On December 15, 2023, the SEC issued a staff report on the accredited investor definition. The report comes three years after the most recent amendments to the accredited investor definition (see HERE).
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) requires the SEC to review the accredited investor definition, as relates to natural persons, at least once every four years to determine whether the definition should be modified or adjusted. The last two reports can be read HERE and HERE.
The current report focuses on the composition of the accredited investor demographic, including since the last definition amendments; the extent to which accredited investors have the financial sophistication, ability to sustain the risk of loss of investment, and access to information that have traditionally been associated with an ability to fend for themselves; and accredited investor participation in exempt offerings.
I’ve included the complete current accredited investor definition at the end of this blog.
As the SEC continues its onslaught against the crypto industry, including the filing of high-profile actions against Binance, which operates the largest crypto asset trading platform in the world, and Coinbase, a multi-billion-dollar crypto trading platform, FINRA has quietly approved OTC Markets to provide trading services for digital asset securities.
OTC Markets announced the approval in early May but don’t expect any activity in the near future. Concurrent with announcing the approval, OTC Markets CEO, R. Cromwell Coulson, stated:
“We also recently received FINRA approval to permit digital asset securities to be traded by broker-dealers on OTC Link ATS. This approval furthers our mission of operating regulated markets for broker-dealers and issuers of securities. While it will be some time until the regulatory framework and infrastructure develop, we believe our markets are well-positioned to be part of new trading, data, and disclosure solutions for these securities.”
OTC Markets is clearly putting itself in a position to
Effective June 3, 2023, FINRA will be replacing and updating the system for filing a Company Related Action Notification form, which form begins the process with FINRA to effectuate a corporate action initiated by a company trading on OTC Markets. The new process allows companies to submit forms, get updates and respond to comments through an electronic FINRA gateway.
Effective September 27, 2010, the SEC approved FINRA Rule 6490 (Processing of Company Related Actions). Rule 6490 requires that corporations whose securities are trading on the OTC Markets notify FINRA in a timely manner of certain corporate actions, such as dividends, forward or reverse splits, rights or subscription offerings, symbol changes and name changes. The Rule grants FINRA discretionary power when processing documents related to the announcements.
In the year and a half since Gary Gensler made it clear to the world that he intends to focus on the crypto “wild west” (see HERE) things have gone from bad to worse for the industry. Of course, it is not all the SEC’s extreme crypto scrutiny that is causing problems, but the very real crypto winter including the collapse of the FTX exchange and its FTX Future Fund, and the realization that the metaverse of tomorrow, will actually not be here until… tomorrow have all added to industry problems. Not to mention a slew of bankruptcy filings (FTX, Blockfi, Celsius and Voyager) and several other precarious financial positions (Blockchain.com, Coinbase, Crypto.com and Genesis, to name a few).
However, putting aside the crypto industry financial crisis, the U.S. regulators, including the SEC, FINRA and national exchanges, are scrutinizing any business with even a modicum of crypto focus to the point where it is almost impossible to move
Following a continuous stream of litigation against small-cap and penny stock convertible debt lenders, the SEC has proposed some statutory changes to the definition of a “dealer” under the Exchange Act. The SEC’s enforcement attack on convertible debt lenders began in 2017 and has been decried by industry participants as regulation by enforcement which, unfortunately, is not resulting in judicial orders or settlements offering clear guidance (see HERE). Also, unfortunately, the proposed new rules, which were published in March 2022 and are likely to reach final rule stage this year, still do not help small-cap investors navigate the regulatory highway.
The rule is intended to require certain proprietary or principal traders and liquidity providers to register as either a dealer or government securities dealer as applicable. The proposed rules would amend Exchange Act Rules 5a5-4 and 3a44-2 to enhance the definition of “as part of a regular business” in Sections 3(a)(5) and 3(a)(44) of the Exchange Act.
On August 24, 2022, the SEC released its draft strategic plan for the fiscal years 2022 to 2026 and sought public comment on same. The three primary goals set forth in the plan include: (i) protecting working families against fraud, manipulation, and misconduct; (ii) developing and implementing a robust regulatory framework that keeps pace with evolving markets, business models, and technologies; and (iii) supporting a skilled workforce that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and is fully equipped to advance agency objectives.
To achieve these goals, the SEC intends to use of market and industry data to prevent, detect, and prosecute improper behavior. The SEC also seeks to modernize design, delivery, and content of disclosures to investors so they can access consistent, comparable, and material information while making investment decisions.
These statements are very broad, but even at face value, the different focus of the SEC as compared to the last plan published in 2018 is clear. In 2018 the three primary
On January 27, 2022, the SEC approved the country’s 17th stock exchange, the first one of which will utilize blockchain technology. The new BSTX is a subsidiary of the Boston BOX Exchange and is a joint venture with tZero, which is providing the blockchain technology. The BSTX is expected to begin operations sometime after June 2022 and will initially only trade securities that first list directly on the BSTX. Once listed on the BSTX, a security can dual trade on other exchanges.
To begin, the BSTX will trade traditional securities but intends to move into tokenized securities and intends to brand itself with the look and feel of a digital asset exchange as opposed to the more traditional Nasdaq look. In December 2020, the SEC rejected the Exchange’s original plan to exclusively trade tokenized securities. The BOX then filed new proposed rules in May 2021 which, after 3 amendments, were approved by the SEC on January 27th.
On October 18, 2021, the SEC released a report on the meme stock craze that caused the securities of companies like GameStop Corp. to soar to unprecedented high trading prices and volume. Commissioners Hester Peirce and Elad Roisman criticized the report as being used as an excuse to add or consider adding additional regulations in the areas of conflicts of interest, payment for order flow, off-exchange trading, and wholesale market making when, however, no causal connection between the meme stock trading and these other factors has been established. I found the report interesting for the background and discussion on the U.S. trading markets.
From the perspective of individual investors, the lifecycle of a stock trade starts with an investor placing an order through an account they establish with a broker-dealer. The broker-dealer then routes the order for execution to a trading center, such as a national securities exchange, an alternative trading system (“ATS”), or an off-exchange market
One of the bankers that I work with often once asked me if I had written a blog with a side-by-side comparison of listing on Nasdaq vs. the OTC Markets and I realized I had not, so it went on the list and with the implementation of the new 15c2-11 rules, now seems a very good time to tackle the project. I’ve added NYSE American to the list as well.
Quantitative and Liquidity Listing Standards
Nasdaq Capital Markets
To list its securities on Nasdaq Capital Markets, a company is required to meet: (a) certain initial quantitative and qualitative requirements and (b) certain continuing quantitative and qualitative requirements. The quantitative listing thresholds for initial listing are generally higher than for continued listing, thus helping to ensure that companies have reached a sufficient level of maturity prior to listing. NASDAQ also requires listed companies to meet stringent corporate governance standards.
|Market Value of
The Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation (“Office”) has delivered a report to Congress following the 40th 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) 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. The forum itself had a focus on diversity, including panel speakers and discussion topics. A clear message across the board is that women- and minority-owned businesses face the biggest challenges in the capital markets.
The SEC’s Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation 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