unfortunately, the identity of the actual owners can be obscured. alleged shell companies are created to disguise the real, “ beneficial, ” owners .
The good news ? There are many ways to inquiry companies, who truly owns them, what they do, and more. These include :
- unblock databases
- subscription databases
- official records
- corporate websites
- Court records
- Internet searches
- social media
This GIJN resource describes official and unofficial sources of data about companies .
An excellent compilation of information sources was prepared for GIJC19, with an stress on China, India, The Philippines, Hong Kong and Macau, and others. It was created by Karol Ilagan, Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism ; Ritu Sarin, The Indian Express ; Karen Zhang, The South China Morning Post ; Patrick Boehler, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation ; and Selina Cheng, HK01 .
besides on GIJN, see 9 Ways To Find Stories in Company Accounts, a column by UK journalism professor Paul Bradshaw .
GIJN ’ s video solicitation includes a talk by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winner, about reporting on company finances .
Free International Resources
A number of nonprofit organization groups collect the reports that companies must provide to governments .
here are the best compilations :
OpenCorporates is an open data source for information on more than 150 million companies. The information is sourced from home business registries. The database can provide such things as a company ’ s internalization date, its registered addresses and the names of directors and officers. It can show connections between companies. It ’ sulfur developing a database of corporate events. Follow the blog for updates and examples of how the media uses OpenCorporates. Journalists, NGOs, academics and other populace benefit users can apply for a detached public-benefit API winder .
Investigative Dashboard sponsored by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project ( OCCRP ) has millions of relevant items from data sources around the earth, including many about corporations. search for documents beginning hera ( chink “ search ” for advanced search options ). There is a scout to company registries in 38 countries here. That ’ second region of a larger catalog of databases of 226 million public records. not every database — including leaked substantial — is searchable by the public. Journalists who register can get access, however. Journalists besides can make requests for loose research help oneself, including searches of commercial databases to which OCCRP sign. here ’ s a good introduction. Read a GIJN article with seven tips on using the database such as an alert feature of speech so you ’ ll constantly be notified of new developments regarding the individuals or companies you ’ rhenium investigate. besides see User Manual for search tips and more, or this elastic post for an even deeper look at string queries .
The ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has compiled a database of bodied data based on leak documents about closely 785,000 offshore companies and trusts. The database can be searched by names, companies and addresses connected to offshore entities and country ; or by jurisdiction. ICIJ ’ s archive of stories based on the Panama Papers makes good reading. besides see beyond Panama : Unlocking The World ’ s Secrecy Jurisdictions. See three tips on using the database .
For good background data, the World Bank’s STAR (Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative) includes beneficial ownership guides on 23 countries that show what steps to take to identity beneficial owners and other related parties .
Panjiva is a user-friendly import/export database. note : brands can opt out of public disclosure. It includes data on US, China, India, South America and more. complimentary access is considered for choose journalists on a individual basis. If you are a reporter, please liaison pressinquiries.mi @ spglobal.com for extra data .
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre stores news and allegations relating to the human rights affect of over 20,000 companies. 275 clothe and textile brands are included, 142 firms in extractive industries, 35 hotel companies, and 40 engineering firms .
There many private databases about corporations, most of which require a subscription for the best information .
free entree may be potential through public and university libraries .
The price of using commercial databases may be worthwhile and some companies will provide lower rates for journalists .
One long-established database is D & B Hoovers. Its barren web site offers capsule descriptions of thousands of companies based in the United States and abroad. More detailed descriptions are available on the subscription service Nexis .
other major subscription vendors include : Arachnys, ORBIS, Bureau van Dijk, Bloomberg, PrivCo ( a beginning for US individual company businesses ), Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis and DueDil .
New on the scene is Sayari , a US inquiry firm that, in 2018, launched a multi-faceted database that “ covers more come forth, frontier and offshore markets. ” Sayari is a subscription servicing, basically $ 1,000 a month, but a 30-day release trial is available and the company is matter to in working with journalists .
The tilt of pay up vendors is long. One direction to see what ’ mho available is to check out the library websites of university business schools .
The Harvard University Business School boasts a huge solicitation, and while its holdings are inaccessible to the public, the on-line catalogue can serve as a tipsheet of possible resources .
Official Government Registries
many governments require corporations to register, but indulgent rules often mean they file minimal and misinform information .
here ’ randomness where to find these home registries around the global :
Links to Resources for Some Large Economies
The Securities and Exchange Commission holds corporate data in its EDGAR system. The on-line system is used by all publicly traded companies to file quarterly and annual bodied reports and fiscal statements. Any non-US company listed on a US stock exchange — including those from China, Russia and the EU — must file here and report on their global activities ; this makes EDGAR a prime source for journalists backgrounding corporations around the worldly concern .
A good identify to start is with the annual report, Form 10-K, which provides a detail company history, audited fiscal statements, administrator compensation, a description of products and services and an annual review of the organization, its operation and the markets in which the company operates. Form 10-Q is a quarterly composition that includes unaudited fiscal statements and information about a company ’ south operations during the previous three months. 8-K Reports are supplementary filings for specific events such as a bankruptcy, disposition of assets, departures executives and other events of importance to investors .
investing caller filings are besides in EDGAR. SEC Form 497 is used by investment companies. A Statements of Additional Information ( SAI ) is a supplementary document to a common fund ’ mho prospectus. EDGAR besides maintains annual listings of International Registered and Reporting Companies, those foreign-owned firms that are required to file periodic reports in the US. For more contingent, see the EDGAR Guide .
many businesses are incorporated in the state of Delaware, so a beneficial invest to start is the Delaware Division of Corporations. No datum is collected on beneficial owners, however, and “ ship’s company geological formation agents ” can act as campaigner directors. ( See a Transparency International description. )
The National Association of Secretaries of State can get you to all US submit sites ( see “ on-line business services ” in minor print at bottom after picking a state of matter ). There you will find links to places such as the California Corporation Search and New York ’ s Corporation and Business Entity Database. From these submit registries you can typically get a company ’ second incorporation date, its registered addresses and the names of directors and officers .
other databases on places to find bodied information from US states are maintained by LLC University and Coordinated Legal Tech .
Panjiva is a user-friendly import/export database rid for journalists. note : brands can opt out of populace disclosure .
front for uracil government contractors here .
misdemeanor Tracker produced by the Corporate Research Project is a search engine on corporate misbehave. It covers banking, consumer protective covering, delusive claims, environmental, engage & hour, unfair labor drill, health, safety, employment discrimination, price-fixing, bribery and early cases initiated by more than 40 federal regulative agencies and all divisions of the Justice Department since 2000 .
Companies House is rid and provides details about companies, including :
- Registered address and date of incorporation
- stream and resigned officers
- document images
- mortgage appoint data
- former company names
- insolvency information
SEDAR is Canada ’ s locate for populace party filings, which began in January 1997 .
Infogreffe — Trade and Companies Register — Commercial Court Registry provides basic company information unblock of charge. In french .
caller Register in multiple languages allows unblock searches, but some documents cost money .
The National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System can be accessed here. In chinese .
here ’ s a description of what ’ s available, by China Checkup .
One example : chinese clientele records were used by the US NGO C4ADS in a report on the north korean system to support its weapons development. At one point, C4ADS noted, “ The chinese business register filing for Dandong Hongri Diandang Co Ltd. clearly shows its condition as a joint venture between DHID and Dandong Kehua Economic Trade Co Ltd. ”
Online searches of bodied websites and social media will surface scads of information .
A few recurring suggestions from professional researchers :
- search for party officials and directors. Check out methods included in Finding Former Employees, a presentation at the 2017 GIJN conference .
- use LinkedIn for research. Try the advanced search, where, for case, the menu allows users to choose between former and current employees. Look at company pages and diligence groups
- When looking for megabyte edia reports, pay attention to the occupation and specialization press. To find them, try Ulrich ’ s Periodicals Directory .
- Look up the company address and telephone phone number. then use map checks and street-view images for more data .
- corporate philanthropy may be a back door for information. In the US, see CitizenAudit, Propublica ’ south nonprofit organization internet explorer and Guidestar. For the UK, see open Charities, CharityBase and the government ’ s jacob’s ladder register .
- Contact NGOs, such as groups concerned with contamination or human traffic, to see what data they have. irreverence tracker is a uracil search locomotive on corporate misconduct in the US .
- Consider looking into trade associations to learn about a company ’ mho activities in that context .
More Official Places to Look
Every target of intersection between governments and the commercial sector may generate a public record .
here are suggestions of where else to look for a company ’ second interactions with government :
- Land ownership – Names and descriptions
- Land development – Building, partition and particular permits
- environmental regulation – Discharge permits, emissions reports and enforcement actions
- Labor regulation – Professional registrations and labor disputes
- Court records – Reveal litigation by and against
- fiscal regulation – Filings or enforcement
- Intellectual place – Patents and trademarks registrations
- Government contracting – Bids and awards records
- Government subsidies – Records of payments
- political donations – Contributions to officials
- Lobbying adjustment – Disclosures about determine
Thinking in terms of which sector the company operates in may lead to the discovery of apposite information .
For case, Open Oil has a database of over 2 million populace domain documents filed by vegetable oil and gas and mine companies to fiscal regulators around the world .
Transparency International has a tool to examine publicly available fiscal data of the 20 largest european banks. besides see TI ’ randomness Corporate Political Engagement Index 2018 .
Court records can be invaluable. PACER, for model, holds the electronic archives of the US federal court system, including the Supreme Court, appellate and district courts, and US bankruptcy courts .
Consider what laws and regulations affect the occupation and what paperwork is involved. These connections will vary dramatically by venue and the type of business, but may provide leads .
Some official actions, or requests for official legal action, may be reflected in governmental publications of record. For Europe, check Open Gazettes, which provides a commodious entree point to european gazettes .
Guides for Journalists
There enormous material on-line about how to research corporations and understand company finances .
here are a few aimed at journalists :
here are 9 ways to find stories in company accounts ( and only three of them involve numbers ) is a 2020 post by Paul Bradshaw on the Online Journalism Blog .
Following The Money, by Nick Mathiason, presented at GIJC19 by the founder of Finance Uncovered in the UK .
One inspirational reference of ideas is the Dirt Diggers Digest Guide to Strategic Corporate Research , by Philip Mattera, the director of the Corporate Research Project in the US. It dates back to 2014, but is wonderfully comprehensive in its setting .
How to Follow the money : Tips for Cross-border Investigations is a GIJN Q & A with OCCRP editor program Miranda Patrucic. It begins :
GIJN : What ’ s your first move when you get hold of a company ’ s fiscal records ?
Miranda Patrucic : I ask myself three questions :
- What is in the balance sheet and how did they get it ?
- Where does the money come from ?
- And what is in the “ notes ” section ?
Patrucic besides provided tips on Understanding fiscal Records at the GIJC17 conference. And at IJAsia18, she presented Corporate Crime, Tax Scams & Corrupt Acts .
Have a look at Understanding Corporate Accounts and Investigating Companies : A Do-It-Yourself Handbook, published by the UK group Corporate Watch .
This GIJN article, How China ’ s Top Investigative Newsroom Digs for Data, was written by by Huang Chen, a datum editor at Beijing-based Caixin Media .
The Investigative Journalist ’ s Guide to Company Accounts – Second Edition by Raj Bairoliya — is “ aimed at arrant beginners ” and available through the Centre for Investigative Journalism in the UK .
Follow thursday einsteinium Money : A Digital Guide to Tracking corruptness : This unblock handbook is published by the International Center for Journalists. Languages : English, Russian, Georgian
Finding and Reading a Balance sail : account Basics for Journalists, is an article by David Trilling in Journalist ’ s Resource by the Shorenstein Center .
Who ’ sulfur Running the company ? is a lead to reporting on corporate government, by the World Bank ’ randomness Global Corporate Governance Forum and the International Center for Journalists. It ’ s a varied 2012 report with many tips, examples and resources .
canadian diarist David Milstead presented Red Flags and Hidden Gems in Financial Documents at the 2018 IRE Conference.
Jo Craven McGinty, who writes The Numbers column for The Wall Street Journal, who presented at the 2018 IRE conference, reviewed the research that undergirded a number of big stories .
Kelly Carr, a freelancer fact-finding reporter and a elder associate at Quinlan Partners, a accredited individual fact-finding firm, addressed how to inquiry shell companies during her 2018 IRE lecture .
More GIJN Resources:
This guide was put together by Toby McIntosh, director of GIJN ’ s resource center. He was a Washington-based reporter and editor program with Bloomberg BNA for 39 years and the editor program of FreedomInfo.org, a nonprofit web site. He besides runs a blog, eyeonglobaltransparency.net .