Category: SEC

SEC: On December 18, 2015, the SEC issued a 118-page report on the definition of “Accredited Investor” (the “Report”). The report follows the March 2015 SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) recommendations related to the definition. The SEC is reviewing the definition of “accredited investor” as directed by the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires that the SEC review the definition as relates to “natural persons” every four years to determine if it should be modified or adjusted…

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

Aug222017

FINRA Issues New Guidance On Communications With The Public, Including Social Media

In April 2017 FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 17-18 providing additional guidance on the use of social media and digital communications by member firms and persons associated with member firms. The guidance specifically relates to FINRA Rule 2210 – Communications with the Public, and supplements previously issued guidance in Regulatory Notices 10-06 and 11-39, published in 2011. The new guidance is in the form of FAQ’s and concentrates on the areas of recordkeeping, third-party posts and hyperlinks to third-party sites.

I have previously written about the SEC’s guidance on social media use by companies, including as a method for communications with investors and the public. The most recent blog is HERE and includes hyperlinks to prior blogs, including a three-part summary of the SEC Guidance on Social Media and Websites for Company Announcements and Communications.

Brief Overview of Rule 2210

FINRA Rule 2210 governs communications by FINRA member firms and associated persons, including: (i) institutional communications – including any written or

Aug152017

SEC Issues Report on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s)

On July 25, 2017, the SEC issued a report on an investigation related to an initial coin offering (ICO) by the DAO and statements by the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Enforcement related to the investigative report (the “Report”). On the same day, the SEC issued an Investor Bulletin related to ICO’s. Offers and sales of digital coins, cryptocurrencies or tokens using distributed ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain have become widely known as ICO’s. For an introduction on DLT and blockchain, see HERE.

The basis of the report is that offers and sales of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, are subject to the federal (and state) securities laws. From the highest level, the nature of a digital asset must be examined to determine if it meets the definition of a security using established principles (see HERE). In addition, all offers and sales of securities must either be registered with the SEC or there must be an available exemption

Aug082017

An Introduction To Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain Technology)

On July 13, 2017, FINRA held a Blockchain Symposium to assess the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the financial industry, including the maintenance of shareholder and corporate records. DLT is commonly referred to as blockchain. The symposium included participation by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Federal Reserve Board and the SEC.

FINRA also published a report earlier in the year discussing the implications of DLT for the securities industry. Delaware, Nevada and Arizona have already passed statutes allowing for the use of DLT for corporate and shareholder records. This is the first in many blogs that will discuss DLT as this exciting new era of technology continues to unfold and impact the securities markets. In this blog I will discuss FINRA’s report published in January 2017 and in the next in the series, I will summarize the recent SEC investigative report on initial coin offerings and conclusion

Aug012017

SEC Chair Jay Clayton Discusses Direction Of SEC

In a much talked about speech to the Economic Club of New York on July 12, 2017, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton set forth his thoughts on SEC policy, including a list of guiding principles for his tenure. Chair Clayton’s underlying theme is the furtherance of opportunities and protection of Main Street investors, a welcome viewpoint from the securities markets’ top regulator. This was Chair Clayton’s first public speech in his new role and follows Commissioner Michael Piwowar’s recent remarks to the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation largely related to the U.S. IPO market. For a summary of Commissioner Piwowar’s speech, read HERE.

Guiding Principles

Chair Clayton outlined a list of eight guiding principles for the SEC.

#1: The SEC’s Mission is its touchstone

As described by Chair Clayton, the SEC has a three part mission: (i) to protect investors; (ii) to maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets, and (iii) to facilitate capital formation. Chair Clayton stresses that it

Jul252017

SEC Expands Ability To File Confidential Registration Statements

Nominate Us For ABA Journal’s Top Blog- HERE

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On June 19, 2017, the SEC announced that the Division of Corporation Finance will permit all companies to submit draft registration statements, on a confidential basis. Confidential draft submissions will now be available for all Section 12(b) Exchange Act registration statements, initial public offerings (IPO’s) and for secondary or follow-on offerings made in the first year after a company becomes publicly reporting.

The SEC has adopted the change by staff prerogative and not a formal rule change. On June 29, 2017, the SEC issued guidance on the change via new FAQs. The new policy is effective July 10, 2017.

Title I of the JOBS Act initially allowed for confidential draft submissions of registration statements by emerging growth companies but did not include any other companies, such as smaller reporting companies. Regulation A+ as enacted on June 19, 2015, also allows for confidential submissions of an offering circular by companies completing their

Jul182017

SEC Commissioner Piwowar Speaks On The IPO Market

Nominate Us For ABA Journal’s Top Blog- HERE

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On May 16, 2017, SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar gave the opening remarks to the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation. The focus of the SEC-NYU Dialogue was the current state of and outlook for the U.S. IPO market. Mr. Piwowar specifically spoke about reviving the U.S. IPO market.

The declining IPO market has been a topic of review lately, and was one of the main points discussed at the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee meeting held on June 22. SEC Chair Jay Clayton weighed in at the Investor Advisory Committee, stating that he is “actively exploring ways in which we can improve the attractiveness of listing on our public markets, while maintaining important investor protections.” Mr. Clayton’s words echoed his statements made to the Senate confirmation hearing prior to his swearing in as chair.

This blog summarizes Commissioner Piwowar’s speech and of course offers my views and commentary.

Commissioner Piwowar’s Opening

Jul112017

SEC Chief Accountant Speaks On Financial Reporting

Nominate Us For ABA Journal’s Top Blog- HERE

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On June 8, 2017, the SEC Chief Accountant, Wesley R. Bricker, gave a speech before the 36th Annual SEC and Financial Reporting Institute Conference. The speech, which this blog summarizes, was titled “Advancing the Role of Credible Financial Reporting in the Capital Markets.” As usual, I’ve included commentary throughout.

Introduction and Role of the PCAOB

The speech begins with some general background comments and a discussion of the role of the PCAOB. Approximately half of Americans invest in the U.S. equity markets, either directly or through mutual funds and employer-sponsored retirement plans. The ability to judge the opportunities and risks and make investment choices depends on the quality of information available to the public and importantly, the quality of the accounting and auditing information. Mr. Bricker notes that “[T]he credibility of financial statements have a direct effect on a company’s cost of capital, which is reflected in the price that

Jul052017

The Payment Of Finders’ Fees- An Ongoing Discussion

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction

As a recurring topic, I discuss exemptions to the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities and individuals that assist companies in fundraising and related services. I have previously discussed the 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 and 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. I have also previously published a blog on the American Bar Association’s recommendations for the codification of an exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for private placement finders. I’ve included links to each of these prior articles in the conclusion to this blog.

A related topic with a parallel analysis is the use of finders for investors and investor groups, an activity which has become prevalent in today’s marketplace. In that

Jun202017

SEC Issues Additional Guidance on Regulation A+

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 31, 2017, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance issued six new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) to provide guidance related to Regulation A/A+. Since the new Regulation A+ came into effect on June 19, 2015, its use has continued to steadily increase. In my practice it is the most popular method for a public offering under $50 million.

As an ongoing commentary on Regulation A+, following a discussion on the CD&I guidance, I have included practice tips, and thoughts on Regulation A+, and a summary of the Regulation A+ rules, including interpretations and guidance up to the date of this blog.

New CD&I Guidance

In the first of the new CD&I, the SEC clarifies the timing of the filing of a Form 8-A to register a class of securities under Section 12(b) or (g) of the Exchange Act.  In particular, in order to be able to file a Form