Provincial securities commissions require public companies to file documents such as:
- annual information forms
- annual and quarterly financial statements
- management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A)
- management information circulars
- material change reports
These disclosure documents contain information that can help you to assess a company’s management, products, services, finances, future prospects and risks.
Make sure the documents you review are up to date. A lot can happen within a company even in a few weeks or months.
Exceptions to the prospectus rule
Generally, securities offered to the public in Ontario must be offered with a prospectus – a document that provides detailed information about the security and the company offering it. However, there are some exemptions to this rule that allow securities to be offered without a prospectus – these are called prospectus exemptions.
If disclosure documents are late or incorrect
If a public company files a disclosure document late or information is incorrect, the securities commission may require the company to refile or correct the document. In some cases, it may issue a cease trade order. A cease trade order can suspend all trading in a company’s securities, or prohibit individuals and companies from trading in certain or all securities.
If you hold stock in a company that has been ordered to stop trading, find out if it has any plans to apply to have the order removed. In some cases, the company may file for bankruptcy.
To find out more:
- Search cease trade orders through the Canadian Securities Administrators.
- Check with the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services to see if the company still exists.
Don’t investInvest To use money for the purpose of making more money by making an investment. Often involves risk.+ read full definition if a salesperson asks you to lie about being an accredited investor on a subscription form, or hints that the company will soon list on a stock exchangeStock exchange A market in which securities are bought and sold.+ read full definition, with a much higher shareShare A piece of ownership in a company. A share does not give you direct control over the company’s daily operations. But it does let you get a share of profits if the company pays dividends.+ read full definition price than what’s being offered to you. These types of tactics are often associated with “pump and dump” scams, which artificially drive up the price of a stockStock An investment that gives you part ownership or shares in a company. Often provides voting rights in some business decisions.+ read full definition. After some time, the price often drops, and you could lose your money.
Other company sources
Here’s what you can learn from other company sources.
1. Annual reports
- Whether the company is making or losing money and why
- Information about the company’s operations and financial statements
- Comments from the president or chief executive officer on how the company did over the past year, as well as industry trends and events that may have affected stock performance.
2. News releases
- Information about what the company considers important enough news to release to the public. Examples: new contracts, mergers and acquisitions, management changes and earnings releases.
3. Company website
- Current news, annual reports, quarterly statements and past news releases
- Speeches and presentations by executives and analysts’ reports
- Industry reports
- Webcasts of conference calls with analysts
- Telephone conference calls available to the public
If information a company tells you turns out to be wrong or misleading, consult the prospectusProspectus A legal document that sets out the full, true and plain facts you need to know about a security. Contains information about the company or mutual fund selling the security, its management, products or services, plans and business risks.+ read full definition (if the company is required to file one). It will tell you your legal rights to stop a purchase or to sue for damages. These rights tend to be limited, so it’s important to do your research before buying a stock.
Here are 3 things you can do to find out if a company has been in trouble with a stock exchange or securities commission:
- Check with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) – If a company has been accused of breaking an exchange rule or regulation, IIROC will report the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.
- Check with your provincial securities commission – Many report information about hearings on their websites. Example: Ontario Securities Commission.
- Read Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) Investor Alerts – These bulletins can help you find out about the latest investment frauds and scams.
Other sources of information
- Your investment firm – If you’re investing with a full-service firm, your advisor can help you choose individual stocks and give you general investing information. If you’re using a discount brokerage, check the website for research and investing tools.
- SEDAR – By law, public companies in Canada generally must file disclosure documents on the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR). You can search by date, document type, company name or industry sector.
- Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) – You’ll find up-to-the-minute information about stocks and companies listed on the TSX, annual reports and historical market data.
- Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) – The SEC is the U.S. securities regulator. You’ll find information on U.S. stocks.
- Third-party websites – You can get information on past stock prices and trends from a variety of websites. Examples: Globe Investor, Morningstar, Stockwatch, Yahoo Finance. You may have to pay a fee in some cases.
There’s a wealth of information online about stocks and plenty of advice about what stocks to buy. But how do you know who to trust? Find out as much as you can about the background and expertise of the person or firm who is offering the advice. Are they profiting from giving this advice? The more you know about the source, the better you can assess the risk.
3 quick steps to get started
- Read a company’s disclosure documents
- Look at its annual report, news releases and website
- Check with securities regulators
Be cautious about investing if a public company:
- hasn’t filed all its disclosure documents
- has been in trouble with a stock exchange or a regulator