The Aleph search tool, built and maintained by OpenOil, is a vast database of public documents filed by oil, gas, and mining companies in some of the biggest legal jurisdictions in the world. Aleph gives us access to millions of documents all in one place that we can search by content, but finding the exact information we want can seem intimidating. The folks at OpenOil have provided some good resources for getting started with Aleph; find them here and here. In this blog post, I will help make navigating this system even easier by providing a step by step guide on how to automatically have the information you are most interested in delivered from Aleph straight to your inbox.
At PWYP-US, we are particularly interested in (and excited about) the payments to governments reports that oil, gas, and mining companies listed on EU stock exchanges have recently disclosed. Major companies like BP, Shell, and BHP Billiton have all published reports for 2015. As more and more reports come online, there is a possibility that some may slip through the cracks. Luckily, Aleph has a search tool that can let you know when any new filings become available.
The first step is to navigate to aleph.openoil.net and register for an account.
Once that is done, on the home page click on “Alerts” in the upper right-hand corner. You should see this screen:
Click “Add” to set up a new alert.
You now have two fields to populate, “Query” and “Label”.
The “Query” field is what Aleph will use to search the database. Aleph has some advanced searching capabilities, which you can read about in depth here. We are going to use the composite querying function.
Setting up an alert for new payments to governments reports
If you want to find documents related to payments to governments reports, searching “payments to governments” is a little too imprecise. We need to get more specific .
The payments to governments reports are mandated by law, and as such, have a specific form name in each legal jurisdiction.
So, let’s construct a query that will cover all of these:
"Article L. 225-102-3" OR "DTR 4.3A" OR "Section 1504" OR "13q-1"
Add that to “Query” under your new alert and give it a name under “Label”. Select whether you want to be updated daily or weekly, then hit submit.
And there you have it!
Aleph will now automatically update you via email on any new documents that fit the conditions you outlined in your query. Currently, the London Stock Exchange is the only jurisdiction from which Aleph pulls filings that require payments to government reports. However, the first mandatory disclosure reports will be released in Canada next year, and in the United States beginning in 2018. Including Section 1504 and the French article number may mean you get notifications that don’t contain actual mandatory disclosure reports, but making your search somewhat broad ensures that if a company filing, an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative report, or contract mentions any of the search terms, you will be notified.
*Note: Running this query we noted that using "13q-1" occasionally returned results that were not relevant. However, these should be minimal, and including "13q-1" ensures a more robust query than only using "Section 1504".
Tommy Morrison is a Research Assistant at PWYP-US, follow us on Twitter @pwypusa
Accessing Aleph’s wealth of information requires a certain understanding of how to best use the search engine. While we are working hard to make the two million documents inside Aleph as easy to search across as possible, I have already provided many examples in a previous blog for why you should…
1) Be exact when selecting search terms
2) Narrow down search results
3) Use Aleph to find the particular, and not the common
4) Use the language of companies
5) Be creative and playful
Here I would like to add to this list of tips and tricks, highlight new features of Aleph’s latest release and suggest a few more interesting search examples. So let me continue with…
6) Sorting by filing date
The latest release of Aleph allows you to sort any given search result by “relevance”, “newest” and “oldest”. We chose “relevance” to be the default, which is defined by both the number of search matches inside a document and its respective filing date. Yet there are many scenarios in which you might want to find the most recent document. Let’s say, you are interested in the latest on the Jubilee field in Ghana: a quick search for the name of the project – sorted by newest – will allow you to find out about recent production figures, planed infrastructure developments in nearby blocks, and even gross sales volumes for the past months.
7) Filtering by company or filing type
If we now assume you are only interested in a particular company, it is helpful to filter Aleph’s search result to only contain documents from that company. Let’s say, you want to read on only one of Jubilee’s shareholders, Kosmos Energy. All you have to do is click on the “company facet” on the right sidebar and select Kosmos from the total list of all the companies, for which Aleph stores documents with your search terms. If this still doesn’t bring you to what you are searching for, for example Kosmos’ latest annual report (10-K filing), try filtering by filing type as well. In order to so, you should keep in mind however, that filing type names not only vary between the different stock exchanges, but also from year to year. In other words, keep an eye on the different ways a filing type can be named.
8) Continue to search within documents
Another tip on making best use of Aleph is to continue searching within documents. This new feature is made possible by Aleph’s in-build document viewer, that loads once you open a particular search result. For example, if you have identified a document that matches your interest – let’s stick to the example of Kosmos’ annual report: how do you now find what is of interest to you within the document? Let’s say, you want to know which corporate risks Kosmos had mentioned? Well… all you have to do is type it into searchbar at the right corner, which will direct you to the several mentions of risks, and in particular to the so-called risks section. This particular method allows you to put your initial findings into the context of a document.
9) Keep it simple
Last but not least, you should keep in mind that Aleph only shows up documents with exact matches to your query. If there is a typo in your query, for example, Aleph will not lead you to what you are looking for. Also, Aleph is not designed to be a google alternative, where you can enter a “what are the gold reserves of Ghana?” type question. Instead, keep it simple. Put in the terms “gold”, “reserves”and “Ghana” and Aleph will point you to the resource and reserve statements of all listed companies, that are active in Ghana.
When keeping these tips and tricks in mind, however, you will be surprised about what you are going to find.
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