SEC Issues New C&DI Clarifying The Use Of Form S-3 By Smaller Reporting Companies; The Baby Shelf Rule
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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 securities under an S-3 registration. For companies that have an aggregate market value of voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates of less than $75 million, Instruction 1.B.6(a) limits the amount that the company can offer to up to one-third of that market value in any trailing 12-month period. This one-third limitation is referred to as the “baby shelf rule.”
To calculate the non-affiliate float for purposes of S-3 eligibility, a company may look back 60 days and select the highest of the last sales prices or the average of the bid and ask prices on the principal exchange. The registration capacity for a baby shelf is measured immediately prior to the offering and re-measured on a rolling basis in connection with subsequent takedowns. The availability for a particular takedown is measured as the current allowable offering amount less any amounts actually sold under the same S-3 in prior takedowns. Accordingly, the available offering amount will increase as a company’s stock price increases, and decrease as a stock price decreases.
On November 2, 2016, the SEC issued a new C&DI clarifying the calculation of the one-third limitation under the baby shelf rule. In particular, some companies were effecting an S-3 shelf takedown with an investor while simultaneously completing a private placement with the same investor and registering the private placement securities via a new resale S-3 filing. Although the shelf takedown was a primary direct issuance from the company and the resale registration filed on behalf of the selling shareholder, the combined effect was the use of S-3 for an amount of securities in excess of the $75 million limitation.
This workaround had become somewhat commonplace until the SEC issued the new C&DI on November 2, 2016 clarifying that this will no longer be allowed. The new C&DI provides in total:
Question: An issuer with less than $75 million in public float is eligible to use Form S-3 for a primary offering in reliance on Instruction I.B.6, which permits it to sell no more than one-third of its public float within a 12-month period. May it sell securities to the same investor(s), with a portion coming from a takedown from its shelf registration statement for which it is relying on Instruction I.B.6 and a portion coming from a separate private placement that it concurrently registers for resale on a separate Form S-3 in reliance on Instruction I.B.3, if the aggregate number of shares sold exceeds the Instruction I.B.6 limitation that would be available to the issuer at that time?
Answer: No. Because we believe that this offering structure evades the offering size limitations of Instruction I.B.6, the securities registered for resale on Form S-3 should be counted against the issuer’s available capacity under Instruction I.B.6. Accordingly, an issuer may not rely on Instruction I.B.3 to register the resale of the balance of the securities on Form S-3 unless it has sufficient capacity under Instruction I.B.6 to issue that amount of securities at the time of filing the resale registration statement. If it does not, it would need to either register the resale on Form S-1 or wait until it has sufficient capacity under that instruction to register the resale on Form S-3.
Although the SEC has made it clear that the private placement and shelf takedown shares will both count towards the $75 million baby shelf limit, a company can still conduct concurrent shelf takedowns and private placements with the same investor. In such case the investor can either hold the private placement shares for the applicable Rule 144 holding period, or the shares can be registered for resale on Form S-1.
Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded issuers as well as private companies going public on the NASDAQ, NYSE MKT or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For nearly two decades Legal & Compliance, LLC has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service. The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-8 and S-4; compliance with the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; Regulation A/A+ offerings; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers, ; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including NASDAQ and NYSE MKT; crowdfunding; corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Moreover, Ms. Anthony and her firm represents both target and acquiring companies in reverse mergers and forward mergers, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. Ms. Anthony’s legal team prepares the necessary documentation and assists in completing the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA and DTC for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the OTC Market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, the securities law network. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.
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