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Introduction to Business Research for Paralegals: Resources for Publicly Traded Companies

Resources for Publicly Traded Companies

If a company is publicly-traded, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and subject to numerous reporting and disclosure requirements under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These include periodic filings (e.g., SEC Form 10-K) and as needed filings (e.g., SEC Form 8-K). These filings are designed to:

  • Provide investors (both current & potential) with relevant information to make informed investment decisions, and
  • Ensure the integrity of the markets by making sure that those who have "inside" knowledge about a company are not taking advantage of it for their own benefit.

Below are some FREE sources of information regarding publicly-traded companies. 

  • Yahoo! Finance - Easy access to financial news, data & commentary. Yahoo Finance is the largest business news website in the U.S., based on monthly traffic. For publicly traded companies, can easily access company profiles, stock price information, financial statistics, largest shareholders, analyst recommendations, and more.
  • Annual Reports.com - An easy-to-use directory of corporate annual reports.
  • PR Newswire - Use to find corporate (or organizational) press releases. NOTE: Company websites often provide access to their press releases as well.

Hoover's Company Profiles, containing general information about a company (e.g., description, basic history, officers and board members, competitors, products, operations, and more) are available in the Nexis Uni database, as well as the Proquest Business Market Research Collection database. 

How to find public company information from Nexis Uni--provided the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Andersen Library

SEC Filings

The SEC requires considerable periodic disclosure of a company's leadership, operations, and financial health. The financial sections of SEC filings generally include a statistical summary of operations, financial statements for each line of business, legal proceedings (if any), and a list of affiliated companies and subsidiaries. Other sections include information such as board membership (including member biographies and term principal stockholders, security holdings of management, and a list of directors with biographical and terms-of-office information.

The core SEC filings for a US publicly-traded company are:

  • Form 10-K (Annual Report - 1 per year, provides a comprehensive view of the company, similar to a prospectus but with detailed, audited financial statements), 
  • Form 10-Q (Quarterly Reports - 3 per year, provide quarterly updates to the annual report - less detailed and financial statements are not audited), 
  • Form DEF 14A or Proxy Statement (Annual Meeting Proxy -1 per year for matters requiring shareholder approval, such as board membership, executive compensation, corporate actions, etc.), and 
  • Form 8-K (Current Reports - filed as needed to notify investors of material development, such as bankruptcy filings, mergers & acquisitions, arrivals/departures of executives, etc.).  

NOTE: There can also be amendments made to each filing, so be sure to review any 10-K/A, 10-Q/A, etc.

How to find information on public companies from the Edgar Database--provided the Harvard Law Library

Searching SEC Filings using Edgar

Companies (and other entities) required to register with the SEC are required to make disclosure filings with the SEC using its Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval – a/k/a "EDGAR" – system. These filings contain a wealth of information about the companies (or individuals) making the filings. For additional information on using EDGAR as a research tool, please see:

 

As well as this very helpful video on searching the Edgar database from the Harvard Law School Library

Attribution

This guide was adapted, with permission, from the Harvard Law School Library's Company, Industry & Market Research.


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