From Due Diligence to Corporate Spy 1
Share this

A presentation by Carole Levitt, J.D., M.L.S. at Glasser Legal Works, October 24, 2000

Topics in this article

Company Web Sites

Locating Domain Names (URLs)

Company Directories

Private Companies

Foreign Companies

Credit Ratings

Stock Quotes

SEC Filings

State Corp. Records

County Ficticious Bus. Names

News About Companies

News Meta-Sites

General & Bus. News

Legal News

Discussion Groups & NewsGroups

Gov. Agencies Regulating Companies

Pictures

Opinions, Briefs, Complaints and Settlements

Conclusion

URLs in this article

From Due Diligence to Corporate Spy

a presentation by

Carole Levitt, J.D., M.L.S.

at Glasser Legal Works, October 24, 2000

Say you're working on a big case, and you need as much information on the opposing company as possible. Or perhaps you're pitching a potential new client, and want to know everything about their business for your presentation. Maybe your client's competition is developing a new product or you want to read all the news stories about some development that will affect your business or your clients'. Do you know how to get that information quickly? And for free?

There was a time not so long ago when a law firm would have to use an "information specialist" to find this information, or in extreme cases, hire a "corporate spy" to dig up the most sensitive competitive business information. But today, with so much business, legal and news information available on the Internet, getting this kind of "business intelligence" is infinitely easier. If you know where to look, you too can be a corporate 007.

To locate company background and financial information via the Internet follow these steps:

  • Review the company's own web site
  • Search company directories
  • If public, review SEC filings
  • Review state corporate records
  • Review county fictitious business name records
  • Obtain news about the company and its executives
  • Locate the federal or state agency regulating the company and review records
  • Locate opinions, briefs, complaints and settlements concerning the company

Company Web Sites

Locating a company's web site should be the first step you take to learn information about the company. By using a company's own site, you'll be able to obtain information that you normally would have to spend hours surfing the net for. Just like most people, companies like to talk about themselves. It's amazing how much a company will tell you about themselves and their products (sometimes, right down to the technical specifications) on their own web sites. Company sites may provide their SEC filings, press releases, background information about company executives, other financial information (stock quotes and history) and even some information not available anywhere else on the net (such as job openings and salaries). After discovering what the company has to say about itself, you can then search the Web for outside “objective” information about the company in order to compare the data and draw your own conclusions.

Locating Domain Names (URLs)

If you do not know the company’s URL (web site address) and have not been able to guess it (usually it is the company’s name or acronym), there are many ways to find it. You can search domain registries or U.S. or international business directory’s web sites (that base their information on the registries).

Search Network Solutions at http://www.networksolutions.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois to locate a company’s URL by typing in the company name. Besides learning its URL, you will also obtain contact and registrant information, with addresses and phone numbers. Using Dun and Bradstreet’s Companies Online business directory at http://www.companiesonline.com, you can search by company name (or by ticker symbol, SIC code, or City by using the "Advanced Search" feature) to locate the URL. You will also be able to obtain some basic company information (address, phone number, CEO’s name, annual sales, SIC code and other registered company names) for 900,000 public and private companies, and for a fee order a Dun & Bradstreet report for more detailed information and a credit report.

Company Directories

Company directory sites compile background information (for public and private companies) and provide links to SEC filings, news articles, stock quotes, research reports and financials. Some of the company directory sites are free and others are either subscription based or pay-as-you-go (use your charge card on the Internet). However, even the fee-based sites provide a great deal of free information, such as Hoovers at http://www.hoovers.com, where you will find thousands of company capsules on both public and private companies. For more detailed information such as analyst reports, subscribe to Hoovers for $99.00 per year. Hoovers also sponsors IPO Central at http://www.hoovers.com/ipo/0,1334,17,00.html.

More than a directory, CompanySleuth at http://www.companysleuth.com/ is an aggregator of information about U.S. public companies. Besides linking to each company's website, the Company Sleuth site monitors, collects and charts company information into twenty-seven categories (called "reports") and then links to the primary source. Some of the "reports" consist of recent news, pending litigation, recent patent or trademark registrations, rumors, insider stock trading, and SEC filings. For detailed instructions on how to use this timesaving site see http://www.netforlawyers.com/ and click on "Digging for Clues About Public Companies". CompanySleuth can also be used to track up to ten companies.

CorpTech at http://www.corptech.com/ profiles 50,000 high-tech companies, 80% of which are private. Two highlights of this site are the ability to search by executive name (to learn their position in the company) or by product name to find companies that manufacture a specific product. You can register as a free member to access basic information and links to news about the company, but you must pay for more detailed information.

Private Companies

While some of the above directories do provide information about private companies, CorporateInformation at http://www.corporateinformation.com/ is a useful site for private (and public) company information. Search by company name using the entire name or just a partial name. This site purports to contain 20,000 company profiles, 15,000 research reports from public companies worldwide and links to a search engine of 350,000 public and private company profiles found at other sites. My search of E! Entertainment Television brought me to Vault.com which not only provided a company profile but a link to their unofficial company message board where you can have more fun than…

Foreign Companies

For detailed analysis on over 20,000 American and foreign companies (in English), see Wright Research Center Company Reports at http://profiles.wisi.com (merged with CorporateInformation in January 2000).Search by company name or ticker symbol.

Quicken.ca at http://www.quicken.ca/ provides information on Canadian stock quotes.

Japan Financial at http://www.japanfinancials.com/ contains translations and originals of official financial statements of all firms on the Tokyo stock exchange and major OTC firms.

Credit Ratings

Moody’s Investor Services at http://www.moodys.com/cust/default.asp provides credit rating and research and financial information about companies. Standard & Poor’s, at http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/index.htm, also provides some of this information, but its site seems to be more of an advertisement for its fee based services.

Stock Quotes

Market Guide at http://marketguide.com/MGI/ offers company reports, real time stock quotes (but you must register and can only view 50 per day), news and price charts. Also see ThomsonRTQ’s site for real time stock quotes at http://www.thomsoninvest.net.

Yahoo Finance at http://quote.yahoo.com/ began offering real time quotes in September 2000. At http://chart.yahoo.com/d you can find historical U.S. stock quotes (back to 1970), quotes from Canadian and other foreign exchanges, mutual and money market funds, corporate bonds and precious metals. Yahoo also has a multitude of financial and general company information in a very user-friendly format.

SEC Filings

While the SEC's EDGAR site at http://www.sec.gov/edaux/searches.htm provides free access to all public companies' filings, it is has some shortcomings: access to filings is delayed by a day, there is no full text searching (only headers), annual reports are not available (see http://www.reportgallery.com/ for annual reports) and the documents may not be formatted well.

Instead of the EDGAR site, when I need a copy of a filing that was filed five minutes ago, I use, 10KWizard at http://www.tenkwizard.com/. Don't be mislead by its name. It delivers much more than just 10K’s. It provides access to all forms filed with the SEC. And, add to this the ability to search by ticker symbol, company name, SIC code, type of form and even boolean full-text searching. The search can also be limited by date. The 10KWizard does require registration (free).

Annual reports for 2,200 companies (including most Fortune 500 companies) are available free at Report Gallery http://www.reportgallery.com/ .

State Corporate Records

Some states have placed corporate records on the Internet. Delaware is not among them. In California corporate, limited partnership and limited liability company records appeared on the web in December of 1999 at http://204.147.113.12/list.html. They are updated weekly, are searchable by partial names and include the agent for service of process.

From state to state, the level of corporate information varies from as much as reproductions of the actual documents filed with the Secretary of State (Florida), to as little as a mere list of company names incorporated in the state. For a comprehensive list of all states that do provide their records online, see the Internet Prospector’s Locating U.S. Corporation Records Online site at http://www.internet-prospector.org.

County Fictitious Business Names

In some counties, such as Orange County in California, you can conduct your own Fictitious Business Names (FBN) searching via the Web, but for a small price. Use GovernLink, a private company that charges $4.00 for one hour of continuous searching. The site is at http://www.oc.ca.gov/recorder/govlink.htm.

On the other hand, in Los Angeles County, the FBN search is free via the web, but you can only discover if the FBN is being used and its file number (no ownership information is provided here). See http://regrec.co.la.ca.us/fbn/FBN/.

News About Companies

Local business journals, general and legal newspapers and wires are an excellent source of information regarding companies and executives.

 

News Meta-Sites

There are several meta-sites that link to general and business news and wires web sites. Major market newspapers, television and magazine news links can be found right here on Internet For Lawyers' News pages at http://www.netforlawyers.com/news.htm. Search the Drudge Report at http://www.drudgereport.com; which links to major national and international newspapers and wires, such as Reuters and AP newswires (that you can search together), wires from China and Japan, Bloomberg and the National Enquirer. For other comprehensive lists and links to newspapers, see Editor and Publisher’s site at http://www.mediainfo.com (click on "Media Links" for lists of newspapers and other media outlets by region or name) or CEO Express at http://www.ceoexpress.com (lists news sources by subjects). Northern Light at http://www.northernlight.com provides free real-time news (limited to the past two hours, today or past 2 weeks) from 33 newswires.

General and Business News

The New York Times’ site is http://www.nyt.com. The Wall Street Journal’s is http://www.wsj.com ($29/year for print subscribers and $59/year for online only) and the Los Angeles Time, with archives back to 1990 and a $2.00 charge for articles older than 14 days,is at http://latimes.com.Registration is required to access even the free (last 14 days) part of the archives.

For articles about private and public companies culled from 6,000 journals, go to the Dow Jones Publications Library at http://www.hoovers.com by clicking on "News Center" and then "News Archives Dow Jones". For free current local business news and archives back to 1996 from 41 local business journals (Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose are the only California cities available here) check out http://www.bizjournals.com/.

The Los Angeles Business Journal (LABJ) is found at http://www.labusinessjournal.com. You can search the archives for free, but to view archive articles online the cost is $3.00 each (an $89.95 subscription entitles subscribers to purchase an annual unlimited archive subscription for $50.00/year). From the LABJ site, you can link to the Orange County, San Diego or San Fernando Valley Business Journals.

Legal News

For links to legal newspapers, Law.com, provides a search engine to the archives of American Lawyer Media’ 22 legal newspapers (including the American Lawyer, National Law Journal and the New York Law Journal) and also provides current legal news for all 50 states at http://www.law.com/.

Use FindLaw to search legal news (current or topically arranged archives) at http://legalnews.findlaw.com/.

See Callaw at http://www.callaw.com for California legal news (only part of this site is free).

Hieros Gamos at http://www.hg.org/newschart.html provides hourly legal news updates in 60 practice areas.

Bookmark Internet For Lawyers' Legal News page at http://www.netforlawyers.com/ifllegalnews.htm for links to all of these sources and more.

Discussion Groups or NewsGroups

To find off the beaten track information about a company or executive, try "newsgroups" such as Deja.com’s Usenet Discussion Service at http://www.deja.com or Forum One (indexing 310,000 web forums or discussion groups) at http://www.forumone.com/ .

Pictures

Need a picture to go along with the news article? See Ditto.com with links to 5 million images at http://www.ditto.com.

Government Agencies Regulating Companies

Many government agencies provide information about companies that they regulate, including any action taken against them. If you are researching a merger in the telecommunications industry, for example, check the Federal Communications Commission web site. Locate the URLs for agencies by using Louisiana State University’s U.S. Federal Government Agencies Directory site, where you can search by keyword if you do not know the agency’s exact name. It can be found at http://origin.lib.lsu.edu/gov/fedgov.html.

Opinions, Briefs, Complaints and Settlements

Besides searching commercial databases for lawsuit information about a company that you are researching, see the Delaware Corporate Clearinghouse at http://corporate-law.widener.edu/case.htm, which posts selected opinions, briefs, complaints, settlements, motions and other documents filed in business law matters in the Delaware Court of Chancery (but only as far back as March 1999).

Conclusion

Now you're armed with many of the tools of a good corporate spy and it didn’t cost you a cent. The resources discussed in this article are just a small part of what you will learn if you attend one of Internet For Lawyers' in-house or off-site training seminars or purchase our reference manuals.

Good luck and happy sleuthing! A complete list of links to sites mentioned in this article can be found at http://www.netforlawyers.com/articles_007_links.htm.

The resources discussed in this article are just a small part of what you will learn if you attend one of Internet For Lawyers' in-house or off-site training seminars or purchase our reference manuals. Contact us for more information regarding our one-on-one or group seminars, reference manuals, or MCLE credit for California Attorneys*.

* Internet For Lawyers is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider.

URLs in this article

Locating Domain Names (URLs)

Company Directories

Private Companies

Foreign Companies

Credit Ratings

Stock Quotes

SEC Filings

State Corporate Records

County Fictitious Business Names

News About Companies

News Meta-Sites

General and Business News

Legal News

Mailing List News

Pictures

Government Agencies Regulating Companies

Opinions, Briefs, Complaints and Settlements

Internet For Lawyers Information

In-house or off-site training seminars - http://www.netforlawyers.com/training.htm

Reference Manuals - http://www.netforlawyers.com/products.htm

Upcoming seminars & events - http://www.netforlawyers.com/seminars-events.htm

Top | Next

Copyright: Internet For Lawers logo, site design and all copy are © 1999-2022 Internet For Lawyers, Inc.

Any other copywritten material or brands contained herein are the properties of their respective owners.