Catch this CrocTail

Last week our friends at CorpWatch unveiled their great new API, which extracts corporate subsidiary information from SEC filings and makes the data available for the world to navigate in a structured way — or to reuse. SEC 10-K filings are notoriously difficult to parse with automated scripts (that’s where LittleSis gets its corporate boards and executives from, and believe us, even that is quite tough), so this is a very useful service.

For starters, LittleSis can take advantage of the US-based subsidiary data to help match government contracts from with parent companies we track. Many contracts are awarded to subsidiaries with very different names from the parent companies, making it hard to aggregate contract data per company with any sort of completeness. Who’d have known that this Department of Interior contract to Landmark Graphics Corporation was actually another Halliburton deal? Thanks to the CorpWatch API, we now have a way of detecting that automatically.

Even if raw data isn’t part of your diet, there’s plenty to be discovered from their CrocTail application, which provides a user-friendly web interface to their API, and annotates the data with news items about corporate abuses by the web of subsidiaries. As CorpWatch’s Tonya Hennessey aptly puts it in their press release,

The CrocTail application has particular relevance at this moment, with the public eye focused on the structural nature of corporate abuses, including multinational tax-avoidance and the use of off-shore subsidiaries to evade responsibility for human rights violations. In the most egregious cases, corporations use subsidiaries to cloud their investments in dictatorships and violent regimes. Chevron in Burma and Marathon Oil in Equatorial Guinea are two examples.

CrocTail was built by a couple great developers, Greg Michalec and Skye Bender-deMoll, with funding from (you guessed it) the Sunlight Foundation. Their API is elegantly coded and documented, an example that we hope the upcoming LittleSis API can live up to (more about that soon).