business and corporation records

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Companies with more than $10 million in assets and that have more than 500 shareholders must file regular reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. These usually are publicly traded corporations that issue stock to be traded on one of the national stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ.

The SEC reports disclose information such as a company's top officers and directors, the compensation given to those officers and directors, company subsidiaries and offices, a description of the company's business operations, the number of employees, the company's financial statements (see the SEC's Beginners Guide to Finanical Statements for help understanding the financial statements), disclosure of governmental investigations of the company and a note about any major pending legal actions that could adversely affect the company.

The SEC also has stock ownership and stock sales information on companies, although this is limited to stock owned by officers and directors of a company or stockholders that own more than 5 percent of a company's stock.

The SEC keeps a computerized alphabetical index of all publicly traded corporations and the reports they've filed.

The various reports are available at the SEC’s Washington, D.C. office and at some regional SEC depositories.

SEC Forms

The SEC requires each company to file many different forms. The main forms are:

  • Form 10K - filed annually, the 10K provides information on a company's business operations, the names of its officers and directors and its financial statements. This is one of the more comprehensive filings a corporation must make.
  • Form 10Q - filed quarterly, the 10Q is essentially an update of the 10K annual report on a company's business operations, officers and directors and financial statements.

Other forms to check are:

  • Form 8K, which is used by a company to report changes and events important to investors.
  • Proxy statements, which relate to shareholder votes on an issue.
  • Prospectuses, which concern issuance of new stock by a company and also often provide detailed information on a company.

For more information on these and other forms check the SEC's Descriptions of SEC Forms (pdf).