In recent years, ever-increasing amounts of business information have made the World Wide Web a serious contender with print libraries for corporate research. Many business libraries publish full-service Web guides for corporate research, with links to licensed content that can be searched by on-site patrons or authorized Web visitors. This guide provides our "top picks" of starting points, assuming the researcher wishes to conduct most or all of the research online.
Because business touches all aspects of our lives and the research tools can be quite specialized (e.g., for investors, for consumers, for attorneys, etc) it is often helpful to approach corporate research from a variety of perspectives. While the problem at hand will dictate the best approach, we can recommend three very useful strategies points:
- Profiling Firms by Financial Performance. There is a great deal of Information on publicly traded companies, which must report on their activities. Not surprisingly, there is far less information on privately held firms. However, the Web now offers quite thorough coverage, and the challenge of finding information on private firms is receiving wider attention from non-profit information providers. This guide offers the best selection of starting points to profile a firm by financial performance.
- The Firm as Corporate Citizen. Many labor researchers explore corporate roles in society, in local communities, and national policy formation. This is a more complex research issue, but several services offer top-notch guidance. It should be noted that to capture a thorough perspective on corporate citizenship, the researcher must consider the media, financial records, and government records on such diverse issues as occupational safety and health, environmental issues, and political activity.
- Legal Information on Corporations. Much can be learned about a firm by researching the legal actions it is party to. Litigation on employment, environmental and other issues frequently play a key role in corporate research. In historical matters, legal records are often the most reliable sources of information about business. This guide does not seek to offer a complete map of legal information; we recommend that researchers consult law library resources in supplement to this guide.
Relevant Library of Congress Subject Headings
Business and Politics
Hoovers is a fee-based service that covers over 2,500 companies. It provides both company and industry profiles for a monthly subscription. It also provides a brief description of the company's activities, its address, phone numbers, Web sites, annual, CEO, number of employees, and ticker symbol. Subscribers may obtain a profile with a history of the company and its subsidiaries, major competitors, brand names, and historical data on sales.
Standard & Poor's
Standard and Poor's is a major publisher of business information. Its Web site offers a wide variety of free content about industries and companies, and also provides information of fee-based services and products.
International in scope, this service has been vastly improved recently, and now has extensive searchable database of company profiles, reports, industry profiles, etc. It is divided into U.S. public companies, US private companies, state business links, and industrial sector links.
Public company profiles, latest news and reports, competitors, financials. Click on the Companies/Markets tab.
US Securities Exchange Commission (EDGAR)
The EDGAR database is the primary source for all government filings for public companies. Filings are available within 24 hours on this site.
This site contains press releases, statistics, stock quotes, and other market information for companies traded on the NASDAQ exchange. Researchers doing research on high technology firms should search NASDAQ data in conjunction with other sources stock performance data to develop a comprehensive company profile.
Online Annual Reports Service
The Public Register's Annual Report Service offers links to online annual reports provides an order from for free company annual reports via the US mail. It also maintains brief financial profiles and press releases on a limited number of companies and links to other sources of company news and financial information.
The American Banking Association
The ABA's Web site has extensive free offerings, including many industry studies that are directed at both consumer and lenders.
US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Home Page
The FDIC has made online summary financial reports on its members via its Web site. The reports Include detailed balance sheet information and loan portfolio/asset quality data.
National Information Center
The National Information Center (NIC) is a central repository of data about banks and other institutions for which the Federal Reserve has a supervisory, regulatory, or research interest, including both domestic and foreign banking organizations operating in the United States. This web site provides access to NIC data, allowing the public to search for detailed information about banking organizations.
Free ERISA (accessible from the web for everyone after registering)
FreeERISA provides free access to all form 5500s filed with the Department of Labor over the past two years, which include data on retirement, health, life, and other benefits plans from more than 1 million U.S. companies.
News-oriented "enterprise information portals" and alert services enable researchers to set their own research parameters and follow company news on the Web. Many include advantageous pricing for reading the full text of articles.
Internet Public Library: U.S. Newspapers
Links to online newspapers for the United States (access is available for Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Middle East, North America, South America, and the South Pacific). Searchable by country or by title.
Provides a cartography-based search engine that links users with regional online news publications around the world.
U.S. News Archives on the Web
Access to back issues of U.S. newspapers via the newspapers' own Web sites, with information about pricing. Information regarding coverage for newspapers indexed on the site is provided on the home page linked here.
Business Magazines Online
This site includes archives of news articles going back to September 1995 as well as the Fortune 500 companies, and Fortune's 1996 survey of the corporations with the best reputations.
The Forbes Web site is very popular with business librarians. It offers the Forbes 500 Annual Directory, the 200 Best Small Companies, and, especially, the 500 Largest Private Companies. Information on these companies is abbreviated, but includes revenues, profits, number of employees, address, phone, and name and educational background of CEO.
This site includes the Inc. 500 (http://www.inc.com/500/home.html
, a database of America's 500 fastest growing firms. The site also offers email alerts and discussion lists.
This site provides the latest financial news and data. Bloomberg provides a full array of information services for investors, but this site's best values are available to Bloomberg Personal Magazine subscribers.
This site contains articles from the Financial Times newspaper, including a 30-day archive. It most useful for locating information on firms traded on the London stock exchange.
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA's Envirofacts Warehouse
The Environmental Protection Agency's Envirofacts Warehouse allows the user to search five main databases: Superfund Data, Hazardous Waste Data, Toxic Release Inventory, Water Discharge Permits, and AIRS Facility Subsystem. It includes a Facility Index also includes the criminal and enforcement dockets. Users can search by facility name, geographical location, or industry SIC code.
R T K Net (The Right to Know Network)
R T K Net provides online access to many environmental databases, as well as to the Center for Responsive Politics Campaign Contribution Database.
Court decisions (FindLaw.com)
FindLaw.com is a comprehensive index source for legal information on the Internet. While the site offers links to all known issuers of court decisions, many are maintained third parties (e.g., law schools) and vary greatly.
SEC Enforcement Division Actions
This site includes the SEC's administrative proceedings, investor alerts, and releases describing civil and selected criminal proceedings filed in federal court.
National Labor Relations Board rulings
The National Labor Relations Board is increasing access to its records online. This site also gives instructions on how to obtain historical rulings.
OSHA Statistics and Data
This page on the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration Web site allows searching of OSHA inspection data and citations by establishment.
Federal Election Commission
The FEC is the best source of information on "political action committees", or PACs.
Center for Immigration Studies
This site hosts a database of US Immigration and Naturalization Service employer sanctions, enabling the researcher to cross-reference whether a firm has a history of violations.
Published by the AFL-CIO, this site offers the salary and compensation figures for the chief executive officers of the Standard & Poor's 500 corporations.
Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau has integrated the business reports from most of its regional branches into one searchable Internet database. It provides a list of affiliates that maintain separate databases.
Best Companies for Working Mothers
Working Mother magazine publishes an annual list of the 100 most woman-friendly companies based on a variety of criteria such as salary rates and provision of day care.
Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index
Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.
This website hosts a database of tax exempt organizations. GuideStar derives its information from the IRS 990 form and from information submitted directly to GuideStar by non-profits.
National Center for Charitable Statistics
This site is the national repository of data on the nonprofit sector in the United States. Its mission is to develop and disseminate high quality data on nonprofit organizations and their activities for use in research on the relationships between the nonprofit sector, government, the commercial sector, and the broader civil society.