Many companies require licenses or regulatory permits to operate. These companies include everything from nursing homes and child care facilities to contractors and pharmacies.
The licensing and regulatory agencies have name indexes of the people or companies that they license or regulate, including the licensees’ addresses. More detailed information often is available, such as investigations of complaints or inspection reports.
You have to check with each individual agency to determine what records they keep and how the records can be accessed.
Fortunately, a large number of state and federal agencies that regulate professions and businesses are putting their name indexes and at least some of their records online.
For licensing agencies, see our tutorial on:
For some of the other major federal or state agencies that regulate various types of businesses or business practices see the topical listings in this tutorial.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Comptroller of the Currency has an online database of its enforcement actions against banking organizations.
States license and regulate different types of businesses that provide care for children, such as child care facilities and adoption agencies.
In California check the state Community Care Licensing Division’s
Then select a type of licensed facility and do a search by the name of a facility or a location or both.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has an alphabetical list by name of company of actions taken for consumer fraud and related issues.
See also the section of this tutorial on Product Recalls.
States regulate licensed contractors, such as companies that do home improvements.
Many of the states put their databases of licensees online.
In California, see the:
Environmental Pollutants and Toxins
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tracks sources of pollutants, toxic chemicals and waste released into the air, water or on land.
The EPA has an online database you can search by the name of a facility to see if it is the source of any pollutants or toxic emissions. See the:
The EPA also has an online database of inspection, violation, and enforcement actions relating to the federal clean water, clean air and other hazardous waste laws. This “ECHO” database is searchable by name of facility:
State Environmental Agencies
States also have environmental regulatory agencies.
In California, for example, these include:
- California Environmental Protection Agency
- California State Water Resources Control Board – also check regional water quality control boards in California such as the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
- California Air Resources Board – also check regional air quality boards, such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District
The U.S. Department of Commerce maintains a list of companies and people that have been denied export privileges.
The California Department of Industrial Relations has an online database of farm labor contractors
Financial Services Companies
For brokerage houses and brokers, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a searchable online database:
For investment advisory firms and advisors, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has an online database of firms and people registered with federal or state agencies:
For state agencies that regulate different types of financial service companies, go to the North American Securities Administrators Association:
The federal government has set up a USASpending.gov website that lists federal grants and contracts that have been awarded, mainly under the federal recovery act.
Health Care and Hospitals
Hospitals and other health care organizations are accredited by a group known as the Joint Commission.
The Commission has an online database you can search by the name of a health care organization to find accreditation and quality of care reports:
Insurance companies are regulated by state agencies.
For links to the websites of state insurance regulators, go to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners:
In California, go to the California Department of Insurance.
Or you can search the California Department of Insurance online database of insurance company profiles:
Businesses with licenses to sell alcoholic beverages are usually regulated by a state agency.
In California, liquor licenses are issued by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, commonly referred to as the ABC.
The ABC has an online database you can search by the name of an individual or business to get information on liquor licenses:
You also can look up all the liquor licenses in a particular city:
In California, transfers of liquor licenses from one individual or establishment to another – called notices of intent to sell alcoholic beverages – also are filed with a county recorder’s office.
The U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office has an online database of all patents filed in the United States.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission has an online database of product recalls, searchable by the name of a company:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a searchable online database of food and drug recalls or safety alerts:
Safety and Health Inspections
The U.S. Office of Safety & Health Inspections (OSHA) conducts inspections of workplaces for possible health and safety violations. OSHA has an online database you can search by name of establishment for enforcement inspections:
In California the Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health, more commonly known as Cal/OSHA, regulates workplace safety. On its website it has posted a list of Citations of significance against businesses.
Public utilities, such as gas and electric companies, are regulated on both a federal and state level. See for example: