Sign-up for our Free Newsletter, Whitepaper and SEC and FINRA Updates as they occur.

Feb212017

SEC Issues White Paper On Penny Stock Risks

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

——————————————————————————————————

On December 16, 2016, the SEC announced several new settled enforcement proceedings against market participants including issuers, attorneys and a transfer agent, related to penny stock fraud. On the same day the SEC issued a new white paper detailing the risks associated with investing in penny stocks. This blog summarizes the SEC white paper.

As I have written about on numerous occasions, the prevention of micro-cap fraud is and will always be a primary focus of the SEC and other securities regulators. In fact, the SEC will go to great lengths to investigate and ultimately prosecute micro-cap fraud. See my blog HERE regarding the recent somewhat scandalous case involving Guy Gentile.

Introduction

The SEC Division of Economic and Risk Analysis published a white paper on the risks and consequences of investing in stocks quoted in the micro-cap markets versus those listed on a national securities exchange. The paper reviewed 1.8 million trades by

Feb142017

What Does The SEC Do And What Is Its Purpose?

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

——————————————————————————————————

As I write about the myriad of constantly changing and progressing securities law-related policies, rules, regulations, guidance and issues, I am reminded that sometimes it is important to go back and explain certain key facts to lay a proper foundation for an understanding of the topics which layer on this foundation. In this blog, I am doing just that by explaining what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is and its purpose. Most of information in this blog comes from the SEC website, which is an extremely useful resource for practitioners, issuers, investors and all market participants.

Introduction

The mission of the SEC is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets and facilitate capital formation.  Although each mission should be a priority, the reality is that the focus of the SEC changes based on its Chair and Commissioners and political pressure. Outgoing Chair Mary Jo White viewed the SEC enforcement division

Feb072017

House Passes Creating Financial Prosperity For Business And Investors Act

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

——————————————————————————————————

On December 5, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Creating Financial Prosperity for Businesses and Investors Act (H.R. 6427) (the “Act”), continuing the House’s pro-business legislation spree. The Act is actually comprised of six smaller acts, all of which have previously been considered and passed by the House in 2016. The Act is comprised of: (i) Title I: The Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act (H.R. 4168); (ii) Title II: The SEC Small Business Advocate Act (H.R. 3784); (iii) Title III: The Supporting American’s Innovators Act (H.R. 4854); (iv) Title IV: The Fix Crowdfunding Act (H.R. 4855); (v) Title V: The Fair Investment Opportunities for Professionals Experts Act (H.R. 2187); and (vi) Title VI: The U.S. Territories Investor Protection Act (H.R. 5322).

Title I: The Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act (H.R. 4168)

This Act requires the SEC to respond to the findings and recommendations of the SEC’s annual Government-Business Forum

Jan312017

SEC Issues New C&DI On Abbreviated Debt Tender And Debt Exchange Offers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

——————————————————————————————————

The SEC has been issuing a slew of new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI”) on numerous topics in the past few months. On November 18, 2016, the SEC issued seven new C&DI providing guidance on tender offers in general as well as on abbreviated debt tender and debt exchange offers, known as the Five-Day Tender Offer. The guidance related to the Five-Day Tender Offer clarifies a previously issued January 2015 no-action letter on the subject. As I have not written on the subject of tender offers previously, I include a very high-level summary of tender offers in general and together with specific discussion on the new C&DI.

What Is a Tender Offer?

A tender offer is not statutorily defined, but from a high level is a broad solicitation made by a company or a third party to purchase a substantial portion of the outstanding debt or equity of a company. A tender

Jan242017

The SEC Has Issued New C&DI Guidance On Regulation A+

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

——————————————————————————————————

On November 17, 2016, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance issued three 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 alone I am noticing a large uptick in broker-dealer-placed Regulation A+ offerings, and recently, institutional investor interest.

Following a discussion on the CD&I guidance, I have included some interesting statistics, practice tips, and thoughts on Regulation A+, and a refresher summary of the Regulation A+ rules.

New CD&I Guidance

In the first of the new CD&I, the SEC has clarified that where a company seeks to qualify an additional class of securities via post-qualification amendment to a previously qualified Form 1-A, Item 4 of Part I, which requires “Summary Information Regarding the Offering and Other Current or Proposed Offerings,” need only include information related

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————————

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