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Catherwood Library

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Question of the Month

From the Catherwood Library reference librarians

June-July 2008

PLEASE NOTE: The Reference Question of the Month is kept current only during the month for which it was written. Archived questions will not be updated, and over time may contain inaccurate information or broken web links. We provide archived questions as a service, since much of the information will remain accurate and of continued interest to the ILR community.

Question: How do I find historical corporate financial statement data?

Answer: All publicly held U.S. companies are required to file annual financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

10-K reports have been required for public companies since the 1930s, and if you do not find what you are looking for in the sources below, you may contact the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC directly.  See the How to Request Public Documents web page.

10-K reports are available in microform from 1971 to 1995 on the 3rd floor of the Johnson Graduate School of Management Library (JGSM) library.

Mergent Online provides financial statements for U.S. and international businesses, and is available remotely for the Cornell community (typically available from 1996, but for some companies the data goes back much further). Similar data is available directly through the SEC's EDGAR database for this time period.

Datastream contains historical company accounts data for companies worldwide, but must be used from workstations in the Johnson Graduate School of Management Library.  Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) may also be useful, including some financials from 1950, but it is also only available for use in the Johnson Graduate School of Management Library and limited to the Cornell community.  LexisNexis Academic and the LexisNexis Law School version (individual sign-on required) provide historical SEC data, with varying dates of coverage by company.

Thanks to the Johnson Graduate School of Management Library for providing much of the information for this answer.

— Researched by Suzanne Cohen