The Digital Research Initiative
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Information about Companies

For more on how to find information about businesses and corporations, go to:
Business Resources 

For more on corporate bankruptcy filings, including the different classes and how the federal judiciary adjudicates, go to:

For other online EIS class handouts, click:
Class Handout on Gathering Information in Libraries
Class Handout on Gathering Government Information

Public Companies versus Private Companies

Organization of Business Firms

Not-For-Profit Corporations

A non-profit organization is usually created to serve an important public need. Two examples of non-profit organizations are Rape Crisis centers and Famine Relief funds. Because such organizations are exempted from taxes, the government and the public keep a careful watch on their activities. These corporations must fill out the Internal Revenue Service's Form 990, which lists their revenues and expenditures. This document is available for public scrutiny.

Where to find information on corporations

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)

The largest source of information about publicly-held firms is the Securities Exchange Commission, which was founded in 1934 to ensure "the fullest possible disclosure to the investing public." It is located in Washington, DC and has nine regional locations. SEC documents are also available at government depository libraries and libraries that subscribe to Q-Data or Disclosure services, which provide microfiche or electronic copies of SEC information. To find out which companies are required to report to the SEC, you can refer to the Directory of Companies Required to File Annual Reports with the Securities Exchange Commission, which is available at many library reference departments and government depositories.

Here is a list of the types of documents publicly-held firms must file with the SEC:

  1. Registration Application or Statement: This is the first document companies must file when they want to begin to sell stock to the public. This document usually contains director and financial information.

  2. The 10K: This is a company's annual report to the SEC, and it contains a wealth of information about the firm. The 10K includes a complete financial statement, a summary of all operations that year, a list of the most prominent stockholders and shares they own, salaries and benefits of the directors and major officers, the results or current situations of any legal proceedings the firm is involved in, and forecasts about any changes in future operations.

  3. The 10Q: This is a company's quarterly report to the SEC. The 10Q is a less formal, less extensive update to the 10K. It updates any financial and legal issues that the company is facing, as well as report on any voting done by the stockholders since the last report.

  4. The 8K: This report must be filed with the SEC within 15 days of a significant change in the company's operations, such as changes in ownership, pending bankruptcy, or lawsuits.

  5. The 14D1 and the 13D: These forms are takeover alerts. When an offer to purchase a firm is made, a 14D1 must be filed, and when an individual tries to buy more than 5 percent of a company's stock, a 13D must be filed. These forms can contain information about the potential purchasers, the financing of the purchase, and the proposed price of the purchase.

  6. The 6K: This is the report that foreign firms which sell stock in the US must file with the SEC. It is much like the 10K.

  7. The prospectus: This is a report which companies must file when they want to begin to sell new securities on the market. This firm could be becoming publicly-held for the first time or have been publicly-held for a while. The prospectus will contain information that will help investors decide the value of the new opportunity.

  8. The proxy: This is a document which allows a director to vote for an individual stockholder or group of stockholders at the company's annual meeting.

Other Government Agencies that Deal With Business Firms

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC): formed in 1914 to be a business watchdog, the FTC has the goals of promoting fair competition, preventing false advertising, preventing deceptive business practices, regulating certain forms of packaging and labeling, and protecting consumers from circulation of obsolete and inaccurate credit reports. FTC activity can be researched through the Federal Register Index, the federal Monthly Catalog, through databases like LegalTrac and ABI-Inform, and through business periodicals

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): This agency focuses on worker health and safety and workplace conditions. OSHA's records are available on both the federal and state level.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The most important function the IRS can do for journalists is to help provide information on non-profit organizations. The non-profit tax form is the 990, which will reveal all revenue sources of the organization, employee wages and benefits, and total expenditures.

Department of Labor: This agency is involved with unions, management, collective bargaining, mediation, and pension plans. Inside this agency is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides a lot of data on employment, prices, productivity, and other issues.

The Antitrust Division of Justice:
This agency tracks monopolistic practices in firms, which are illegal.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): This agency is charged with the responsibility of preventing dangerous food and drug products from entering the market. It is often in the middle of a controversy, and the FDA's records can be found in the Federal Register Index and the federal Monthly Catalog.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA is responsible for regulating the toxic discharges companies release into our environment. It maintains a "Toxic Chemical Release Inventory" for each firm that has released toxins into the environment.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): This commission investigates hiring and pay discrimination, and publishes data regularly on the employment status of women and minorities.

Other Ways to Find Information on Companies


    go to: Information about Companies | Business Resources | Bankruptcy

    This site was created for students of the UNC School of Journalism & Mass Communication's JOMC 050 Class. For more information, please contact: