Features – Locating Company Information on the Web

Martina Anders is the Library Electronic Services Administrator at Thompson, Hine and Flory LLP. One of her responsibilities is organizing some of the Web’s many resources by practice area for the attorneys at her firm. She would like to thank Kyle Passmore, Barbara Silbersack, Jeff Curtis and May Jane Finan for their help in reviewing this article.

There is a great deal of public company research that you can do on the Internet. It is a bit more difficult to get information on private companies. Public company information is prevalent because both companies and investment firms are giving away free information so that investors will invest in stocks. The federal government has made free disbursal of information a priority. The state governments are also investing heavily in providing access to public information. Of course the Internet is a mixture of pay as well as free information. Sometimes an information service starts out free and becomes a pay service as it becomes more popular. Also many sites provide a certain level of information for free and then charge for the rest of the information. Even with these provisos there is more free company information than ever before. What follows is broad overview of what is available for both U.S. and foreign companies.

EDGAR Company Information Corporate Web Sites Annual Reports & News Articles
State Information Other Sources Directories & Search Engines Compilers

EDGAR and Other Public Company Documents

All U.S. public companies must file certain documents electronically with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These filings including 10-K (Annual Report), 10-Q (Quarterly Report), 8-K (Material Events), Proxy Statements, Initial Public Offerings, Beneficial Ownership Statements and Registration Statements are available for free from the SEC as part of the EDGAR project. All public companies have had to file electronically since May 1996 although some companies have been filing electronically since 1994. The SEC withholds the electronic filings from EDGAR for 24 hours. The easiest way to search for a company’s EDGAR filings is through the Quick Form Lookup. You just need to know the beginning of the company name and you can get all of the filings of companies that start with the same string. This can be particularly useful if the company files under various forms of its name. All EDGAR filings are in ASCII format. This means that if you save it, any word processing program can view it. The SEC is looking into changing the format of the EDGAR files so that they display and print better with Internet browsers. Please see the box below for hints about making the SEC’s files print properly. There are also various services like LiveEDGAR and SECNet that provide cleaned up EDGAR files for a limited fee. These services as well as services like LEXIS and Westlaw allow you to search the full text of the EDGAR files. The SEC only allows you to search the company information, address information and form type. There is a service called FreeEDGAR that provides same day access to EDGAR filings. If you set up a watch list, they will notify you by email whenever the companies you are interested in file an EDGAR filing. This is a free service. LiveEDGAR and SECNet also provide watches as part of their services for a fee. The Canadian securities agencies also provide public company filings on the Internet through the SEDAR service.

  • EDGAR – The SEC allows you to search the EDGAR files by the Quick Form Lookup, the WAIS search which allows you to use AND, OR, or ADJ operators, the Central Index Key Lookup, Current Event Analysis, Mutual Fund Retrieval, Prospectus Search, and Executive Compensation Test.

  • EDGAR Quick Form Pick – The SEC allows you to look for EDGAR filings by company name, form number and date, though you only need the company name.

The SEC’s EDGAR filings are in ASCII format which means that if you save them you can bring them up in any word processor. If you open them in a word processor, you should change the font to courier and make sure that the size is 10 pt. If there is a table in the filing, you might have to landscape the paper for the table and reduce the font even further to get all of the text onto the paper. Wide tables printed off of the Internet are simply cut off wherever the paper ends on the right.

  • 10K Wizard – This site allows you to search the full text of EDGAR filings for free using boolean expressions such as and, or, not, and near. They allow you to search for quotes and to order your searches with parentheses.

  • EDGAR-Online – This service provides free access to some EDGAR filings but charges for the current day’s EDGAR filings. They do allow you to do an EDGAR search by company name or ticker symbol, industry, sector, city, state, form number and date range. You can also do a people search by company or person’s name. If you choose to pay for a subscription they range from $10 to $100 per month. Subscribers get formatted EDGAR filings as well as a watch list.

  • FreeEDGAR – Same day access to EDGAR filings. You need to know the company’s name. They also provide a free watch list service.

  • Lexis-Nexis – Internet access to Lexis-Nexis. Pricing varies.

  • LiveEDGAR – This is a subscription service that charges by the minute. There is a $10 charge to access the service and then you are charged $1 per minute while you are connected. They provide a watch service as well as full text EDGAR searches and formatted filings.

  • NYU Filing Retrieval Toolkit – NYU allows you to search for EDGAR filings by ticker symbol, form number, date and form number, and for only 13D ownership filings.

  • SECNet – This CCH/WSB service charges by the search and by the file accessed. Filings are $1 for an unformatted filing and $10 for a formatted filing. Watches are $5 per notification. Full text EDGAR searches are $10. No Action Letters are $5 per document. They also have a library of significant filings so that you can look up filings by topic.

  • SEDAR – Provides access to Canadian public company filings with the Canadian securities agencies.

  • Westlaw – Internet access to Westlaw. Pricing varies.

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Company Information

There are several Internet sites that provide brief overviews of company information. They generally also link you to SEC filings, news articles, stock charts, financial information and research reports. There are many sites that provide stock information (I won’t list these they are too numerous to mention) but the following provide the basic stock information and more. Some of these directories are global, U.S. oriented and/or industry oriented.

  • CompanySleuth – This site only compiles information on U.S. public companies though they are planning to add private companies in the future. You can currently track up to 10 companies at any one time. For each company you choose, they will track Internet domain name registrations, trademarks filed in the last 6 months, patents filed, federal litigation filed by and against compaines, broker reports, analyst reports, insider trading information, stock quotes, news articles, and various message boards including Yahoo! and Motley Fool. They send you an email every day that there is new information about the companies you track.

  • Dun & Bradstreet – Their GlobalSeek report (which includes address, telephone number, sales, business partners and corporate structure) is $5 and their Business Background Report (which includes information about the opoerations of a company and the business background of its management) is $20. There are other reports available which are variously priced. D&B covers private and public companies.

  • Hoovers – They provide both free information and in depth information to subscribers. A personal subscription costs $110 per year. Hoovers provides thousands of company capsules on both public and private companies. They provide the company address and phone number, web site, subsidiary locations, stock chart, financial information, names of key people, names of top competitors, Multex research reports, links to web sites that compile news articles, and other information. This is the only site I know of that has information about private companies as well as public ones. Hoovers also sponsors IPO Central – This site focuses on IPOs. You can look at filings by date or by name. This timetable goes back to April 1996. There is also a table of withdrawals and postponements. There is a link to the SEC filings and a company capsule.

  • Peerscape – This service is provided by Deloitte & Touche. Subscriptions range from $50 to $500 per month. Their reports focus on the financial and provide information on insider investors and institutional investors. They also compare the company to others in its industry. They carry over 19,000 global public companies.

  • CorpTech – Database of 45,000 high-tech companies. Includes private and public companies. They also have a people finder page that allows you to put in any name and the results will include the person’s position in the company and relevant company information.

  • Financial Times Company Briefings – These profiles provide address and phone, a brief description and some financial information on the companies. You need to register to access this free site.

  • Global Corporate Information Service – Includes corporate profiles on over 2,500 Japanese companies.

  • Globe and Mail Top 1000 – Includes information on Canada’s top 1000 public and top 300 private companies including phone, address, CEO, CFO, web site, and financials.

  • Investor Corner – This site contains up to 10 years of financial information on 1,000 public Canadian companies. Also included is a company profile and quarterly reports.

  • Japan Financial – This site contains translations and originals of official financial statements of all firms on the Tokyo stock exchange and major OTC firms.

  • Market Guide – Company reports, quotes, news, price charts, etc for over 10,000 U.S. equities.

  • Quicken.ca – Information on Canadian public companies which includes a brief profile, officer names, stock performance information, quarterly results and a financial summary.

  • Quicken.com Investments – Includes stock quotes, article abstracts, profile, insider trading information, message boards, financial comparisons and other basic information.

  • Strategic Company Information – This Canadian site includes a database of federally incorporated companies and company capabilities which includes the address, phone, profile, year established, number of employees, total sales, contacts, and information on products and services. You need to register (free) to use this site.

  • UK Equities Direct – Includes a profile, five year summary, stock information, directors, major shareholders, registrars, contact details and other basic information.

  • Wall Street Journal Briefing Books – The Wall Street Journal puts together a briefing book for all public U.S. companies that includes background, stock, and financial information. There are also links to press releases and current Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswire articles. They also link you to SEC filings and Zacks analyst estimates and ratings. You need a subscription to the online edition of the Wall Street Journal to access this feature. The Wall Street Journal costs $29 annually for print subscribers and $59 annually for online only subscribers.

  • Wall Street Research Net – This site covers both Canadian and U.S. public companies. They will link you to the company’s home page, SEC filings, compilers of news articles, and links to various summaries.

  • Wright Research Center Company Reports – Detailed analysis of over 18,000 companies located around the world.

  • Yahoo (U.S.) Stock Quotes – Yahoo’s service provides access to stock quotes, profiles, message boards and news articles of U.S. companies.

  • Yahoo (England & Ireland) Stock Quotes – Yahoo’s service provides access to stock quotes and profiles.

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Corporate Web Sites

Of course many companies have web sites of their own. There are several ways to find them. Sites like Hoovers link you to company home pages but these sites don’t work for small and medium sized businesses. There are web sites that only list company home pages. They are often not as up to date as they could be and also focus on larger businesses. Luckily, anyone who has a web site has to register their web site with various agencies. There are several U.S. and international web site directories based on the registration information. Because constructing a web site can be a time consuming experience, companies may register web sites months before they make their web sites accessible on the Internet. Often a company will register several potential web site names for various divisions or products. Company web sites vary by company. Sometimes they are simply the equivalent of a business card or product catalog and sometimes they have the company’s annual report, press releases, telephone directory, contact information and other in-depth information.

  • Registry Query Sites
    • Alldomains.com – Allows you to search for a domain name in over 675 domain extensions

    • Amnesi: The Internet Name Search Engine – This is really nice because you can guess and do fragment searches for domain names.

    • Internic Whois – You can search both Internic and the Defense Information Systems Agency to see who owns a domain name.

    • NetNames USA – This site allows you to search for a domain name used in the U.S. You can only search for exact matches for a URL.

    • Virtual Internet Global Name Search – This site allows you to search for an Internet domain name in Europe and internationally.

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Annual Reports and News Articles

Since company web sites vary in the amount of information they provide about a company, there are web sites that aggregate annual reports of various companies. These are usually the equivalent of the glossy annual reports that the companies send to shareholders rather than the dry text reports submitted to the SEC. There are also sites that compile news articles about companies. Sometimes these are full text articles and sometimes they are simply abstracts. Newspapers and news services have various archive policies and some of them may go back several years but you are better off assuming that they only keep current articles. You should use Lexis or Westlaw if you are searching for articles that are older. Also Lexis and Westlaw provide more flexible searching than most of the Internet sites. Usually you can only search by company name on the Internet sites.

  • News Articles
    • American City Business Journals – includes business journals for over 40 American cities. If your local business journal is not here, you might want to try a directory service like that provided by the Newspaper Association of America to see if your local business paper is available on the Internet.

    • Bloomberg – Includes stories from the magazine, radio and television. Some of the information is only available to subscribers of the magazine which costs $25 per year.

    • Business Week – daily briefing section and table of contents of last 3 years. Some articles are reprinted here.

    • Businesswire – One of the two major U.S. company press release services.

    • Canada NewsWire – Database of Canadian corporate news releases.

    • Canadian Corporate News – You can search by keyword, stock symbol and company name. The news is archived for the last 6 months.

    • CNNfn

    • Financial Times

    • Forbes

    • Fortune

    • Inc. Online

    • Lexis-Nexis – Internet access to Lexis-Nexis. Pricing varies.

    • MarketGuide NewsAlert Search News

    • Money Daily

    • Newstrawler – Allows you to search multiple newspapers and/or journals at once. You can choose country, type of material and/or particular titles.

    • PR Newswire – Free access to news and information from PR Newswire’s 19,000 corporate and organizational clients. They keep the articles for one year.

    • Research Index – UK press about UK companies

    • Transium Corporation – Provides abstracts of news articles on over 300,000 private and public companies world wide.

    • U.S. News and World Report

    • Wall Street Journal – Only the last two weeks of articles are free to subscribers. Articles before that by the Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones Newswire are searchable for free but cost $3 per article to view or print. A subscription to Wall Street Journal also gives you access to Barrons. The Wall Street Journal costs $29 for print subscribers and $59 for online only subscribers.

    • Westlaw – Internet access to Westlaw. Pricing varies.

    • Yahoo – Business Articles – Includes articles on U.S. public companies from the AP, Standard and Poors, Business Wire, Reuters Securities, EDGAR Online, PR Newswire, and Briefing.com.

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State Information

Some states have begun to place their corporate records on the Internet. These vary from reproductions of the papers filed with the Secretary of State to simply querying a list of corporations incorporated in that state. The states update their databases with varying frequency. Those states that do provide reproductions of filings may have varying coverage dates.

  • Alaska Corporations Section – When you query the database, you get the name of the corporation, the license number, the license type, registered agent, owner, status, incorporation date and other information. The actual forms are not reproduced.

  • Arizona Corporations Division – Arizona provides access to their quarterly corporation information report. The report contains the Corporation’s name, address, statutory agent, corporate status, demographic information, filing and publication dates, and a list of the microfilmed documents associated with the corporation.

  • Arkansas Corporations Online Search – The results of the query include the corporation name, filing number, filing type, status, registered agent, date incorporated and other information.

  • Florida Division of Corporations Public Access – You can search Florida’s database by corporation or trademark name, or by officer or registered agent name. Florida actually reproduces the forms filed by the corporations or individuals so that you can have all of the information.

  • Georgia’s Corporation Database – You can search by business or registered agent name. Georgia provides the name of the business, type, address, control number, status, filing date, jurisdiction, registered agent and officers of the company.

  • Illinois Corporate Name Search – You can only search by name and it only tells you if that name is registered in Illinois.

  • Iowa Corporation Search – You search by company name and the results include the corporation number, status, state of incorporation, date started, and the registered agent.

  • Kansas Corporation Search – You can search by name, number, keyword, registered agent, or stockholder among other criteria. The results include the formal name, address, date of incorporation, state or county of formation, registered agent, corporation type and the names of the officers.

  • Kentucky On-Line Business Database – You can only search by company name. They provide the formal name, status, company ID, type, incorporation date, standing, registered agent, and initial directors.

  • Louisiana Corporation Database – You can search by business or individual. The results include the type, status, address, parish and date incorporated.

  • Maine Corporate Name Search – You can search by business name. The results include corporate ID, registered agent, and status.

  • Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation Business Services and Finance Division – You can search by business name, department ID, EIN, or trade name owner. The results include entity type, principal office, resident agent, status, date of formation, state of formation, and whether it is a stock and/or close corporation.

  • Missouri Corporations Database – You can search by corporation name or agent name. The results include the business name, type, status, address, incorporation date, charter number and registered agent.

  • Nevada Corporation Searches – You can search by corporation name, registered agent or corporate officers. The results include the type, file number, state incorporated, incorporation date, status, resident agent, and corporate officers.

  • New Mexico Corporation Information Inquiry – You can only search by corporation name. The results include state of incorporation, address, type and status, registered agent, and corporate officers and directors.

  • North Carolina Corporation Names Directory – You can only search by corporation name. The results include corporation ID, status, category, state of incorporation, and registered agent information.

  • Rhode Island Corporations Listings – This was not working the day that I tested it (February 12, 1999)

  • Texas Corporate Taxpayer Search – You can search by charter number, tax ID or name. The results include address, status, registered agent, state of incorporation, and officers and directors.

  • Vermont Corporation Name Finder – You can only search by name. The results include status, state of incorporation, registered agent and corporate officers.

  • Washington State Department of Revenue – PRD Search Page – You can search by owner or doing business as name. The results include the tax reporting number, legal entity number, mailing address, business location, and owner type.

  • Wyoming Public Access to Corporations – You can only search by corporation name. The results include state of incorporation and date, status, registered agent, type, and corporate officers.

  • KnowX – This is a pay service that allows you to search through state corporate records, business yellow pages, FEIN Locator, and DBA Records for individuals and business. Prices range from free for certain searches to $15 for various types of records. There is also a peak time surcharge from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm EST on weekdays. Some databases also have additional surcharges.

  • Locating U.S. Corporation Records Online – a directory of state web sites and secretaries of state contact information.

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Other Sources

Depending on the type of company that you are dealing with, there might be other government agency or litigation resources on the Internet. Stanford University and Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach both provide information about securities class action litigations. The SEC Enforcement Division places a lot of material on the web. Various government agencies such as the FCC, USPTO, FTC, FEC, U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, and OSHA have materials or databases with information about companies including actions taken them. The FDIC has a wealth of information on banking institutions. The federal EPA and many state EPAs also have enforcement information on corporations as well. Some organizations such as Corporate Watch also compile information about corporations. It is much harder to determine which of these organizations is involved with a corporation and whether they present this information on the Internet. I am only listing two such organizations.

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Directories and Search Engines

Sometimes you have a company name and can’t find anything about it. There are quite a few manufacturing and company directories as well as phone books on the Internet. You can also try the search engines as a last desperate measure. A search engine is a database that containes copies of millions of web pages. Generally a search engine has copied about 10% of the Internet. That doesn’t include proprietary databases, audio or video files and some of the other special presentation files such as PDF (Adobe Acrobat) that are on the web. You can usually search them using boolean operators including and, or, and not. Sometimes you can use truncation or the near function. You should always read the help screen before you use a search engine for the first time so that you can get the most accurate results from your search. Each search engine is slightly different. Search Engine Watch is a wonderful resource when comparing and evaluating various search engines capabilities.

  • Phone Books
    • 555-1212.com – You can search for area codes, email address, and phone numbers. It allows you to do a reverse look-up (i.e. you have the phone number and need the location or person). It also has a good link to international directories.

    • Ameritech Internet Yellow Pages

    • AnyWho – This site allows you to do reverse number searches and will also tell you who the neighbors are and will link you to a map of the address

    • Big Book – You can do reverse searching by address.

    • Database America – You can do reverse phone number searches.

    • GTE SuperPages: Interactive Yellow Pages – you can search by category, keyword and phone number. You can sort listings by name, ads or city. You can do truncated searches using the *. A comma acts as an “OR”. All addresses are hypertext linked to a map.

    • Kompass – With a free registration you can get the phone number and address of over 1.5 million companies worldwide

    • Netstorm – All Canada Business Registry – You can search by company name, topic or SIC code within a specific area code or all of Canada.

    • Switchboard

    • Telephone Directories on the Web – This site links to different international phone books by country.

    • ThomWeb Ultimate Directory – UK business directory. You can search by name, type or location.

    • World Directories

    • Worldpages – international phone directory site. It has a form which makes locating a phone number easier if you know the country. It also provides links to directories of postal codes and area codes.

  • Search Engines
    • Altavista – One of the two most comprehensive search engines. The other is HotBot. Altavista allows AND, OR, NOT, phrase searching, and truncation. You can also indicate the relative importance of your search terms. Altavista also supports a computer translation service that will translate any web page written in French, Spanish, German, Italian or Portuguese into English. You can also restrict your searches to materials in a certain language. Altavista Help

    • Excite – This started out as a search engine but now includes a web directory, company information and newspaper information.

    • HotBot – an excellent alternative to Altavista. You can do full boolean searching including AND, OR, NOT, ” “. You can use parentheses in your searches and you can date restrict. Hotbot now has a SuperSearch service that you might want to try. It allows you to narrow your searches. HotBot also supports stemming. HotBot Help & Search Tips

    • Infoseek – also an alternative to Altavista. You can use + (and), – (not), and ” “. Infoseek: Help

    • Northern Light Search – This is a search engine and an article database. You can use OR and NOT. A space is interpreted as an AND. You can use quotes to indicate phrases. You can use + for AND and – for NOT. Northern Light Help & Hints

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This is just a brief compilation of web sites that you can use to do company research. There are many of these on the Internet. Some of the best are listed below:

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This has been just a broad survey of Internet sites that can be used to do company research. While the Internet started strongly in North America, it has quickly become international in scope. The ability to find foreign company information on the Internet should expand greatly in the next few years. The mix of government, company and third-party information has made the Internet one of the starting points for researching a company. While much of the information remains free, pay services are becoming a more important part of the mix. You used to have to establish an account with services like Dun and Bradstreet. Now you can purchase their information with a credit card over the Internet. State government information on corporations used to be difficult to get while now it is just a click away. The difficulty with using the Internet for research is knowing that you exhausted all possible sources of information. Nowhere is there a definitive list of what is available on the Internet. The best compromise is to hope that the compilers are updating their sources of information. There are many sources that need to be consulted to find out about new web sites and web sites that have increased the quality and quantity of information they have placed on the web. There is also the question of the transient nature of the web although web addresses don’t change as much as they used to. Nothing can compare with the value of experience in using the web. The more you use it in your research strategies, the more you will be able to get out of it.

This article was first published in the SLA Legal Division Quarterly, vol. 5, n.3, Winter 1998/99.

Posted in: Business Research, Features