An international coalition of 250 financial institutions, formed last year to monitor progress toward resolving year-2000 computer problems and minimize financial market risks, has decided that full disclosure may do more harm than good.
The Global 2000 Coordinating Group, a voluntary body that grew out of the Bank for International Settlements' Year-2000 Roundtable, had planned to publish results from months of research on how prepared countries are for the next calendar change.
So many countries - mainly in the developing world-are deficient that the coalition decided against posting that information on the Internet this week, as scheduled.
There is concern not only about the much-discussed programming glitches, but also about capital flight from countries suffering adverse publicity, with the potential for global economic consequences.
Regulatory officials "began to fear the group could cause significant market impact by publishing its findings," said Clint Swift, managing director of operations and technology at the Bank Administration Institute of Chicago.
"For example, if a country in South America or Asia were having a problem, there could be a credit flight out of that country."
The coalition - comprised of banks, securities firms, and insurance companies - wanted to publish its findings as a way to prod the lagging countries to improve. After a meeting last week in London, the coalition decided instead to put out several recommendations:
Financial firms should redouble efforts to disclose their state of readiness, using Global 2000's self-assessment template.
Securities exchanges, payment networks, and clearing systems should announce the dates and operational details of their external testing plans.
Governments should provide more detailed public disclosures of information regarding the readiness of sectors that are critical to the safe functioning of the financial industry.
Governments and regulators should disclose as soon as possible the schedule for public holidays that will apply in their countries during the New Year's Day 2000 weekend.
The group plans to make its survey results available to the United Nations, the Global 2000 group's steering committee members, and public- sector officials in each country.
A hint about the findings came out last month during the Bank Administration Institute Y2K Summit in Orlando.
Citing a report from year-2000 authority Peter de Jager, an author and president of De Jager & Co., James R. Devlin told the meeting that the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand are the leaders. Mr. Devlin is vice president of corporate technology at Citigroup and the U.S. banking liaison to Global 2000.
Trailing, according to a United Nations document cited by Mr. Devlin, are Russia, India, China, Eastern Europe, and South America.
Gartner Group estimated as of the third quarter of 1998 that 15% of companies in Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States would have at least one mission-critical system failure.
That failure percentage is expected to be much higher in the emerging markets.
In general, transportation systems and utility companies have little information on where they stand, Mr. Devlin said. In contrast, "the financial services sector is in good shape, and there is more information coming from the telecommunications providers around the world."
Over all, governments around the world need to become more involved in the conversion effort, Mr. Devlin said. "The United States government has made sure that everyone is at the same place at the same time. Only six to 10 governments outside of the United States have done that," he said.
The Global 2000 Coordinating Group now is focusing on the readiness of third parties such as clearing systems, exchanges, and utility companies. The group is urging all companies to fill out a quantitative progress assessment and qualitative chart.
"If we all fill out the same chart, we'll get consistency," Mr. Devlin said. "The message is, don't give up and don't write anyone off. We're all in this together."