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A guide to using the Security and Exchange Commission's website for law students and other researchers

Potential Uses Allows Users To . . .

  • Look up information for clients considering investing in a company
  • Research current and past financial affairs of a client company or opposing party
  • Review previous filings to ensure compliance with SEC and related regulations

How to Use

1. The SEC makes all annual reports available on their website. The easiest way to locate a report is to select “Company Filings Search,” under “Filings” on the top menu of the homepage.

2. The next screen gives you several options to search for the report. If you know the name of the company whose report you want to find, type it into the “Company Name” search box. By clicking “More Options,” you can limit your search by file number, location, or standard industry classification. You can also search directly by stock ticker, if you know that information about the company.

EDGAR Search

1. The “EDGAR Search Tools” option, also under “Filings” on the top menu of the homepage, provides you with more ways to look for filings. You can browse the most recent filings, search the full text of the past four years of filings, perform Boolean searches, research mutual fund filings specifically, and look at custom searches (such as confidential treatment orders, effectiveness orders, and others).


1. To illustrate how to find specific information on the report, let’s take a look at Apple Inc.’s filing for 2015. When you find the complete list of filings for Apple, you’ll notice that there are several different kinds of reports, signified by the Filings column. Forms 8-K and 10-K designate an annual filing. Each company is required to file these reports each year.

2. Let’s look at Apple’s 10-K filing from 2015. Select the "Documents" link.  Locate the 10-K Published in October 2015 by scrolling through the listings. Select the link for the FORM 10-K htm file.

3. At the top of the report, you see that it was filed pursuant to section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act. The headings also include the basic information required to identify the company (name, state of incorporation, address of offices, telephone number, type of stock issued, par value, and trading information).Apple’s fiscal year ended on September 26, 2015.

4. The next section, labeled “Item 1. Business,” provides information about the business organization. On Apple’s filing, this includes: the company background; business strategy; business organization; products; markets and distribution; competition; supply of components; research and development; patents, trademarks, copyrights and licenses; foreign and domestic operations and geographic data; business seasonality and product introductions; warranty; backlog; employees; and risk factors.

5. Let’s take a look at the information provided about employees. Apple states that “[a]s of September 26, 2015, the Company had approximately 110,000 full-time equivalent employees.”

6. The next several items include the information that most investors are really interested in: legal proceedings; market; stock details, including past performance; and financial data. 

Updating is updated in real-time as companies file documents. Since filings are done electronically, there is no delay between submission by the company and availability of the digital copy online.