As mandated by Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, publicly traded companies must file annual reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This "official" annual report is known as the "10K."
While 10Ks primarily contain detailed financial information about the company, they are also required to include information such as any legal proceedings in which the company is involved, a management discussion, and information on executive compensation.
Public companies are generally required to provide annual reports to their shareholders in preparation for their annual meeting. In the 19th century, the annual report was usually a letter to stockholders followed by a financial statement. This has evolved into a "State of the Company" report including a statement from the CEO, a report on continuing operations, plans for new products, programs, and activities, market data, and research and development activities. It also includes financial data, although in general this is less detailed than the data obtainable in the 10K.
Annual reports are valuable historical records. They are the "public face" of corporations; they reflect what a company at a specific point in time wanted the general public to know about them.
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