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Newmark J-School Research Center
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Backgrounding People & Companies

Why background someone?

Background sources for your story and subjects of your story, so you have no surprises.

You can use backgrounding tools and techniques to find someone.

You can background someone to verify what they are telling you. 

You can background to find context, history, and detail for your story. 

Every piece of information you find is a lead

Every piece of information you find (an email, phone, relative, middle initial, address) is a lead that you can further search in Google and in people-finding databases. 

Difference between public records and publicly accessible information

Public Records are records that the government is required by law to keep and include birth certificates, deeds and professional licenses. 

Publicly Accessible Information is information generated by a person or entity that can be accessed using commercial databases like LexisNexis, Accurint or Pipl.

Other Common SEC Public Company Filings

Other Common SEC Public Company Filings  [Sources: AAII, Michelle Leder of footnoted.com, and Morningstar]

10-Q: A quarterly report that discusses the company’s business and financial performance. Amended filings are designated as 10-Q/A.

  • Be on the hunt for any new disclosures
  • Risk factors, legal proceedings
  • Don’t forget the exhibits!

20-F: Foreign companies file these annual reports. The report discusses the company’s business and annual financial performance. Amended filings are designated as 20-F/A.

8-K: A “current report” that announces major events that shareholders should know about.

  • Required for any material event
  • Not just earnings releases, slide shows and conference calls

6-K: Similar to the 8-K, but filed by foreign companies, this is a “current report” that announces major events that shareholders should know about.

DEF 14A: The definitive proxy statement, this contains material information about matters subject to a shareholder vote.

  • proxy statement gives us a lot of good information on executive compensation. It also gives a lot of good information on director compensation and on related-party transactions. 

S-1: A general form of registration. This is commonly filed by companies looking to complete an initial public offering. The form can be amended several times; those changes are filed under S-1/A.

SC 13G: A notice of a change in beneficial ownership, meaning the acquisition of 5% or more of outstanding stock by passive investors and certain institutions.

13F-HR: A quarterly report filed by institutional money managers that discloses their large holdings.