This guide is meant to help you find information on specific companies, industries, and economic markets. This guide is not designed to be comprehensive but should point you in the right direction. As this type of research will often not be "legal" in nature, you may find it useful to visit Harvard Business School's Baker Library. The librarians at HBS are very knowledgeable and helpful – links to some research resources they have created are included in this Guide.
You may also want to visit the HLS Library's webpage on Business, Corporate, Finance & Market Data for descriptions of (and links to) additional databases you may find useful.
And FYI, a good (free) online dictionary of corporate and financial terms can be found at Investopedia.com/dictionary/.
If a company is publicly-traded, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and subject to numerous reporting and disclosure requirements. These filings are designed to:
By contrast, privately-held companies are not subject to the SEC's reporting and disclosure requirements. As a result, it is usually more difficult to find information about privately-held companies.
Regardless of whether a company is publicly-traded or privately-held, remember to visit the company's website.
Public companies will usually have more information available than private companies but it never hurts to check.
If a company is publicly-traded, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and subject to numerous reporting and disclosure requirements under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These include periodic filings (e.g., SEC Form 10-K) and as needed filings (e.g., SEC Form 8-K). These filings are designed to:
Below are some FREE sources of information regarding publicly-traded companies.
Subscription research platforms offer more functionality. Bloomberg Law's Business Intelligence Center offers an assortment of tools:
Hoover's Company Profiles, containing general information about a company (e.g., description, basic history, officers and board members, competitors, products, operations, and more) are available on both Westlaw and Lexis Advance (referred to as "Hoover's Company Records - In-depth Records"), as well as ProQuest.
The SEC requires considerable periodic disclosure of a company's leadership, operations, and financial health. The financial sections of SEC filings generally include a statistical summary of operations, financial statements for each line of business, legal proceedings (if any), and a list of affiliated companies and subsidiaries. Other sections include information such as board membership (including member biographies and term principal stockholders, security holdings of management, and a list of directors with biographical and terms-of-office information.
The core SEC filings for a US publicly-traded company are:
NOTE: There can also be amendments made to each filing, so be sure to review any 10-K/A, 10-Q/A, etc.
Companies (and other entities) required to register with the SEC are required to make disclosure filings with the SEC using its Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval – a/k/a "EDGAR" – system. These filings contain a wealth of information about the companies (or individuals) making the filings. For additional information on using EDGAR as a research tool, please see:
Subscription legal research platforms provide more robust searching capabilities, especially for searching across companies:
Most businesses in the US are privately-held (and often family-owned); however, some privately-held companies are quite large. Although it is more difficult to find information about privately-held companies, it is not impossible. Here are some suggestions:
Secretary of State filings generally contain the following information about a business:
Non-profit organizations often seek donations from the public. As a result, the initial filings to request tax-exempt status (IRS Form 1023) and ongoing reporting (IRS Forms 990) required by the IRS are designed to not only ensure that the organization is operating in a manner consistent with its tax-exempt status but to also provide potential donors with the information they need to make informed charitable donation decisions. In this regard, potential donors are akin to potential investors.
States also monitor the activities of charities and other non-profit organizations.
An industry is group of companies that make and/or sell similar products or services. Sometimes you may need to know who the key companies are in an industry, who your potential competitors are, whether the industry is growing or contracting, and if the industry is experiencing any particular trends.
A market is a group of potential customers and is often defined in demographic and/or geographic terms. You may need to know the size of a potential market, if there are any general trends, and/or what the customers' preferences are.
Below are some subscription databases for industry and market research:
Additional information on using Capital IQ (including how to create your personal account) can be found by following this link to another Research Guide I prepared.
Below are some public (often free) sources of data and other information you may find useful:
Also, be sure to check out the HLS Library's webpage for Data Repositories & Portals.
Below are some good resources for company, industry, and/or market related news:
Search these databases to find academic journals, research and analysis of companies, trade publications, industry specific newsletters, and other business or economic publications.
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