Category: Rule 144

Rule 144: The Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) Rule 144 sets forth certain requirements for the use of Section 4(1) for the resale of securities. Section 4(1) of the Securities Act provides an exemption for a transaction “by a person other than an issuer, underwriter, or dealer.” The terms “Issuer” and “dealer” have pretty straightforward meanings under the Securities Act, but the term “underwriter” does not. Rule 144 provides a safe harbor from the definition of “underwriter.” If all the requirements for Rule 144 are met, the seller will not be deemed an underwriter and the purchaser will receive unrestricted securities…

Oct142014

Depositing Penny Stocks with Brokers Creates Obstacles; SEC Charges E*Trade with Section 5 Violation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction

On October 9, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed an enforcement action against E*Trade Securities and E*Trade Capital Markets for selling billions of shares of unregistered and otherwise restricted penny stocks for their customers.  The SEC found that the firms processed the sales on behalf of three customers while ignoring red flags that the offerings being conducted were in violation of the federal securities laws in that the shares were neither registered nor subject to an available exemption from registration.  E*Trade Securities and E*Trade Capital Markets settled the enforcement proceeding by agreeing to pay a total of $2.5 million in disgorgement and penalties.

The SEC press release on the matter quoted Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, as saying, “Broker-dealers serve an important gatekeeping function that helps prevent microcap fraud by taking measures to ensure that unregistered shares don’t reach the market if the registration rules

Sep232014

SEC Filed Actions Against 19 Firms and One Individual Trader for Violation of Rule 105 of Regulation M

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 16, 2014, the SEC filed actions against 19 firms and one individual trade for short selling violations in advance of public stock offerings in violation of Rule 105 of Regulation M.  The SEC has actively enforced Regulation M since its enactment in 1996.   Regulation M is designed to prevent stock manipulation during public offerings and Rule 105 particularly prohibits short selling of stock within five business days of participating in an offering for the same stock.  That is, you cannot short stock and cover your short by buying the same stock from the underwriter in a public offering.  Rule 105 prevents downward pressure on a company’s stock price during the offering process.

The SEC’s current investigation found that 19 firms and one individual trader charged in these latest cases engaged in short selling of particular stocks shortly before they bought shares from an underwriter, broker, or dealer participating in a follow-on

Aug052014

The Sale of Unregistered Securities Must Satisfy Form 8-K Filing Requirements In a 3(a)(10) Transaction

Introduction and Background

Recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has been taking action against public reporting companies for the failure to file a Form 8-K upon the completion of a transaction exempt under Section 3(a)(10) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”).  The SEC has served a Wells notice on numerous companies for the failure to file such Form 8-K without any prior communication with such companies. Since enforcement actions for the failure to file a Form 8-K are very rare, it is my view that the SEC is concerned with the 3(a)(10) transaction itself.

A Wells notice, often referred to as a Wells letter, is a notice delivered by the SEC to persons and entities under investigation providing the opportunity to such persons and entities to present their position to the SEC prior to the commencement of an enforcement proceeding.  A Wells letter gives notice of the SEC’s intended charges and enforcement recommendation and

Jul292014

Direct Public Offerings by Shell Companies- Tread Carefully

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As I’ve written about previously, recently (albeit not officially) the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has materially altered its position on offerings by shell companies that are not blank check companies.  In particular, over the past year, numerous shell companies that are not also blank check companies have completed direct public offerings using a S-1 registration statement and successfully obtained market maker support and a ticker symbol from FINRA and are trading.

Rule 419 and Blank Check Companies

The provisions of Rule 419 apply to every registration statement filed under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, by a blank check company.  Rule 419 requires that the

May272014

What is A CUSIP and Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) Number?

CUSIP stands for Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures.  A CUSIP number identifies securities, specifically U.S. and Canadian registered stocks, and U.S. government and municipal bonds.  The CUSIP system—owned by the American Bankers Association and operated by Standard & Poor’s—facilitates the clearing and settlement process of securities by giving each such security a unique identifying number.

The CUSIP number consists of a combination of nine characters, both letters and numbers, which act as individual coding for the security—uniquely identifying the company or issuer and the type of security. The first six characters identify the issuer and are alphabetical; the seventh and eighth characters, which can be alphabetical or numerical, identify the type of issue; and the last digit is used as a check digit.  A CUSIP number changes with each change in the security, including splits and name changes.

Whereas CUSIP identifies securities, a Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) identifies issuers.  An LEI is a new global standard identifier for

May132014

Once Again, DTC Amends Proposed Procedures for Issuers Affected by Chills and Proposes Subsequent Rule Change

Background

On October 8, 2013, I published a blog and white paper providing background and information on the Depository Trust Company (“DTC”) eligibility, chills and locks and the DTC’s then plans to propose new rules to specify procedures available to issuers when the DTC imposes or intends to impose chills or locks. On December 5, 2013, the DTC filed these proposed rules with the SEC and on December 18, 2013, the proposed rules were published and public comment invited thereon.  Following the receipt of comments on February 10, 2014, and again on March 10, 2014, the DTC amended its proposed rule changes.  This blog discusses those rule changes and the current status of the proposed rules.

The new rules provide significantly more clarity as to the rights of the DTC and issuers and the timing of the process.  For a complete discussion on background and DTC basics such as eligibility and the evolving procedures in dealing with chills and locks,

Apr152014

Public Company SEC Reporting Requirements

A public company with a class of securities registered under either Section 12 or which is subject to Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) must file reports with the SEC (“Reporting Requirements”).  The underlying basis of the Reporting Requirements is to keep shareholders and the markets informed on a regular basis in a transparent manner.   Reports filed with the SEC can be viewed by the public on the SEC EDGAR website.  The required reports include an annual Form 10-K, quarterly Form 10Q’s and current periodic Form 8-K as well as proxy reports and certain shareholder and affiliate reporting requirements. 

A company becomes subject to the Reporting Requirements by filing an

Apr082014

Concurrent Public and Private Offerings

Background

Conducting concurrent private and public offerings has historically been very tricky and limited, mainly as a result of the SEC’s position that the filing of an S-1 registration statement and unlimited ability to view such registration statement on the SEC EDGAR database in and of itself acted as a general solicitation and advertisement negating the availability of most private placement exemptions.  In addition to the impediment of finding a private exemption to rely on, concurrent private and public offerings raised concerns of gun jumping by offering securities for sale prior to the filing of a registration statement, as prohibited by Section 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.  However, with the enactment of the JOBS Act including its Rule 506(c) allowing general solicitation and advertising in an exempt offering, rules allowing the confidential submittal of registration statements for emerging growth companies (EGC) and rules permitting testing the waters communications prior to and after the filing of a

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

Mar112014

Crowdfunding Using Intrastate Offerings and Rule 147 – Is Florida Next?

As required by Title III of the JOBS Act, on October 23, 2013, the SEC published proposed crowdfunding rules.  The SEC has dubbed the new rules “Regulation Crowdfunding.” The entire 584-page text of the rule release is available on the SEC website. The proposed rules invite public comment on many points and have indeed resulted in such comments.  As of today, it is unclear when final rules will be released and passed into law and what changes those final rules will have from the proposed rules.  Moreover, upon passage of the final rules, there will be a period of ramping up time in which crowdfunding portals complete the process of registering with the SEC, becoming members of FINRA and completing the necessary steps to ensure that their portal operates in compliance with those final rules.  Federal crowdfunding it coming, but it is a slow process.

In the meantime, many states have recently either enacted or introduced state-specific crowdfunding