If you are planning to invest in individual stocks, you should know where to find information about the companies you are buying from. While many companies post information in press releases and presentations on their online investor relations pages, most of the best information can be found in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC.
The SEC requires certain filings from public companies to help investors obtain enough information to make informed decisions. Filed documents can be viewed on the SEC’s website using the electronic data collection, analysis and retrieval system known as Edgar.
Browsing through these documents is part of being a committed investor. This can help you quickly identify promising investment opportunities or set off red flags that could help you get out before problems arise.
Here are six SEC filings that every investor should know.
1.10-K or annual report
If you are considering a business for the first time, the Company’s 10-K Annual Filing is a good place to start. This document essentially serves as an annual report to investors and contains a huge amount of information about the company. Lots of companies also print glossy annual reports, marketing brochures full of images, and a few stats, but the 10-K rank is where the meat is.
In 10-K, you’ll find an overview of the business, current financial statements, a discussion of last year’s results, and a list of risk factors that could impact the business, among others. Pay close attention to the financial statements and management overview for the past year. You will want to understand how and if the business makes a profit, how cash flows through the business, and how the business is funded. Focus on recent trends: Has income increased in recent years? If so, what explains the increase?
The list of risk factors also deserves to be reviewed. Some of the risks highlighted will be quite obvious and unlikely, but you might find that there are some things you haven’t thought about that could impact your investment decision.
You should also find a letter to shareholders from the CEO of the company, although this is sometimes a brief section of the annual report that is more focused on marketing. Find out how the business leader communicates with his owners. Do they only share good news about the past year and the future, or do they give a candid overview of the company and its prospects?
Ultimately, the 10-K should give you most of the information you need to make an investment decision about the business, including what you need to value the stock.
The 10-Q repository has a lot in common with the 10-K, but it covers the most recent quarter instead of an entire year. 10-Q is worth considering for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that it may contain information that is not included in the company’s quarterly press release announcing the results.
Quarterly filings are useful in assessing how well the business is performing during the quarter and whether things are going according to plans established by management. Is the company’s performance above or below expectations and what causes a divergence?
Most businesses are required to file their 10-Q within 40 days of the end of their fiscal quarter, which may or may not coincide with the company’s earnings announcement. If the company reports earnings, but hasn’t filed a 10-Q, continue to check the SEC website over the next few days to make sure nothing important has been left out of the press release.
3. Declaration of power of attorney (DEF 14A)
The proxy statement is sometimes overlooked, but it can be one of the most revealing documents for investors to read. Here you will find information on the date of the annual meeting of shareholders and the matters that will be put to a vote. These typically include the election of board members, ratification of the choice of the company’s auditor, and an advisory vote on executive compensation.
To understand how executives are compensated, you will need to read the full proxy statement. You will learn how much each executive has earned over the past three years as well as what board members earn to represent the interests of shareholders.
The company will also describe its method of executive compensation and the parameters it uses to determine bonuses for management. This can be particularly revealing as management is likely to run the business in a way that increases its chances of achieving these metrics. Make sure the metrics in the proxy statement match what should create shareholder value over time. If executive bonuses are exclusively tied to revenue growth, it could create an incentive to do things that are unprofitable or do not generate positive cash flow.
An 8-K is a report of an unforeseen event in a company that would be of interest to shareholders. These filings are sometimes, but not always, accompanied by a company press release. An 8-K is typically filed when a significant event occurs in a business between quarterly earnings reports. The information is considered important enough that it cannot wait to be shared with shareholders and the public.
Items that would require an 8-K from a business would include the departure of key executives, updated financial guidance, or a major acquisition, among others. You should take a look at the 8-K documents as soon as possible as they may contain information that will influence the course of the stock and may prompt you to take action.
A 13D filing, sometimes referred to as a beneficial owner report, is required when a shareholder acquires more than 5% of the outstanding shares of a company.
This can be useful for other investors as the deposit requires the acquiring owner to give the object of the transaction. Sometimes activist investors may acquire a stake in a company with the aim of influencing management to pursue a new strategy or capital allocation plan. They might even cause the company to sell, which could give the share price a boost in the short term.
You will have to decide for yourself whether you agree with what the activist is pushing and whether the company is likely to agree. Often times, companies end up making some sort of compromise with investors and may agree to part of what they ask for, but not all of it.
While a 13F deposit is not specific to a particular company, it can help you identify which companies you want to explore for possible investment. Institutional investors with $ 100 million or more under management are required to file this report quarterly, disclosing what their holdings were at the end of the most recent quarter.
If you’ve ever wondered how legendary investor Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway are invested, this report will give you the answer. Focus on the top holdings of investors and the changes they made during the quarter. In addition to the shares, certain options and warrants are also disclosed as part of the report.
One downside is that investors have 45 days from the end of the calendar quarter to make the deposit, so you don’t get a current picture of the portfolio. But for long-term investors like Buffett and others whose holdings don’t change much, this can be a good tip for their thinking. Just be sure to do your own research on the stocks you buy, so you don’t rely exclusively on this report from top investors.
At the end of the line
SEC filings are a great resource for investors looking for information about companies. The documents are usually filled with information not found in company press releases, so be sure to read them carefully. Consider using documents filed by institutional investors to generate ideas for your next investment.