Understanding Common Investments: Investing in a Public Company

Information about public companies whose stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, other exchanges and venues, or over-the-counter is contained in the documents these public companies file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Among the items reported are:

  • Financial statements
  • Description of business
  • Location and character of principal properties
  • Legal proceedings
  • Stock options and compensation of top executives
  • Proposed offerings of securities
  • Number of shareholders
  • Number of employees

Issuers of registered securities must file annual and other periodic reports that provide a public file of current information about the company. These reports include the 10-K, which provides a comprehensive overview of the company. The 10-K is filed within 90 days after the close of the company's fiscal year.

The 10-Q is a quarterly financial report filed by most companies, which although unaudited, provides a continuing view of a company's financial position during the year. The 10-Q must be filed 45 days after the close of the fiscal year quarter. To obtain copies of these reports, contact the SEC.