How to Get Data from the SEC’s Database

By Matt Krantz

The SEC’s website is a treasure trove for fundamental analysis. You’ll find all the financial forms you need. All the fundamental data are stored in the SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval, or EDGAR, database. You can use EDGAR to look up any public company’s filings and even download the financial statements to your computer so you can do further analysis.

Now that you know how powerful EDGAR is, it’s time to dive in and discover how to get what you need from it. In the example below, you get the 10-Q, 10-K, and proxy statement for General Electric. Just follow these steps:

  1. Log into the SEC’s website.
  2. Click the Company Filings link on the upper right-hand corner of the page.
  3. Enter the name of the company in the Company name blank.
    It’s the first blank in the top page as shown. Type in general electric for this example. If you know the company’s symbol, GE in our example, you can enter that in the Fast Search blank.

    EDGAR
    Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
    EDGAR makes it easy — and free — to grab companies’ financial statements.
  4. Click the Search button.
  5. Choose the company name.
    Because General Electric has separate business units, you’ll see companies like General Electric Capital Assurance Co. But you want the main company, so click on the red numbers to the left of where it says General Electric Co.
  6. Click on the form you want.
    If you want GE’s 10-Q, scroll down until you see the form 10-Q listed and click on the Documents button. If you want the 10-K, choose 10-K, and the proxy is marked as 14-A. You’ll be taken to a page outlining everything contained in that filing.
  7. Click on the red code under the document column in the first line.
    This line should have the form under the Type head, which in this case is the 10-Q. When you’re downloading the 10-K, the line should read 10-K.

When you’re scrolling down through the list of forms, you might notice that some have a blue button that says Interactive Data. These forms are presented in a special format that computers can read, called eXtensive Business Reporting Language or XBRL. Financial statements available in XBRL can be easily processed and downloaded. If you click on the Voluntary Interactive Data button, you’ll be moved to an area of the SEC’s website that lets you view financial reports using XBRL. You can easily skip between the income statement and balance sheet without scrolling, for instance. XBRL also lets you easily download the financial statements to a spreadsheet. Because it’s not required to file using XBRL, only a few companies do. But that’s changing.

Most of the major web portals, such as Yahoo! and MSN provide summaries of companies’ primary financial statements. Most companies, too, put their financial data on their websites. But as a fundamental analyst, it’s important to know how to get the data direct from the source: The SEC’s EDGAR database.