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Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What is the SEC?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a governmental regulatory agency established by Congress which polices the practices of the securities industry. Since 1934, the SEC's mission has been to protect investors and the market from malfeasance. FINRA (the 2007 successor to the NASD which was formed in 1939) is a self-regulatory organization in the industry which seeks to keep member firms more than compliant with SEC regulations. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was originally created to encourage market competition and to protect consumers by breaking up monopolies and monitoring mergers and acquisition activity. It has now branched out into more areas in the pursuit of consumer protection and fair markets. The FTC is now comprised of three bureaus: Consumer Protection, Competition, and Economics. They protect consumers from fraudulent business activity and monopolistic business practices. Continue reading...

What is GAAP?

Freddie Mac is a government-sponsored company which purchases mortgages from banks and securitizes them for sales to investment banks or individuals. Freddie Mac is not a government organization, but was established by a congressional mandate in the 1970’s. It’s proper name is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). The company’s purpose is to make mortgage debts into marketable securities by purchasing the mortgage risk and cash flow from banks and dividing into tranches which are sold to or through investment banking institutions. The securitized mortgages are known as Collateralized Mortgage Obligations, or CMO’s. Continue reading...

What is an Investment Club?

An investment club can be a term used for a group that organizes itself for the purpose of pooling investment dollars and participating in the market, or for a group that meets for informational and educational purposes. Clubs that actually invest sometimes organize themselves as LLCs and establish a system for how to choose and manage their investments as a group. Even though “investment club” may sound like an informal and relatively unregulated way to invest with pooled assets, they are actually subject to regulation by the SEC. Continue reading...

What are the Forms of Ownership of a Corporation in the United States?

There are many different forms of ownership of a company in the United States. This subtopic describes some of them. Corporations can be privately held or publicly traded. There are also C-Corporations (C-corps), which are the typically large companies controlled by a board of directors, and S-Corporations (S-Corps), which are smaller and have some of the characteristics of LLCs. LLC is an abbreviation for Limited Liability Company, which is a pass-through entity for partnerships or sole proprietors which shields the private assets of the owners from the liabilities of the business. LLCs are almost entirely regulated by state law, and while they can issue stock, it depends on the state. Continue reading...

What is Earnings Season?

Earnings season describes not one, but four times in a year, when corporations release their quarterly earnings reports. Investors look forward to this time because they are able to get an update about how the year is going, compared to projections. After each fiscal quarter ends, there are a few weeks in which companies file their quarterly reports with the SEC and announce their current earnings and sales numbers. Each of these periods is known as earnings season. Continue reading...

What is the minimum investment in a typical hedge fund?

Hedge funds can require initial investments that are quite large. This may be somewhere between $250,000 to $10,000,000. They will generally only accept Accredited Investors, meaning high net worth individuals that pass SEC standards which exempt the fund from some reporting and disclosure requirements. While the minimum investment varies, most Hedge Funds will accept only so-called accredited investors. Continue reading...

What are Accounting Methods?

Accounting Methods are the overarching style of accounting and bookkeeping which determine the practices, procedures, systems, and controls which should be put in place. There are two main methods of accounting that businesses and individuals can use to approach their accounting, and these are known as cash basis and accrual basis. The IRS expects businesses to choose early one which method they will use, and it can be difficult to change accounting styles later on. Continue reading...

What is Accrued Revenue?

Revenue that has not yet been received for goods or services already rendered may be documented as Accrued Revenue. Accrual accounting allows a business to put the payments due to it for good and services already rendered into the Assets column of its books. If no invoice or payment plan is established, it sits in the Accrued Revenue line; if so, the item goes into Accounts Receivable. Accrual accounting is different than cash accounting in this regard: cash accounting will only make an entry on the books when cash or goods are exchanged. Accrual accounting is actually mandatory for publicly traded companies with revenues over $5 million who are based in the US, per SEC regulations. Continue reading...

What is the Investment Advisor Registration Depository (IARD)?

The IARD system is maintained by FINRA, and keeps track of all adviser registrations, which states they are licensed to work in, all licenses they hold, and any customer complaints. It simplified the registration requirements of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD) was established in 2001 to streamline the registration requirements of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940. The act required that all advisers register with the SEC and the states in which they practice. Continue reading...

What is the foreign corrupt practices act?

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act attempts to reduce the possibility that a corporation with American affiliations will engage in the bribery of foreign officials. The act was created in 1977 and has since been amended and expanded several times. The SEC and the Department of Justice are both responsible for enforcing the FCPA, which is a law designed to prevent US-based companies from engaging in corrupt practices abroad. Continue reading...

What are pink sheets?

The Pink Sheets used to be printed on pink paper and contained the bid and ask prices of penny stocks which were not listed on major exchanges. Today the Pink Sheets are operated online by OTC Markets Inc but fulfill the same role. The Pink Sheets will list penny stocks which may or may not be found on other micro-cap exchanges. To be listed on the Pink Sheets, there are no listing requirements, such as cap-size; companies must only file one form and which provides some current financial information, but update information may not be required as time goes on, and hence companies listed only on the pink sheets are considered the most speculative and risky equity plays an investor can make. Continue reading...

What is a Federally Covered Advisor?

The Investment Advisers Supervision Coordination Act of 1996 sought to delegate the responsibility of monitoring investment advisors between the states and the federal government. It amended the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, which required all advisors to register with the SEC. The Dodd-Frank Act further amended the IAA, such that only advisors with assets under management exceeding $100 million had to register with the SEC. The IASC was part of the NSMIA legislation passed in 1996. Up until that point, all advisors were regulated and monitored by the SEC. Continue reading...

What is an Accounting Convention?

An accounting convention is an established an agreed-upon method of documenting specific items on a company’s books. The most widely-used accounting conventions are part of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP), which is the only accounting methodology accepted for quarterly 10-Q filings with the SEC in the United States, and has also become the basis for regulatory accounting practices in other countries. Continue reading...

What is a penny stock?

A penny Stock is a term for equity shares valued below $5, many of which are not registered with the SEC and trade over-the-counter. They do trade on over-the-counter exchanges regulated by FINRA. Penny Stocks are equity in companies that may be small or have bad credit ratings, whose shares are priced below $5, per the SEC definition, but below $1 in the more widely accepted street definition. Because they do not have to observe all of the disclosure requirements of the SEC, there is not very much transparency about the companies or brokers issuing penny stocks. Continue reading...

What is a credit rating?

A credit rating is given to a company or debt issue after a disinterested third party evaluates the strength of the business or cash flow and rates its ability to pay all of its liabilities. Third-party institutions such as Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch will conduct research in order to give investors an idea of how likely a business, bond issue, or insurance company can pay all of its obligations. Continue reading...

Who is a Bond Trustee?

A bond trustee is an institution which has the fiduciary responsibility of administering and enforcing the terms of the bond indenture. A bond indenture is the contract between the bond issuer and the bondholder. A trustee has the resources to manage the distribution of the funds to the bondholders, to keep up with and distribute the required bookkeeping and statement information to the interested parties as well as regulators like the SEC. If there is a violation of the contract, the trustee must report it and act in the best interest of the wronged party. Continue reading...

Is Bitcoin Legal?

Bitcoin remains a technology and a currency that primarily exists outside of the influence and control of governments and regulated markets. In most places, it is accepted for what it is. In some countries, it is explicitly banned. Bitcoin is technically illegal in a few parts of the world, but for the most part, it remains in the extra-legal realm, existing outside of the traditional legal system and the regulated markets. Bitcoin was created in large part to be difficult to understand and to pin down, to be part of the fringe and underground that could not be controlled by a central authority. It is open-source, so no one owns the rights to the code, and the community of programmers interested in shaping the future of cryptocurrency frequently attempts to make small upgrades and tweaks to blockchain technology in the interest of creating more efficient, more scalable blockchain cryptocurrency. Continue reading...

What is a 10-k?

A 10-k is an annual filing required by the SEC for companies over a certain size, which provides the regulators with more detail than can be found in an Annual Report. If a company has over $10 Million in assets and equity shares divided among 500 or more people, it must file a 10-K within 60 days of the end of the fiscal year, as well as 10-Q filings quarterly, whether it is publicly or privately traded. The 10-K will include specific details that companies may not have put in their Annual Report to shareholders, such as executive compensation, subsidiaries, audited financial statements, lawsuits, and so on. Continue reading...

What is a Cash Flow Statement?

A statement of cash flows is an accounting report which describes the changes in cash flows, which is distinct from net income. Cash Flow Statements are an important part of corporate accounting. While net income reports include non-cash items such as depreciation, as well as accounts receivable and accounts payable, cash flow statements will isolate the cash transactions in and out of the company. This helps get an idea of whether the company can pay its bills in a timely manner and so forth. Continue reading...