Conducting International Corporate Registry Searches

Open source investigations or intelligence gathering exercises (“OSINT”) can become international fairly quickly, particularly when the file involves commercial or corporate bodies. There are numerous commercial databases such as Hoovers that will provide information on companies, but it is always a good idea to obtain the official corporate record for the country in which the company is domiciled.

A good place to start is the sources compiled by Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services. Ms. Blakeman has been maintaining this list for years and regularly updates it with new sources and data sets as they become available. One very useful aspect of Ms. Blakeman’s list is the numerous commercial databases that she refers to. Some specialize in North American companies, others with European companies. Wikipedia also provides a useful list of official corporate registers.

It is important to think about the structure of the country in which the research is being conducted. In Canada corporate registries exist at both the provincial and federal levels. In the U.S. they are at the state level and in the United Kingdom everything is registered with the Companies House. There is also tradenames or “doing business as” or “DBA” names to consider. Depending on the jurisdiction you may have to conduct separate inquiries for these.

Other documents such as snapshots of corporate returns from previous periods or shareholder information are available in some, but not all cases.

In our courses, particularly on OSINT courses involving commercial investigations we will have our students attempt to locate the official source of a corporate record and determine the best way to obtain a copy of the corporate documents whether on-line, through a third party agency or through other means such as email or fax. It is a useful skill in conducting investigative research, particularly when conducting research in other countries.