This entry is divided into the following sections:
- Some Basics
- Sources for U.S. Company Information
- Sources for Foreign Company Information
I. Some Basics
When someone asks for information about a company, a complete answer will include (1) company profiles, (2) financial data, (3) news articles and (4) any other information particularly relevant to that company. I generally use the following sources, not necessarily in order, to compile a packet with a reasonable amounts of each kind of information.
It's useful to know whether a company is public or private before you start company research. There are many ways to do this. I usually check the D&B Million Dollar Directory, where a triangle before the company's name means it's public.
If you need to look up the meaning of a company's name extension (such as Ltd., B.V. N.V., etc.), visit the excellent page posted by CI: Corporate Information at http://www.corporateinformation.com/Company-Extensions-Security-Identifiers.aspx.
II. Sources for U.S. Company Information
1. Print: Although most business research is done online, following are several useful and popular print sources to check, if you have them readily available. Most of them are available online as well.
Company Directories: The D&B Million Dollar Directory, Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Public and Private Companies and Standard & Poor's Register give you give you the exact company name, contact information, the names of a few top executives, the number of employee, SIC codes. The Register also provides basic biographical information on officers and directors. It's also available on Lexis and Westlaw.
Corporate Family Directories: The Directory of Corporate Affiliations and America's Corporate Families & International Affiliates tell you which tell you which companies own and are owned by other companies. These are both fairly good information sources, though neither directory is 100% reliable. The Directory of Corporate Affiliations is also available on Lexis (BUSREF;DCA) and by subscription (www.corporateaffiliations.com). See also the "SUBSIDIARIES" section below.
Company Profiles: Are published in books such as the Mergent Manuals (formerly "Moody's Manuals"), the International Directory of Company Histories (Gale) and, for insurance comapanies, Best's Insurance Reports (see "Insurance Companies"). These are all also available online.
2. Lexis: Lexis many kinds of company information. You can either search the various Lexis databases separately or the Dossier or Company Analyzer tools.
3. Westlaw: Westlaw's CO-PROFILE database provides a good overview of public and large private companies. Data compiled includes basic company information plus rankings, stock prices, sales, major shareholders, brand information, info on competitors and the industry and some news. Westlaw also offers a broad range of news, analyst reports, SEC filings and other business databases.
4. Online Company Profiles: Several subscription services provide useful company profiles including Hoover's, Capital IQ, Mergent Online and Bloomberg Law.
5. D&B Reports: D&B (formerly "Dun & Bradstreet) Business Information Reports are technically credit reports, but they can provide a wealth of information, including but not limited to detailed financials, payment records, suits/liens/judgments and a information about corporate officers. D&B Business Information Reports are often the best source for information about private companies. In addition, D&B "Family Tree Finder" reports are expensive but are the best source I know for identifying corporate affiliations. Both kinds of reports are available directly from D&B or through Accurint, Lexis and Westlaw. To learn more about Dun & Bradstreet reports, see the separate entry for "D&B Reports."
6. SEC Filings: For public companies selling securites in the U.S., get SEC filings, especially the most recent 10-K (annual report), 10-Q (quarterly report), proxy (annual notice to shareholders) and perhaps 8-Ks (reports of material events). For a more complete discussion of sources, see "SEC Filings."
7. Market Research Reports: Market research reports explain how a company is doing in relation to other companies in its industry. You can but these reports from aggregators such as Alacra or Research and Markets, or see the Market Research entry for more sources.
8. Public Records: A public records search on Accurint, TLO, KnowX, Lexis, Westlaw, etc., allows you to locate and retrieve a broad range of public records for a company. This includes Secretary of State filings, UCC filings, asset filings (for real estate, cars and aircraft), bankruptcies, liens, judgments, etc.
9. Private Publishing: Check out what people are saying about the company in blogs, listservs, social networks and RSS feeds using the sources in the "Search Engines" entry of this Guide.
10. Docket Sheets and Case Filings: Searching docket sheet databases will tell you when the company has sued or been sued. The underlying filings in the case can reveal information that is otherwise unavailable. See the Docket Sheets entry for information about the various government and commercial databases.
11. IP Databases:Intellectual Property Databases posted free on the Web will tell you whether the company owns trademarks, copyrights or patents. See "Trademarks," "Copyrights," "Patents - U.S." and/or "Patents - Foreign."
12. Other Internet Sites: There are oodles of good Internet sites for business research. Since it would take too long to visit or even read about them all, the following is my attempt to put together a short list of particularly useful sites.
(a) The most important Internet site is usually the company's own site. I generally find these by searching Google, Bing and/or other search engines.
(c) The Better Business Bureau posts free "Business Reports" on companies in many metropolitan areas.
(d) Vault interviews employers of large companies to find out how the company is doing and what it's like to work there. Glassdoor posts comments from current and former emaployees.
(e) Morningstar does "Snapshots" of all U.S. public companies, including financials & news.
(f) Business and Company ASAP is a good index of business- and company-related news articles. (Note: The index is available for free for library card holders through some public library Web sites, including
the New York Public Library's.
(g) The Wall Street Transcript posts industry roundtables and interviews with Wall Street analysts, money managers, and top company executives.
(h) If you're not still worn out, Wall Street Research Net provides over 100,000 links to company research Web sites, and CorporateInformation provides many more.
Finally, if you have access to business databases through a school or public library, be sure to check out whatever is available. You're likely to find free access to some of the sources discussed above, and you may find others as well.
Some subjects of related interest:
BANKRUPTCY: If a company has declared bankruptcy, you can find a wealth of information in various Schedules, Statements, Motions and Plans. For an explanation of the key information sources in a bankruptcy case, what they contain and where you can get them, see Cost-Effective Research in U.S. Bankruptcy Law by Robert C. Richards, Jr. See also the "Bankruptcy" and "Docket Sheets" entries.
DEFUNCT COMPANIES: To find defunct companies, see "Finding Businesses."
FAMILY TREES: See "SUBSIDIARIES," below.
OUTSIDE RESEARCHERS: Sometimes you don't have the time or resources to handle a research request. In this case, you might want to hire an outside expert. The researchers at NYPL Premium Services (212-592-7200) have done excellent work for me, using primarily the extensive business resources of the New York Public Library. The researchers at Guideline (formerly Find/SVP) have experience with all kinds of business research, although they don't always work as quickly many attorneys would like.
PERSONAL FAVORITES: My favorite sources of company information are (1) Capital IQ profiles for companies currently in business (2) for historic company information, Mergent (formerly Moody's) profiles for older companies, as well as the Library of Congress Guide to Business History Resources, and (3) (for public companies) the 10-K or annual report (see separate entry for "Annual Reports"), updated with the latest 10-Q, which provides most of the financial and much of the news information the attorneys are usually looking for (especially on new business requests).
PRIVATE COMPANIES: Generally when asked to get information on a private company I (1) get a D&B report (see "Dun and Bradstreet Reports"), (2) search the internet to find the company home page, plus anything else that turns up and (3) search a relevant news database (see "Business Information"). Other possible sources to consult include: (4) Hoovers Online, which cover big private companies; (5) CorporateInformation, which collects links for getting information on private companies; (6) Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies or the Million Dollar Directory; (7(7) Experian's Smart Business Reports; (8) Forbes' list of the 500 largest private companies; (9) PrivCo, which claims to be "the premiere source for business and financial data on major, non-publicly traded corporations"; and (10) the OneSource Business Browser. For more ideas, see How to Find Out Who Owns a Small Business, both by Genie Tyburski.
LOANS AND BONDS: Extel Financial Cards list the companies outstanding loans and bonds. Extel is available on Westlaw (EIFC) and Thomson Research . Also check out the company's debt rating using the sources in the entry for "Bond Ratings."
SUBSIDIARIES: Public companies file a list of their major subsidiaries on Exhibit 21 of Form 10-K. Expanded subsidiary lists are available from Bloomberg Law, Capital IQ, D&B, Hoovers (which has D&B info), ReferenceUSA (if you don't have a subscription, you may have access through a public or academic library web site). Subsidiaries are also listed in the Directory of Corporate Affiliations, which is available in print, through through Lexis (BUSREF;DCA) and through the subscription-based CorporateAffiliations web site. Family trees for insurance companies are filed with the NAIC and available through A.M. Best Reports.
See also "Analyst Reports," "Annual Reports," "Banks," "Bond Prices," "Business Information," "Company Personnel," "Compensation," "Corporate Law," "Debt Ratings," "Doing Business in Foreign countries," "Dun & Bradstreet Reports," "Insurance Companies," "Market Research," "Mergers and Acquisitions," "News - People, Products and Companies," "Nonprofit Organizations," "Product Information," "Retirement Plans" for form 5500s, "Secretary of State Records," "Securities and Exchange Commission" for SEC filings, and "Stock Prices."
Of course, not every company-related question requires you to compile a comprehensive report.
In some cases, you will just want to find the company or its affiliates. To do this, see "Finding Businesses" for U.S. companies. To find foreign companies, see the Foreign Companies section of this entry, below.
In some cases, you will just want find a company's executives, officers, directors, corporate counsel, etc., see "Company Personnel." To find shareholders, see entry for "Shareholders."
To find out where a company is licensed to do business or to get its articles of incorporation and other state filings, see "Secretary of State Records."
For sources listing family-friendly companies, see "Employee Benefits."
III. Sources for Foreign Company Information
Following is a discussion of the general sources I've found useful for researching foreign companies. All country-specific information sources are discussed in the entries for each individual country.
Contact Information: To get an address and telephone number for a foreign company, look in Dun's Principal International Businesses, the International volume of The Directory of Corporate Affiliations (in paper, on Lexis, or any other good foreign business directory you have available. Online, you can search the Kompass.com, the Dun & Bradstreet database for a GlobalSeek report, the Dun's Market Identifiers database or an Internet foreign telephone directory (see "Telephone Numbers"). Westlaw's BUS-TRACK database is used to locate and evaluate companies from many countries. You could also call NYPL Premium Services or another business library and ask them to look in their directories. If you're really stuck, search the company's name in an Internet search engine and/or place a query on the BusLib-L discussion list.
Company Reports: You can get free 1-page reports on foreign companies from the Wright Research Center. Lexis offers a database that allows you to search all of its foreign company report database at once (COMPNY;INTLCO). The Mergent International Manual provides excellent profiles of public companies from almost all foreign countries. Also, many foreign companies have D&B credit reports, which are often the best source of information for private companies (see "Dun & Bradstreet Reports"). SkyMinder provides reports from a wide collection of vendors. Some sources I haven't tried yet: ORBIS, Worldscope, Compustat Global (for financial data), Thomson ONE Banker and Kompass.com.
Country-specific databases are discussed in the entries for individual countries.
For more detailed information on public companies you can get public filings (discussed below) and analyst reports, which consider the company with an eye to its stock value. See separate entry for "Analyst Reports."
Company Filings: Company filings may be posted on the Web sites of the company, the relevant stock exchange and/or the relevant foreign government agency. The subscription-based Pioneer database from Perfect Information provides a database of European and Asian company filings (www.perfectinfo.com). You could also call GSI Document Retrieval (800-669-1154) or another document retrieval service to pull filings from foreign countries. For companies that sell stock in the U.S., try to find the company's annual report (a 20-F if they file with the SEC in the U.S.).
See also the separate entry for "Annual Reports."
News: Lexis and Westlaw offer extensive collections of articles from foreign news sources.
Corporate Affiliations: For the corporate affiliations and locations of foreign companies, check the international volume of the Directory of Corporate Affiliations (available in print, on Lexis (BUSREF;DCA), Westlaw (CORP-AF) and by subscription on CorporateAffiliations.com). Alternatively, the D&B Global Corporate Linkages database is expensive but it gives the best results I've found. Other options: Call NYPL Premium Services, get an international D&B report and/or get an annual report (see "Annual Reports") or other filing from the company's web site or the relevant foreign government agency.
Company Web Sites: Generally you can find a company Web site using Google or another good search engine. Also, many company directories now provide Web addresses.
Offshore Businesses: KYC News (formerly the Offshore Business News and Research Service) sells information on incorporations civil lawsuits, bank & insurance licenses (granted or revoked), companies liquidated & more from the Cayman Islands, Bermuda & the Bahamas (with more hopefully coming soon). See also the entry for "Doing Business in Foreign Countries."
See also "Caribbean," "Doing Business in Foreign Countries" and individual countries by name.
Reference Sources: If you're still lost, or if you want a more systematic approach, you could look in International Information: How to Find It, How to Use It by Ruth Pagel.