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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

Jun132017

Financial Choice Act 2.0 Has Made Progress

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 8, 2017, the U.S. House of Representative passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs Act (the “Financial Choice Act 2.0” or the “Act”) by a vote of 283-186 along party lines. Only one Republican did not vote in favor of the Act. On May 4, 2017, the House Financial Services Committee voted to approve the Act. A prior version of the Act was adopted by the Financial Services Committee in September 2016 but never proceeded to the House for a vote.

The Financial Choice Act 2.0 is an extensive, extreme piece of legislation that would dismantle a large amount of the power of the SEC and strip the Dodd-Frank Act of many of its key provisions. The future of the Act is uncertain as it is unlikely to get through the Senate, although a rollback of Dodd-Frank remains a priority to the current administration. It is

Jun062017

FINRA Proposes Amendments To The Corporate Financing Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On April 11, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released three regulatory notices requesting comment on rules related to corporate financing and capital formation. In particular, the regulatory notices propose changes to Rule 5110, which regulates underwriting compensation and prohibits unfair arrangements in connection with the public offerings of securities; Rules 2241 and 2242, which regulate equity and debt research analysts and research reports; and Rule 2310, which relates to public offerings of direct participation programs and unlisted REIT’s.

The proposed changes come as part of the FINRA360 initiative announced several months ago. Under the 360 initiative, FINRA has committed to a complete self-evaluation and improvement. As part of FINRA360, the regulator has requested public comment on the effectiveness and efficiency of its rules, operations and administrative processes governing broker-dealer activities related to the capital-raising process and their impact on capital formation.

Regulatory Notice 17-14 – Request for Comment on Rules Impacting

May302017

FINRA Proposes New Registration And Examination Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 8, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) filed a proposed rule change with the SEC to adopt amended registration rules and restructure the entry-level qualification examination for registered representatives. The new rules would also eliminate certain examination categories. FINRA is planning to implement the changes in two phases, with full implementation completed during the first half of 2017.

Securities Industry Essentials Exam

As part of the proposed amendments, FINRA introduced a new beginning-level examination called the Security Industry Essentials (SIE), which can be taken by individuals without sponsorship by a broker-dealer. The SIE would be a general-knowledge examination including fundamentals such as basic product knowledge, structure and functioning of the securities industry markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices.

Under the proposed new rules, anyone desiring to work in the securities industry for a member firm would need to take the SIE. The SIE would also

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

May162017

Road Shows

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction; Definitions

We often hear the words “road show” associated with a securities offering. A road show is simply a series of presentations made by company management to key members of buy-side market participants such as broker-dealers that may participate in the syndication of an offering, and institutional investor groups and money managers that may invest into an offering. A road show is designed to provide these market participants with more information about the issuer and the offering and a chance to meet and assess management, including their presentation skills and competence in a Q&A setting. Investors often place a high level of importance on road show meetings and as such, a well-run road show can make the difference as to the level of success of an offering.

A road show usually involves an intensive period of multiple meetings and presentations in a number of different cities over a one-to-two-week period.

May092017

SEC Issues Whitepaper On Title III Crowdfunding

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On February 28, 2017, the SEC released a white paper on Regulation Crowdfunding, which law went into effect on May 16, 2016. Regulation Crowdfunding had been long in the making, with the JOBS Act having been passed on April 5, 2012, and the first set of proposed crowdfunding rules having been published on October 23, 2013. Regulation Crowdfunding provides the rules implementing Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the Securities Act). For a summary of Regulation Crowdfunding, see my blog HERE.

From the time the SEC published the final Regulation Crowdfunding rules and regulations on October 30, 2015, the regulatory framework has met with wide criticism. The most commonly repeated issues with the current structure include: (i) the $1 million annual minimum is too low to adequately meet small-business funding needs; (ii) companies cannot “test the waters” in advance of or at the initial stages of an offering; and (iii)

May022017

The Senate Banking Committee Passes Several Pro-Business Bills

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 9, 2017, the Senate Banking Committee approved the first set of bills to go through the committee under the new administration.  The five bills were cleared as one package and are aimed at making it easier for companies to grow and raise capital. The bills are bipartisan and could be some of the first to pass through Congress under the new regime. Only two Democrats opposed the bills: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is consistently pushing for greater investor protections regardless of the impact on businesses, and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

Interestingly, in 2016, most of these pro-business bills were passed by the House and never made it through the Senate. For a brief outline of the numerous House bills passed in 2016, see my blog HERE. Each of the current bills had already been presented in prior years, either as stand-alone bills or packaged with other provisions, but

Apr252017

SEC Completes Inflation Adjustment Under Titles I And III Of The Jobs Act; Adopts Technical Amendments

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 31, 2017, the SEC adopted several technical amendments to rules and forms under both the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) to conform with Title I of the JOBS Act. On the same day, the SEC made inflationary adjustments to provisions under Title I and Title III of the JOBS Act by amending the definition of the term “emerging growth company” and the dollar amounts in Regulation Crowdfunding.

Title I of the JOBS Act, initially enacted on April 5, 2012, created a new category of issuer called an “emerging growth company” (“EGC”). The primary benefits to an EGC include scaled-down disclosure requirements both in an IPO and periodic reporting, confidential filings of registration statements, certain test-the-waters rights in IPO’s, and an ease on analyst communications and reports during the EGC IPO process. For a summary of the scaled disclosure available to an

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

Apr112017

SEC Issues Final Rules Requiring Links To Exhibits

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 1, 2017, the SEC passed a final rule requiring companies to include hyperlinks to exhibits in filings made with the SEC. The amendments require any company filing registration statements or reports with the SEC to include a hyperlink to all exhibits listed on the exhibit list. In addition, because ASCII cannot support hyperlinks, the amendment also requires that all exhibits be filed in HTML format. The rule change was made to make it easier for investors and other market participants to find and access exhibits listed in current reports, but that were originally provided in previous filings.

The SEC first proposed the rule change on August 31, 2016, as discussed in my blog HERE. The new rule continues the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance’s ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative. I anticipate that this initiative will not only continue but gain traction in the coming years under the new administration as, hopefully,

Apr042017

The Acting SEC Chair Has Trimmed Enforcement’s Subpoena Power

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In early February 2017, acting SEC Chair Michael Piwowar revoked the subpoena authority from approximately 20 senior SEC enforcement staff. The change leaves the Director of the Division of Enforcement as the sole person with the authority to approve a formal order of investigation and issue subpoenas. Historically, the staff did not have subpoena power; however, in 2009 then Chair Mary Shapiro granted the staff the power, in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal. Chair Shapiro deemed the policy to relate solely to internal SEC procedures and, as such, passed the delegation of power without formal notice or opportunity for public comment.

This is the beginning of what I expect will be many, many changes within the SEC as the new administration changes the focus of the agency from Mary Jo White’s broken windows policies to supporting capital formation. The mission of the SEC is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly and

Mar282017

The Financial Choice Act 2.0

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On February 9, 2017, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee issued a memo outlining changes to the Financial Choice Act, dubbing the newest version the Financial Choice Act 2.0. The memo was not intended for public distribution but found its way in any event, causing a great deal of anticipation as to the amended Act itself. The actual amended Act has not been released as of the date of this blog.

Introduction

As a reminder, the Financial Choice Act, which was passed by the House Financial Services Committee on September 13, 2016, is an extensive, extreme piece of legislation that would dismantle a large amount of the power of the SEC and strip the Dodd-Frank Act of many of its key provisions. As first written, it would not be feasible for the Act to pass into law, but it certainly illustrates the extreme views of members of the House

Mar212017

SEC Completes Inflation Adjustment To Civil Penalties

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The SEC has completed the first annual adjustment for inflation of the maximum civil monetary penalties administered under the SEC. The inflation adjustment was mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act of 2015, which requires all federal agencies to make an annual adjustment to civil penalties.

The SEC adjusted civil penalties that can be imposed under the Securities Act of 1933, Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Investment Company Act of 1040, Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 civil penalties are those imposed by the PCAOB in disciplinary proceedings against its accountant members.

The penalty increase applies to civil monetary penalties (“CMP”). A CMP is defined as “any penalty, fine, or other sanction that: (1) is for a specific amount, or has the maximum amount, as provided by federal law; and (2) is assessed or enforced by an agency in an

Mar142017

The SEC Has Issued New Guidance Related To Foreign Private Issuers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On December 8, 2016, the SEC issued 35 new compliance and disclosure interpretations (C&DI) including five related to the use of Form 20-F by foreign private issuers and seven related to the definition of a foreign private issuer.

C&DI Related to use of Form 20-F

In the first of the five new C&DI, the SEC confirms that under certain circumstances the subsidiary of a foreign private issuer may use an F-series registration statement to register securities that are guaranteed by the parent company, even if the subsidiary itself does not qualify as a foreign private issuer. In addition, the subsidiary may use Form 20-F for its annual report. To qualify, the parent and subsidiary must file consolidated financial statements or be eligible to present narrative disclosure under Rule 3-10 of Regulation S-X.

Likewise in the second of the new C&DI, the SEC confirms that an F-series registration statement may be used to

Mar072017

SEC Announces Examination Priorities For 2017

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On January 12, 2017, the SEC announced its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) priorities for 2017. The OCIE examines and reviews a wide variety of financial institutions, including investment advisors, investment companies, broker-dealers, transfer agents, clearing agencies and national securities exchanges. The OCIE examination goals are to promote compliance, prevent fraud, identify risk and inform policy.

The priorities this year have a primary focus on (i) protecting retail investors, especially those saving for retirement; (ii) assessing market-wide risks; and (iii) new forms of technology, including automated investments advice.

The SEC shares its annual examination priorities as a heads-up and to encourage industry participants to conduct independent reviews and make efforts for increased compliance, prior to an SEC examination, investigation or potential enforcement proceeding. Moreover, the SEC chooses its priority list in conjunction with discussions with all divisions of the SEC and other market regulators and identifies what it believes are the

Feb282017

The SEC Has Proposed The Use Of Universal Proxy Cards

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The SEC has seen a huge exodus of key officials and employees since the recent change in administration, and the ultimate effect of these changes on pending or proposed rule making remains to be seen. However, some proposed rules, whether published or still in drafting process, will remain largely unaffected by the political changes. This could be one of them. In particular, on October 16, 2016, the SEC proposed amendments to the federal proxy rules to require the use of universal proxy cards in connection with contested elections of directors. The proposed card would include the names of both the company and opposed nominees. The SEC also proposed amendments to the rules related to the disclosure of voting options and standards for the election of directors.

Currently where there is a contested election of directors, shareholders likely receive two separate and competing proxy cards from the company and the opposition. Each card generally

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