Research Public Companies Through EDGAR: A Guide for Investors

This is a great introduction to resources that you can use to research any public company. All public companies must report their financials; quarterly reports, end of year tax forms, changes in top management, and so on. If you ever need to look up a company, this will give you the tools you need to navigate the public records system.

II. Tips

You must use the company's name as reported on the SEC filings when searching EDGAR. The general searches for companies require that you use the name as provided in SEC reports. For example, you should search for IBM as International Business Machines. However, EDGAR uses "Corp" for Corporation or "Inc" for incorporation (and if a search has no matches, you may want to eliminate the punctuation. In certain instances, where a company's name includes a first and last name, such as "John Deere", you may have to search for "Deere John" if you are using the Company & Other Filers Search. 

You may not be able to view all your search matches. Certain searches limit the number of matches. As a result, you may have to refine your searches to obtain all the documents that interest you. 

Disclosure requirements have changed since electronic filing was phased in. Since the initiation of EDGAR, disclosure requirements for issuers have changed. Therefore, if you are doing historical research about a company, the information available to you will depend on the disclosure requirements at the time of the event. 

Certain types of disclosures do not have to be made unless they are considered to be "material". In general, "materiality" is determined by whether or not there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would have considered the information important in making his or her investment or voting decision. You can find many of the SEC's disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K, Regulation S-B, and Regulation S-X. 

Exhibits may be "incorporated by reference". Not all exhibits identified in a filing may be available through the search result that you are reviewing. This is because exhibits may be "incorporated by reference" when the issuer filed them with earlier SEC filings. If you are interested in seeing these exhibits, you can search for them in prior filings that are themselves available through EDGAR. An issuer's Form 10-K will include an exhibit index identifying the filing in which the exhibit was provided to the SEC. This information also may be found in an issuer's Form 10-Q. 

Always check to see if a filing has been amended. When reviewing filings, especially registration statements and periodic reports filed on Form 10-K and Form 10Q, you should check to see if there have been any amended filings by looking for filings types followed by "/A". 

Familiarize yourself with the form types used in EDGAR. Our website includes a description of form types accepted by Edgar. The tables are organized by the applicable securities laws. For example, registration statements under the Securities Act of 1933 are designated by form types beginning with either S- for domestic issuers and F-for foreign issuers offering securities in the U.S. Prospectuses are designated as form types 424, 425 and other forms reflecting the rule under which the prospectus was filed. 

Use full-text and header searches to narrow searches. These searches are useful ways to narrow searches for specific information. For example, although you cannot search for all mergers and acquisitions for a specific period, you can find the appropriate registration statements that can then be individually searched. Similarly, if you are looking for restated financials, you can look for amended Forms 10-Q and 10-K then analyze the reason for the specific amendment. Use the full-text rather than the header search, unless you are looking for information older than four years. 

If you use the full-text search to locate all form types filed during a specific period, your results may include other documents as well such as the exhibits to a filing. In addition, you will have to search for amended filings separately. For example, if you search for all Forms S-1 for the past six months, the search results will not include amendments to these filings filed during the same period. You may want to use the header search in this scenario because the search results will exclude documents other than the form type itself. 

Printing/Downloading information. If you have any questions about downloading information included in EDGAR filings, please