On June 13, 2023, the SEC published its semiannual Spring 2023 regulatory agenda (“Agenda”) and plans for rulemaking. The Agenda is published twice a year, and for several years I have blogged about each publication. Although items on the Agenda can move from one category to the next, be dropped off altogether, or new items pop up in any of the categories (including the final rule stage), the Agenda provides valuable insight into the SEC’s plans and the influence that comments can make on the rulemaking process.
The Agenda is broken down by (i) “Pre-rule Stage”; (ii) Proposed Rule Stage; (iii) Final Rule Stage; and (iv) Long-term Actions. The Proposed and Final Rule Stages are intended to be completed within the next 12 months and Long-term Actions are anything beyond that. The number of items to be completed in a 12-month time frame is 55, which is in-line with the average items under Gary Gensler’s regime (and much higher than
In December 2020, the SEC issued a statement and request for comment regarding the custody of digital asset securities by broker-dealers. The Statement and request for comment sets forth suggestions for complying with the Customer Protection Rule and lists certain requirements that a broker-dealer could comply with to ensure that it would not be subject to an enforcement proceeding for violation of the Customer Protection Rule.
Two months later, in February 2021, the SEC Division of Examinations issued a risk alert focused on digital asset securities. These statements were the first hitting head on the topic of digital asset custody since an August 2019 joint statement by the SEC and FINRA on the custody of digital assets (see HERE) and October 2019 joint statement by the SEC, FinCEN and the CFTC (see HERE).
In December, 2015, FINRA proposed rules for a whole new category of broker-dealer, called “Capital Acquisition Brokers” (“CABs”), which limit their business to corporate financing transactions. In February 2014 FINRA sought comment on the proposal, which at the time referred to a CAB as a limited corporate financing broker (LCFB). Following many comments that the LCFB rules did not have a significant impact on the regulatory burden for full member firms, the new rules modify the original LCFB proposal in more than just name. The new rules will take effect upon approval by the SEC and are currently open to public comments.
A CAB will generally be a broker-dealer that engages in M&A transactions, raising funds through private placements and evaluating strategic alternatives and that collects transaction based compensation for such activities. A CAB will not handle customer funds or securities, manage customer accounts or engage in market making or proprietary trading.
SEC Proposes Broadening Of Broker-Dealer Registration Rules To Include Proprietary And High-Frequency Traders
On March 25, 2015, the SEC proposed rule amendments to require high-frequency and off-exchange traders to become members of FINRA. The amendments would increase regulatory oversight over these traders.
Over the years many active cross-market proprietary trading firms have emerged, many of which engage in high-frequency trading. These firms generally rely on the broad proprietary trading exemption in rule 15b9-1 to forgo membership with, and therefore regulatory oversight by, FINRA. The rule change is specifically designed to require these high-frequency traders to become members of FINRA and submit to its review and oversight.
The proposed rule change amends Rule 15b9-1 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) to narrow a current exemption from FINRA membership if the broker is a member of a national securities exchange, carries no customer accounts and has annual gross income of no more than $1,000 derived from sources other than the exchange to which they are a member. Currently, income
SEC Announces Examination Priorities For 2015; Focus On Transfer Agents, Investment Advisers and Broker Dealers
On January 13, 2015, the SEC published its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) priorities for 2015. The OCIE examines and reviews a wide variety of financial institutions, including investment advisers, investment companies, broker-dealers, transfer agents, clearing agencies and national securities exchanges.
The priorities this year have a primary focus on (i) protecting retail investors, especially those saving for retirement; (ii) assessing market-wide risks; and (iii) using data analytics to identify signs of potential illegal activity. In addition, the SEC will examine municipal advisers, proxy services, never-before-examined investment companies, fees and expenses in private equity and transfer agents.
Transfer agents and broker-dealers will be scrutinized for potential claims of engaging in or aiding and abetting pump-and-dump or market manipulation schemes.
The SEC shares its annual examination priorities as a heads-up and to encourage industry participants to conduct independent reviews and make efforts for increased compliance, prior to an SEC examination, investigation or potential enforcement proceeding. Moreover, the SEC chooses
ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100
In last week’s blog regarding FINRA’s request to eliminate the OTC Bulletin Board quotation service (OTCBB) and to adopt rules relating to the quotation requirements for OTC equity services by inter-dealer quotation services, I touched upon the significance of penny stock rules related to the OTC marketplace. As further described herein, penny stocks are low-priced securities (under $5.00 per share) and are considered speculative and risky investments.
Penny stock rules focus on the activity of broker-dealers in effectuating trades in penny stocks. As a result of the risk associated with penny stock trading, Congress enacted the Securities Enforcement Remedies and Penny Stock Reform Act of 1990 (the “Penny Stock Act”) requiring the SEC to enact rules requiring brokers or dealers to provide disclosures to customers effecting trades in penny stocks. The rules prohibit broker-dealers from effecting transactions in penny stocks unless they comply with the requirements of Section 15(h) of the Securities Exchange
Back in October 2010 I wrote a blog titled “Has the OTCBB been replaced by the OTCQX and OTCQB”; at the time and up until May 16, 2013, my opinion was “yes” with one big caveat. Prior to May 16, 2013, all three tiers of the OTC Link were considered “pinksheets” by the SEC staff. Prior to May 16, 2013, the OTC Link was not considered a market and therefore: (1) there could be no at-the-market pricing of securities registered for resale by an Issuer on behalf of its selling shareholders; and (2) there could be no equity lines or similar financing transactions and no registration of underlying convertible equities which are priced based on a formula tied to the trading price (usually a discount to market), for OTC Link quoted securities.
On May 16, 2013, the SEC updated their Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations confirming that the OTCQB and OTCQX marketplaces are now considered public marketplaces for purposes of establishing
NASDAQ acquires Sharepost
On Wednesday March 6, 2013, NASDAQ surprised the small cap and investment community when it announced it is acquiring Sharepost’s private company market place (PCMP) exchange and rebranding it the Nasdaq Private Exchange.
In December, 2011, I wrote a few blogs on PCMPs. A PCMP is a trading platform, such as SharePost or SecondMarket that provides a market place for illiquid restricted securities, such as private company securities, 144 stock, debt instruments, warrants, and the like or alternative assets. It is on a PCMP that pre-IPO Facebook, Groupon and LInkedin received their trading start. Following the IPO of these large entities, and in particular Facebook, traffic and use of PCMP sites declines, but NASDAQ clearly believes the decline is temporary, and I agree.
Private Company Market Places
Each PCMP offers a fully automated back office, documentation, escrow, transfer and settlement support. Users open trading accounts, like they would with any other broker dealer. The PCMP provider collects
Back in October and November of 2011, I wrote a series of blogs regarding DTC eligibility for OTC (over-the-counter) Issuers. OTC Issuers include all companies, whose securities trade on the over-the-counter market, including the OTCBB, OTCQB and pinksheets. Many OTC Issuers have faced a “DTC chill” without understanding what it is, let alone how to correct the problem. In technical terms, a DTC chill is the suspension of certain DTC services with respect to an Issuer’s securities. Those services can be book-entry clearing and settlement services, deposit services or withdrawal services. A chill can pertain to one or all of these services. In the case of a chill on all services, the term of art is a “global lock.”
I have previously blogged on how to become DTC-eligible. From the DTC perspective, a chill does not change the eligibility status of an Issuer’s securities, just what services the DTC will offer for those securities. So while