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Fact Finding: Locating & Researching Persons, Companies, and Property: Researching Companies & Organizations

This guide offers paid and free resources for locating contact information, financials, and other information about individuals and business entities.

About Company Research

The amount of information available for a particular company depends on a number of factors. Information is more widely available for public companies (those traded on a stock exchange) as these business entities must file detailed reports about their operations to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Generally, the larger the company then the more information will be available for it including financial statements, employment and market share numbers and other more specialized information. Locating information about privately held companies can be much more difficult, especially for very small companies or closely held business entities that may be operated by a sole proprietor or a small number of owners/employees. For some of the smallest companies, you may not be able to locate much more than directory/contact information and the name and contact information for the owner or principal officer. 

Information about public companies is much more likely to be available from free web resources while private company information (other than basic directory information from the Secretary of State) will usually be found only in proprietary paid databases. The resources on this page are broken down by type of information sought and notes are made on those resources that offer at least some coverage of privately held businesses. 

Company Profiles

Contact/Directory Information

The "Company Profile" resources listed above will also provide you with contact/directory information. 

Corporate Structure & Subsidiaries

The Company Profile databases listed above will also offer information about the company hierarchy and subsidiaries as will the following resources:

Bylaws, Certificates of Formation, Charters, Shareholder Reports & Resolutions

Bylaws are the operating and governing procedures for a corporation or other organization. The Articles of Incorporation are the official document laying out the company's creation whereas the bylaws set forth the day-to-day operating procedures and policies for the business including describing the number of and powers granted to board members, qualifications of officers, shareholder meeting and notification procedures and stock and dividend information. Companies are typically NOT required to file their bylaws with the Secretary of State so they can be harder to come by. Some companies post them to their own websites or you can use the resources below to locate them. Public companies often include them in their 10K filings--see the Bylaws filed with the SEC link below for more information. 

Articles of Incorporation

Filed with state when establishing corporation – are a matter of public record

Other names, depending on jurisdiction – a few examples:

Articles of Organization (Massachusetts)

Certificate of Existence (Georgia)

Certificate of Formation (Alabama)

Certificate of Incorporation (Connecticut)

Certificate of Incorporation for Domestic Profit Corporations (New York)

Profit Corporation Articles of Incorporation (Florida)

• See this list for other jurisdictions' naming conventions.

Requirements for filing and what is to be included varies by state but generally they contain:

+ Name and address of company

+ Number of authorized stock shares and their par value (minimum stated value, not its actual/fair market value - typically noted as 0.01 or $1 or no par value.

+ Name and contact info for the in-state registered agent (receives legal service, tax and other important documents)

+ Names and addresses of the incorporators (person preparing/filing the Articles with the state)

+ Description of business purpose (what incorporated to do or to provide). Can be general or specific. Some states allow a general "all lawful business" explanation while others require more detail about the products or services to be provided.

Are updated over time – updates are called Amendments or Restatements and used to increase the number of shares the company can issue, change its governance structure, or change other information from its articles


What are Bylaws?

Formal set of legal guidelines that govern operation of your entity, establish the board of directors, create and voting and decision-making protocols for the organization and other rules necessary for the day-to-day running of the business

Violations of bylaws can prompt civil suit by shareholders

Most states require corporations to establish bylaws BUT private companies are not required to make them publicly available

Public companies have to provide copies to their shareholders

Companies also have to produce when setting up financing/bank accounts, corporate retirement programs or to get certified as a small business or women or minority-owned business

Even though have to establish bylaws, not typically required to file them with the state

LLCs are not required to have bylaws by are governed  by a similar agreement, “LLC Agreement” which establishes rules and structure of the business and can help resolve business issues like disagreements between partners, success planning and other issues

Some states do require LLCs to publish “notice of formation” in newspaper for a specific length of time

Nonprofits – have to file them with the IRS and you can get copies from IRS


Limited Liability Companies do not have articles of incorporation as we think of them for corporations but they do have formation documents which may be called charters or articles of organization. LLCs file with the Secretary of State and often the charter, bylaws or operating agreement must or may be included in that filing, depending on the state. Copies may be available for purchase from that Secretary of State. 

LLCs are not required to file with the SEC and they do not have to issue annual reports so those sources of information are not available for LLCs. 

Three states--Arizona, Nebraska and New York--require LLCs to publish a notice of formation in a newspaper in their state (New York requires publication in 2 papers), typically once a week for 3 weeks. Locate a news database, such as the ones from Falvey, or the website for major newspapers in those states and search for your LLCs name to try to find that notice. 

Annual reports to shareholders are used by public companies both as information and marketing tools. They are distributed to shareholders and must also be posted on the company's website making the company's website the best source for this information. Look for "investor relations" or similar links. To locate previous shareholder reports, visit the Wayback Machine/Internet Archive to search by the company's website URL. 

Private companies are not required to publish annual reports however you can check to see if a significant portion of the private company is owned by a publicly-traded company as the parent company's annual reports may contain information about its related/subsidiary private entities.

Available only for PUBLIC companies. Shareholder resolutions, also known as shareholder proposals or proxy proposals, are proposals submitted by shareholders for a vote at the company's annual meeting. Typically, resolutions are opposed by the corporation's management, hence the insistence for a vote. For publicly held corporations in the United States, the submission and handling of resolutions is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Shareholders submit resolutions dealing primarily with corporate governance, such as executive compensation, or corporate social responsibility issues, such as global warming, labor relations, tobacco smoking, human rights, and animal welfare.

Locate others by searching Google or another search engine for your company name and either "shareholder resolutions" or "proxy proposals"

Principles, Officers & Board Members

Employee Compensation Information:

Financials & Stock Exchange Information

Court Filings, Legal Representation & Agency Actions

Corporate Reputation & Statistics

There are a number of resources that can help you judge and monitor a company's reputation. Use the sources below as well as the ones listed in the "Social Media Presence" box on the "Researching People" tab. See also the adminstrative agency cases and proceedings listed in the Court Filings box. Often these suits involved actions by consumers or relate to civil and criminal violations that may color the reputation of a company/business entity.

Documents generated by companies related to their marketing, advertising, research and political activities:

Corporate News & Media Presence

Industry Resources: Market Share & Competitors

UCC Filings

From the National Association of Secretaries of State: "Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings allow creditors to notify other creditors about a debtor’s assets used as collateral for a secured transaction." UCC liens filed with secretary of state offices act as a public notice by the "creditor" of the creditor's interest in the property.

Property, Holdings & Licenses

Specialized Resources

International Materials

See Lexis "Company Profiles" link for a list of numerous other international company profiles, directories and other databases. 

Non-Profit Organizations

Additional Resources