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SEC Issues Staff Report On Accredited Investor Definition

On December 15, 2023, the SEC issued a staff report on the accredited investor definition.  The report comes three years after the most recent amendments to the accredited investor definition (see HERE).

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) requires the SEC to review the accredited investor definition, as relates to natural persons, at least once every four years to determine whether the definition should be modified or adjusted.  The last two reports can be read HERE and HERE.

The current report focuses on the composition of the accredited investor demographic, including since the last definition amendments; the extent to which accredited investors have the financial sophistication, ability to sustain the risk of loss of investment, and access to information that have traditionally been associated with an ability to fend for themselves; and accredited investor participation in exempt offerings.

I’ve included the complete current accredited investor definition at the end of this blog.


All offers and sales of securities must either be registered with the SEC under the Securities Act or be subject to an available exemption from registration. The ultimate purpose of registration is to provide investors and potential investors with full and fair disclosure to make an informed investment decision. The SEC does not pass on the merits of a particular deal or business model, only its disclosure. In setting up the registration and exemption requirements, Congress and the SEC recognize that not all investors need public registration protection and not all situations have a practical need for registration.

However, exempted offerings carry additional risks in that the level of required investor disclosure is much less than in a registered offering, the SEC does not review the offering documents, and there is no federal ongoing disclosure or reporting requirements.  The premise of allowing offering exemptions to accredited investors is that such investors are able to fend for themselves and, accordingly, do not need the protections afforded by the registration requirements under the Securities Act because they have access to the kind of information which registration would disclose (SEC v. Ralston Purina Co.).

The definition of an accredited investor has become a central component of exempt offerings, including Rules 506(b) and 506(c) of Regulation D.  Qualifying as an accredited investor allows an investor to participate in exempt offerings including offerings by private and public companies, certain hedge funds, private equity funds and venture capital funds.  Further accredited investors are not bound by the investor limitations set forth in Regulation Crowdfunding or Regulation A, and investors in a Regulation Crowdfunding offering are free to sell to accredited investors without complying with the one-year prohibition on resales.

The concept of “accredited investor” is not limited to exempt offerings but permeates the state and federal securities laws in general.  For instance, a company is required to register under Section 12(g) if as of the last day of its fiscal year the number of its record security holders is either 2,000 or greater worldwide, or 500 persons who are not accredited investors or greater worldwide.  Accordingly, companies must differentiate between record holders who are accredited investors and nonaccredited investors.  For more on Section 12(g) registration see HERE

Most state securities statutes contain a definition of an accredited investor that either tracks the federal definition, or in some cases, contains higher thresholds for institutional investors ($10 million as opposed to $5 million).  Some states use the accredited investor definition to determine whether investment advisers to certain private funds are required to be registered.  FINRA also uses the definition to determine the private placement document filing requirements for placement agents.

Accredited Investor Pool

The SEC has no real source of information on the number of natural persons that are accredited investors but rather must rely on assumptions and general information provided by, for example, the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances.  However, the SEC estimates that approximately 18.5% of U.S. households qualify as accredited investors based on income standards.   The SEC estimates that the number of accredited investors has grown steadily, attributing some of this growth to the fact that the definition has never been adjusted for inflation.  According to the SEC report, if the natural person accredited investor thresholds were adjusted to reflect inflation since their initial adoption through 2022 using CPI-U, the net worth threshold would increase from $1 million to $3,037,840, the individual income threshold would increase from $200,000 to $607,568, and the joint income threshold would increase from $300,000 to $911,352, which is s significant jump from the current definition.

The SEC also points out that its estimate does not include the indeterminate additional number of people that would qualify as accredited based on holding qualified professional licenses or being knowledgeable employees at private funds.  Same for the number of individuals that may qualify as a director, executive officer, or general partner of the issuer.

The SEC report delves into the composition of assets for most U.S. households concluding that a disproportionate amount of assets are held in retirements savings accounts and plans that are directed or controlled by the individuals, who “may lack experience in building a portfolio that appropriately allocates risk and ongoing management of investments, including preparing for the illiquid nature of private company investments.”  Although the SEC admits there is limited information available to assess the financial sophistication of accredited investors, it still leans towards concluding, they are not sophisticated or protected.

The SEC points to this as a reason to question the continued utility of the current financial thresholds. I flat-out disagree.  Without side-by-side evidence of retirement losses, investors suffering from poor decision making, investors suing for private investment losses, regulatory actions related to inappropriate private offerings involving retirement accounts, or any other reasonable metrics supporting the alleged inability of U.S. households to make their own investment decisions with their own money, I find this discussion lacking in evidentiary support.

Accredited Investor Participation in the Exempt Offering Market

The SEC has no proper methodology to estimate the participation of natural person accredited investors in the exempt offering market.  However, they do estimate that approximately $3.7 trillion of new capital was raised in exempt offerings in 2022.  Although clearly the vast majority of the investors are accredited, the breakdown between natural persons and institutions or entities is unknown.  The SEC spends several pages espousing statistics based on Form D filings but, as they indicate, many issuers do not file a Form D and even when they do, it may be at the beginning of an offering and contain no information about the offering results or investor composition.


Although the SEC report’s introduction explains that it will examine accredited investor demographics and investment habits, in actuality the SEC has no reliable or aggregated sources of information from which to obtain these facts.  Although I summarize some of the findings, the conclusion is that all information is a best guess and estimate.  With such a lack of information, the SEC chooses to err on the conservative side seemingly leaning towards suggesting raising the financial thresholds.  I’m sure it is no surprise that I completely disagree with this approach.

In general, the report offered little useful information.

Current Definition of Accredited Investor

Accredited investor shall mean any person who comes within any of the following categories, or who the issuer reasonably believes comes within any of the following categories, at the time of the sale of the securities to that person:

(i) Any bank as defined in section 3(a)(2) of the Act, or any savings and loan association or other institution as defined in section 3(a)(5)(A) of the Act whether acting in its individual or fiduciary capacity; any broker or dealer registered pursuant to section 15 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; any investment adviser registered pursuant to section 203 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or registered pursuant to the laws of a state; any investment adviser relying on the exemption from registering with the Commission under section 203(l) or (m) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940; any insurance company as defined in section 2(a)(13) of the Act; any investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 or a business development company as defined in section 2(a)(48) of that act; any Small Business Investment Company licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration under section 301(c) or (d) of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958; any Rural Business Investment Company as defined in section 384A of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act; any plan established and maintained by a state, its political subdivisions, or any agency or instrumentality of a state or its political subdivisions, for the benefit of its employees, if such plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000; any employee benefit plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 if the investment decision is made by a plan fiduciary, as defined in section 3(21) of such act, which is either a bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or registered investment adviser, or if the employee benefit plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000 or, if a self-directed plan, with investment decisions made solely by persons that are accredited investors;

(2) Any private business development company as defined in section 202(a)(22) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940;

(3) Any organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, corporation, Massachusetts or similar business trust, partnership, or limited liability company, not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000;

(4) Any director, executive officer, or general partner of the issuer of the securities being offered or sold, or any director, executive officer, or general partner of a general partner of that issuer;

(5) Any natural person whose individual net worth, or joint net worth with that person’s spouse or spousal equivalent, exceeds $1,000,000 excluding such person’s primary residence (both on the asset and liability side except that indebtedness in excess of the fair market value of the primary residence shall be included as a liability);

(6) Any natural person who had an individual income in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with that person’s spouse or spousal equivalent in excess of $300,000 in each of those years and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year;

(7) Any trust, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000, not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, whose purchase is directed by a sophisticated person as described in § 230.506(b)(2)(ii);

(8) Any entity in which all of the equity owners are accredited investors;

(9) Any entity, of a type not listed in paragraph (a)(1), (2), (3), (7), or (8), not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, owning investments in excess of $5,000,000;

(10) Any natural person holding in good standing one or more professional certifications or designations or credentials from an accredited educational institution that the SEC has designated as qualifying an individual for accredited investor status. Under this category the SEC designated persons holding the following licenses: (i) Series 7; (ii) Series 82; and (iii) Series 65.

(11) Any natural person who is a “knowledgeable employee,” as defined in rule 3c–5(a)(4) under the Investment Company Act of 1940, of the issuer of the securities being offered or sold where the issuer would be an investment company, as defined in section 3 of such act, but for the exclusion provided by either section 3(c)(1) or section 3(c)(7) of such act;

(12) Any “family office,” as defined in rule 202(a)(11)(G)–1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940:

(i) With assets under management in excess of $5,000,000,

              (ii) That is not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, and

             (iii) Whose prospective investment is directed by a person who has such knowledge and experience in financial and business matters that such family office is capable of evaluating the merits and risks of the prospective investment; and

(13) Any “family client,” as defined in rule 202(a)(11)(G)–1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 , of a family office meeting the requirements in paragraph (a)(12) of this section and whose prospective investment in the issuer is directed by such family office pursuant to paragraph (a)(12)(iii).

The Author

Laura Anthony, Esq.

Founding Partner

Anthony, Linder & Cacomanolis, PLLC

A Corporate Law Firm


Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provide ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, public companies as well as private companies going public on the Nasdaq, NYSE American or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For more than two decades Anthony, Linder & Cacomanolis, PLLC  has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service.  The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker-dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions, securities token offerings and initial coin offerings, Regulation A/A+ offerings, as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-3, S-8 and merger registrations on Form S-4; compliance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including Nasdaq and NYSE American; general corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Ms. Anthony and her firm represent both target and acquiring companies in merger and acquisition transactions, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. The Anthony, Linder & Cacomanolis team assists Pubcos in complying with the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the small-cap and middle market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, Corporate Finance in Focus. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

Ms. Anthony is a member of various professional organizations including the Crowdfunding Professional Association (CfPA), Palm Beach County Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the ABA committees on Federal Securities Regulations and Private Equity and Venture Capital. She is a supporter of several community charities including the American Red Cross for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Susan Komen Foundation, Opportunity, Inc., New Hope Charities, the Society of the Four Arts, the Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach County Zoo Society, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and several others.

Ms. Anthony is an honors graduate from Florida State University College of Law and has been practicing law since 1993.

Contact Anthony, Linder & Cacomanolis, PLLC. Inquiries of a technical nature are always encouraged.

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Anthony, Linder & Cacomanolis, PLLC  makes this general information available for educational purposes only. The information is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Furthermore, the use of this information, and the sending or receipt of this information, does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between us. Therefore, your communication with us via this information in any form will not be considered as privileged or confidential.

© Anthony, Linder & Cacomanolis, PLLC


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