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May242016

SEC Issues New C&DI On Use Of Non-GAAP Measures; Regulation G – Part 1

On May 17, 2016, the SEC published 12 new Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) related to the use of non-GAAP financial measures by public companies.  The SEC permits companies to present non-GAAP financial measures in their public disclosures subject to compliance with Regulation G and item 10(e) of Regulation S-K.  Regulation G and Item 10(e) require reconciliation to comparable GAAP numbers, the reasons for presenting the non-GAAP numbers and govern the presentation format itself including requiring equal or greater prominence to the GAAP financial information.

The new C&DI follows a period of controversy, press and speeches on the subject.  In the last couple of months SEC Chair Mary Jo White, SEC Deputy Chief Accountant Wesley Bricker, Chief Accountant James Schnurr and Corp Fin Director Keith Higgins have all given speeches at various venues across the company admonishing public companies for their increased use of non-GAAP financial measures.  Mary Jo White suggested new rule making may be on the horizon,

May172016

SEC Issues Concept Release On Regulation S-K; Part 2

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”).  This blog is the second part discussing that concept release.  In Part I, which can be read HERE, I discussed the background and general concepts for which the SEC provides discussion and seeks comment.  In this Part II, I will discuss the rules and recommendations made by the SEC and, in particular, those related to the 100, 200, 300, 500 and 700 series of Regulation S-K.

Background

The fundamental tenet of the federal securities laws is defined by one word: disclosure.  In fact, the SEC neither reviews nor opines on the merits of any company or transaction, but only upon the appropriate disclosure, including risks, made by that company.  However, excessive rote immaterial disclosure can dilute the material important information regarding that particular company and have the

May102016

SEC Issues Final Rules Implementing The JOBS Act And Rules On The FAST Act

On May 3, 2016, the SEC issued final amendments to revise the rules related to the thresholds for registrations, termination of registration, and suspension of reporting under Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  The amendments mark the final rule making and implementation of all provisions under the JOBS Act, and implement further provisions under the FAST Act.

The amendments revise the Section 12(g) and 15(d) rules to reflect the new, higher shareholder thresholds for triggering registration requirements and for allowing the voluntary termination of registration or suspension of reporting obligations.  The new rules also make similar changes related to banks, bank holding companies, and savings and loan companies.

Specifically, the SEC has amended Exchange Act Rules 12g-1 through 12g-4 and 12h-3 related to the procedures for termination of registration under Section 12(g) through the filing of a Form 15 and for suspension of reporting obligations under Section 15(d), to reflect the higher thresholds set by the

May032016

SEC Issues Concept Release On Regulation S-K; Part 1

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”).  This blog is the first part in a series discussing that concept release.  The S-K Concept Release is part of the SEC Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative mandated by the JOBS Act.

The fundamental tenet of the federal securities laws is defined by one word: disclosure.  In fact, the SEC neither reviews nor opines on the merits of any company or transaction, but only upon the appropriate disclosure, including risks, made by that company.

This is the first blog in a two-part series on the S-K Concept Release.  In this Part I, I will discuss the background and general concepts for which the SEC provides discussion and seeks comment.  In Part II of the series I will discuss the rules and recommendations made by the SEC and, in particular, those

Apr262016

NASDAQ Listing Requirements

This blog is the first in a two-part series explaining the listing requirements for the two small-cap national exchanges, NASDAQ and the NYSE MKT, beginning with NASDAQ.  In addition to often being asked about the listing requirements on NASDAQ and the NYSE MKT, I am asked about the benefits of trading on such an exchange.  Accordingly, at the end of this blog I have included a discussion on such benefits.

The NASDAQ Stock Market

The NASDAQ Stock Market currently has three tiers of listed companies: (1) The NASDAQ Global Select Market, (2) The NASDAQ Global Market and (3) The NASDAQ Capital Market. Each tier has increasingly higher listing standards, with the NASDAQ Global Select Market having the highest initial listing standards and the NASDAQ Capital Markets being the entry-level tier for most micro- and small-cap issuers.  Keeping in line with the focus of my blogs and practice, this blog is focused on the NASDAQ Capital Market tier.

A company seeking

Apr192016

The U.S. Capital Markets Clearance And Settlement Process

Within the world of securities there are many sectors and facets to explore and understand.  To be successful, a public company must have an active, liquid trading market.  Accordingly, the trading markets themselves, including the settlement and clearing process in the US markets, is an important fundamental area of knowledge that every public company, potential public company, and advisor needs to comprehend.  A basic understanding of the trading markets will help drive relationships with transfer agents, market makers, broker-dealers and financial public relations firms as well as provide the knowledge to improve relationships with shareholders.  In addition, small pooled funds such as venture and hedge funds and family offices that invest in public markets will benefit from an understanding of the process.

This blog provides a historical foundation and summary of the clearance and settlement processes for US equities markets.  In a future blog, I will drill down into specific trading, including short selling.

History and Background

The Paperwork Crisis

Apr122016

Regulation SCI

The SEC adopted Regulation Systems Compliance and Integrity (Regulation SCI) on November 3, 2015 to improve regulatory standards and processes related to technology in the securities business including by financial services firms. Regulation SCI was originally proposed in March 2013. Security and standards related to technological processes, data storage and systems has been a top priority of the SEC over the last few years and continues to be so this year.

Background

Technology has transformed the securities industry over the last years both in the area of regulatory oversight such as through algorithms to spot trading anomalies that could indicate manipulation and/or insider trading issues, and for market participants through enhanced speed, capacity, efficiency and sophistication of trading abilities. Enhanced technology carries the corresponding risk of failures, disruptions and of course hacking/intrusions. Moreover, as U.S. securities market systems are interconnected; an issue with one entity or system can have widespread consequences for all market participants.

Regulation SCI was proposed and

Apr052016

Mergers And Acquisitions: Types Of Transactions

As merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions completed its most active year since the financial crisis, it is helpful to go back to basics. Activity has been prevalent in all market sectors, including large, mid and small cap and across all industries, including biotech, financial services, technology, consumer goods and services, food and beverage and healthcare, among others.

Although I’ve written about M&A transactions multiple times, this will be the first time I’ve given a broad overview of the forms that an M&A transaction can take.

Types of Mergers and Acquisitions

A merger or acquisition transaction is the combination of two companies into one resulting in either one corporate entity or a parent-holding and subsidiary company structure. Mergers can categorized by the competitive relationship between the parties and by the legal structure of the transaction. Related to competitive relationship, there are three types of mergers: horizontal, vertical and conglomerate. In a horizontal merger, one company acquires another that is in the

Mar292016

Responding To SEC Comments

Background

The SEC Division of Corporation Finance (CorpFin) reviews and comments upon filings made under the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). The purpose of a review by CorpFin is to ensure compliance with the disclosure requirements under the federal securities laws, including Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X, and to enhance such disclosures as to each particular issuer. CorpFin will also be cognizant of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws and may refer a matter to the Division of Enforcement where material concerns arise over the adequacy and accuracy of reported information or other securities law violations, including violations of the Section 5 registration requirements. CorpFin has an Office of Enforcement Liason in that regard.

CorpFin’s review and responsibilities can be described with one word: disclosure!

CorpFin selectively reviews filings, although generally all first-time filings, such as an S-1 for an initial public offering or Form 10 registration under

Mar222016

SEC Advisory Committee On Small And Emerging Companies Reviews Capital Formation

On February 25, 2016, the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) met and listened to three presentations on access to capital and private offerings. The three presentations were by Jeffrey E. Sohl, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Decision Science Director, Center For Venture Research at University of New Hampshire; Brian Knight, Associate Director of Financial Policy, Center for Financial Markets at the Milken Institute; and Scott Bauguess, Deputy Director, Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the SEC. The presentations expound upon the recent SEC study on unregistered offerings (see blog HERE).

The presentations were designed to provide information to the Advisory Committee as they continue to explore recommendations to the SEC on various capital formation topics. This blog summarizes the 3 presentations.

By way of reminder, the Committee was organized by the SEC to provide advice on SEC rules, regulations and policies regarding “its mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient

Mar152016

House Passes More Securities Legislation

In what must be the most active period of securities legislation in recent history, the US House of Representatives has passed three more bills that would make changes to the federal securities laws. The three bills, which have not been passed into law as of yet, come in the wake of the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”), which was signed into law on December 4, 2015.

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 the SEC; and (iii) H.R. 2187, proposing an amendment to the definition of accredited investor. None of the bills have been passed by the Senate as of yet.

Meanwhile, the SEC continues to finalize rulemaking under both the JOBS Act, which was passed into law on April 5,

Mar082016

SEC Gives Insight On 2016 Initiatives

SEC Chair Mary Jo White gave a speech at the annual mid-February SEC Speaks program and, as usual, gave some insight into the SEC’s focus in the coming year.  This blog summarized Chair White’s speech and provides further insight and information on the topics she addresses.

Consistent with her prior messages, Chair White focuses on enforcement, stating that the SEC “needs to go beyond disclosure” in carrying out its mission.  That mission, as articulated by Chair White, is the protection of investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation.  In 2015 the SEC brought a record number of enforcement proceedings and secured an all-time high for penalty and disgorgement orders.  The primary areas of focus included cybersecurity, market structure requirements, dark pools, microcap fraud, financial reporting failures, insider trading, disclosure deficiencies in municipal offerings and protection of retail investors and retiree savings.  In 2016 the SEC intends to focus enforcement on financial reporting, market structure, and the

Mar012016

State Blue Sky Concerns; Florida and New York

I have often written about state blue sky compliance and issues in completing offerings that do not pre-empt state law, including Tier 1 of Regulation A+ and initial or direct public offerings on Form S-1. I’ve also often expressed my opinion that the SEC, together with FINRA, is best suited to govern most securities-related registrations and exemptions, including both for offerings and broker-dealer matters, and that the states should be more focused on state-specific registrations and exemptions (such as intrastate offerings) and investigation and enforcement with respect to fraud or deceit, or unlawful conduct.

Despite the SEC support for the NASAA-coordinated review program to simplify the state blue sky process for securities offerings, such as under Tier 1 of Regulation A+, only 43 states participate. I say “only” in this context because the holdouts – including, for example, Florida, New York, Arizona and Georgia – are extremely active states for small business development and private capital formation. Moreover, even

Feb232016

SEC Proposes Transfer Agent Rules

On December 22, 2015, the SEC issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and concept release on proposed new requirements for transfer agents and requesting public comment. The transfer agent rules were adopted in 1977 and have remained essentially unchanged since that time. An advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) describes intended new and amended rules and seeks comments on same, but is not in fact that actual proposed rule release. The SEC indicates that following the comment process associated with this ANPR, it intends to propose actual new rules as soon as practicable.

To invoke thoughtful comment and response, the SEC summarized the history of the role of transfer agents within the securities clearing system as well as the current rules and proposed new rules. In addition, the SEC discusses and seeks comments on broader topics that may affect transfer agents and the securities system as a whole. This blog gives a high level review of the whole APNR

Feb162016

SEC’s Financial Disclosure Requirements For Sub-Entities Of Registered Companies

As required by the JOBS Act, in 2013 the SEC launched its Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative and has been examining disclosure requirements under Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X and methods to improve such requirements. In September 2015, the SEC issued a request for comment related to the Regulation S-X financial disclosure obligations for certain entities other than the reporting entity. In particular, the SEC is seeking comments on the current financial disclosure requirements for acquired businesses, subsidiaries not consolidated, 50% or less owned entities, issuers of guaranteed securities, and affiliates whose securities collateralize the reporting company’s securities.

It is important to note that the SEC release relates to general financial statement and reporting requirements, and not the modified reporting requirements for smaller reporting companies or emerging growth companies. In particular, Article 8 of Regulation S-X applies to smaller reporting companies and Article 3 to those that do not qualify for the reduced Article 8 requirements. The SEC discussion and request for

Feb092016

SEC Study On Unregistered Offerings

In October 2015, the SEC Division of Economic and Risk Analysis issued a white paper study on unregistered securities offerings from 2009 through 2014 (the “Report”). The Report provides insight into what is working in the private placement market and has been on my radar as a blog since its release, but with so many pressing, timely topics to write about, I am only now getting to this one. The SEC Report is only through 2014; however, at the end of this blog, I have provided supplemental information from another source related to PIPE (private placements into public equity) transactions in 2015.

Private offerings are the largest segment of capital formation in the U.S. markets. In 2014 private offerings raised more than $2 trillion. The SEC study used information collected from Form D filings to provide insight into the offering characteristics, including types of issuers, investors and financial intermediaries that participate in offerings. The Report focuses on Regulation D offerings

Feb022016

SEC Issues Rules Implementing Certain Provisions Of The FAST Act

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”) into law, which included many capital markets/securities-related bills. The FAST Act is being dubbed the JOBS Act 2.0 by many industry insiders. The FAST Act has an aggressive rulemaking timetable and some of its provisions became effective immediately upon signing the bill into law on December 4, 2015. Accordingly there has been a steady flow of new SEC guidance, and now implementing rules.

On January 13, 2016, the SEC issued interim final rules memorializing two provisions of the FAST Act. In particular, the SEC revised the instructions to Forms S-1 and F-1 to allow the omission of historical financial information and to allow smaller reporting companies to use forward incorporation by reference to update an effective S-1. This blog summarizes these rules.

On December 10, 2015, the SEC Division of Corporate Finance addressed the FAST Act by making an announcement with guidance and issuing

Jan262016

FINRA Proposes New Category Of Broker-Dealer For “Capital Acquisition Brokers”

In December, 2015, FINRA proposed rules for a whole new category of broker-dealer, called “Capital Acquisition Brokers” (“CABs”), which limit their business to corporate financing transactions. In February 2014 FINRA sought comment on the proposal, which at the time referred to a CAB as a limited corporate financing broker (LCFB). Following many comments that the LCFB rules did not have a significant impact on the regulatory burden for full member firms, the new rules modify the original LCFB proposal in more than just name. The new rules will take effect upon approval by the SEC and are currently open to public comments.

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.

As with all FINRA rules, the proposed