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I apologize for this question sounding vague.

I want to be able to read SEC filings and from those, get a good sense of a public company's financials. However, when I go to sec.gov 's website, all I see is a bunch of different types of filings and do not know where to start.

Question: What are the most important SEC filings to read to understand a company's financials -- and what is a good tutorial for explaining them?

Thanks!

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The most important filings are:

Form 10-K, which is the annual report required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

and

Form 10-Q, for the interim quarters.

  • Could you possibly expand the answer to explain generally what the fillings are and contain? – user4127 Mar 28 '13 at 18:39
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There are a whole host of types of filings. Some of them are only relevant to companies that are publicly traded, and other types are general to just registered corps in general.

There are a few really popular ones:

  • Form D: investments
  • Form 10-K: annual report, often includes earnings
  • Form 10-Q: quarterly report, often includes earnings info
  • Form S-1: initial registration for IPO
  • Form S-4: mergers & acquisitions
  • Form S-8: employee stock incentives

... and many more: http://reportstream.io/explore/has-form

How much you can read them depends on the formats:

  • Some forms are actually just scanned PDFs, and you have to go read the scans.
  • some other form submissions are in a parsed text format
  • some others like 10-K's have big fancy HTML versions that are very human readible
  • some are an XML-like format

Some companies don't submit their forms on time or at all

  • As you may have seen with the recent SUNE (now SUNEQ) earnings debacle... some companies withhold their earnings, and thus the reliability of the information can be wishy-washy if the company isn'y following the SEC filings rules properly.
  • In my experience, Private companies tend to not disclose a lot of financial information, so you have to get creative sometimes to deduce things about the financial health of the company.

Overall, reading SEC filings is hard, and for some, the explanations of those filings is worth paying for.

Source: I am currently trying to build a product that solves this problem.

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