Features – A Comparison of SEC Filing Sources

Robert Oaks is Information Services Manager of the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkin and has been a law librarian for almost 20 years. He received his M.L.S. from Catholic University.

The following chart presents a comparison of six sources for obtaining filings made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It was prepared for a presentation to the Corporate Department of Latham & Watkins and represents the sources available in the D.C. office of that firm.

There are several other sources, not included in the chart, that merit a brief mention. Disclosure markets a database in both CD-ROM and Internet formats. Called Global Access, it provides information about all filings made to the SEC since 1968. Various pricing plans are available up to a comprehensive subscription to the entire database for $150,000 per year.

Westlaw provides an almost identical collection of SEC filings as Lexis. Its EDGAR file includes all electronic filings since 1993 and its SEC Online file includes 1934-Act filings since 1987. The user can choose either time- or transaction-based pricing and prints cost two cents per line.

Other services, such as International Financial Network (IFN), also provide SEC filings retrieval, but were not tested in time for this chart.

Comparison of Major SEC Filing Sources

Disclosure Lexis SEC EDGAR NYU EDGAR LivEdgar CCH SECNet
Access Telephone call to retrieval service Desktop PC access via dedicated phone line Internet
1-800 777-3272 1-800-638-8241 1-800-543-6862 1-800-443-8416 None None (202) 628-1155 1-800-669-1154 (202) 508-0656 1-800-955-5219
Coverage Access to all filings of all types. Has filings in-house since 1968. Can search SEC archives for pre-1968 filings. SECOnline file: ’34 Act filings from July 1987; filings include exhibits. EDGARPlus file includes all EDGAR filings since April 1993; exhibits are considered separate documents.Filings: combines above two files All Edgar filings for current year and previous two calendar years. All filings made via Edgar since January 1, 1994. All filings made via EDGAR since it began on April 10, 1993. All filings made via EDGAR since it began on April 10, 1993. Lists all non-EDGAR filings since July 1992. Abstracts of all 1933 Act registrations filed since April 1994.
Cost Flat fee per document without exhibits + tax & delivery charge: $20 10-Q; $38 10-K; $30 Prospectus;

$42 S-1, S-3. Exhibits cost $0.60 per page; research $65/hour.

$35 per search, plus $25 per filing printed (no charge to view). Depending on file chosen, each exhibit can be a separate print charge. Free Free $10 access fee per session; $1.00 per minute online time. $50 monthly fee for monitoring service (can include up to 300 companies). $5.00 filings search; $10 per document print; $15 for Registrations & Sample Research database search. Monitor service at same rates as above. Hard-copy document retrieval service at Disclosure rates.
Telephone request Full-text search using standard Lexis commands Simple search on header field only (company name, form type). “Excite” search engine for enhanced Boolean logic searching Full-text search using Boolean connectors or “preformatted” search templates Company name search, or simple text string in full text (no Boolean logic), or preformatted searches.
Speed of
About 2-4 hours for hand delivery of most documents not requiring research. 24-hour delay. 24-hour or greater delay. 24-hour or greater delay. Real-time posting of EDGAR filings. Real-time posting of EDGAR filings.
Photocopy of original filing (except recent filings may be EDGAR prints). Lexis-reformatted print so columns, tables and pagination fit on standard page. Raw EDGAR text not aligned for normal printing. Must be reformatted in word processor for greater legibility. Raw EDGAR text not aligned for normal printing. Must be reformatted in word processor for greater legibility. Reformatted (.wri file format) EDGAR print fits on standard page in Word. Special “Enhancer” software reformats most documents to near-original print format.
of Note
(1) Comprenesive in-house collection of filings for last 20 years

(2) Simplest to use: just dial the telephone

(1) Most flexible search capabilities

(2) Filings farther back in time than any other online service

(1) Quick Forms lookup preformatted search

(2) Description of forms

(1) Full text 10K search tool

(2) Company Profiles

(3) Preformatted searches

(4) Description of forms

(5) Industry-wide searches

(1) Provides “live feed” monitoring service

(2) One-step download process; no need to display and then download

(1) Access to biz.yahoo (click on ticker symbol)

(2) Sample Research and Registrations database provide more search capabilities

(3) “live feed” service

(4) one-step main-filing-and-exhibits download

Good to excellent research specialists can answer advanced research requests. Provides monitoring service via SEC Public Reference Room. Customer Service every business day. Fair to good specialists can assist in formatting complex research queries; not much knowledge about the filings themselves. Customer service 23 hours per day. No customer support. No customer support. Good to excellent specialists can answer questions about filings content and assist in research queries. Customer support during business hours. Good customer service; still being tested.

Some Head-to-Head Comparisons


Obviously, the free services from the SEC and NYU, can’t be beat in terms of price. They do give unformatted prints though and can’t match the fee services in search capability.

Special Features

(1) Disclosure

  1. Access to all filings, not just EDGAR filings.
  2. Longest time period covered, from 1968 – present.

(2) LEXIS COMPNY Library

  1. SEC Online includes all 1934 Act filings, including Annual Reports to Shareholders, Forms 3, 4 and 5’s.
  2. Goes farther back than any other online service.
  3. Most powerful search and display features of any online system.
  4. Most expensive for routine document retrieval.

(3) SEC Official EDGAR Site

  1. Rolling three-year collection of filings. The SEC’s site includes the current year’s filings, plus the previous two complete calendar years. As of March 1997, the site contained all EDGAR filings from January 1, 1995 to present.
  2. Few search aids. Includes one pre-formatted name+form type search template. The official guide to forms descriptions.

(4) NYU EDGAR Internet Site

— Interesting Facts — NYU has three servers for its site, called EDGAR, ALLAN and POE. It lists all forms required to be filed with EDGAR in its FAQ – there are 321 of them. But this is not all the forms the SEC has. For instance, the popular Forms 3, 4 and 5 are not required to be filed.

  1. EDGAR 10-K search tool. Allows free text searching of the contents of all 10-Ks on the NYU system.
  2. Company Profile section — extracts text information describing the company’s business from 10-K’s, 10-Qs and 8-Ks and dsiplays those separately. This could be a quick and easy way of obtaining basic information about a company without downloading and printing full-text lengthy documents. About 100 companies represented as of 3/21/97.
  3. Preformatted searches under Company and Form Search option in main menu. Drop-down menu allows user to select exact type of form from list.
  4. Contains full text of SEC descriptions of forms. Go to Forms Search and choose “Click here for more information on the universe of forms.”
  5. Ability to search by broad industry type, using Zacks Industry Code Search option.

(5) GSI LivEdgar

  1. Exhibits are separated from main filing. No way to get entire text with one download operation.
  2. Ability to download immediately, avoiding two-part diplay and download option of other systems.

(6) CCH/Washington Service Bureau SECNET

  1. File Enhancer reformatting software.
  2. Non-EDGAR filings list since July 1992.
  3. WSB publications such as Significant SEC Filings Reporter, SEC News Digest, Sample Research.
  4. Filing and exhibits can be downloaded in one action.

Comments from our readers:

On Tue, 27 May 1997, Lynn Merring wrote: Re: LivEdgar –

One of the things I like about it is that the exhibits are separated. More often than not I only need an exhibit, not the whole document. This makes my life MUCH easier!

Lynn Merring Lynn Merring
Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, LLP
Costa Mesa California

Posted in: Business Research, Features, SEC Filings