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What Is SEC Filing?

Publicly traded companies and other entities are required by the SEC — or Securities and Exchange Commission — to file certain disclosure forms. SEC filings not only ensure regulatory compliance, but they also provide need-to-know information to the public. Brush up on the most common types of SEC filings and how to get the forms completed quickly.

SEC Forms

While SEC filing is often spoken about as if it's a single process, there are actually multiple forms with different purposes, deadlines and filing requirements. Taken together, the forms that must be filed with the SEC portray critical information about a company's operations and financial health. They allow investors and analysts to compare one publicly traded company with another, since all entities must complete the same set of paperwork. They also allow regulators to verify that the company is following all applicable regulations and hold accountable any violators.

Review the most common SEC filing forms to learn when each must be filed, what it contains, and how the information is used by stakeholders, including the general public and trading analysts.

Form 10-K

Filed annually from 60-90 days after year's end, Form 10-K dives into a company's financial state. This lengthy form contains a balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, comprehensive summary of market position, research and development, and a discussion of operations and business health over the year. Since the 10-K is complex, it is accompanied by an annual report that summarizes key takeaways with visuals.

Form 10-Q

This is a simplified 10-K filed on a quarterly basis. It conveys a snapshot of the company's financial condition and must be filed with the SEC within 40 days of the quarter's end. Investors and analysts use a company's Form 10-Q to gauge its financial health vis-a-vis competitors.

Form 8-K

Necessary for disclosing important events that fall between time-bound 10-K and 10-Q statements, Form 8-K is used for major actions — from asset acquisition and executive appointments to bankruptcy filing, stock option adjustments and earnings releases. This document provides investors with timely access to information that might sway their behavior.

Forms 3, 4, 5

These three forms are lumped together because they must be filed by corporate insiders, which is a term that includes executive officers, directors and anyone who owns at least 10% of the business. Form 3 is the initial filing, with mention of ownership amount. Form 4 is filed when ownership changes. Form 5 is an annual update to Form 4. Savvy analysts review these forms to better understand the actions of corporate insiders and weigh their stock holdings accordingly.

Form 144

Any time a corporate insider wants to sell more than 5,000 shares of company stock within a 3-month time period, this form must be filed.

Form S-1

Whenever a company is preparing to sell shares to the public for the first time — in what's known as an IPO or initial public offering — Form S-1 must be filed. The two-part form contains a prospectus of business operations, financial health, and company management plus relevant information such as recent securities sales, the number of shares on offer and risk factors that could impact investors' decisions. Form S-1 helps investors better understand the upcoming public offering and decide whether they wish to take part.

Form S-3

Form S-3 notifies the public that shares will be offered at a later date. Think of it like a grocery store circular: This form is there to alert interested parties to what is coming next, so they can budget funds accordingly if they want to participate.

Form S-8

If a business offers its employees stock options as part of a benefits packages, then Form S-8 must be filed. The form officially registers the shares to the employee in question; their shares must be registered upon receipt so the employee can sell them at a later date.

Schedule 13D

Anytime an individual acquires more than 5% of a company's voting shares, a Schedule 13D form must be filed within 10 days. It covers basic demographic information about the individual, along with an explanation for the transition and the source of funding used for share purchases.

Foreign Investment Disclosures

This form is filed by foreign companies that offer securities on the U.S. stock market. There are also other SEC filings that foreign companies must make. The purpose of the disclosures is for American investors to evaluate the company before investing. There's a benefit to the companies, however: By making information publicly available in English, they can potentially boost their shareholder base and raise more capital.

Proxy Statement

Companies must present proxy statements before shareholder meetings, during which every shareholder has the chance to vote on topics including executive compensation, board of directors’ compensation and other business. A proxy statement discloses management's perks and salary, as well as any other information that's up for vote. The statement also tells shareholders important info about how they can vote, whether by mail, email, over the phone, or by designating a proxy individual. The company must also file the proxy statement with the SEC in advance of the shareholder meeting.

How DFIN Can Help With SEC Filing

Keeping up with filing deadlines and handling all reporting requirements is complex, but companies don't need to do it on their own. DFIN helps businesses deal with the complexities of financial reporting, including SEC filing requirements. Our ActiveDisclosure software provides the core filing tools needed to quickly prepare, verify and file paperwork efficiently, with built-in support for collaborative working procedures and robust encryption for total security. Clients also have access to 24/7/365 customer support.

Stop stressing about SEC deadlines, forms and deliverables and let us simplify your approach with our secure, cloud-based filing system.