Category: Broker-Dealer

Broker-Dealer: A Broker is defined in Section 3(a)(4)(A) of the Exchange Act as any person engaged in the business of effecting transactions in securities for the account of others and, as such, is required to register pursuant to Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act…

Jul072014

Case Study of Online Funding as Related to Broker-Dealer Exemptions

Introduction

As a recurring topic, I am discussing exemptions to the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities and individuals that assist companies in fundraising and related services.  On February 18th I published a blog about the new 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.  Further on, I wrote on 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.

This blog addresses the statutory and related exemptions that affect, and would permit, the operation of a funding website, including the statutory exemption from broker-dealer registration enacted into law as part of the JOBS Act on April 5, 2012.  This blog also includes an analysis of a fictional funding website.

Summary of Exemption from Broker-Dealer Registration Found in Title II of the JOBS Act

Title II of the JOBS Act created

May202014

Exemption to Broker-Dealer Registration Requirements for Officers, Directors and Key Employees

The topic of using unlicensed persons to assist in fundraising activities is discussed almost daily in the small and microcap community.  For many years the SEC has maintained a staunch view that any and all activities that could fall within the broker-dealer registration requirements set forth in Section 15(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), require registration. See also the SEC Guide to Broker-Dealer Registration on the SEC website.

In my blog on February 18th, 2014  I talked about the new 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.   In this blog, I am focusing on 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.

Exchange Act Rule 3a4-1  – Persons Associated with an Issuer that are not Required to be Licensed as

Feb182014

The SEC Establishes Key Exemption to the Broker-Dealer Registration Requirements for M&A Brokers

On January 31, 2014, the SEC Division of Trading and Markets issued a no-action letter in favor of entities effecting securities transactions in connection with the sale of equity control of private operating businesses (“M&A Broker”).  The SEC stated that it would not require broker-dealer registration for M&A Brokers arranging for the sale of private businesses, in accordance with the facts and circumstances set forth in the no action letter, as described below.

For many years the SEC has maintained a staunch view that any and all activities that could fall within the broker-dealer registration requirements set forth in Section 15(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), require registration. See also the SEC Guide to Broker-Dealer Registration (2008) on the SEC website.

In accordance with the SEC Guide to Broker-Dealer Registration, providing any of the following services may require the individual or entity to be registered as a broker-dealer:

  • “finders,” “business brokers,” and
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Jan212014

Direct Public Offering or Reverse Merger; Know Your Best Option for Going Public

Introduction

For at least the last twelve months, I have received calls daily from companies wanting to go public.  This interest in going public transactions signifies a big change from the few years prior.

Beginning in 2009, the small-cap and reverse merger, initial public offering (IPO) and direct public offering (DPO) markets diminished greatly.  I can identify at least seven main reasons for the downfall of the going public transactions.  Briefly, those reasons are:  (1) the general state of the economy, plainly stated, was not good; (2) backlash from a series of fraud allegations, SEC enforcement actions, and trading suspensions of Chinese companies following reverse mergers; (3) the 2008 Rule 144 amendments including the prohibition of use of the rule for shell company and former shell company shareholders; (4) problems clearing penny stock with broker dealers and FINRA’s enforcement of broker-dealer and clearing house due diligence requirements related to penny stocks; (5) DTC scrutiny and difficulty in obtaining clearance following

Sep032013

Will FINRA Rule Changes Related to Private Placement Further Deter Broker Dealers From Placing the Securities of Small Businesses?

On August 19, 2013, FINRA published Regulatory Notice 13-26 about the updated Private Placement Form that firms must file with FINRA when acting as a placement agent for the private placement of securities.  A copy of the form is included with the regulatory notice at www.finra.org/web/groups/industry/@ip/@reg/@notice/documents/notices/p325359.pdf.  The Form went effective on July 1, 2013.  FINRA has also updated the FAQs relating to the Private Placement Form.  The updated Private Placement Form has six new questions:

  • Is this a contingency offering?
  • Does the issuer have
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May162013

An Overview of Exemptions for Hedge Fund Advisers: Exemptions for Advisers to Venture Capital Funds, Private Fund Advisers with Less Than $150 Million in Assets Under Management, and Foreign Private Advisers – Part I

As I have blogged about in the past, the JOBS Act will have a significant impact on hedge funds, and in particular smaller hedge funds. As the delayed rule changes become imminent, our firm has noticed a spike in inquiries related to small hedge funds and feeder funds. The JOBS Act is not the only recent congressional act to change the landscape of hedge funds; the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) made a significant impact as well.

In particular, the Dodd-Frank Act eliminated the oft-relied upon exemption from registration for private hedge fund advisers for those advisers with fewer than 15 clients. While eliminating the private adviser exemption, the Dodd-Frank created three new exemptions, which are the operable hedge fund adviser exemptions today. These exemptions are for:

(1) Advisers solely to venture capital funds;

(2) Advisers solely to private funds with less than $150 million in assets under management in the U.S.; and

(3) Certain

Mar122013

SEC Issues Guidance Regarding The Exemption From Broker-Dealer Registration In Title II Of The JOBS Act

Background

Title II of the JOBS Act, requires the SEC to amend Rule 506 of Regulation D to permit general solicitation and advertising in offerings under Rule 506, provided that all purchasers of the securities are accredited investors and such accredited status is reasonably verified by the Issuer.

In addition, Title II creates a limited exemption to the broker dealer registration requirements for certain intermediaries that facilitate these Rule 506 offerings.  In particular, new Section 4(b) to the Securities Act of 1933, has added a new exemption to the broker dealer registration requirements for:

(A) a person that  maintains a platform or mechanism that permits the offer, sale, purchase, or negotiation of or with respect to securities, permits general solicitations, general advertisements, or similar related activities by issuers of such securities, whether online, in person, or through any other means

(B) that person or any person associated with that person co-invests in such securities; or

(C) that person or any

Mar112013

NASDAQ To Acquire Sharepost And Create The NASDAQ Private Exchange

NASDAQ acquires Sharepost

On Wednesday March 6, 2013, NASDAQ surprised the small cap and investment community when it announced it is acquiring Sharepost’s private company market place (PCMP) exchange and rebranding it the Nasdaq Private Exchange.

In December, 2011, I wrote a few blogs on PCMPs.  A PCMP is a trading platform, such as SharePost or SecondMarket that provides a market place for illiquid restricted securities, such as private company securities, 144 stock, debt instruments, warrants, and the like or alternative assets.  It is on a PCMP that pre-IPO Facebook, Groupon and LInkedin received their trading start.  Following the IPO of these large entities, and in particular Facebook, traffic and use of PCMP sites declines, but NASDAQ clearly believes the decline is temporary, and I agree.

Private Company Market Places

Each PCMP offers a fully automated back office, documentation, escrow, transfer and settlement support. Users open trading accounts, like they would with any other broker dealer.  The PCMP provider collects

Jan032013

The ABA Pushes To Allow For The Payment Of Finder’s Fees

In April of this year, the American Bar Association Private Placement Broker Task Force delivered to the SEC and published a recommendation for a limited federal exemption from SEC registration for securities intermediaries that would be able to assist in the private raise of capital for both private and public entities.  The Task Force previously published a lengthy recommendation and even drafted proposed rules, in June 2005, and has been advocating the rules since that time.  The full text of both the April 2012 submission and June 2005 report with proposed rules can be read on the SEC website.

The SEC’s Position and Current Rules on Finder’s Fees

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) strictly prohibits the payments of commissions or other transaction based compensation to individuals or entities that assist in a capital raise, unless that entity is a licensed broker dealer.

Periodically, and most recently in April 2008, the SEC updates its Guide to Broker Dealer Registration explaining

Dec062012

An Update On Dealing With The DTC Following The SEC’s Ruling On International Power Group, Ltd.

Background

Back in October and November of 2011, I wrote a series of blogs regarding DTC eligibility for OTC (over-the-counter) Issuers.  OTC Issuers include all companies, whose securities trade on the over-the-counter market, including the OTCBB, OTCQB and pinksheets.  Many OTC Issuers have faced a “DTC chill” without understanding what it is, let alone how to correct the problem.  In technical terms, a DTC chill is the suspension of certain DTC services with respect to an Issuer’s securities.  Those services can be book-entry clearing and settlement services, deposit services or withdrawal services.  A chill can pertain to one or all of these services.  In the case of a chill on all services, the term of art is a “global lock.”

I have previously blogged on how to become DTC-eligible.  From the DTC perspective, a chill does not change the eligibility status of an Issuer’s securities, just what services the DTC will offer for those securities.  So while