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Oct172017

SEC Chief Accountant Speaks On Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s)

On September 11, 2017, the SEC Chief Accountant, Wesley R. Bricker, gave a speech before the AICPA National Conference on Banks & Savings Institutions. The bulk of the speech was similar to Mr. Bricker’s June 2017 speech before the 36th Annual SEC and Financial Reporting Institute Conference, summarized HERE. However, one topic that was new, and interesting enough to spark this blog, was related to initial coin offerings (ICO’s). Note that offers and sales of digital coins, cryptocurrencies or tokens using distributed ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain have become widely known as ICO’s.

As the capital markets become more and more focused on all things blockchain, including ICO’s, secondary token trading, and disruptive changes made possible by distributed ledger technology (DLT), which is inevitably transforming capital market processes, the SEC is fronting a wave of questions and concerns on the subject. On July 25, 2017, the SEC issued a report on an investigation related to an

Oct102017

Updates On Regulation A+

On September 14, 2017, the SEC issued three new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) to provide guidance related to the filing of a Form 8-A in conjunction with a Tier 2 Regulation A offering. The new guidance addresses the timing of financial statements and subsequent reporting requirements under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”).

Furthermore, earlier in September, the House passed the Improving Access to Capital Act, which would allow companies subject to the reporting requirements under the Exchange Act to use Regulation A, a change the entire marketplace is advocating for.

As I do with each blog on Regulation A, I have included an ongoing commentary, practice tips, and thoughts on Regulation A+, and a summary of the Regulation A+ rules, including interpretations and guidance up to the date of this blog.

New CD&I Guidance

As a reminder, Tier 2 issuers that have used the S-1 format for their Form 1-A filing are permitted

Oct032017

SEC Provides Regulatory Relief To Hurricane Victims

On September 28, 2017, the SEC announced interim final temporary rules (“Exemptive Order”) to provide relief to publicly trading companies, investment companies, accountants, transfer agents, municipal advisors and others affected the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.  In addition to the interim rules, the SEC urges others not covered by the relief but affected in their ability to provide information to the SEC or shareholders to contact the SEC to seek relief on a case-by-case basis.

Interim Final Temporary Rules

Generally the due date for Exchange Act reports for companies relying on the Exemptive Order shall be October 10, 2017 for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, October 19, 2017 for those affected by Hurricane Irma, and November 2, 2017 for those affected by Hurricane Irma.  As such, companies with such extended due dates may also file an additional extension on Form 12b-25 on those dates, and benefit from an additional five days for a Form 10-Q and 15 days for a

Sep262017

The SEC Provides Further Guidance On Financial Statement Requirements In Registration Statements

On August 17, 2017, the SEC issued guidance on financial statement requirements for confidential and public registration statement filings by both emerging growth companies (EGC) and non-emerging growth companies. The new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI’s) follow the SEC’s decision to permit all companies to submit draft registration statements, on a confidential basis (see HERE). The newest guidance is in accord with the SEC’s announced policy to take active measures to promote the U.S. IPO market and small business capital-raise initiatives.

Earlier in the summer, the SEC expanded the JOBS Act benefit available to emerging growth companies, to be able to file confidential draft registration statements, to all companies. Confidential draft submissions are now available for all Section 12(b) Exchange Act registration statements, initial public offerings (IPO’s) and for secondary or follow-on offerings made in the first year after a company becomes publicly reporting.

Title I of the JOBS Act initially allowed for confidential draft submissions of registration

Sep192017

SEC Monitors Impact of Hurricanes On Capital Markets

As I wrote this blog I continued to have no power at my home after one week, though thankfully it has returned by publication date. Living in South Florida, our firm has felt and seen the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma on the state and send our thoughts and wishes to all affected by both Irma and Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

On September 13, 2017, the SEC issued a press release confirming that it is closely monitoring the effects of both Irma and Harvey on the capital markets. In particular, the SEC is working to make sure that investors have access to their securities accounts and evaluating the need for extending filing deadlines for reporting companies. Furthermore, the SEC is watching for and will keep investors updated via alerts on storm-related scams.

Despite the announcement that the SEC is monitoring the markets and considering extending filing deadlines, no specific broad-based relief has been granted. As has been done historically, I

SEC
Sep122017

SEC Announces Regulatory Agenda

In July 2017 the SEC posted its latest version of its semi-annual regulatory agenda and plans for rulemaking with the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The agenda is as interesting for what’s on it, as for what isn’t. The semi-annual list only contains 33 legislative action items that the SEC intends to propose or finalize in the next 12 months. The fall 2016 list contained 62 items. As further discussed in this blog, the list does not include proposals on executive compensation, or many other Dodd-Frank mandated rules.

In the preamble to the list it indicates that it was completed in March, when Michael Piwowar was acting Chair of the SEC. Chair Jay Clayton and now Commissioner Michael Piwowar have been publicly like-minded, with a goal of directing the SEC towards assisting in small and emerging business growth and capital raise activities, while remaining tough on fraud. A summary of Chair Clayton’s first public speech as head of

Sep052017

OTCQB Sets New Requirements F​or Change Of Control Events

On June 30, 2017, the OTC Markets Group published amendments to the OTCQB standards related to the processing and reporting of change in control events. The new rules went into effect on July 31, 2017.

OTC Markets has been initiating a series of changes related to the OTCQB including amending the qualification requirements to allow quotation by companies that follow its alternative reporting standard (“Alternative Reporting Standard”) which went effective on May 18, 2017. For a review of the new qualification changes, see my blog HERE.

Highlights of Changes 

The OTCQB has added a new Section 2.4 to the OTCQB Standards published by OTC Markets.  The OTCQB Standards include a comprehensive summary of admission and eligibility requirements, application processes, initial and ongoing disclosure requirements, continued eligibility requirements, fees and removal processes.

Section 2 of the OTCQB Standards set forth the continued OTCQB Eligibility requirements, and includes the new Section 2.4 related to change in control events.

A “change in

Aug292017

FINRA Proposes Expansion Of The OTCBB

In August 2016, FINRA quietly requested comment on a proposal to expand the now largely dormant OTC Bulletin Board quotation service (“OTCBB”) as a backup inter-dealer quotation system for OTC Equity securities. As part of the proposal, the OTCBB would be renamed and branded as the Over the Counter Display Facility or “ODF.” Previously, on October 7, 2014, the SEC published a release instituting proceedings to determine whether to approve FINRA’s request to delete the rules related to, and the operations of, the OTCBB. My blog on the proposal can be read HERE.

However, on March 12, 2015, FINRA withdrew the proposed rule change and request to delete the OTCBB. Although the March 12, 2015 withdrawal did not cite reasons, in its new request for comment, FINRA indicates it withdrew the proposal in response to SEC staff requests that FINRA continue to operate alternative quotation facility.

Since that time the OTCBB has remained largely relatively dormant. According

Aug222017

FINRA Issues New Guidance On Communications With The Public, Including Social Media

In April 2017 FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 17-18 providing additional guidance on the use of social media and digital communications by member firms and persons associated with member firms. The guidance specifically relates to FINRA Rule 2210 – Communications with the Public, and supplements previously issued guidance in Regulatory Notices 10-06 and 11-39, published in 2011. The new guidance is in the form of FAQ’s and concentrates on the areas of recordkeeping, third-party posts and hyperlinks to third-party sites.

I have previously written about the SEC’s guidance on social media use by companies, including as a method for communications with investors and the public. The most recent blog is HERE and includes hyperlinks to prior blogs, including a three-part summary of the SEC Guidance on Social Media and Websites for Company Announcements and Communications.

Brief Overview of Rule 2210

FINRA Rule 2210 governs communications by FINRA member firms and associated persons, including: (i) institutional communications – including any written or

Aug152017

SEC Issues Report on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s)

On July 25, 2017, the SEC issued a report on an investigation related to an initial coin offering (ICO) by the DAO and statements by the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Enforcement related to the investigative report (the “Report”). On the same day, the SEC issued an Investor Bulletin related to ICO’s. Offers and sales of digital coins, cryptocurrencies or tokens using distributed ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain have become widely known as ICO’s. For an introduction on DLT and blockchain, see HERE.

The basis of the report is that offers and sales of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, are subject to the federal (and state) securities laws. From the highest level, the nature of a digital asset must be examined to determine if it meets the definition of a security using established principles (see HERE). In addition, all offers and sales of securities must either be registered with the SEC or there must be an available exemption

Aug082017

An Introduction To Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain Technology)

On July 13, 2017, FINRA held a Blockchain Symposium to assess the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the financial industry, including the maintenance of shareholder and corporate records. DLT is commonly referred to as blockchain. The symposium included participation by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Federal Reserve Board and the SEC.

FINRA also published a report earlier in the year discussing the implications of DLT for the securities industry. Delaware, Nevada and Arizona have already passed statutes allowing for the use of DLT for corporate and shareholder records. This is the first in many blogs that will discuss DLT as this exciting new era of technology continues to unfold and impact the securities markets. In this blog I will discuss FINRA’s report published in January 2017 and in the next in the series, I will summarize the recent SEC investigative report on initial coin offerings and conclusion

Aug012017

SEC Chair Jay Clayton Discusses Direction Of SEC

In a much talked about speech to the Economic Club of New York on July 12, 2017, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton set forth his thoughts on SEC policy, including a list of guiding principles for his tenure. Chair Clayton’s underlying theme is the furtherance of opportunities and protection of Main Street investors, a welcome viewpoint from the securities markets’ top regulator. This was Chair Clayton’s first public speech in his new role and follows Commissioner Michael Piwowar’s recent remarks to the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation largely related to the U.S. IPO market. For a summary of Commissioner Piwowar’s speech, read HERE.

Guiding Principles

Chair Clayton outlined a list of eight guiding principles for the SEC.

#1: The SEC’s Mission is its touchstone

As described by Chair Clayton, the SEC has a three part mission: (i) to protect investors; (ii) to maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets, and (iii) to facilitate capital formation. Chair Clayton stresses that it

Jul252017

SEC Expands Ability To File Confidential Registration Statements

Nominate Us For ABA Journal’s Top Blog- HERE

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On June 19, 2017, the SEC announced that the Division of Corporation Finance will permit all companies to submit draft registration statements, on a confidential basis. Confidential draft submissions will now be available for all Section 12(b) Exchange Act registration statements, initial public offerings (IPO’s) and for secondary or follow-on offerings made in the first year after a company becomes publicly reporting.

The SEC has adopted the change by staff prerogative and not a formal rule change. On June 29, 2017, the SEC issued guidance on the change via new FAQs. The new policy is effective July 10, 2017.

Title I of the JOBS Act initially allowed for confidential draft submissions of registration statements by emerging growth companies but did not include any other companies, such as smaller reporting companies. Regulation A+ as enacted on June 19, 2015, also allows for confidential submissions of an offering circular by companies completing their

Jul182017

SEC Commissioner Piwowar Speaks On The IPO Market

Nominate Us For ABA Journal’s Top Blog- HERE

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On May 16, 2017, SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar gave the opening remarks to the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation. The focus of the SEC-NYU Dialogue was the current state of and outlook for the U.S. IPO market. Mr. Piwowar specifically spoke about reviving the U.S. IPO market.

The declining IPO market has been a topic of review lately, and was one of the main points discussed at the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee meeting held on June 22. SEC Chair Jay Clayton weighed in at the Investor Advisory Committee, stating that he is “actively exploring ways in which we can improve the attractiveness of listing on our public markets, while maintaining important investor protections.” Mr. Clayton’s words echoed his statements made to the Senate confirmation hearing prior to his swearing in as chair.

This blog summarizes Commissioner Piwowar’s speech and of course offers my views and commentary.

Commissioner Piwowar’s Opening

Jul112017

SEC Chief Accountant Speaks On Financial Reporting

Nominate Us For ABA Journal’s Top Blog- HERE

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On June 8, 2017, the SEC Chief Accountant, Wesley R. Bricker, gave a speech before the 36th Annual SEC and Financial Reporting Institute Conference. The speech, which this blog summarizes, was titled “Advancing the Role of Credible Financial Reporting in the Capital Markets.” As usual, I’ve included commentary throughout.

Introduction and Role of the PCAOB

The speech begins with some general background comments and a discussion of the role of the PCAOB. Approximately half of Americans invest in the U.S. equity markets, either directly or through mutual funds and employer-sponsored retirement plans. The ability to judge the opportunities and risks and make investment choices depends on the quality of information available to the public and importantly, the quality of the accounting and auditing information. Mr. Bricker notes that “[T]he credibility of financial statements have a direct effect on a company’s cost of capital, which is reflected in the price that

Jul052017

The Payment Of Finders’ Fees- An Ongoing Discussion

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction

As a recurring topic, I discuss exemptions to the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities and individuals that assist companies in fundraising and related services. I have previously discussed the no-action-letter-based exemption for M&A brokers, the exemptions for websites restricted to accredited investors and for crowdfunding portals as part of the JOBS Act and the statutory exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements found in Securities Exchange Act Rule 3a4-1, including for officers, directors and key employees of an issuer. I have also previously published a blog on the American Bar Association’s recommendations for the codification of an exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for private placement finders. I’ve included links to each of these prior articles in the conclusion to this blog.

A related topic with a parallel analysis is the use of finders for investors and investor groups, an activity which has become prevalent in today’s marketplace. In that

Jun272017

OTC Markets Amends Listing Standards For OTCQB To Allow Non-Reporting Issuers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Effective May 18, 2017, the OTC Markets has amended its qualification rules for the OTCQB to allow quotation by companies that follow its alternative reporting standard (“Alternative Reporting Standard”). OTC Markets aligned the new requirements with the existing OTCQX Alternative Reporting Standard requirements. In addition, the OTC Markets made clarifying amendments to its rules, amended the rules related to the timing of removal for delinquent filers, and revised the rules for international reporting companies.

Highlights of Changes

To qualify for the OTCQB using the Alternative Reporting Standard, a company must file audited financial statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP by a PCAOB qualified auditor, have a minimum bid price of $0.01, not be subject to bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings, and maintain corporate governance including (i) have a board of directors that includes a minimum of two independent directors, and (ii) have an audit committee comprised of a majority of independent directors.

Jun202017

SEC Issues Additional Guidance on Regulation A+

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 31, 2017, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance issued six new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) to provide guidance related to Regulation A/A+. Since the new Regulation A+ came into effect on June 19, 2015, its use has continued to steadily increase. In my practice it is the most popular method for a public offering under $50 million.

As an ongoing commentary on Regulation A+, following a discussion on the CD&I guidance, I have included practice tips, and thoughts on Regulation A+, and a summary of the Regulation A+ rules, including interpretations and guidance up to the date of this blog.

New CD&I Guidance

In the first of the new CD&I, the SEC clarifies the timing of the filing of a Form 8-A to register a class of securities under Section 12(b) or (g) of the Exchange Act.  In particular, in order to be able to file a Form