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Finders – Part 3

Following the SEC’s proposed conditional exemption for finders (see HERE), I’ve been writing a series of blogs on the topic of finders.  New York recently proposed, then failed to adopt a new finder’s regulatory regime.  California and Texas remain the only two states with such allowing finders for intra-state offerings.   Also, a question that has arisen several times recently is whether an unregistered person can assist a U.S. company in capital raising transactions outside the U.S. under Regulation S, which I addressed in the second blog in this series (see HERE).  This blog will discuss the New York, California and Texas rules.

New York

On December 1, 2020, the state of New York adopted an overhaul to some of its securities laws including modernizing registration and filing requirements with the Investor Protection Bureau and the Office of the Attorney General.  Although the proposed rules would have adopted a new definition of “finder” and required licensing and examinations

Hester Peirce Proposal For Treatment Of Cryptocurrency

SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce, nicknamed “Crypto Mom,” has made a proposal for the temporary deregulation of digital assets to advance innovation and allow for unimpeded decentralization of blockchain networks.   Ms. Peirce made the proposal in a speech on February 6, 2020.

The world of digital assets and cryptocurrency literally became an overnight business sector for corporate and securities lawyers, shifting from the pure technology sector with the SEC’s announcement that a cryptocurrency is a security in its Section 21(a) Report on the DAO investigation. Since then, there has been a multitude of enforcement proceedings, repeated disseminations of new guidance and many speeches by some of the top brass at the SEC, each evolving the regulatory landscape.  Although I wasn’t focused on digital assets before that, upon reading the DAO report, I wasn’t surprised.  It seemed clear to me that the capital raising efforts through cryptocurrencies were investment contracts within the meaning of SEC v.

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

SEC And FINRA Joint Statement On Custody Of Digital Assets

On July 8, 2019, the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets and FINRA’s Office of General Counsel issued a joint statement on broker-dealer custody of digital asset securities (“Joint Statement”).  The SEC and FINRA have been discussing issues of custody related to tokens and digital assets for years.  For example, issues surrounding the custody of digital assets have been continuously cited by the SEC as one of the reasons for the failure to approve a cryptocurrency ETF.

The Joint Statement begins with the admission that historical rules do not adequately cover the complex issues related to digital assets, including rules related to the loss or theft of a security.  In recent months the SEC and FINRA staff have been engaging in conversations with industry participants regarding how the rules could be applied or modified to suit the needs of the emerging technology of digital assets.

Any entity that transacts business in digital asset securities must comply with the federal securities

Are Smart Contracts Enforceable

I’ve mentioned the term “smart contract” numerous times in my blogs related to blockchain and distributed ledger technology.  It seems worth drilling down on what exactly a “smart contract” is and whether such a “contract” is enforceable as a legally binding contract.  Smart contracts are generally computer code designed to automatically execute all or part of an agreement that is stored on a blockchain, such as the automatic transfer of assets upon the completion of specific programmed criteria.  A smart contract may be the only agreement between parties, or it may be used to implement all or part of the provisions of a separate written contract.

Since a smart contract is programmed code, it will only perform each step or item of execution when the pre-programmed criteria has been completed.  That is, if “x” occurs, then the code will automatically execute step “y.”  Accordingly, all contractual actions must be capable of being completed within

The 2017 SEC Government-Business Forum On Small Business Capital Formation Final Report

The SEC has published the final report and recommendations of the 2017 annual Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation (the “Forum”). 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.  I previously summarized the opening remarks of the SEC Commissioners. See HERE.

The forum is taken seriously by the SEC and its participants, including the NASAA, and leading small business and professional organizations.  Recommendations often gain traction. For example, the forum first recommended reducing the Rule 144 holding period for Exchange Act reporting companies to six months, a rule which was passed in 2008. In 2015 the forum recommended increasing the financial thresholds for the smaller reporting company definition, and the SEC did indeed propose a change

Regulation A+ Continues To Grow

The new Regulation A/A+, which went into effect on June 19, 2015, is now three years old and continues to develop and gain market acceptance. In addition to ongoing guidance from the SEC, the experience of practitioners and the marketplace continue to develop in the area. Nine companies are now listed on national exchanges, having completed Regulation A+ IPO’s, and several more trade on OTC Markets. The NYSE even includes a page on its website related to Regulation A+ IPO’s.  As further discussed herein, most of the exchange traded companies have gone down in value from their IPO offering price, which I and other practitioners attribute to the lack of firm commitment offerings and the accompanying overallotment (greenshoe) option.

On March 15, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4263, the Regulation A+ Improvement Act, increasing the Regulation A+ Tier 2 limit from $50 million to $75 million in a 12-month period.  In September 2017 the House

Multiple Changes To Private Offering Compliance And Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI)

The SEC has been fine-tuning its Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI), making multiple amendments, additions and deletions on September 20, 2017. The SEC made revisions to reflect changes to Rules 147 and 504, the repeal of Rule 505, as well as numerous non-substantive revisions throughout the C&DI to update for current rules and statutory references. Likewise, several C&DI have been removed that did not accurately reflect current rules.

On October 26, 2016, the SEC passed new rules to modernize intrastate and regional securities offerings. The final new rules amended Rule 147 to reform the rules and allow companies to continue to offer securities under Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”). The SEC created a new Rule 147A to accommodate adopted state intrastate crowdfunding provisions. New Rule 147A allows intrastate offerings to access out-of-state residents and companies that are incorporated out of state, but that conduct business in the state in which the offering is being

SEC and NASAA Statements on ICOs and More Enforcement Proceedings

The message from the SEC is very clear: participants in initial coin offerings (ICO’s) and cryptocurrencies in general need to comply with the federal securities laws or they will be the subject of enforcement proceedings. This message spreads beyond companies and entities issuing cryptocurrencies, also including securities lawyers, accountants, consultants and secondary trading platforms. Moreover, the SEC is not the only watchdog. State securities regulators and the plaintiffs’ bar are both taking aim at the crypto marketplace. Several class actions have been filed recently against companies that have completed ICO’s.

After a period of silence, on July 25, 2017, the SEC issued a Section 21(a) Report on an investigation and related activities by the DAO, with concurrent statements by both the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Enforcement. On the same day, the SEC issued an Investor Bulletin related to ICO’s. For more on the Section 21(a) Report, statements and investor bulletin, see HERE. Since that time,

The Payment Of Finders’ Fees- An Ongoing Discussion

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 case the investor group utilizes the services

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