Reading Company Public Filings

Following the 1929 US stock market crash and the loss of public trust, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was created through the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The SEC is still one of the primary securities regulators in the US today, promoting stability and requiring companies to disclose information to the public in order to protect investors.

Before buying stocks you should conduct research to ensure you understand the company you are considering purchasing. How can you determine if the company you are considering buying has strong fundamentals that you feel will provide you with above average returns over the long term? Once you have identified the companies you want to research in more detail , you should first look at their public filings (publicly traded companies are required by law to file them with the SEC). Such public filings are also commonly referred to as SEC filings or Edgar filings.

These public reports are readily available to investors on the SEC website (www.sec.gov) under the section entitled “Filings” and then under “Company Filings Search”. Enter the company name or stock ticker symbol in search box. You will notice that several reports will be displayed but the one that you should start off with is the 10­K report which is a comprehensive audited annual report of the company. The 10­K report will provide you with a wealth of information on the company including business risks, strategies, management’s discussion of the yearly performance, comparisons with previous years’ performance and related company information.

Another useful filing is the 10­Q report which provides less information than the 10­K since it is published on a quarterly basis. It is worth noting that the 10­Q is not audited unlike the 10­K report which contains audited financial statements.

If you decide to delve even deeper you will see a number of other reports for most companies including the DEF 14A report which is the annual proxy statement. This report provides information including management and board of director compensation and voting procedures. Several other reports are available on the SEC website but the three listed above are a good start for your research.

The more information you have the more informed you will be as an investor so be sure to visit the SEC website on a regular basis to keep yourself updated with the public filings of the companies you are currently invested in or plan to invest in in the future.

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