America -- we love her for many reasons, such as the majesty of purple mountains, the Bill of Rights, and Krispy Kreme Donuts (the donuts, and not necessarily the stock). Here's another reason to love America: our nation, compared to most others, requires a lot from publicly traded companies. Recent scandals not withstanding, we investors have a fighting chance of really getting to know the companies in which we invest, thanks to the reports companies are required to file.

Permit me to review them for you. Once a year, companies file "10-K" reports, which tend to be rather long and detailed. They include at least the following three financial reports:

They also include management's discussion of progress and risks faced, plus lots of other numbers, such as breakouts of sales and earnings by regions and other categories. There are also plenty of footnotes, offering, for example, the interest rates tied to various debts owed.

Meanwhile, in the three intervening quarters between 10-Ks, companies file shorter 10-Q reports, which don't always include all three main financial statements. These reports are generally not audited, either, but they still offer useful information.

Just as an example of what you can find in a 10-K, check out some of these risks disclosed for various companies:

  • Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO): "The majority of our revenues are derived from marketing services, and the reduction in spending by or loss of current or potential advertisers would cause our revenues and operating results to decline." And "In certain markets, we depend on a limited number of sources to direct a significant percentage of users and businesses to our service to conduct searches and a loss of any of these sources could harm our operating results." These probably constitute news to some investors and are useful reminders for others.
  • Sirius Satellite (NASDAQ:SIRI): "Our three satellites were launched in 2000. We do not maintain in-orbit insurance policies covering our satellites. Our operating results would be materially adversely affected if the useful life of our satellites is significantly shorter than we expect."
  • Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM): "Our three largest customers [LG Electronics, Motorola (NYSE:MOT), and Samsung] accounted for 39%, 39%, and 40% of consolidated revenues in fiscal 2006, 2005 and 2004, respectively. The loss of any one of our major customers or any reduction in the demand for devices utilizing our CDMA technology could reduce our revenues and harm our ability to achieve or sustain desired levels of operating results."

So let's all be grateful for financial reports and the element of transparency that they bring.

For related Foolishness:

Yahoo is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.