Category: Due Diligence

Due Diligence: Although highly technical, the due diligence process can be completed quickly and thoroughly by an experienced securities attorney; the key is knowing where to look and what to look for…

Sep062016

FinCEN Updates Due Diligence Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On May 11, 2016, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued new final rules under the Bank Secrecy Act requiring financing institutions, including brokerage firms, to adopt additional anti-money laundering (AML) procedures that include specific due diligence and ongoing monitoring requirements related to customer risk profiles and customer information.  In addition, the new rules require financial institutions to collect and verify information about beneficial owners and control person of legal entity customers.

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) specifically requires brokerage firms to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act.  FinCEN provides minimum rules.  Brokerage firms are also required to comply with AML rules established by FINRA, including FINRA Rule 3310.  The purpose of the AML rules is to help detect and report suspicious activity including the predicate offenses to money laundering and terrorist financing, such as securities fraud and market manipulation. FINRA also provides a template to assist small firms in

Mar182014

Guide to Reverse Merger Transaction

What is a reverse merger?  What is the process?

A reverse merger is the most common alternative to an initial public offering (IPO) or direct public offering (DPO) for a company seeking to go public.  A “reverse merger” allows a privately held company to go public by acquiring a controlling interest in, and merging with, a public operating or public shell company.  The SEC defines a “shell company” as a publically traded company with (1) no or nominal operations and (2) either no or nominal assets or assets consisting solely of any amount of cash and cash equivalents.

In a reverse merger process, the private operating company shareholders exchange their shares of the private company for either new or existing shares of the public company so that

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

May292013

The OTCQX And OTCQB Are Finally Recognized As “Established Public Markets” By The SEC

Back in October 2010 I wrote a blog titled “Has the OTCBB been replaced by the OTCQX and OTCQB”; at the time and up until May 16, 2013, my opinion was “yes” with one big caveat.  Prior to May 16, 2013, all three tiers of the OTC Link were considered “pinksheets” by the SEC staff.  Prior to May 16, 2013, the OTC Link was not considered a market and therefore: (1) there could be no at-the-market pricing of securities registered for resale by an Issuer on behalf of its selling shareholders; and (2) there could be no equity lines or similar financing transactions and no registration of underlying convertible equities which are priced based on a formula tied to the trading price (usually a discount to market), for OTC Link quoted securities.

On May 16, 2013, the SEC updated their Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations confirming that the OTCQB and OTCQX marketplaces are now considered public marketplaces for purposes of establishing

Mar212012

DTC Chills, Due Process and Rule 22

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 Pink Sheets.  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 book-entry clearing and settlement services with respect to an Issuer’s securities.  In layman’s terms it means your stock can’t clear or trade electronically.  Since all trading in today’s world is electronic, it really means your stock doesn’t trade.

The SEC’s Stance

As noted in the SEC opinion:

“…DTC provides clearance, settlement, custodial, underwriting, registration, dividend, and proxy services for a substantial portion of all equities, corporate and municipal debt, exchange traded funds, and money market instruments available for trading in the United States.  In 2010, DTC

Oct052011

DTC Eligibility and the OTC Issuer

This is the first in a series of articles I am writing regarding DTC (Depository Trust Company) 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.

DTC eligibility has become a major concern for OTC Issuers in the past year.  Obtaining and maintaining eligibility is of utmost importance for the smooth trading of an Issuer’s float in the secondary market.  Moreover, DTC eligibility is a prerequisite for OTC Issuers’ shareholders to deposit securities with their brokers and have such securities be placed in street name.  Most Issuers and many legal practitioners do not know or understand the eligibility requirements or procedures.

The DTC Application Process

First and foremost, like a Form 211 submittal to FINRA, an Issuer cannot make direct application to DTC for eligibility.  An application must be submitted and sponsored by a DTC Participant.  A current list of DTC Participants

May212011

Public Company Compliance – Selecting An Auditor

The Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) created the PCAOB, which is the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. All public company auditors must be PCAOB licensed and qualified. Prior to the enactment of SOX, the profession was self regulated and any CPA could audit a public company. On its website, the PCAOB describes itself as “[T]he PCAOB is a nonprofit corporation established by Congress to oversee the audits of public companies in order to protect investors and the public interest by promoting informative, accurate, and independent audit reports. The PCAOB also oversees the audits of broker-dealers, including compliance reports filed pursuant to federal securities laws, to promote investor protection.”

Not All PCAOB Auditors are Created Equal

Licensing and membership with the PCAOB has stringent requirements. In fact, shortly after the enactment of SOX the number of accounting firms that provide public company services declined dramatically. Being held to a higher standard isn’t for everyone. However, as time has passed, even

Oct172009

Necessity of Background Searches on Officers and Directors as Part of Due Diligence Prior to a Reverse Merger or IPO

If you are a private company looking to go public on the OTCBB, securities attorney Laura Anthony provides expert legal advice and ongoing corporate counsel. Ms. Anthony counsels private and small public companies nationwide regarding reverse mergers, corporate transactions and all aspects of securities law.

Many private companies go public either through a reverse merger with a public shell or initial public offering (IPO) process. A reverse merger allows a private company to go public by purchasing a controlling percentage of shares of a public shell company and merging the private company into the shell. An initial public offering is where the private company files a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and once the registration statement is effective proceeds to sell stock either directly (a DPO) or more commonly through an underwriter.

It is very important that management of public shells and underwriters conduct a background check on the private company’s officers and directors prior to embarking

Oct052009

OTCBB Reporting Requirements Enable Successful Reverse Mergers

Companies subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (amended to the “Exchange Act”), without current business operations, and trading on the NASDAQ Over the Counter Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”), commonly known as Bulletin Board Shells, have become the vehicle of choice for private companies seeking to go public through a reverse merger.

Although the domestic economy has slowed, reverse mergers still flourish, and Chinese-based companies in particular have taken the lead in reverse mergers with Bulletin Board Shells. As old sectors slow, new sectors such as biofuels, health supplements, and agricultural science have risen to lead the charge into the public arena.

SEC Reporting Requirements Make Due Diligence Practical

Bulletin Board Shells have become the vehicle of choice for private companies seeking public status. This is due in part to increasing industry pressure for public companies to maintain total disclosure of their financial condition and operations.

Bulletin Board Shells and OTCBB Companies must prepare and file

Oct032009

Market Makers Rely on Due Diligence in Reverse Mergers

Following approval of the 15c2-11 application by FINRA, and the consistent quotation of a company’s securities, market makers may “piggy back” on the approved and completed 15c2-11. In short, a market maker may quote the share price of the Bulletin Board Shell while relying on the due diligence of other market makers and the company’s current SEC filings.

Although highly technical, the due diligence process can be completed quickly and thoroughly by an experienced securities attorney; the key is knowing where to look and what to look for. For example:

  • All articles and amendments are ordered from the company’s state of domicile and reviewed for procedural correctness and historical understanding.
  • DTC (the Depository Trust Company) is contacted to confirm the company is in a transferable status.
  • In addition to financial statement review, using several proprietary online search services, the firm conducts comprehensive debt and litigation searches to identify any miscellaneous debts as well as pending or past litigation.
  • A tax
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