This morning I had a reference question about finding financial and other information about a small privately held company. This brought back memories because I did a lot of this sort of research in my previous job, which was primarily doing competitive intelligence for a medium-sized privately held company.
I'm a little rusty at this, and I don't have access to all the tools that I used to have. I did find some information on Westlaw in Dun's Market Identifiers database (the more powerful & expensive databases aren't included in my law school subscription).
Then I wondered, how accurate was the information in this database? ...
For a lark, I looked up my previous employer in Dun's Market Identifiers. Apparently, this particular record was last updated only a month ago - but nobody should assume that this means that the record was up to date as of last month. The financial information must have been that most recent update, because that was quite current. As for everything else, it was very out of date - especially the executive information. There were people listed who left the company right after I started working there in 1998!
When I was in that job, I knew about the existence of these inaccuracies, but tended to downplay them because I had such sparse information to work with. That's the nice thing about being a law librarian - I can assume that most of the main resources are accurate. Now accuracy isn't the same as authoritativeness - I could have a perfectly accurate version of a case that's been overruled or a statute that's been repealed.
But in business research & competitive intelligence, you can never assume that the published directories or reports are accurate. You would hope that a very pricey investor's report would have better information than what's in the more basic directories like Dun's Market Identifiers, but there are no guarantees, not even in the SEC filings. No one piece can be considered accurate without multiple confirmation and triangulation - preferably with a mixture of both published and unpublished sources.
That work had a certain intellectual challenge - of using all (ethical) means of finding information about a company - and trying to assemble a big picture out of those various tiny scraps of information that were availabe. But I don't really miss it because there was just too much uncertainty.