If you are an investor and want to follow or invest in a company with securities registered in the U.S. (i.e., a “public company”), the Form 10-K (Annual Report) is a great educational resource about public companies. Public company annual reports are filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on a Form 10-K. Among other things, these annual report offer detailed information on a company’s business, risks, and financial financial results for the most-recently completed fiscal year. Company management also provides perspective on the disclosed results and their drivers in the management discussion and analysis (MD&A) section.
Most U.S. public companies are required to file an annual report yearly with the SEC and to include a set order of topics. For example:
The SEC also requires public companies to send an annual report to its shareholders when holding annual meetings to elect members of their boards of directors. These annual reports include a lot of similar information to the information included in a 10-K but are different. The Form 10-K annual report typically includes more detailed information than the annual report provided to shareholders. The annual report to shareholders, unlike the Form 10-K, is typically a more polished and glossy document meant for public consumption.
Many companies, however, simply provide their Form 10-K to shareholders for purposes of satisfying their requirement to provide shareholders with an annual report relating to the annual meetings. When this happens, the filed Form 10-K and the annual report to shareholders are basically the same document.