The Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation (“Office”) has delivered a report to Congress following the 41st annual small business forum (“Report”). The Report includes recommendations of the Office and its annual forum participants. The forum itself featured panelists and discussions on (i) empowering entrepreneurs, including tools for capital raising; (ii) hometown entrepreneurship including how entrepreneurs can thrive outside of capital raising hubs; (iii) new investor voices including how emerging fund managers are diversifying capital; and (iv) small-cap world including what to know and how to think ahead.
I’ve been writing about the forum for many years and have even attended a few times. Each year the topics are similar, but the recommendations tend to transform over time. Last year the topics included (i) navigating ways to raise early rounds; (ii) diligence including how savvy early-stage investors build diversified portfolios; (iii) tools for emerging and smaller funds and their managers; and (iv) perspectives on smaller public companies.
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 341-page rule release provides a comprehensive overhaul to the exempt offering and integration rules worthy of in-depth discussion. I have been breaking the information down into a series of blogs, with this fifth and final blog focusing on amendments to Regulation Crowdfunding.
To review the first blog
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,
The industry, at long last, has a credit card processor willing to service equity and debt crowdfunding. As portals, brokers and other people jump to do this, I want to take a moment to discuss a few things.
WHO: the credit card company only wants to sign “platforms”, as the underwriting process for a single small issuer is just too much and not worth their time. This means brokers, funding portals, and platforms who bring on numerous offerings per year. NOTE THAT THE PLATFORM IS THE “MERCHANT”, not the issuer (critical point, as I’ll discuss below).
FUNDS LANDING: Unless you are a trust company, bank or $250,000 net-cap broker-dealer you cannot touch the money that investors send. This means that your escrow relationship will need to accommodate you, as the merchant, delivering funds from investors to the escrow account. This will be enormously complicated for the escrow agent as they will have to be able to sort through the
As required by Title III of the JOBS Act, on October 30, 2015, the SEC has published the final crowdfunding rules. Regulation Crowdfunding has 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. The new rules will be effective 180 days after publication, but the forms for registering a funding portal with the SEC will be effective and available January 29, 2016.
The SEC has dubbed the new rules “Regulation Crowdfunding.” Regulation Crowdfunding provides the rules implementing Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the Securities Act) and the regulatory framework for registered funding portals and broker-dealers that companies are required to use as intermediaries in crowdfunding offerings. In addition, Regulation Crowdfunding exempts securities sold under Section 4(a)(g) from the mandatory registration requirements found in Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”).
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
Implementation Of The Elimination Of The Prohibition Against Advertising For Private Accredited Investor Offerings And The Crowdfunding Act, Continues To Be Delayed
The annual “SEC Speaks” conference, in which Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) representatives review the agency’s efforts over the past year and preview the year to come, was held on February 22-23, 2013.
During the conference the SEC laid out the numerous items on its agenda for the year to come and beyond. The list included the careful implementation of the various titles of the JOBS Act, including Title II and Title III.
Title II of the JOBS Act provides that the SEC will amend Section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Regulation D promulgated there under, to eliminate the prohibition on general solicitation and general advertising in a Rule 506 offering, so long as all purchasers in such offering are accredited investors. Although on August 29, 2012 the SEC published proposed rules implementing Title II, those rules have been met with numerous comments and opposition and it is entirely unclear how the SEC shall proceed.
As a reminder, on April 5, 2012 President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law. Part of the JOBS Act is the Crowdfunding Act, the full title of which is the “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure Act of 2012”. The Crowdfunding Act creates a new exemption to the registration requirements under a newly designated Section 4(6) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. Although the Crowdfunding Act is, by definition, an exemption from the registration requirements and therefore a new form of private placement, innovative and forward thinking minds have already come up with a method of utilizing the crowdfunding methodology for a public, registered offering.
What is a crowdfunding registered offering:
A crowdfunding registered offering is a combination of direct public offering (DPO) and initial public offering (IPO). As I have blogged about in the past, a DPO is like an IPO except the Issuing Company does not use an underwriter to
First, I’d like to give credit to The DealFlow Report which was my initial source for the numerical factual information in this blog.
The Numbers and Facts
Q2 reflects the uncertainty that goes along with an election year and the concerns over tax increases (or decreases) that go along with election years. There also remains the ongoing worry over European markets. In short, it is a time of change and uncertainty. Moreover, according to Adam Lyon, a managing director and co-head of private capital at Conaccord Genuity, the small cap financing market, “is probably in for the usual seasonal fluctuations: a tough summer followed by a pick-up in late August and September.” I note that my law firm has seen this trend consistently for the past decade.
According to data from Dealogic, the number of IPO’s dropped by 41.4% in Q2, however, mainly as a result of the facebook IPO, the dollar value of those IPO’s rose by 56.4%.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has requested public comment and input in advance of preparing and publishing proposed rules related to the Crowdfunding Act. The scope of the FINRA rules will be written specifically for registered funding portals and although they will need to be complementary to the SEC rules, it is intended that they not be duplicative. FINRA has set August 31, 2012 as the deadline for receiving comments.
As Related to Registered Funding Portals
Section 302 of the Crowdfunding Act requires that all Crowdfunding offerings be conducted through an intermediary that is a broker dealer or funding portal that is registered with the SEC. Section 304 of the Crowdfunding Act provides that Funding Portals are exempt from the broker dealer registration requirements, as long as they are registered with the SEC as Funding Portals and follow all such registration and ongoing rule and reporting requirements. In accordance with Section 304, Funding Portals must be “subject