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Crowdfunding

SEC Statements On Capital Markets Amid Covid-19

On June 25, 2020, SEC Chair Jay Clayton gave testimony before the Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services on the topic of capital markets and emergency lending in the Covid-19 era.  The next day, on June 26, Chair Clayton, William Hinman, Director of the Division of Corporation Finance, Dalia Blass, Director of the Division of Investment Management and Brett Redfearn, Director of the Division of Trading and Markets issued a public statement on the same topic but expanded to include efforts to ensure the orderly function of U.S. capital markets.

Chair Clayton Testimony

Chair Clayton breaks down his testimony over five topics including: (i) market monitoring and regulatory coordination; (ii) guidance and targeted assistance and relief; (iii) investor protection, education and outreach efforts; (iv) ongoing mission-oriented work; and (v) the SEC’s fiscal-year 2021 budget request.

Market Monitoring and Regulatory Coordination

Despite the extraordinary volumes and volatility we have seen

SEC Enacts Temporary Expedited Crowdfunding Rules

Following the April 2, 2020 virtual meeting of the SEC Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee in which the Committee urged the SEC to ease crowdfunding restrictions to allow established small businesses to quickly access potential investors (see HERE), the SEC has provided temporary, conditional expedited crowdfunding access to small businesses.  The temporary rules are intended to expedite the offering process for smaller, previously established companies directly or indirectly affected by Covid-19 that are seeking to meet their funding needs through the offer and sale of securities pursuant to Regulation Crowdfunding.

The temporary rules will provide eligible companies with relief from certain rules with respect to the timing of a company’s offering and the financial statements required.  To take advantage of the temporary rules, a company must meet enhanced eligibility requirements and provide clear, prominent disclosure to investors about its reliance on the relief. The relief will apply to offerings launched between May 4, 2020 and August 31,

Small Business Advocate Urges Capital Raising Relief

On March 4, 2020, the SEC published proposed rule changes to harmonize, simplify and improve the exempt offering framework.  The proposed rule changes indicate that the SEC has been listening to capital markets participants and is supporting increased access to private offerings for both businesses and a larger class of investors.  Together with the proposed amendments to the accredited investor definition (see HERE), the new rules could have as much of an impact on the capital markets as the JOBS Act has had since its enactment in 2012.

I’ve written a five-part series detailing the rule changes, the first of which can be read HERE.  My plan to publish the five parts in five consecutive weeks was derailed by the coronavirus and more time-sensitive articles on relief for SEC filers and disclosure guidance, but will resume in weeks that do not have more pressing Covid-19 topics.

On April 2, 2020, the SEC Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee

SEC Proposed Rule Changes For Exempt Offerings – Part 1

On March 4, 2020, the SEC published proposed rule changes to harmonize, simplify and improve the exempt offering framework.  The SEC had originally issued a concept release and request for public comment on the subject in June 2019 (see HERE).  The proposed rule changes indicate that the SEC has been listening to capital markets participants and is supporting increased access to private offerings for both businesses and a larger class of investors.  Together with the proposed amendments to the accredited investor definition (see HERE), the new rules could have as much of an impact on the capital markets as the JOBS Act has had since its enactment in 2012.

The June concept release sought public comments on: (i) whether the exemptive framework as a whole is effective for both companies and investors; (ii) ways to improve, harmonize and streamline the exemptions; (iii) whether there are gaps in the regulations making it difficult for smaller companies to raise capital;

SEC Small Business Advocate Releases First Annual Report

The SEC’s Office of Small Business Advocate launched in January 2019 after being created by Congress pursuant to the Small Business Advocate Act of 2016 (see HERE).  One of the core tenants of the Office is recognizing that small businesses are job creators, generators of economic opportunity and fundamental to the growth of the country, a drum I often beat.  The Office recently issued its first annual report (“Annual Report”).

The Office has the following functions: (i) assist small businesses (privately held or public with a market cap of less than $250 million) and their investors in resolving problems with the SEC or self-regulatory organizations; (ii) identify and propose regulatory changes that would benefit small businesses and their investors; (iii) identify problems small businesses have in securing capital; (iv) analyzing the potential impact of regulatory changes on small businesses and their investors; (v) conducting outreach programs; (vi) identify unique challenges for minority-owned businesses; and (vii) consult with the Investor

The SEC, FinCEN And CFTC Issue A Joint Statement On Digital Assets

On October 11, 2019 the SEC, FinCEN and CFTC issued a joint statement on activities involving digital assets.  Various agencies have been consistently working together, with overlapping jurisdiction, on matters involving digital assets and distributed ledger technology.  Earlier, in August, the SEC and FINRA issued a joint statement on the custody of digital assets, including as it relates to broker-dealers and investment advisors (see HERE).

The purpose of the joint statement is to remind persons engaged in activities involving digital assets of their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).  AML/CFT obligations apply to entities that the BSA defines as “financial institutions,” such as futures commission merchants and introducing brokers obligated to register with the CFTC, money services businesses (MSBs) as defined by FinCEN (for more information on MSBs see HERE), and broker-dealers and mutual funds obligated to register

The SEC’s 2018 Flex Regulatory Agenda

In December 2017, the SEC posted its latest version of its semiannual regulatory agenda and plans for rulemaking with the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Prior to issuing the agenda, SEC Chair Jay Clayton had promised that the SEC’s regulatory agenda’s would be “more realistic” and he seems to have been true to his word.

The agenda is separated into two categories: (i) Existing Proposed and Final Rule Stages; and (ii) Long-term Actions. The Existing Proposed and Final Rule Stages are intended to be completed within the next 12 months and Long-term Actions are anything beyond that. The semiannual list published in July 2017 only contained 33 legislative action items to be completed in a 12-month time frame, and the newest list is down to 26 items, whereas the prior fall 2016 list had 62 items.

The Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is an executive office of the

The Treasury Department Report To The President On Capital Markets

In October 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a report to President Trump entitled “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities; Capital Markets” (the “Treasury Report”). The Treasury Report was issued in response to an executive order dated February 3, 2017. The executive order identified Core Principles and requested the Treasury Department to identify laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record-keeping requirements, and other government policies that promote or inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system in a manner consistent with the Core Principles. In response to its directive, the Treasury Department is issuing four reports; this one on capital markets discusses and makes specific recommendations related to the federal securities laws.

The Core Principles are:

  1. Empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;
  2. Prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;
  3. Foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk
Read More »

SEC Issues Whitepaper On Title III Crowdfunding

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) companies cannot currently use a Special Purchase

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