OTC Markets Quotation Levels, Listing Requirements, and Comprehensive Pubco Criteria
OTC Markets divide issuers into three (3) levels of quotation marketplaces: OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink. The OTC Pink, which involves the highest-risk, highly speculative securities, is further divided into three tiers: Current Information, Limited Information and No Information. This page provides a summary of the listing requirements for each level of quotation on OTC Markets.
The OTCQX divides its listing criteria between U.S. companies and International companies, though they are very similar. The OTCQX has two tiers of quotation for U.S. companies: (i) OTCQX U.S. Premier (also eligible to quote on a national exchange); and (ii) OTCQX U.S. and two tiers for International companies: (i) OTCQX International Premier; and (ii) OTCQX International. Quotation is available for American Depository Receipts (ADR’s) or foreign ordinary securities of companies traded on a Qualifying Foreign Stock Exchange, and an expedited application process is available for such companies.
Issuers on the OTCQX must meet specified eligibility requirements. Moreover, OTC Markets have the discretionary
Securities Law Update: Intrastate Offerings Section 3(a)(11) and Rule 147 Examined
Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (Securities Act) provides an exemption from the registration requirements of Section 5 of the Securities Act for “[A]ny security which is a part of an issue offered and sold only to persons resident within a single State or Territory, where the issuer of such security is a person resident and doing business within or, if a corporation, incorporated by and doing business within, such State or Territory.” (“Intrastate Exemption”) Rule 147 promulgated under the Securities Act provides for further application of the Intrastate Exemption.
Rule 147, Issuers and Corporate Counsel
In addition to complying with Rule 147, Issuers and their counsel need to be cognizant of and comply with applicable state securities laws regulating intrastate offerings. The Intrastate Exemption is only available for bona fide local offerings. That is, the Issuer must be a resident of, and doing business, within the state in which all offers and sales are made
SEC Rule 144: Pledged Securities, Holding Periods and Subscriptions Agreements
Securities which are bona fide pledged may be tacked to the holding period of the pledgor as long as the pledge has full recourse against the pledgor. Gifted securities may be tacked with the holding period of the donor. Securities transferred to a trust may be tacked with the holding period of the settlor. Likewise securities transferred to a 401(k) or other individual retirement account will tack to the original issuance date. Securities obtained by beneficiaries of an estate may be tacked with the holding period of the deceased.
Securities acquired solely by the cashless exercise of an option or warrant are deemed to have been issued on the date of issuance of the underlying option or warrant; provided however, that the payment of any consideration, even a de minimus amount of cash, for the newly issued securities will restart the holding period. Accordingly, securities issued upon exercise of options or warrants in a stock option plan are deemed issued
SEC Rule 144: Current Public Information and Reporting Requirements
The current public information requirement is measured at the time of each sale of securities. That is, the Issuer, whether reporting or non-reporting, must satisfy the current public information requirements as set forth in Rule 144(c) at the time that each resale of securities is made in reliance on Rule 144. Most attorney opinion letters and Forms 144 cover a three month period and many Sellers sell securities over that three month period. However, the Seller (or person selling on behalf of Seller such as the broker dealer) is required to make a determination that current public information is available at the time of each sale.
Accordingly, if a reporting issuer does not file a required Q or K during this period, or 15c2-11 information lapses for a non-reporting issuer, sales must cease until the current public information requirement is again satisfied. Moreover, Sellers are taking a risk by selling during the 5-day or 15-day period following the filing of
OTCBB Reporting Requirements Enable Successful Reverse Mergers
Companies subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (amended to the “Exchange Act”), without current business operations, and trading on the NASDAQ Over the Counter Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”), commonly known as Bulletin Board Shells, have become the vehicle of choice for private companies seeking to go public through a reverse merger.
Although the domestic economy has slowed, reverse mergers still flourish, and Chinese-based companies in particular have taken the lead in reverse mergers with Bulletin Board Shells. As old sectors slow, new sectors such as biofuels, health supplements, and agricultural science have risen to lead the charge into the public arena.
SEC Reporting Requirements Make Due Diligence Practical
Bulletin Board Shells have become the vehicle of choice for private companies seeking public status. This is due in part to increasing industry pressure for public companies to maintain total disclosure of their financial condition and operations.
Bulletin Board Shells and OTCBB Companies must prepare and file
Market Makers Rely on Due Diligence in Reverse Mergers
Following approval of the 15c2-11 application by FINRA, and the consistent quotation of a company’s securities, market makers may “piggy back” on the approved and completed 15c2-11. In short, a market maker may quote the share price of the Bulletin Board Shell while relying on the due diligence of other market makers and the company’s current SEC filings.
Although highly technical, the due diligence process can be completed quickly and thoroughly by an experienced securities attorney; the key is knowing where to look and what to look for. For example:
- All articles and amendments are ordered from the company’s state of domicile and reviewed for procedural correctness and historical understanding.
- DTC (the Depository Trust Company) is contacted to confirm the company is in a transferable status.
- In addition to financial statement review, using several proprietary online search services, the firm conducts comprehensive debt and litigation searches to identify any miscellaneous debts as well as pending or past litigation.
- A tax
Reverse Mergers Hinge on Due Diligence and Cleaning Up Public Shells
When a publicly traded company “goes dark” and becomes delinquent in its filing requirements, it generally becomes a public shell and is no longer quoted on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board Exchange (OTCBB). However, with the assistance of an experienced securities attorney, the shell company can be restored so that a merger candidate can be introduced.
Some of the specific details that constitute the clean-up process include:
- Reinstating the Company’s corporate charter and paying franchise taxes to the Company’s state of domicile, if necessary
- Working with a PCOAB (Public Company Oversight Accounting Board) auditor to update all necessary financial statements and audits
- Holding a shareholder meeting for purposes of electing directors and amending articles of incorporation and bylaws as necessary
- Updating the Company’s articles of incorporation and bylaws to ensure they suit the needs of the successor Company
- Conducting reverse splits of the Company’s outstanding shares of common stock in order to decrease the size of the outstanding common