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Free Corporate Data: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By: Krystal Beckner, COGENCY GLOBAL on Mon, Mar 02, 2015

In this digital, high-tech, easy-access world, corporate data is available for free, 24 hours a day, directly from the 50 states’ websites. Public records retrieval is as easy as a few clicks of a mouse or swipes across a smart phone.Free Corporate Data


The Good
Free information is a good thing – especially when one is searching for a specific piece of information. For example, a lawsuit has been filed against a corporation in Ohio, and process must be served against the defendant. Ohio’s website is easily searched to retrieve the name and address of the corporation’s registered agent.


The Bad
Free data may be good, however, one must remember that state databases are filled with raw data that is posted, but not enhanced or given context. Some states, like Washington and Oklahoma, do not include annual report data, which frequently includes pertinent business-related information. Additionally, timeliness varies from state to state. One cannot always tell if data is posted in real-time or through what date the information is valid. Timeliness can impact the soundness of important facts, such as status or registered agent.


Sometimes It’s Ugly
Imagine searching for current status of a Delaware corporation that is authorized to do business in five other states. After checking each of the six states, six different statuses are reported:

Delaware - Good Standing
Alabama - Exists
Georgia - Active/Compliance
North Carolina -      Current/Active
Wisconsin - Qualified
Wyoming - Current

Why are multiple phrases used to describe status for one corporation in different states? Do all of these descriptions mean the same thing? Not necessarily. What you know for sure in looking at the above list is that the corporation is duly registered and “active” in each state’s records. In some states (other than Delaware), a corporation may be listed with one of the above statuses, yet still owe annual reports or taxes. For example, in the states of Wisconsin, Arkansas and Florida the term “active” can be applied to an existing corporation during a grace period offered by the states for delinquent annual reports.

Using status as the example above makes sense, because it is the universal piece of information one would find on a state’s corporate database, right? Mostly. Massachusetts and Rhode Island do not provide status on their websites and both of these states consider a corporation delinquent if the annual report is late. So, how does one acquire this information?


There Is Help
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, obtaining free information directly from state websites makes sense when you are looking for a specific piece of information. If, however, you need more complete entity data, an experienced service provider can gather, combine and professionally present all the information you need while saving you a lot of time.


This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.

Topics: Company Formation and Filing Considerations