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Sources of Information on Corporations

Corporations command greater resources and exercise greater power than any other type of organization in America.  Large corporations and the top executives and shareowners of large corporations are the biggest contributors to both political parties.  They create and fund the think tanks and other research and advocacy organizations that shape the direction of public policy formation.  Corporations and corporate trade associations are the most powerful lobbies in Washington and in the the various state capitals.  Through their ownership of the mass media and their role as advertisers they have a powerful impact on public opinion and popular consciousness.  It is little wonder, therefore, that large corporations and the top executives and shareowners of large corporations occupy a central place in power structure research.

Fortunately, the Internet is a rich source of information on corporations and corporate elites.  Much of this information exists to serve the interests of rich investors, but it is also valuable in answering the questions posed by power structure research.  Using Internet sources you can determine who owns and controls major corporations; find out the salaries of top executives; trace the web of interlocking directorships that link corporations to one another; follow the news of corporate mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, and lawsuits; identify violators of environmental and other regulatory statutes; and research the multiple channels of political influence employed by corporations.  Below are some of the most useful online sources of information on corporations and corporate elites.

  • SEC EDGAR Database.  This site, operated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, is the single most comprehensive online source of data on corporations.  It provides downloadable copies of all SEC reports.  Especially useful are Form 10K (annual reports with financial data) and Form DEF 14A (annual proxy statements with information on officers and directors, stock ownership, executive pay, and motions for the annual meeting).  For easiest access select "Search for Company Filings" followed by "Company or fund name, ticker symbol, etc." and enter the name of the corporation and the number of the form you wish to retrieve.  An essential site.

  • CSA SEDAR Database.  This site (similar to the SEC's EDGAR Database) allows you to download reports filed by Canadian corporations with the Canadian Securities Administration.

  • SECInfo.  An alternative site for retrieving SEC and CSA filings.  Offers a variety of search options.

  • CorpWatch.  This watchdog site provides news, analysis, research tools, and other resources for activists fighting for corporate accountability, human rights, social and environmental justice.  Be sure to check out their excellent "Hands-On Corporate Research Guide" under the "Research" menu.  Highly recommended.

  • Endgame (Public Information Network).  Helpful tips and extensive links for activists wishing to do research on corporations.  Particularly good data on the timber industry.  See the extensive resources listed on the "Research Links" and "Research Manuals" pages.  Highly recommended.  

  • They Rule.  This site provides a sophisticated graphical interface that allows you to explore and produce maps of linkages among board members of large U.S. corporations.  The data is not always current (it is updated every few years) and you are limited to about 500 firms.  Nevertheless, an excellent research tool.  Highly recommended.

  • David Lamb's Prospect Research.  This website is aimed at people searching for potential donors to charitable causes, including corporate donors, but it it also provides a wealth of more general links and resources on corporations and their executives, directors, and shareowners.  Recommended.

  • Left Business Observer.  Provides a left-wing perspective on corporations and corporate power.  Extensive links to other sites.  Highly recommended

  • Multinational Monitor.   Provides a critical perspective on multinational corporations.  Good search engine.  Highly recommended.

  • Hoover's Online.  This site is mainly for investors, but provides a good source of basic company information and news.  Especially valuable are the company capsules, which can be reached from the "Browse Companies A-Z" link.

  • PR Newswire.  Provides news and press releases on corporations worldwide.

  • GMI Ratings.  This site provides data and analysis on corporate governance, boards of directors, executive compensation, insider trading, shareholder proposals, and more. Access to their research tools requires payment of a fee, but a free trial may be requested (not available to students). Interesting free material may be found on the Research and the News & Events pages.

  • Executive Pay Watch.  Operated by the AFL-CIO, this site provides information on the pay, bonuses, and stock options of corporate chief executives. Be sure to check out the instructions on how to find and use proxy statements on the "CEO Pay Database" page.   

  • United for a Fair Economy.  This site promotes popular economic education.  You can download a copy of their annual "Executive Excess" CEO compensation survey, as well as their  excellent "Born on Third Base" study of the Forbes 400 richest Americans.

Online Databases

You can also find information on corporations in several of the proprietary databases accessed through the University of Oregon library.

  • Lexis-Nexis Academic.  The "Business" menu provides full text articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals; company financial data; SEC filings and reports; and news from over 25 industries.   

  • Business Source Premier.  Provides full text articles from nearly 3,300 journals covering business, management, economics, banking, finance, accounting, and more. Also includes the Datamonitor Company Profiles, accessed through the "Company Profiles" tab, which provide basic company information on thousands of large corporations worldwide.

  • Mergent Online.  Provides company information and financial data on more than 10,000 publicly traded corporations and 17,000 private companies [no longer available at UO library].  

  • Newspaper Source.  This database provides selected full text for 143 domestic and international newspapers, many of which are not included in Academic Universe (Lexis-Nexis).

  • Oregonian Newspaper.  For regional companies, try this database.  It provides full text of articles published in the Portland Oregonian newspaper from 1987 to the present.

  • Magazines Fulltext.  This database provides full text articles from 570 periodicals, including both popular magazines and professional journals.

  • Alternative Press Index.  Provides indexing for over 200 alternative and radical publications.  A good place to look for critical perspectives on corporations.

Finally you can do a general search of the Internet for company information using any of the leading search engines.  See the Search Engine page for tips.

Copyright 2013 by Val Burris