For individual and professional investors alike, one of the best sources of company information is Securities and Exchange Commission filings. An SEC filing is a financial statement or other formal document submitted to the SEC by public companies, certain company insiders and broker-dealers.
There are a large number of SEC filings that investors should be interested in. The most useful ones for individual investors are Forms 10-K (annual statements) and 10-Q (quarterly reports). The best way to find these reports, if they are not available through the company website, is through the SEC’s EDGAR Web page at www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.
EDGAR is the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system and, according to its Web page, “performs automated collection, validation, indexing, acceptance and forwarding of submissions by companies and others who are required by law to file forms with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Its primary purpose is to increase the efficiency and fairness of the securities market for the benefit of investors, corporations and the economy by accelerating the receipt, acceptance, dissemination and analysis of time-sensitive corporate information filed with the agency.”
What to Look for
The Form 10-K is the annual report that all public firms must file with the SEC, generally within 75 days of their fiscal year end. This is a comprehensive report that goes over the company’s business, risks, competition, distribution and customers, along with other relative information. It will also include financial statements and a management discussion and analysis. If you want to learn about a company, this should be the first place you look.
The Form 10-Q is the quarterly report, and it is required to be filed with the SEC by public companies within 45 days after the end of the fiscal quarter.
The EDGAR database also includes Form 8-Ks, which are disclosures of non-recurring material events such as mergers, acquisitions, sales of divisions, bankruptcies and litigations.
Though these three forms are the most widely read filings, there are also other, less widely read, filings available on EDGAR. The EDGAR website provides a description of all forms available if you are looking for other filings. To pull up a listing of the forms, click on Forms Description on the left-hand side.
Locating an SEC Filing in EDGAR
The easiest way to find a company SEC filing in EDGAR is through the search function, which works the best if you have a specific company in mind (Figure 1). The “Search Companies and Filings” link allows you to search for a company by its name or CIK number, which is a unique number that the SEC gives to individuals and corporations that file documents with the SEC. According to EDGAR, you can also search for all SEC-registered companies in a particular state, as well as all companies with a specific SIC code. Once you’ve located the company you want, you can filter the search results by date (Figure 2). In the Latest Filings area, you can find the most recent filings that the EDGAR system has received.
The website offers a tutorial for website users that is very detailed and goes over most of the features available. In addition, EDGAR offers a description of each of the SEC forms that companies file.
Other Investor Information at SEC.gov
In addition to company filings, the SEC website provides educational and resource information useful to individual investors at its Office of Investor Education and Advocacy Web page.
Click on Investor Info in the right-hand navigation bar to expand this section, which includes pages with online publications, calculators and links to other educational sites.
The section called Check Out Brokers and Advisers explains how investors can research individual brokers or firms as well as investment advisers. It provides a suggested list of questions to ask when choosing an adviser with links to more tips. A page called Education Links points you to a comprehensive list of outside websites that offer assistance and tools to individual investors, such as federal and state agencies and other associations and groups.
The online publication section lists publications in alphabetical order and breaks down publications by subject, such as arbitration, brokers, insurance, mutual funds, tender offers and trading securities. A wealth of material is provided here, more than any individual investor will ever need or read. This is really one of the best sources of information available online for free.
There are also several useful calculators available, including mutual fund cost, loan and college savings calculators.
The Investor Info section also provides an area where users can report a possible securities fraud, ask a question about an investment and learn about whistleblower provisions.