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Jan172017

SEC Issues New C&DI Clarifying The Use Of Form S-3 By Smaller Reporting Companies; The Baby Shelf Rule

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The SEC has been issuing a slew of new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI”) on numerous topics in the past few months. I will cover each of these new C&DI in a series of blogs starting with one C&DI that clarifies the availability of Form S-3 for the registration of securities by companies with a public float of less than $75 million, known as the “baby shelf rule.”

The Baby Shelf Rule

Among other requirements, to qualify to use an S-3 registration statement a company must have filed all Exchange Act reports in a timely manner, including Form 8-K, within the prior 12 months and trade on a national exchange. An S-3 also contains certain limitations on the value of securities that can be offered. Companies that have an aggregate market value of voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates of $75 million or more, may offer the full amount of

Jan102017

SEC Issues Guidance On Integration With A 506(c) Offering

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On November 17, 2016, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance issued a new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) related to the integration of a completed 506(b) offering with a new 506(c) offering. The new C&DI confirms that 506(c) offering will not integrate with a previously completed 506(b) offering.

Effective September, 2013, the SEC adopted final rules eliminating the prohibition against general solicitation and advertising in Rules 506 and 144A offerings as required by Title II of the JOBS Act. The enactment of new 506(c) resulting in the elimination of the prohibition against general solicitation and advertising in private offerings to accredited investors has been a slow but sure success. Trailblazers such as startenging.com, realtymogul.com, circleup.com, wefunder.com and seedinvest.com proved that the model can work, and the rest of the capital marketplace has taken notice.  Recently, more established broker-dealers have begun their foray into the 506(c) marketplace with accredited investor-only crowdfunding websites accompanied by

Jan032017

SEC Issues Report On Regulation S-K

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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As required by Section 72003 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”), on November 23, 2016, the SEC issued a Report on Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K (the “Report”) including detailed recommendations for changes.

The Report continues the ongoing review and proposed revisions to Regulations S-K and S-X as related to reports and registration statements filed under the Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”). Regulation S-K, as amended over the years, was adopted as part of a uniform disclosure initiative to provide a single regulatory source related to non-financial statement disclosures and information required to be included in registration statements and reports filed under the Exchange Act and the Securities Act. Regulation S-X contains specific financial statement preparation and disclosure requirements.

The Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative began in December 2013, when the SEC, as required by the JOBS Act, issued its first report

Dec272016

SEC Proposes Shortening Trade Settlement

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 28, 2016, the SEC proposed a rule amendment to shorten the standard broker-initiated trade settlement cycle from three business days from the trade date (T+3) to two business days (T+2). The change is designed to help reduce risks, including credit, market and liquidity risks, associated with unsettled transactions in the marketplace. Outgoing SEC Chair, Mary Jo White was quoted as saying that the change “is an important step to the SEC’s ongoing efforts to enhance the resiliency and efficiency of the U.S. clearance and settlement system.” I have previously written about the clearance and settlement process for U.S. capital markets, which can be reviewed HERE.

Background

DTC provides the depository and book entry settlement services for substantially all equity trading in the US.  Over $600 billion in transactions are completed at DTC each day. Although all similar, the exact clearance and settlement process depends on the type of security being

Dec202016

SEC Eliminates The “Tandy Letter”

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On October 5, 2016, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance (CorpFin) announced that, effective immediately, it would no longer require companies to include “Tandy” letter representations in comment letter response or registration acceleration requests addressed to the SEC.

Background

Beginning in the 1970s the SEC began to require an affirmative statement from the company acknowledging that the company cannot use the SEC’s comment process as a defense in any securities-related litigation. Named after the first company required to provide the affirmations, this language is referred to as a “Tandy” letter. By 2004 the “Tandy” letter was required in all comment letter responses to the SEC as well as registration acceleration requests. The “Tandy” portion of a response was required to be agreed to by the company itself, so if the response letter was on attorney letterhead, a signature line was required to be included for the company or the company could submit a

Dec132016

SEC Cracks Down On Failure To File 8-K For Financing Activities; An Overview Of Form 8-K

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction and Background

On September 26, 2016, and again on the 27th, the SEC brought enforcement actions against issuers for the failure to file 8-K’s associated with corporate finance transactions and in particular PIPE transactions involving the issuance of convertible debt, preferred equity, warrants and similar instruments. Prior to the release of these two actions, I have been hearing rumors in the industry that the SEC has issued “hundreds” of subpoenas (likely an exaggeration) to issuers related to PIPE transactions and in particular to determine 8-K filing deficiencies. Using this as a backdrop, this blog will also address Form 8-K filing requirements in general.

Back in August 2014, the SEC did a similar sweep related to 8-K filing failures associated with 3(a)(10) transactions. See my blog HERE for a discussion of those actions and 3(a)(10) proceedings in general. The 8-K filing deficiency actions were a precursor to a larger SEC investigation on 3(a)(10)

Dec062016

Yahoo Hacking Scandal And Obligations Related To Cybersecurity

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 26, 2016, Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Intelligence and Banking Committees and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, wrote a letter to the SEC requesting that they investigate whether Yahoo, Inc., fulfilled its disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws related to a security breach that affected more than 500 million accounts.  Senator Warner also requested that the SEC re-examine its guidance and requirements related to the disclosure of cybersecurity matters in general.

The letter was precipitated by a September 22, 2016, 8-K and press release issued by Yahoo disclosing the theft of certain user account information that occurred in late 2014. The press release referred to a “recent investigation” confirming the theft of user account information associated with at least 500 million accounts that was stolen in late 2014. Just 13 days prior to the 8-K and press release, on September 9, 2016,

Nov292016

SEC Modernizes Intrastate Crowdfunding; Amending Rules 147 And 504; Creating New Rule 147A

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On October 26, 2016, the SEC passed new rules to modernize intrastate and regional securities offerings. The final new rules amend Rule 147 to reform the rules and allow companies to continue to offer securities under Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”). In addition, the SEC has created a new Rule 147A to accommodate adopted state intrastate crowdfunding provisions. New Rule 147A allows intrastate offerings to access out-of-state residents and companies that are incorporated out of state, but that conduct business in the state in which the offering is being conducted. In addition, the SEC has amended Rule 504 of Regulation D to increase the aggregate offering amount from $1 million to $5 million and to add bad-actor disqualifications from reliance on the rule. Finally, the SEC has repealed the rarely used and now redundant Rule 505 of Regulation D.

Amended Rule 147 and new Rule 147A will take

Nov222016

SEC Has Approved FINRA’s New Category Of Broker-Dealer For “Capital Acquisition Brokers”

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On August 18, 2016, the SEC approved FINRA’s rules implementing a new category of broker-dealer called “Capital Acquisition Brokers” (“CABs”), which limit their business to corporate financing transactions.  FINRA first published proposed rules on CABs in December 2015. My blog on the proposed rules can be read HERE. In March and again in June 2016, FINRA published amendments to the proposed rules.  The final rules enact the December proposed rules as modified by the subsequent amendments.

A CAB will generally be a broker-dealer that engages in M&A transactions, raising funds through private placements and evaluating strategic alternatives and that collects transaction-based compensation for such activities. A CAB will not handle customer funds or securities, manage customer accounts or engage in market making or proprietary trading.

Description of Capital Acquisition Broker (“CAB”)

There are currently FINRA-registered firms which limit their activities to advising on mergers and acquisitions, advising on raising debt and equity

Nov152016

House Passes Accelerated Access To Capital Act

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 8, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Accelerating Access to Capital Act. The passage of this Act continues a slew of legislative activity by the House to reduce regulation and facilitate capital formation for small businesses. Unlike many of the House bills that have been passed this year, this one gained national attention, including an article in the Wall Street Journal. Although the bill does not have a Senate sponsor and is not likely to gain one, the Executive Office has indicated it would veto the bill if it made it that far.

Earlier this year I wrote about 3 such bills, including: (i) H.R. 1675 – the Capital Markets Improvement Act of 2016, which has 5 smaller acts imbedded therein; (ii) H.R. 3784, establishing the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee within the SEC; and (iii) H.R. 2187, proposing an amendment

Nov082016

Changes In India’s Laws Related To Foreign Direct Investments- A U.S. Opportunity; Brief Overview For Foreign Private Issuers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In June 2016, the Indian government announced new rules allowing for foreign direct investments into Indian owned and domiciled companies. The new rules continue a trend in laws supporting India as an open world economy.  A large portion of the U.S. public marketplace is actually the trading of securities of foreign owned or held businesses. Foreign businesses may register and trade directly on U.S. public markets as foreign private issuers, or they may operate as partial or wholly owned subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies that in turn quote and trade on either the OTC Markets or a U.S. exchange.

Brief Overview for Foreign Private Issuers

                Definition of Foreign Private Issuer

Both the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) contain definitions of a “foreign private issuer.” Generally, if a company does not meet the definition of a foreign private issuer, it

Nov012016

SEC Issues New C&DI On Rule 701

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 23, 2016, the SEC issued seven new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI”) related to Rule 701 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). On October 19, 2016, the SEC issued an additional three C&DI. The majority of the new C&DI focus on the effect on Rule 701 issuances following a merger or acquisition and clarify financial statement requirements under Rule 701. Two of the new C&DI address restricted stock awards including the disclosure requirements are triggered and when the holding period begins under Rule 144.

Rule 701 – Exemption for Offers and Sales to Employees of Non-Reporting Entities

Rule 701 of the Securities Act provides an exemption from the registration requirements for the issuance of securities under written compensatory benefit plans. Rule 701 is a specialized exemption for private or non-reporting entities and may not be relied upon by companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of

Oct252016

Florida Broker-Dealer Registration Exemption For M&A Brokers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Following the SEC’s lead, effective July 1, 2016, Florida has passed a statutory exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities effecting securities transactions in connection with the sale of equity control in private operating businesses (“M&A Broker”). As discussed further below, the new Florida statute, together with the SEC M&A Broker exemption, may have paved the way for Florida residents to act as an M&A broker in reverse or forward merger transactions involving OTCQX-traded public companies without broker-dealer registration.

Florida has historically had stringent broker-dealer registration requirements in connection with the offer and sale of securities. Moreover, Florida does not always mirror the federal registration requirements or exemptions. For example, see my blog HERE detailing some state blue sky concerns when dealing with Florida, including the lack of an issuer exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for public offerings.

However, in a move helpful to merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions in the

Oct182016

SEC Announces Enforcement Results For Fiscal Year-End 2016

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On October 11, 2016, the SEC announced its enforcement results for fiscal year-end September 30, 2016 (FYE 2016).  In FYE 2016 the SEC filed a record 868 enforcement actions, including against companies and executives for reporting violations, misconduct by companies and gatekeepers, fraud actions and more resulting in judgments and orders totaling more than $4 billion in disgorgement and penalties.

The actions also included a record number of enforcement proceedings against investment advisors and investment companies, a trend I expect to continue in the coming year as the SEC continues to crack down on the failure to adequately disclose all fees associated with investments into and operations of funds, as well as related party transactions.

Consistent with prior speeches and messaging, SEC Chair Mary Jo White made the following quote in the release announcing the enforcement results: “By every measure the enforcement program continues to be a resounding success holding executives, companies and

SEC
Oct112016

NASDAQ Requires Disclosure Of Third-Party Director Compensation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On July 1, 2016, the SEC approved NASDAQ’s new rule requiring listed companies to publicly disclose compensation or other payments by third parties to members of or nominees to the board of directors. The new rule, which went into effect in early August, is being dubbed the “Golden Leash Disclosure Rule.”

The Golden Leash Disclosure Rule

New NASDAQ Rule 5250(b)(3) requires each listed company to publicly disclose the material terms of all agreements or other arrangements between any director or director nominee and any other person or entity relating to compensation or any other payment in connection with the person’s position as director or candidacy as director. The disclosure does not include regular compensation from the company itself for director services. The disclosure must be included in any proxy or information statement issued under Regulation 14C or 14A for a shareholder’s meeting at which directors will be elected. A company can also include

Oct042016

House Continues To Push For Reduced Securities Regulation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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House Appropriations Bill

The House continues its busy activity of passing legislation designed to reduce securities and market regulations. In early July, the House passed H.R. 2995, an appropriations bill for the federal budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1st. No further action has been taken.  The 259-page bill, which is described as “making appropriations for financing services and general government for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes” (“House Appropriation Bill”), contains numerous provisions reducing or eliminating funding for key aspects of SEC enforcement and regulatory provisions.

Earlier this year, I wrote this BLOG about three House bills that will likely never be passed into law. The 3 bills include: (i) H.R. 1675 – the Capital Markets Improvement Act of 2016, which has 5 smaller acts imbedded therein; (ii) H.R. 3784, establishing the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee within

Sep272016

SEC Whistleblower Awards Pass $100 Million As It Continues To Crack Down On Confidentiality Provisions In Employment Agreements

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The SEC has proudly announced that including a $22 million award on August 30, 2016, its whistleblower awards have surpassed $100 million. The news comes in the wake of two recent SEC enforcement proceedings against companies based on confidentiality and waiver language in employee severance agreements. Like two prior similar actions, the SEC has taken the position that restrictive language in confidentiality, waiver or settlement agreements with employees violates the anti-whistleblower rules adopted under Dodd-Frank.

Background – The Dodd-Frank Act Whistleblower Statute

The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in July 2010, added Section 21F, “Whistleblower Incentives and Protection,” to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). As stated in the original rule release, the purpose of the rule was “to encourage whistleblowers to report possible violations of the securities laws by providing financial incentives, prohibiting employment related retaliation, and providing various confidentiality guarantees.” Upon enactment of Section 21F, the SEC established the Office of

Sep202016

SEC Issues Proposed Amendments To Item 601 Of Regulation S-K Related To Exhibits

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On August 31, 2016, the SEC issued proposed amendments to Item 601 of Regulation S-K to require hyperlinks to exhibits in filings made with the SEC. The proposed amendments would require any company filing registration statements or reports with the SEC to include a hyperlink to all exhibits listed on the exhibit list. In addition, because ASCII cannot support hyperlinks, the proposed amendment would also require that all exhibits be filed in HTML format.

This newest proposed rule change to Regulation S-K is part of the SEC Division of Corporation Finance’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.  At the end of this blog, I include an up-to-date summary of the proposals and request for comment related to the ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.

Background

On April 15, 2016, the SEC issued a 341-page concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to certain business and financial disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K (“S-K Concept Release”). The