Approximately 6,000 stocks trade on the major U.S. exchanges -- the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. That may not seem like that many, and I suppose it isn't. But they do represent every kind of industry imaginable. Some aren't even companies at all.

Trusts, like the NCE PetroFund (NYSE:NCN), trade on the expected cash-flow streams generated by assets or natural resources. There are real estate investment trusts (REITs), like Anthracite Mortgage (NYSE:AHR) and AvalonBay (NYSE:AVB), and American depositary receipts (ADRs) like Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam (NYSE:VSL). And don't forget closed end funds like the Debt Strategies Fund (NYSE:DSU) or the Nuveen California Municipal Fund (NYSE:NCA).

And there's one outfit that apparently does nothing.

Enter the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development(PAID) (NYSE:POB). Its official description is as follows:

The Authority is a public instrumentality of the Commonwealth [of Pennsylvania] and a body corporate and politic, created by the City pursuant to the Act for the purpose of acquiring, holding, constructing, improving, maintaining, operating, owning, financing and leasing, either in the capacity of lessor or lessee, industrial, commercial or specialized development projects, all as permitted under the Act.

I don't know but...
Somehow, POB trades about 6,000 shares a day, or about $150,000 worth. It pays a dividend of $0.41 per quarter (a 6.4% yield at today's valuation) and has done so like clockwork since going public in early 1999. The stock has done well in its own right, drifting upwards from $18 to its current level of $25.35 in four years. Yet information on the Authority itself seems impossible to come by.

We get no market capitalization. It apparently files no reports with the SEC -- doesn't have a web site, a list of assets, or accessible financial statements. The NYSE, which lists the stock, offers no real information other than ticker, dividend, and current price. Yahoo Finance offers nothing. Neither does the SEC's EDGAR database. We've found nothing so much as a "we don't have to file nothin'" filing. And yet it pays out, every quarter.

Could this stock trade completely independent of its fundamentals? I mean, for all the world it doesn't seem to have any. What in the world are investors basing their decisions and trades on?

I'm going to find out
I'm inquisitive by nature, and I've been at work uncovering the mystery that is PAID. Google turns up that PAID owns a skyscraper, the Aramark Building in downtown Philadelphia, and that it also owns the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. But there isn't much by way of details about either project or the other facts that turn up -- for instance, some assorted air cargo revenue bonds. An FAQ from the Naval Center offers a tiny clue:

Q. Who owns the Philadelphia Naval Business Center?

A. In March 2000, the property was formally transferred to the Philadelphia Authority For Industrial Development (PAID). The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the City's private economic development corporation, is managing the marketing and development of the property on behalf of PAID and the City.

This wasn't much to go on, but it did offer one clue -- there is a second management corporation, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (which is different, how?). And I did find that PIDC has worked recently with Sysco (NYSE:SYY), and with Norwegian engineering firm AkerKvaerner (Pink Sheets: KVNRY) on projects that may or may not have anything to do with PAID.

But that's about it. Several weeks ago, I sent an email asking questions about PAID to PIDC, and received no reply. In the interim, I put in a call to a representative of PIDC, but once again have heard nothing back.

I'll find the answer
I doubt seriously that there is anything pernicious going on. PAID is, after all, an instrument of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not some shadowy front for the Albanian mob. But what on earth does this stock trade on, except that consistent stream of $0.41 dividends? The impending rebirth of the City of Brotherly Love? The chances of the Eagles winning the Super Bowl? Rocky 8?

And by the way, if Philadelphia has PIDC, why does it need PAID? I mean, PIDC and PAID both manage the PNBC, but PAID doesn't seem to exist except for its management agreement with PIDC. PIDC is non-profit, PAID pays out a dividend based on... what? And is it a C? An LLC? A BDC? Does it work with the FHA? The SEPTA? The CIA? CREEP?

I'd really like to know. And I'm certain that both of you reading this are curious, too. How on earth can a stock trade publicly -- much less daily -- on the New York Stock Exchange, despite there being almost, but not quite exactly, zero information available to investors?!? When I figure it out, I'll follow up. Meanwhile, if you're looking for a highly regular 6.4% dividend, maybe you can find something on PAID.

Fool on!
Bill Mann, TMFOtter on the Fool Discussion Boards

Bill Mann can't find his keys, either. While the Motley Fool offers a newsletter highlighting our favorite Hidden Gems, this one just may be too hidden even for our tastes. Check it out!