A Form 10 Registration Statement is a registration statement used to register a class of securities pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). To explain a Form 10 registration statement, let’s start with what it isn’t. It is not used to register specific securities for sale or re-sale and does not change the transferability of any securities. That is, a Form 10 registration statement does not register a security for the purposes of Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) . Following the effectiveness of a Form 10 registration statement, restricted securities remain restricted and free trading securities remain free trading.
The Purpose of Form 10 Registration Statements
Now onto what a Form 10 registration is. As indicated above a Form 10 registration statement is used to register a class of securities. Any Company with in excess of $10,000,000 in total assets and 750 or more record shareholders is required to file a Form 10 registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). In addition, any company, whether publicly held or not and with or without assets, may voluntarily file a Form 10 registration statement at any time. A Form 10 registration statement automatically becomes effective sixty (60) days following filing.
Upon effectiveness the Company which filed the Form 10 registration statement is subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act. That is, they must file annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and periodic reports on Form 8-K. In addition, such Company is then subject to the proxy rules in Section 14 of the Exchange Act, and ownership rules and reporting requirements in Sections 13 and 16 of the Exchange Act.
What Makes a Company Public?
Interestingly, even though a Company that files a Form 10 registration statement becomes subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act, a Form 10 registration statement does not make a company public, and there is no pre-requisite that a company be public prior to filing a Form 10. A public company, by definition, has public shareholders. A Form 10 registration statement can be filed by an entity with a single shareholder. Moreover, regardless of the filing of a Form 10, a Company must satisfy other regulatory obligations to trade on either the over the counter market (PinkSheets or Bulletin Board) or on an exchange (AMEX; NASDAQ; etc.). A prerequisite to trading on either the over the counter market or an exchange, would be to have public shareholders holding freely tradeable shares. As explained in this article, a Form 10 does not impact upon this requirement.
Following the changes in Securities Act Rule 144 in February 2009, a Form 10 registration statement has become an important avenue for many previously non-reporting entities. Technically Rule 144 provides a safe harbor from the definition of the term “underwriter” such that a selling shareholder may utilize the exemption contained in Section 4(1) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, to sell their restricted securities.
Rule 144 and Form Registration Statements
In layman terms, Rule 144, allows shareholders to sell their unregistered shares. However, Rule 144(i), as amended, provides in pertinent part that the Rule is unavailable for the use by shareholders of any company that is or was at any time previously, a shell company. A shell company is one with no or nominal operations and either no or nominal assets, assets consisting solely of cash and cash equivalents or assets consisting of any amount of cash and cash equivalents and nominal other assets.
In order to use Rule 144, a Company must have ceased to be a shell company, be subject to the reporting requirements of section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act; filed all reports and other materials required to be filed by section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as applicable, during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the issuer was required to file such reports and materials), other than Form 8-K reports; and have filed current “Form 10 information” with the Commission reflecting its status as an entity that is no longer a shell company, then those securities may be sold subject to the requirements of Rule 144 after one year has elapsed from the date that the issuer filed “Form 10 information” with the SEC.
In other words, if a non-reporting entity ever was a shell company, even ten years ago, one of the only ways its shareholders can avail themselves of Rule 144 is for that company to file a Form 10 registration statement and thereafter remain current in their Exchange Act reporting requirements. Note, that a company could comply with Rule 144(i) by the filing of an S-1 registration statement, which also contains “Form 10
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 Section 5 of the Securities Act provides that it is unlawful to sell, offer to sell or offer to buy a security unless there is a registration statement in effect for such security, or a valid exemption exists.