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Accounting: Company Information

Online research guide for Accounting majors

Public or Private (Parent or Subsidiary): Why It Matters

Before trying to do research on a company--especially before choosing a company to base a project/paper on--first determine if the company is public or private. 

Public companies are traded on a stock exchange (e.g. NYSE, NASDAQ), and since members of the public can become part-owners of those companies, the SEC requires them to publish extensive information, especially financial information, so the public can make informed decisions.

Private companies are not traded on any public stock exchange, so they do not have the SEC disclosure requirements of public companies.  These companies can be owned by families, small groups, individual investors, and/or any combination.  Some large private companies include Cargill, Mars, and State Farm.

  • Since private companies are not required to disclose/publish any information about themselves, there is less information available about private companies--this is especially true for financial information.


For all companies, but especially public companies, you also need to check whether the company you're considering is a Parent or Subsidiary.  In today's business world, many companies, even those which used to be independent, are now subsidiaries of large conglomerates.  A good example is The Walt Disney Company (Disney)--subsidiaries include ESPN and ABC television networks, multiple theme parks, and multiple movie studio names including Pixar and Marvel Studios.  (

**So, financial information for subsidiaries is often filed under the name of the parent company.  Also, some subsidiaries of public companies are privately-held.**

If you're having trouble with this essential initial stage of your company research, please contact the library for assistance (so you're searching our databases under the correct name).

Finding Company Information

In many Business and/or Accounting classes, you need to find information about a company, such as their products and services, history, key employees/management, strategies...  The library has several resources that can help you find this information.  Hover over or Click on the arrow next to "Company Information" in the tabs above to see how to use EBSCO and Business Insights: Global to do research on a company.

First stop for company information: the company's website.  Many companies, especially large and publicly-traded companies, have extensive websites that provide much of the information you might need for a paper or project.  (See below for an example using the Bank of America website.)

If you need help navigating one of these websites, please contact the library.

Example: Company Website

All websites will look different, but many of them will have similar organization.  First, look at either the very top and/or very bottom of the homepage, and look for something that says "About Us," "Our Company," and/or "About [Company Name]."  As you can see below, even though this is the main site associated with Bank of America's products (i.e. financial services), the site has a links at the top of the page to their corporate information.

Desktop site:



If you click on "About Us," it will take you to the About Bank of America page, which links to several different sections--many of these sections are similar to what is found on many company sites. 

Our company -- describes the mission, leadership, strategy, and values of the company

Making an impact -- includes information about giving back to the community and the company's impact on the environment

Investors -- includes financial information such as SEC filings, shareholder information, and annual reports

Bank of America Investors page headings

In the Investors/Investor Relations section of many company sites, you can download copies of various financial reports including Annual Reports, Financial Information, Regulatory Filings, and Stock Information.

Bank of America Investors SEC filings options


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