Fw: Corporate research on the WWW

H. C. Covington -- I CAN America (icanamerica@email.msn.com)
Sat, 23 Oct 1999 23:03:56 -0400


Philip Mattera <pmattera@igc.org> wrote:
I am the director of a new center designed to provide help on corporate
research to groups engaged in community organizing. The Center for
Comprehensive Corporate Research (CCCR) was established by six community
organizing regional networks with financial support from progressive
foundations.

The six networks are: the Midwest States Center, Northeast Action,
Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, Southern Organizing
Co-Operative, Western Organization of Resource Councils and Western States
Center.

Although CCCR, for now, is limited to working directly with groups affiliated
with these six networks, I would be happy to share tips with others involved in
community organizing. In that spirit, a guide that CCCR has prepared on the
techniques of basic online corporate research can be found on the COMM-ORG
website at http://comm-org.utoledo.edu/resources/cccr.htm.

Philip Mattera Center for Comprehensive Corporate Research 4920 Belt Road
NW Washington, DC 20016 (202) 237-6466 fax (202) 237-6284 pmattera@igc.org
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We have forwarded this as we believe it will be of help to many of you.

Sonny
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H. C.  Covington - I CAN America
Management  &  Resource  Consultants
P.O. Drawer 3444 - Lafayette, LA 70502
icanamerica@msn.com  (318) 781-0216

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HOW TO DO BASIC CORPORATE RESEARCH ON THE INTERNET

When researching a company, one of the first things to find out is whether
it is publicly traded. Public companies (those whose shares are bought and
sold by the public on stock exchanges) must divulge a lot more information
about their activities than private companies (those owned by a small
number of people). See below for details on these reports.

One good place to start in checking whether a company is public or private
is Hoover's Online <www.hoovers.com>. This website offers short profiles of
some 14,000 companies. In addition to indicating whether a firm is publicly
and privately held, Hoovers provides a brief sketch of the company's
operations, the names of its top officers and contact information such as
address, phone number and website.

COMPANY WEBSITES

Whether the firm is public or private, the next place to check is its
website. If you weren't able to find the web address on Hoover's, try a
service called Companies Online <www.companiesonline.com>, which is
provided by Dun & Bradstreet and claims to have links to more than 100,000
public and private companies. If your company still doesn't turn up, try
using one of the many search engines on the web. There is one called
Google's <www.google.com> that specializes in finding official websites of
companies and other institutions. If all else fails, you can always simply
try inserting the company name in the typical web address format; e.g., to
find Exxon, type <www.exxon.com>.

Once you've reached the website, you may find a treasure trove of
information or nothing more than a page with the company's logo and
address. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more information
it puts on its site. Be sure to look for an archive of press releases,
which often include information that did not make it into the press. The
bigger public companies usually put their entire annual report online
(usually in PDF format, which means that you first need to download the
free Adobe Acrobat reader). There may also be links to its other public
filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

SEC DOCUMENTS

For the past five years the SEC has required public companies to provide
their main filings in electronic form, and those documents are made
available for free to the public through a system known as EDGAR
(Electronic Data Gathering and Retrieval).

The main SEC documents to look at are the 10-K (a more detailed version of
the annual report), the 10-Q (quarterly reports), 8-K (reports on special
events such as a merger) and the S-1 or S-2 (a detailed report issued when
a company goes public for the first time or is issuing new stock). Also be
sure to look at the proxy statement (designated on EDGAR as DEF14A), which
provides valuable information such as the names of individuals or
institutions that own 5 percent or more of the company, the names and other
affiliations of the members of the board of directors and the compensation
and stockholdings of the directors and top officers of the company.

EDGAR documents can be obtained for free from the website of the SEC itself
<www.sec.gov/edaux/searches.htm>. There are also several
advertiser-supported websites that provide EDGAR documents in more
convenient formats. See, for example, FreeEDGAR <www.freedgar.com>. EDGAR
Online <www.edgar-online.com> allows for searches across EDGAR documents
for references to an individual. The 10K Wizard <www.tenkwizard.com> allows
for similar searches using any keywords.

Note: some companies whose shares do not trade publicly may still be
required to file reports such as a 10-K with the SEC, because their bonds
trade publicly. So it is always a good idea to search the websites above
for filings by any company you are researching.


STATE CORPORATION FILINGS

Every U.S. corporation, whether public or private, must be registered in
one of the 50 states. Being incorporated requires the firm to provide state
officials with basic information about the corporation. These requirements
vary from state to state, but at a minimum you should find the precise name
of the company and its address. In some states the corporations have to
report the names of their officers and directors.

These filings can usually be obtained from the state's Secretary of State
office. They are also available electronically via expensive database
services such as Lexis-Nexis. More than a dozen states, however, have begun
to make this information available for free on the Internet. For a list of
links to the websites of such states, see the BRB Publications website
<www.brbpub.com/pubrecsites.htm>.

PRESS COVERAGE

You will then want to see what has been written about the company,
especially in the business press and in specialized trade journals. Many of
these articles are available online, but in most cases you need to pay for
the full text, either by purchasing an article on a publication's website
or by subscribing to commercial services such as Lexis-Nexis or Dow Jones
Interactive.

Some publications, however, do allow free access to all or part of their
archives. To find a publication's website, you can use services such as
Editor & Publisher Interactive's Online Media Directory
<emedia1.mediainfo.com/emedia/>. You can also use this to look for a
website of the main newspaper in the company's headquarters city, which is
likely to devote a large amount of coverage to the company.

You can get for free an indication of the full range of articles that have
been written about the company and are available in commercial databases.
There are several websites that allow for free searching and display of
bibliographic data, sometimes including abstracts of the articles. Here are
two of the better services of this kind:

- Northern Light <www.northernlight.com> is a search engine that covers
both the "free" web and proprietary content (called the Special Collection)
it licenses from a wide variety of publications. You can search both types
of content at no cost. For Special Collection material, you can view an
abstract at no cost but must pay to display the entire article.

- Transium <www.transium.com> is a well-organized site that indexes
articles on companies according to a defined set of categories (corporate
strategy, marketing, labor relations, etc.) and provides abstracts as well
as citations.

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

There are various sites on the Internet that can provide information on
election campaign contributions by corporate Political Action Committees or
by corporate executives. For Federal Election Commission data, see the FEC
site itself <www.fec.gov> or, for more detailed information, the sites of
the Center for Responsive Politics <www.crp.org> or FEC Info
<www.tray.com/fecinfo>. An increasing amount of state contribution data is
coming online as well. See the site of the National Institute on Money in
State Politics <www.followthemoney.org>.


ENVIRONMENTAL DATA

The Environmental Protection Agency website has a feature
<www.epa.gov/enviro/html/multisystem_query_java.html> that allows you to
search for compliance information on a company or facility from a variety
of databases at once. The Environmental Defense Fund has created a useful
website <www.scorecard.org> that allows you to view environmental data on
specific geographic areas (such as the area around a facility owned by the
company you are targeting).


JOB SAFETY AND HEALTH DATA

The website of the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration
<www.osha.gov> provides access to a database of inspection records,
including complaints issued.

KEEPING AN EYE ON BUSINESS

Websites that regularly cover corporations in a critical way include
Corporate Watch <www.corpwatch.org> and Multinational Monitor
<www.essential.org/monitor/monitor.html>.

END FORWARD
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H. C. Covington  icanamerica@msn.com

"To be truly radical, one must make hope possible,
rather than despair convincing."