In line with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) mission of assuring that investors -- both large institutions and private individuals -- have access to certain basic facts about an investment prior to buying it, and as long as they hold investment/s, the SEC's EDGAR system (short for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval) helps investors get accurate information about companies.
The EDGAR database offers free public access to corporate information. It allows investors to research a company’s financial information and operations by reviewing registration statements, prospectuses and periodic reports filed on Forms 10-K and 10-Q. Investors also can find information about recent corporate events reported on Form 8-K; however, a company does not have to disclose that to investors.
EDGAR also provides access to comment/response letters relating to disclosure filings made after August 1, 2004, that are reviewed by either the Division of Corporation Finance or the Division of Investment Management. On May 22, 2006, the staffs of the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Investment Management began to use the EDGAR system to issue notifications of effectiveness for Securities Act registration statements and post-effective amendments, other than those that become effective automatically by law. These notifications are posted to the EDGAR system the morning after a filing officially becomes effective.
EDGAR does have limitations like any other system. According to the SEC, to use EDGAR most effectively, users should know which categories of information appear in which SEC filings and which search methods will work best. The SEC provides a guide to help investors use EDGAR and answers to frequently asked questions about researching public companies. In their FAQs, there is also a description of available mutual fund and variable insurance product searches.