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…

Oct242017

NASDAQ Issues Report Advocating for The U.S. Public Markets

Before SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar’s May 16, 2017, speech at the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation regarding the U.S. IPO Market (see summary HERE), and SEC Chair Jay Clayton’s July 12, 2017, speech to the Economic Club of New York (see summary HERE), the topic of the U.S. IPO market had already gained significant market attention. Earlier this year, NASDAQ issued a paper titled “The Promise of Market Reform: Reigniting American’s Economic Engine” with its views and position on how to revitalize the U.S. equities and IPO market (the “NASDAQ Paper”). This blog summarizes the NASDAQ Paper.

The NASDAQ Paper begins with a statement by Adena Friedman, President and CEO of NASDAQ. The statement begins with a decidedly positive outlook, noting that “The U.S. equities markets exist to facilitate job creation and wealth creation for millions of people, ultimately driving economic growth for our country.” Ms. Friedman adds that “[E]xceptional market returns in recent years

Sep052017

OTCQB Sets New Requirements F​or Change Of Control Events

On June 30, 2017, the OTC Markets Group published amendments to the OTCQB standards related to the processing and reporting of change in control events. The new rules went into effect on July 31, 2017.

OTC Markets has been initiating a series of changes related to the OTCQB including amending the qualification requirements to allow quotation by companies that follow its alternative reporting standard (“Alternative Reporting Standard”) which went effective on May 18, 2017. For a review of the new qualification changes, see my blog HERE.

Highlights of Changes 

The OTCQB has added a new Section 2.4 to the OTCQB Standards published by OTC Markets.  The OTCQB Standards include a comprehensive summary of admission and eligibility requirements, application processes, initial and ongoing disclosure requirements, continued eligibility requirements, fees and removal processes.

Section 2 of the OTCQB Standards set forth the continued OTCQB Eligibility requirements, and includes the new Section 2.4 related to change in control events.

A “change in

Aug292017

FINRA Proposes Expansion Of The OTCBB

In August 2016, FINRA quietly requested comment on a proposal to expand the now largely dormant OTC Bulletin Board quotation service (“OTCBB”) as a backup inter-dealer quotation system for OTC Equity securities. As part of the proposal, the OTCBB would be renamed and branded as the Over the Counter Display Facility or “ODF.” Previously, on October 7, 2014, the SEC published a release instituting proceedings to determine whether to approve FINRA’s request to delete the rules related to, and the operations of, the OTCBB. My blog on the proposal can be read HERE.

However, on March 12, 2015, FINRA withdrew the proposed rule change and request to delete the OTCBB. Although the March 12, 2015 withdrawal did not cite reasons, in its new request for comment, FINRA indicates it withdrew the proposal in response to SEC staff requests that FINRA continue to operate alternative quotation facility.

Since that time the OTCBB has remained largely relatively dormant. According

Jun272017

OTC Markets Amends Listing Standards For OTCQB To Allow Non-Reporting Issuers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Effective May 18, 2017, the OTC Markets has amended its qualification rules for the OTCQB to allow quotation by companies that follow its alternative reporting standard (“Alternative Reporting Standard”). OTC Markets aligned the new requirements with the existing OTCQX Alternative Reporting Standard requirements. In addition, the OTC Markets made clarifying amendments to its rules, amended the rules related to the timing of removal for delinquent filers, and revised the rules for international reporting companies.

Highlights of Changes

To qualify for the OTCQB using the Alternative Reporting Standard, a company must file audited financial statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP by a PCAOB qualified auditor, have a minimum bid price of $0.01, not be subject to bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings, and maintain corporate governance including (i) have a board of directors that includes a minimum of two independent directors, and (ii) have an audit committee comprised of a majority of independent directors.

May232017

Recommendations Of SEC Government-Business Forum On Small Business Capital Formation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In early April, the SEC Office of Small Business Policy published the 2016 Final Report on the SEC Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation, a forum I had the honor of attending and participating in. As required by the Small Business Investment Incentive Act of 1980, each year the SEC holds a forum focused on small business capital formation. The goal of the forum is to develop recommendations for government and private action to eliminate or reduce impediments to small business capital formation.

The forum is taken seriously by the SEC and its participants, including the NASAA, and leading small business and professional organizations. The forum began with short speeches by each of the SEC commissioners and a panel discussion, following which attendees, including myself, worked in breakout sessions to drill down on specific issues and suggest changes to rules and regulations to help support small business capital formation, as well

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