DEFINITION of 'Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval - EDGAR'

EDGAR — short for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval — is the electronic filing system created by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the purpose of increasing efficiency and accessibility to corporate filings. This system is used by all publicly traded companies when submitting required documents to the SEC. Corporate documents are time sensitive, and the creation of EDGAR has greatly decreased the time it takes for corporate documents to become publicly available.

BREAKING DOWN 'Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval - EDGAR'

Corporate documents filed with the SEC through EDGAR include annual and quarterly statements, information regarding the holdings of institutional investors and many other forms. These filings include some of the most important information used by investors and analysts. Some public companies may be exempt from filing if they fall below certain "thresholds."

A drawback of this system is that the filings are highly stripped down and often difficult to read compared to annual reports received by shareholders. All the information is there, but in what is essentially one giant text file. However, any given form will always be structured the in the same way regardless of which company filed it. For example, if an analyst is interested in knowing if a company made any changes to its accounting methods, he or she will always find it in Part II, Item 9, in the annual report (or 10-K).

Most of the filings made through EDGAR are available to download or view for free, though not all. In September, 2017 the system drew criticism after the SEC announced that it had been hacked the prior year.

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