Firms that trade on one of the U.S. stock exchanges are required to disclose information on a regular basis to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These are the primary documents for researching publicly traded firms. The most commonly used are Form 10-K (Annual Report) and Form DEF14A (proxy statement). The SEC provides a complete list of information it collects, as well as Researching Public Companies through EDGAR. They also provide a brief overview, How Do I Use EDGAR?
Form 10-K must be filed annually with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by all firms that trade stock on one of the U.S. exchanges. Firms are also required to report information quarterly on Form 10-Q. All Form 10-Ks have the same format and include a wide variety of information on the operation of the firm, its properties, any pending or potential legal proceedings and a wealth of financial information.
Form DEF 14A (Definitive Proxy Statement) or often called the Proxy Statement is mailed to all shareholders in advance of the annual meeting. It includes:
- Information on voting
- Background information on Directors
- Audit committee members and procedures
- Director compensation
- Executive compensation
The Form 10-K Report is available from the SEC’s EDGAR database, and is often available on the company website which may also include a link to their own annual report and other information In addition to the primary SEC documents, a variety of firms compile and repackage this information for use by researchers. This includes free sites such as Yahoo Finance or MSN Money as well as fee-for-use companies such as Dunn and Bradstreet, Standard and Poor’s and Mergent Online.
On this site we will use only free sites commonly available on the internet. Note that there is a section at the end of each question that lists websites that are available only to UMASS students which the general user will not have access to. You can check with your local public library or university or college library to see if these sites are available to you.
Explore The Private Sector Chart. It provides a visual representation of the types of information that needs to be gathered and an order for conducting the research on U.S. publicly traded firms. Look in the Resources Section to find various print versions of this chart.
To begin, start with Research Step 1 on the right and work down the list to complete a basic corporate profile. The Private Sector Worksheet provides a list of all the questions and sub questions. Use it as a guide to conduct your research or cut and paste information into the document as you go along. Good luck!