Getting the most out of supplemental company reports

Filings that most publicly traded companies are required to make may help you decide whether or not to buy or sell a company's stock.

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Publicly traded companies are required to file a wealth of important financial information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A good amount of detail about a company can be found in some of its most commonly accessed documents: the annual report, annual Form 10-K, and quarterly Form 10-Q. But there are many other filings that most publicly traded companies are required to make that can help an investor decide whether or not to purchase or sell a company’s stock. Here's a look at some of them.

SEC Form S-1

Form S-1 is the initial registration form for a new security. The form requires companies to provide information on its current business model and competition, planned use of capital proceeds, and any material business dealings between the company and its directors and outside counsel. It also requires companies to provide a brief prospectus of the planned security itself, offering price methodology, and any dilution that will occur to other listed securities.

Prospectus

A company's prospectus provides comprehensive information about the economic status of the company, its operating history, biographies of key executives, and information about the investments available in the company, including stocks and bonds. An updated prospectus is generated every year.

SEC Schedule 14A

A company will distribute this communication—also known as a proxy statement—to its shareholders prior to its annual meeting. A Schedule 14A informs shareholders about the events taking place at the meeting, which may include issues to be voted on at the meeting, compensation of directors and auditors, and information on board of director candidates who are up for vote.

SEC Form 8-K

This document is required to be filed to announce key changes in a company, such as a bankruptcy, the announcement of a new deal, the departure of a key executive, or a notice of delisting. The form must be filed within 4 business days of the occurrence of the event.

SEC Schedule 13D

Schedule 13D is commonly referred to as a "beneficial ownership report." A beneficial owner is any person who directly or indirectly shares voting power or investment power (i.e., the power to sell the security). The form is required to be filed when a person or group acquires more than 5% of any class of a company's shares. This information must be disclosed within 10 days of the purchase.

SEC Schedule TO

This schedule is known as an "issuer tender offer statement." A tender offer is a public offer to buy some or all of the shares in a corporation from the existing shareholders made by either the company itself or by interested outside parties.

Tips for searching EDGAR

The SEC's EDGAR database provides free public access to corporate information.1 Here are some tips to find the reports you're looking for:

  • Finding a company – You can search by company name, stock ticker, or by CIK (central index key assigned by EDGAR); because not all companies can be searched by ticker, the SEC says that a CIK search is the most accurate way to view listings
  • Narrow your search – You can search for a particular form, year, or by companies within a specific industry; however, you cannot compare a company's filings
  • Save your search – To get the most updated information, you can set up an RSS feed and subscribe by company or by form type
  • Glossary of forms – EDGAR keeps a list of forms with a link to each so you can see what type of information is provided
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