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Public Records Research: Investigating People, Businesses and Nonprofits: Businesses

Tools for Investigating Businesses

NYS Corporations Database private or public companies
Accurint has a Business/Company database (See Barbara in Research Center – she’ll search for you).

SEC company filings for public companies 

How to use SEC filings to cover companies from Journalists' Resource at Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center
Mergent for public and private companies (click on D&B database for private)
Reference USA public and private companies

Better Business Bureau US business and charity search

Whoxy domain name registry search by name or email, including historical
DomainTools search
by website to find details of registration – if available (fee version allows searching by name).

Corporate Research Project


Who Rules America? From Univ. Of California at Santa Cruz

NYC Doing Business List vendors and lobbyists
New York City Building – General Contractor Search
NYC Civil List
SeeThroughNY (data on payroll, pensions, contracts, expenditures)
NYS Agency Databases

Mollie Hanley from OpenCorporates visited the CUNY J-School on 3/5/18.

View Mollie’s presentation slides here (they are also in the box above) for examples of reporting using the data, and more tips for navigating the platform.

  • Follow OC: @opencorporates & 
  • OC Investigator's Handbook 
  • Investigator's Newsletter
  • API Documentation
  • Slack Channel
  • OC is a database that can help you tie fake company names to legal entities.
  • Uses official sources, all public info, including company registries of countries, but standardizes the schema and turns pdfs and web pages into open data to make searching easier.
  • OC does not buy data.
  • Not available from all jurisdictions, but they are working on that. Nothing from Illinois. No data is available from China yet, unless a company is doing business in another coutry, which is where you will pick it up. OC Has Hong Kong Register. 
  • They correct data errors they discover, and sent you alerts on data quality.
  • Almost all company entries have officers and addresses. They also have searchable fields (where data is available) for industry code, filed trademarks, financial data, licenses, subsidiaries and networks.
  • Coming soon - they will offer a timeline of corporate events.
  • If you use the data in your reporting, please cite OpenCorporates.
  • They also have cached copies of deleted registries, it’s like a Wayback Machine for company data.
  • OC's Data Index ranks countries by data availability
  • You can search for free, but you have to create an account to browse the data. 
  • Has a powerful advanced search, you can search by previous names and alternative names in some jurisdictions.
  • Can filter by jurisdiction, status, company type, nonprofit, branches, industry, current status.
  • You can view all the data collected and tied to a certain entity.
  • Click on the blue "update registry" button to refresh data from the register. It may take 10 minutes to upload. Usually auto updates every 3 months.
  • Click on the "contact data team" button to ask for help.
  • You can easily view "Gazette Notices" in OC, which are government notices about changes to a company. They usually reflect changes months before the change is reflected in the country register. 
  • Can view "beneficial ownership" where available, which can help reveal conflicts of interest. 
  • Can search by registered address to reveal connections. 
  • Search for trademarks, which can be used to move money through networks. 
  • No unique identifiers for people, so use caution. Search for officers by using multiple possible spellings, for example, search: juergenjuerganjuerg
  • Cannot do fuzzy search or wildcard search in search box.
  • Can use OpenRefine Endpoint for fuzzy search (/reconcile) to reconcile company names in other datasets to concrete legal entities 
  • Also search officers by address.
  • Can use corporate groupings: "User created collection of different companies that humans (as opposed to corporate lawyers) consider part of the same group, allowing hard legal entities to be linked to fuzzy entities like Wikipedia articles, allowing information to be collected in a distributed and open way."