Feb. 5, 2014 – Researching a company using the Internet has been enhanced by new sites and the advent of social media in the past decade. Still, Carol Bannen’s article on company research from the September 2003 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer, “Technology: Mining for Company Nuggets,” stands the test of time and offers several excellent pointers and resources. This article provides a list of sites that are freely accessible and do not require registration unless otherwise noted.
General and Financial Information
A public company usually posts its annual report and financial information on its web site; otherwise, this information can be retrieved at the Securities Exchange Commission site. The site for public filings and security information for companies in Canada is SEDAR.
For stocks and financial data, several sites provide not only the statistics but also rankings compared to other companies; see Bloomberg, OTCMarkets, and Google Finance.
Diane Duffey is the Director of Research Services at Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. and works in the firm’s Milwaukee office. She has frequently presented on topics related to Internet research for legal professionals, and has authored articles for The Verdict, Wisconsin Law Journal, and Wisconsin Lawyer. She earned her B.A. degree from Marquette University and her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from UW-Milwaukee. She is an active member and past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.
Forbes.com features a wealth of data on larger companies as well, and rankings, such as the Forbes Powerful Brands List.
Some companies, and even their officers, may have entries in Wikipedia. These entries often include links to news stories containing more authoritative information.
Basic directory information can be retrieved using Manta or Hoovers. Manta usually states whether a location is the headquarters, and Hoovers offers basic company information and annual sales data, and may include Forbes rankings and top three competitors, for free.
The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions site shows status, principal office, and registered agent for Wisconsin companies. Registered Agent Info is a portal for other states’ secretary of state/corporate lookup sites. Coverage, scope, and access vary from state to state, and a few sites are fee based.
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook offer the respective options of “following” or “liking” a company. Both sites require free registration and are heavily used by companies for promotion. Checking the number of “likes” on Facebook can give you an idea of how popular a company is. On Twitter you can use the @ sign to seek out a company’s “tweets.”
Using LinkedIn, a professional networking site, you can retrieve a company’s main page for general information; you may also be able find of its employees. Joining LinkedIn, which requires a free registration, leverages your access greatly. However, once you are signed in, you may not be entirely incognito: company administrators and individuals with premium accounts can often see who has been looking at their profile.
Klout gives individuals and businesses a number from 1-100 for their “social media presence score,” based on recent social network activity (requires a free registration). Social Mention tracks several social media outlets; a search on a company name will not only list recent posts, but give a ranking of sentiment (positive, etc.), reach, strength and passion.
Yelp is well known for offering consumers the ability to review restaurants and other services. The less famous Glass Door is a Yelp-like site for reviews of companies by employees, etc.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Data on Demand” section has databases for political contributions, companies that have been offered financial assistance from Wisconsin government programs, and salary information for Wisconsin corporations. For corporate salaries in other states, try AFL-CIO Corporate Watch.
Check news sources such as the Business Journal, for general information about a company, its history, relationships, subsidiaries, whether it still owns a certain brand, etc.
An “establishment search” at Occupational Health and Safety Administration will show whether a company has had OSHA violations. Check Recalls.gov for an entity’s troublesome products. Use FreeERISA with a free registration to find a company’s filings for employee benefits.
For data on nonprofits, consult Guidestar or the Foundation Center Foundation Finder.
If you think your library card is obsolete with the World Wide Web in place, think again. Many libraries in Wisconsin offer access to their databases via the Web to users who can use their library card barcode to log on. Explore the statewide Badgerlink site as well as your local library’s resources. Good luck in your research.