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How to Get Financial Information from the SEC

If you are an online investor, you can use your computers to keep tabs on regulatory filings from companies just as professional investors do. If companies make any significant announcements, they’re required to notify the appropriate government watchdogs, which in most cases is the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Securities and Exchange Commission site is easy to navigate. To find company regulatory filings, follow these steps:

  1. Point your Web browser to Securities and Exchange Commission site.

    The SEC site opens.

  2. Hover your mouse over the Filings tab and choose the Search for Company Filings link.

    The Search the EDGAR Database page appears.

  3. On the Search the Next-Generation EDGAR Database page, click the (very long) Company or Fund Name, Ticker Symbol, CIK (Central Index Key), File Number, State, Country, or SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) link.

    The EDGAR Company Search page appears.

  4. Enter the company’s name or ticker symbol into the appropriate box and then click the Find Companies button.

    You don’t need to do anything with the Ownership Forms radio buttons, so you can leave them set on the default.

    You see a giant list of company filings in the order they were filed.

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It’s an intimidating list that’s hardly user-friendly because the forms are distinguished only by their form, which is regulatory code for the types of information the documents contain. The following list gives you some information on what the various form codes mean.

  • 8-K: A news flash from the company. 8-Ks can contain just about anything that’s considered “material” or important to investors, ranging from the resignation of a top official to news of the win of a new customer.

  • 10-Q: The company’s quarterly report. This form displays all the information a company is required to provide to investors each quarter. Here you can find the key financial statements, such as the income statement and balance sheet, which are covered in more detail in Chapter 12.

  • 10-K: The company’s year-end report. This is one of the most important documents a company creates. It gives you a summary of everything that happened during the year, including comments from management and financial statements that have been checked, or audited, by the company’s accounting firm.

  • DEF 14 and DEF 14A: The company’s proxy statement. Most proxies contain everything that’s up for a vote at the shareholder meeting, ranging from board members up for election, pay packages and other perks, and pending lawsuits. If you’re going to read any document, it’s this one.

Companies don’t make their regulatory filings easy to read. You have to be part lawyer, part investor, and part investment banker to read between the lines in these often-cryptic statements.

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