EDGAR: The SEC’s Financial Data Goldmine

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] What is the best way to find detailed financial data on a particular company? You can use a subscription database, such as Factiva, to view a “snapshot” of the current financial status of a company, or you can go directly to the source and view the actual documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  Patent analysts will often need background information on the financial activity of a target company or multiple companies within a particular sector, and EDGAR is an excellent resource for quickly locating financial documents filed directly by both US and non-US companies.

EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) is a free database created by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and “all companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file registration statements, periodic reports, and other forms electronically through EDGAR” (according to the EDGAR homepage). The SEC website describes how the main purpose of EDGAR is to “increase the efficiency and fairness of the securities market for the benefit of investors, corporations, and the economy by accelerating the receipt, acceptance, dissemination, and analysis of time-sensitive corporate information filed with the agency.”

After the jump, learn what types of financial documents are available on EDGAR, and we’ll also do a sample search for financial documents related to a popular company!

According to “Important Information about EDGAR” on the SEC website, companies were phased into EDGAR filing during a three-year period that ended May 6, 1996, and after that date “all public domestic companies were required to make their filings on EDGAR, except for filings made in paper because of a hardship exemption.” The SEC website also states that “third-party filings with respect to these companies, such as tender offers and Schedules 13D, are also filed on EDGAR.” The SEC website lists the following types of documents that may not be available on EDGAR:

  • Documents not yet permitted to be filed electronically
  • Documents that may be filed on EDGAR voluntarily:
    • Form 144 (notice of proposed sale of securities).
    • Forms 3, 4, and 5 (security ownership and transaction reports filed by corporate insiders) filed before June 30, 2003 (forms filed on or after this date are not optional).
    • Filings by foreign companies and foreign governments before November 4, 2002 (after this date, these filing must be made on EDGAR).
    • Actual annual report to shareholders (except in the case of investment companies).

According to the SEC website, only plain text or HTML documents submitted to EDGAR are official filings, and PDF documents are unofficial copies of filings. Additionally, “Some filers are required to submit documents in Interactive Data format using the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), which accompany certain official filing,” and “The SEC has provided a software application called a Viewer that automatically renders the XBRL into a human-readable format when the Interactive Data documents are accessed on the EDGAR public website.”

Search Options on EDGAR

The following options are available for searching SEC filings on EDGAR:

  • Company or fund name, ticker symbol, CIK (Central Index Key), file number, state, country, or SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) – Enter company name, ticker symbol, file number, and SIC into text fields. Select state and country from drop-down menu.
  • Most recent filings – A list if the latest filings received, with the option to limit the list by company, CIK, form type, or ownership.
  • Full text (past four years) – A simple text field where the user can enter full-text search queries (Boolean operators and wildcard operators are accepted in the search form. See the FAQ section on full-text searching for more information).
  • Boolean and advanced searching, including addresses – Enter a search string (see the Search Overview page for available operators, order of evaluation, and phrase searching information), and select a start and end year from drop-down menus.
  • Key mutual fund disclosures – Enter a 5-20 character search for the mutual fund company’s name.
  • Mutual fund voting records – Enter a 5-20 character search for the mutual fund company’s name.
  • Mutual fund name, ticker, or SEC key (since Feb. 2006) – Search for current information on mutual funds by entering mutual fund name, ticker number, CIK, Series or Class/Contract Name ID into text fields within the search form.
  • Variable insurance products (since Feb. 2006) – Search by name of insurance company/underlying mutual fund/contract or CIK/Series/Class/Contract Name ID.
  • Custom searches:
    • Confidential treatment orders – Instructions on searching for the CT ORDER form type through a variety of search options (latest filings, company search, full-text search, historical archives search, or EDGAR Indexes).
    • Effectiveness notices – Securities Act registration statements and post-effective amendments declared effective on the most recently completed business day.
    • SEC Central Index Key (CIK) – Enter a company, fund, or individual name to look up their Central Index Key (CIK), an identification used “on the SEC’s computer systems to identify corporations and individual people who have filed disclosure with the SEC.”
    • Daily filings – Search for form types filed in the last five business days.

Additional resources available on the SEC website regarding the use EDGAR include:

A Sample Search

Let’s do a quick search for financial documents recently filed by Apple Inc.  I’ll use the first search form mentioned above (“Company or fund name, ticker symbol, CIK, file number, state, country, or SIC”) to search by company name for “Apple”:

Enter the company name (in this case, “Apple”) into the correct field in the search form.

Under the results list, select the company name that appears most relevant (in this case, “Apple Inc”):

Select the relevant company name from the search results.

From the list of recently filed documents related to that specific company, select a document of interest:

Choose from a list of documents filed by a specific company.

The filing record will include the option to view the original filing in HTML Format:

View the original filing in HTML format.

The official document in HTML format.

You can also view any interactive data sets associated with the filing by selecting the “Interactive Data” option at the top of the filing detail record:

Viewing an interactive data set.


EDGAR is a vast database of financial records filed by US and non-US companies with the SEC.  The SEC website provides a variety of fielded search options and straight-forward user guides on searching EDGAR, so the tool can be easily utilized by novice searchers.  Patent researchers may not utilize this database during prior art searches, but patent analysts will find this tool to be a useful resource for locating detailed background financial information on a target company.  EDGAR is a also a great source of merger and acquisition information, which can be used to supplement company hierarchies like 1790 Analytics when detailing and building patent collections for analysis.

Do you know of other free tools for locating financial background information on a company?  Let us know in the comments!

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This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.


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