FINDING AND SEARCHING SEC FILINGS
The SEC’s Edgar database is free and relatively simple. Start with the company search page to find a particular company’s filings, by name or ticker symbol. Use the full text-search page to search across companies for individual words, or for phrases (use quote marks). The advanced version of the full-text search page lets you filter by company name, date, type of form and other details. Other search options are listed here.
SEC Info is a free service provided by Fran Finnegan & Co. It does many of the things that the paid services above will do, although the site’s interface can be less intuitive.A variety of paid services makes it easier to zero in on specific filings or find specific words and phrases across filings from multiple companies. All have different features, and some have given news organizations discounted access in the past, for publicity’s sake. Among the companies offering SEC filing services are Morningstar Document Research, AlphaSense and DisclosureNet.
One new service for keeping up with filings is SEC Live, which is still in beta. It offers some different approaches to sorting and viewing filings from specific companies. Perhaps most useful for journalists, it allows users to highlight and annotate filings — and share those highlights and annotations with custom links that can take readers directly to specific parts of a filing.
USEFUL GUIDES AND REFERENCES
- The SEC provides a very brief explanation of the 10-Q and how to find it on the agency’s website. For an overview on how to use Edgar, see Investor.gov, from the agency’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, which also offers a rundown of the sections of the 10-K (many of which also appear in the 10-Q).
- A number of websites offer tutorials or references on accounting and reading financial statements. Some of the more accessible ones include AccountingCoach, which has multi-part explainers on the income statement, balance sheet, and more, as well as an accounting dictionary.
- In addition to its extensive financial glossary, Investopedia offers a guide to reading an earnings report, as well as an introduction to reading financial statements.
- Journalist’s Resource offers a thumbnail sketch of what to look for in various SEC filings.
- The SEC also offers an overview of the securities laws governing the 10-Q and other SEC filings.
EXPERTS AND ORGANIZATIONS
Many major business law firms have securities-law experts who help companies draft their filings, and who can answer questions about them. Similarly, business and law schools at major universities generally have at least one professor who studies these issues.
- The SEC’s public affairs office (202-551-4120) can help put you in touch with people able to answer technical questions about Edgar, filings and filing requirements. They tend to shy away from company-specific questions and some controversial issues.
- Footnoted founder Michelle Leder literally wrote the book on SEC disclosure analysis.
- The CFA Institute, a trade association for investment professionals holding the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, offers a variety of media resources, including a roster of experts. It also offers an audio webcast called How to Read a 10-Q Like an Investment Professional.
- Michelle Leder, who founded the blog at footnoted.com (which I contribute to), picks apart SEC filings, including 10-Qs. Her Twitter account, @footnoted, is worth following, and she can often help reporters put SEC filings in context (she’s a good quote, too); contact her here. Plus, even 10 years after it came out, her book, “Financial Fine Print,” is still an excellent self-guided course in reading SEC filings, although a number of disclosure rules have changed since publication.
- Leder has also done training for the Reynolds Center, which is archived here: SEC Filings Master Class and Dig Deeper: Ratios and Red Flags in Financial Statements. She has another free, three-hour webinar — SEC Filings Master Class — coming up Oct. 8-10, 2013.
- Many also recommend the book, “Understanding Financial Statements: A Journalist’s Guide,” by Jay Taparia.
OR ASK ME: Finally, if you get stuck, confused or just have questions that aren’t addressed here, I’m happy to help. Give me a shout (and tell me your deadline!) through my website’s contact page, or on Twitter at @theofrancis.