Category: OTC Markets

OTC Markets: OTC Markets divide issuers into three (3) levels of quotation marketplaces: OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink. The OTC Pink, which involves the highest-risk, highly speculative securities, is further divided into three tiers: Current Information, Limited Information and No Information. This page provides a summary of the listing requirements for each level of quotation on OTC Markets…

Apr182017

SEC Adopts The T+2 Trade Settlement Cycle

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction and brief summary of the rule

On March 22, 2017, the SEC adopted a rule amendment shortening the standard settlement cycle for broker-initiated trade settlements from three business days from the trade date (T+3) to two business days (T+2). The change is designed to help enhance efficiency and reduce risks, including credit, market and liquidity risks, associated with unsettled transactions in the marketplace.

Acting SEC Chair Michael Piwowar stated, “[A]s technology improves, new products emerge, and trading volumes grow, it is increasingly obvious that the outdated T+3 settlement cycle is no longer serving the best interests of the American people.” The SEC originally proposed the rule amendment on September 28, 2016. My blog on the proposal can be read HERE. In addition, for more information on the clearance and settlement process for U.S. capital markets, see HERE.

The change amends Rule 15c6-1(a) prohibiting a broker-dealer from effecting or entering into

Feb212017

SEC Issues White Paper On Penny Stock Risks

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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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

Dec272016

SEC Proposes Shortening Trade Settlement

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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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

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

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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

Oct252016

Florida Broker-Dealer Registration Exemption For M&A Brokers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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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

Aug162016

SEC Continues Efforts To Prevent Microcap Fraud

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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As I’ve written about numerous times in the past, a primary agenda of the SEC and FINRA is to prevent small- and micro-cap fraud. On March 23, 2016, the SEC charged Guy Gentile with penny stock fraud. The SEC complaint, as well as numerous industry articles and a blog by Mr. Gentile himself, reveal in-depth efforts by the SEC together with FINRA and the FBI and DOJ to remove recidivist and bad actors from the micro-cap system. While the methods used by the regulators have been the subject of heated debates and articles, the message and result remain that the SEC is committed to its efforts to deter securities law violations.

Although small- and micro-cap fraud has always been an important area of concern and enforcement by the SEC since the financial crisis of 2008, it has increasingly been a focus. Regulators have amplified their efforts through regulations and stronger enforcement, including the

Jun282016

OTC Markets Petitions The SEC To Expand Regulation A To Include SEC Reporting Companies

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 6, OTC Markets filed a petition for rulemaking with the SEC requesting that the SEC amend Regulation A to expand the eligibility criteria to include all small issuers, including those that are subject to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) reporting requirements and to allow “at-the-market offerings.”

Background

On March 25, 2015, the SEC released final rules amending Regulation A. The new Regulation A creates two tiers of offerings.  Tier I of Regulation A, which does not preempt state law, allows offerings of up to $20 million in a twelve-month period.  Due to difficult blue sky compliance, Tier 1 is rarely used.  Tier 2, which does preempt state law, allows a raise of up to $50 million.  Issuers may elect to proceed under either Tier I or Tier 2 for offerings up to $20 million.  The new rules went into effect on June 19, 2015 and have been gaining

May312016

OTC Markets Amends IPO Listing Standards for OTCQX

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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OTC Markets has unveiled changes to the quotations rule and standards for the OTCQX, which proposed changes are scheduled to become effective on June 13, 2016.  The proposed amendments are intended to address and accommodate companies completing an IPO onto the OTCQX and which accordingly have no prior trading history.  Such entities either would have a recently cleared Form 211 with FINRA or are completing the 211 application process through a market maker, at the time of their OTCQX application.  The initial qualification changes apply to OTCQX Rules for U.S. Companies, U.S. Banks and International Companies.

The OTCQX previously amended its listing standards effective January 1, 2016 to increase the quantitative criteria for listing and to add additional qualitative requirements further aligning the OTCQX with a national stock exchange.  To read my blog on the January 1, 2016 amendments see HERE.

The new amendments will (i) allow companies that meet the $5

Jul072015

OTC Markets Amends Listing Standards For OTCQB To Include Regulation A+ Issuers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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OTC Markets has unveiled changes to the quotations rule and standards for the OTCQB, which changes become effective July 10, 2015.  The OTC Markets rule amendments will allow a company to use its required Regulation A+ ongoing reporting requirements to satisfy the initial and ongoing OTCQB disclosure requirements.

Concurrently with this substantive amendment, OTCQB has made clarifying general amendments to its listing standards for all listed and prospective OTCQB companies.  OTC Markets has invited comments on the proposed changes. 

To summarize, the Regulation A related amendment to the OTCQB rules and regulations includes:

  • The addition of definitions for “Regulation A” and “Regulation A Reporting Company”
  • Initial Disclosure Obligations – a Regulation A Reporting Company can meet the OTCQB initial disclosure obligations by having filed all required reports on EDGAR, including annual audited financial statements;
  • OTCQB Certification – clarifying amendment to the OTCQB Certification including that a Regulation A Reporting Company is required to
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Jun302015

Going Public Transactions For Smaller Companies: Direct Public Offering And Reverse Merger

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction

One of the largest areas of my firms practice involves going public transactions.  I have written extensively on the various going public methods, including IPO/DPOs and reverse mergers.  The topic never loses relevancy, and those considering a transaction always ask about the differences between, and advantages and disadvantages of, both reverse mergers and direct and initial public offerings.  This blog is an updated new edition of past articles on the topic.

Over the past decade the small-cap reverse merger, initial public offering (IPO) and direct public offering (DPO) markets diminished greatly.  The decline was a result of both regulatory changes and economic changes.  In particular, briefly, those reasons were:  (1) the recent Great Recession; (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