Company Information in the United States
Legal Materials: Some Basics
When someone asks for information about a company, a complete answer will include:
- company profiles,
- financial data,
- news articles and
- any other information particularly relevant to that company.
Some researchers generally use the following sources, not necessarily in order, to compile a packet with a reasonable amounts of each kind of information.
It’s useful to know whether a company is public or private before you start company research. There are many ways to do this. Some researchers usually check the D&B Million Dollar Directory, where a triangle before the company’s name means it’s public.
If you need to look up the meaning of a company’s name extension (such as Ltd., B.V. N.V., etc.), visit the excellent page posted by CI: Corporate Information at http://www.corporateinformation.com/Company-Extensions-Security-Identifiers.aspx.
Legal Materials: Sources for U.S. Company Information
1. Print: Although most business research is done online, following are several useful and popular print sources to check, if you have them readily available. Most of them are available online as well.
Company Directories: The D&B Million Dollar Directory, Ward’s Business Directory of U.S. Public and Private Companies and Standard & Poor’s Register give you give you the exact company name, contact information, the names of a few top executives, the number of employee, SIC codes. The Register also provides basic biographical information on officers and directors. It’s also available on Lexis and Westlaw.
Corporate Family Directories: The Directory of Corporate Affiliations and America’s Corporate Families & International Affiliates tell you which tell you which companies own and are owned by other companies. These are both fairly good information sources, though neither directory is 100% reliable. The Directory of Corporate Affiliations is also available on Lexis (BUSREF;DCA) and by subscription (www.corporateaffiliations.com). See also the “SUBSIDIARIES” section below.
Company Profiles: Are published in books such as the Mergent Manuals (formerly “Moody’s Manuals”), the International Directory of Company Histories (Gale) and, for insurance comapanies, Best’s Insurance Reports (see “Insurance Companies”). These are all also available online.
3. Westlaw: Westlaw’s CO-PROFILE database provides a good overview of public and large private companies. Data compiled includes basic company information plus rankings, stock prices, sales, major shareholders, brand information, info on competitors and the industry and some news. Westlaw also offers a broad range of news, analyst reports, SEC filings and other business databases.
5. D&B Reports: D&B (formerly “Dun & Bradstreet) Business Information Reports are technically credit reports, but they can provide a wealth of information, including but not limited to detailed financials, payment records, suits/liens/judgments and a information about corporate officers. D&B Business Information Reports are often the best source for information about private companies. In addition, D&B “Family Tree Finder” reports are expensive but are the best source I know for identifying corporate affiliations. Both kinds of reports are available directly from D&B or through Hoovers, Accurint, Lexis and Westlaw. To learn more about Dun & Bradstreet reports, see the separate entry for “D&B Reports.”
6. SEC Filings: For public companies selling securites in the U.S., get SEC filings, especially the most recent 10-K (annual report), 10-Q (quarterly report), proxy (annual notice to shareholders) and perhaps 8-Ks (reports of material events). For a more complete discussion of sources, see “SEC Filings.”in this legal Encyclopedia.
7. Market Research Reports: Market research reports explain how a company is doing in relation to other companies in its industry. You can but these reports from aggregators such as Alacra or Research and Markets, or see the Market Researchentry for more sources.
8. Public Records: A public records search on Accurint, TLO, KnowX, Lexis, Westlaw, etc., allows you to locate and retrieve a broad range of public records for a company. This includes Secretary of State filings, UCC filings, asset filings (for real estate, cars and aircraft), bankruptcies, liens, judgments, etc.
9. Private Publishing: Check out what people are saying about the company in blogs, listservs, social networks and RSS feeds using the sources in the “Search Engines” entry of this legal Encyclopedia.
10. Docket Sheets and Case Filings: Searching docket sheet databases will tell you when the company has sued or been sued. The underlying filings in the case can reveal information that is otherwise unavailable. See the Docket Sheets entry in this legal Encyclopedia for information about the various government and commercial databases.
11. Retail Stores, Restaurants, etc: Chain Store Guide (CSG) (www.chainstoreguide.com) provides contact names, business locations and other market data on chain stores, restaurants, hardware stores, dollar stores, drug stores, etc. They also provide information on retail technology.
12. IP Databases:Intellectual Property Databases posted free on the Web will tell you whether the company owns trademarks, copyrights or patents. See “Trademarks,” “Copyrights,” “Patents – U.S.” and/or “Patents – Foreign.”
12. Other Internet Sites: There are oodles of good Internet sites for business research. Since it would take too long to visit or even read about them all, the following is an attempt to put together a short list of particularly useful sites.
- The most important Internet site is usually the company’s own site. I generally find these by searching Google, Bing and/or other search engines.
- The Better Business Bureau posts free “Business Reports” on companies in many metropolitan areas.
- Vault interviews employers of large companies to find out how the company is doing and what it’s like to work there. Glassdoor posts comments from current and former emaployees.
- Morningstar does “Snapshots” of all U.S. public companies, including financials & news.
- Business and Company ASAP is a good index of business- and company-related news articles. (Note: The index is available for free for library card holders through some public library Web sites, including theNew York Public Library’s.
- The Wall Street Transcript posts industry roundtables and interviews with Wall Street analysts, money managers, and top company executives.
- If you’re not still worn out, Wall Street Research Net provides over 100,000 links to company research Web sites, andCorporateInformation provides many more.
Finally, if you have access to business databases through a school or public library, be sure to check out whatever is available. You’re likely to find free access to some of the sources discussed above, and you may find others as well.
Some subjects of related interest:
BANKRUPTCY: If a company has declared bankruptcy, you can find a wealth of information in various Schedules, Statements, Motions and Plans. For an explanation of the key information sources in a bankruptcy case, what they contain and where you can get them, see Cost-Effective Research in U.S. Bankruptcy Law by Robert C. Richards, Jr. See also the “Bankruptcy” and “Docket Sheets” entries.
DEFUNCT COMPANIES: To find defunct companies, see “Finding Businesses.”
FAMILY TREES: See “SUBSIDIARIES,” below.
OUTSIDE RESEARCHERS: Sometimes you don’t have the time or resources to handle a research request. In this case, you might want to hire an outside expert. The researchers at NYPL Premium Services (212-592-7200) have done excellent work for me, using primarily the extensive business resources of the New York Public Library. The researchers at Guideline (formerly Find/SVP) have experience with all kinds of business research, although they don’t always work as quickly many attorneys would like.
PERSONAL FAVORITES: Good sources of company information are
- Capital IQ profiles for companies currently in business;
- for historic company information,Mergent (formerly Moody’s) profiles for older companies, as well as the Library of Congress Guide to Business History Resources, and
- (for public companies) the 10-K or annual report (see separate entry for “Annual Reports”), updated with the latest 10-Q, which provides most of the financial and much of the news information the attorneys are usually looking for (especially on new business requests).
PRIVATE COMPANIES: Generally when asked to get information on a private company, a researcher o the subject:
- get a D&B report (see “Dun and Bradstreet Reports”);
- search the internet to find the company home page, plus anything else that turns up;
- search a relevant news database (see “Business Information”);
- consult Hoovers Online, which cover big private companies;
- consult CorporateInformation, which collects links for getting information on private companies;
- read Ward’s Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies or the Million Dollar Directory;
- review the Experian’s Smart Business Reports;
- analize Forbes’ list of the 500 largest private companies;
- consult PrivCo, which claims to be “the premiere source for business and financial data on major, non-publicly traded corporations”; and
- use the OneSource Business Browser.
For more ideas, see How to Find Out Who Owns a Small Business, both by Genie Tyburski.
LOANS AND BONDS: Extel Financial Cards list the companies outstanding loans and bonds. Extel is available on Westlaw (EIFC) and Thomson Research . Also check out the company’s debt rating using the sources in the entry for “Bond Ratings.”
SUBSIDIARIES: Public companies file a list of their major subsidiaries on Exhibit 21 of Form 10-K. Expanded subsidiary lists are available from Bloomberg Law, Capital IQ,D&B, Hoovers (which has D&B info), ReferenceUSA (if you don’t have a subscription, you may have access through a public or academic library web site). Subsidiaries are also listed in the Directory of Corporate Affiliations, which is available in print, through through Lexis (BUSREF;DCA) and through the subscription-based CorporateAffiliations web site. Family trees for insurance companies are filed with the NAIC and available through A.M. Best Reports. Subsidiaries involved in litigation sometimes have to file a Corporate Disclosure Statement that lists their parent company or companies.
See also, in this legal Encylopedia, the following entries: “Analyst Reports,” “Annual Reports,” “Banks,” “Bond Prices,” “Business Information,” “Company Personnel,” “Compensation,” “Corporate Law,” “Debt Ratings,” “Doing Business in Foreign countries,” “Dun & Bradstreet Reports,” “Insurance Companies,” “Market Research,” “Mergers and Acquisitions,” “News – People, Products and Companies,” “Nonprofit Organizations,” “Product Information,” “Retirement Plans” for form 5500s, “Secretary of State Records,” “Securities and Exchange Commission” for SEC filings, and “Stock Prices.”
Of course, not every company-related question requires you to compile a comprehensive report.
In some cases, you will just want to find the company or its affiliates. To do this, see “Finding Businesses” for U.S. companies. To find foreign companies, see the Foreign Companies section of this entry, below.
In some cases, you will just want find a company’s executives, officers, directors,corporate counsel, etc., see “Company Personnel.” To find shareholders, see entry for “Shareholders.”
To find out where a company is licensed to do business or to get its articles of incorporation and other state filings, see “Secretary of State Records.”
For sources listing family-friendly companies, see “Employee Benefits.”
- Internet (in the World Encyclopedia)
- Internet (United States)
- Banks (United States)
- Annual Reports (United States)
- Product Reviews (and Related Information)
- Media Law
- Media Law in Asia (including India)
- Computer Law Definition
- Foreign Company Information
- Business Information (United States)
- Bond Prices
- Debt Ratings
- Doing Business in Foreign Countries
- D&B Reports
- Finding Businesses
- Insurance Companies
- Market Research
- Market Share
- Product Reviews
- Stock Prices