When a business incorporates, it files articles of incorporation with a state agency. The articles of incorporation become publicly available information. Ignorance of their public nature can result in inadvertent disclosure of personal information.
Where to Find Articles
Incorporators file articles of incorporation with the secretary of state or other state agency specified in that state’s corporate code. Anyone can get a copy of the articles of incorporation for any business by paying a modest fee to the filing agency. In Arizona and some other states, scanned copies of articles of incorporation are available online for free.
Specific filing procedures vary among the states. In addition to filing with the state agency, the incorporators may have to publish the articles in a local newspaper. A publication requirement will circulate the text of the articles to anyone who gets that edition of the newspaper.
Articles of incorporation identify the corporation’s name, the number of shares of stock authorized for issuance, and the name and street address of an agent for service of process. Depending on where the corporation is formed, the law may require the articles to contain additional information. Addresses are a common source of concern. A corporate officer or director may list their home address without realizing this will become a public document.
Other Corporate Documents
After incorporation, state law may require filing annual reports listing officers and directors and other information. Annual reports also become publicly available. Most other corporate records remain private, including bylaws, meeting minutes and shareholder agreements.