Businesses in the United States

Businesses Cases

The growing reputation of the Roberts Court as being pro-business drew force from several key rulings in 2010. In Citizens United v. FEC (130 S. Ct. 876 (2010)), the conservative bloc ruled broadly that a federal statute restricting corporate spending for political ads in the run-up to elections violated the First Amendment. This result occurred despite the existence of ample grounds for a narrow holding that the statute could not be constitutionally applied to a “mockumentary” about then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The decision provoked a rare rebuke of the Court by President Obama in his State of the Union address. It also prompted a separate opinion by the chief justice attempting to justify his vote in favor of the decision despite his professed commitment to a minimalist approach of deciding cases as narrowly as possible.

In two 5/4 decisions dealing with the Federal Arbitration Act, the Court agreed with the business community’s positions that challenges to a contract’s enforceability can be decided by arbitrators instead of a court (Rent-A-Center West, Inc. v. Jackson, 130 S. Ct. 2772 (2010)), but arbitrators cannot decide to impose class arbitration on disputants when the contract is silent on that issue (Stolt-Nielsen v. AnimalFeeds Intl. Corp., 130 S. Ct. 1758 (2010)). And in the most anticipated patent ruling in years, the conservative justices ruled that business methods can in theory be patented; the liberal justices would have completely foreclosed such claims (Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S. Ct. 3218 (2010)). Finally, in a criminal appeal stemming from Enron’s financial collapse, the Court held unconstitutional an important prosecutorial tool that Congress had created for going after certain types of corporate fraud (Skilling v. U.S., 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010)).

Finding Businesses

If you are looking for a U.S. company, you have many choices. If available an easy, free option is to check a print directory, such as the D&B Million Dollar Directory theStandard & Poor’s Register, Gale Research’s Ward’s Private and Public Companies, etc. At least some of these are on the shelves of most mid-size and large public libraries.

Another option is to check out the subscription databases available through your organization or your public library web site. That may give you access to ReferenceUSA (highly recommended), the D&B Million Dollar Database (also excellent) and/or others.

Most businesses have phone numbers so, if you have some idea where the business is located, you can try any relevant telephone books you have on hand — in print, on CD-ROM and/or the Internet. (For links to Internet phone books, see “Finding People” and/or “Telephone Numbers”). You could also call Directory Assistance.

In theory, companies doing business in any state are required to register with the respective state’s Secretary of State, so if you know a state where the company does business, you should be able to look it up in that state’s database of S. of S. filings. Most state have free online databases with reasonably good searching capabilities (For links to these Web sites, see “Secretary of State Records”).

Some other suggestions: (a) Put the name of the company into Internet search engines (see “Search Engines”) and search for a Web site with address information, (b) use Ci CorporateInformation to link you to good online sources, (c) if the company is likely to be public, search for an SEC filing (see the Filings section of “Securities and Exchange Commission”) and/or (d) look for a Hoovers profile.

If that still doesn’t do it, try the services you pay for, including Westlaw (BUS-TRACK), Lexis (FINDER;B-FIND), TLO and/or Accurint. Or you can call a business research service (I recommend NYPL Premium Services) and ask them to search their directories.

Other Options: Companies in the import/export business are listed in the PIERS Trade Profiles. You can search for and pull up the company profiles through

Corporate Affiliations: To find related companies, check The Directory of Corporate Affiliations (in paper, on Lexis (BUSREF;DCA), Westlaw (CORP-AF) or on, get a Dun & Bradstreet Business Information Report, look for annual reports and 10-Ks (see the Filings section of “Securities and Exchange Commission”), search Dun & Bradstreet’s World Base file on Lexis and/or search Dun & Bradstreet’s Global Corporate Linkages.

Defunct Businesses: Locating companies that have gone out of business can be tough – defunct businesses are removed from most company directories and databases. One source dedicated to this purpose is Info USA’s Inactive Business Database on Lexis (COMPNY;DBADCO), which provides the former address, phone number, a contact name and some minimal business information (e.g., gross sales, number of employees, SIC code). If the company had once been public, and/or and/or the Directory of Obsolete Securities (Financial Information, Inc.) will tell you what happened to the company and, if possible, how to contact its successor. Other than that, try searching the relevant Secretary of State records, old print directories and old news sources.


See Also

  • Concessions Businesses
  • Dissolution Businesses
  • Minority Owned Businesses
  • Home Based Businesses
  • Small Businesses
  • Sexually Oriented Businesses
  • Arbitral Institutions
  • Arbitration Organizations worldwide
  • Company Information
  • Doing Business
  • D&B Reports
  • Finding People
  • Search Engines
  • Secretary of State Records
  • Securities and Exchange Commission

Further Reading

Businesses: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Businesses. This part provides references, in relation to Businesses, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Businesses by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Businesses and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Businesses or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Businesses and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Businesses. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Businesses should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Businesses when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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