U.S. Privately Held Firms

There are a wide variety of privately traded firms based in the U.S. and around the world.  They range from huge global firms to small mom-and-pop operations. Because they do not trade stock, they are not required to disclose information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Without the disclosure requirement, there is generally much less information available on privately held firms, and it requires more careful and patient research.

If there is a primary document for privately held firms, it is the Dun and Bradstreet report (D&B report). The world of business is based on credit; some firms order supplies, and other firms send them, and the basis of this exchange is credit. Companies, however, do not extend credit to other companies without first finding information on their credit history. This is where the D&B reports come in. Dun and Bradstreet is the major firm that provides these reports to businesses; they have over 195 million records worldwide. For large firms there may be a D&B report for the parent company as well as a number of divisions or locations. For a sample report click here. The D&B report includes:

  • Business Summary
  • Payment Analysis
  • Credit Score Summary
  • Financial Stress Summary
  • Business Background
  • Financial Summary
  • Public Filing Summary, including:
    • Judgments
    • Liens
    • UCC filings

Not all reports, however, include information in each of the categories, and D&B does not inform you what information is available before purchasing the reports. These reports are available from D&B directly and a number of third parties. These reports are not available online and generally cost between $150 and $200.

On this site we will use only free sites commonly available on the internet. Note that there is 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. These are excellent sites for corporate research, and you can check with your local public library, 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 kinds of information that will need to be gathered, and a sequence for conducting the research on U.S. privately held firms. Look in the Resources Section to find various print versions of this chart.

To begin, start with 01. Basic Information on the right and work down the list to complete a basic corporate profile. Good luck!