented about losing control of their earnings expectations, stating, "We met our internal quarterly numbers but missed First Call estimates by a penny and our stock got killed." We were also developing a new distribution system to send our clients' earnings call calendar on the Internet in an open, non-proprietary format that would not exclude anyone based on profession or subscription fees. We then decided to unite the two proposals into OpenCompany, located at http://www.opencompany.info. OpenCompany is the world's first truly open corporate disclosure network. It lets any shareholder discover when earnings calls and webcasts are scheduled and lets companies disclose their own earnings estimates that can be compared and contrasted to First Call and other third parties. Public companies can also post updated corporate profiles, conference call transcripts and other information on OpenCompany that they feel will help increase their transparency and educate the investment community. (The exact date? 6/3/2002)

What were the results?
In less than six months, the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI), Institutional Investor, National Association of Investors Corporation (NAIC), Investor Relations Magazine and BestCalls.com have joined the OpenCompany network so far. This broad coalition of over 500,000 individual and institutional investors and investor relations officers demonstrates OpenCompany's appeal to all facets of the investment community. Additionally, public companies are beginning to post their earnings estimates on OpenCompany to challenge First Call and the third parties.

What's your parting tip?
While Reg FD made all investors equal, some are still more equal than others. Shareholder.com gives companies a new way to combat this.

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