Although I often write about initial listing standards, I realized that I have not yet blogged about the reduced ongoing listing standards for national exchanges. Last week I wrote about the Nasdaq continued listing requirements (see HERE) and this week I will cover the NYSE and NYSE American. For a review of the initial listing requirements for the NYSE American see HERE.
The NYSE American prefaces it continued listing qualitative minimum standards with it high level discretionary authority. The basis for continued listing is summed up in Section 1001 of the NYSE Company Guide as follows:
In considering whether a security warrants continued trading and/or listing on the Exchange, many factors are taken into account, such as the degree of investor interest in the company, its prospects for growth, the reputation of its management, the degree of commercial acceptance of its products, and whether its securities have suitable characteristics for auction market trading. Thus, any developments
The rules related to direct listings continue to evolve, with the latest Nasdaq rule change being approved on December 2, 2022, although their utilization has been slow to gain traction. Despite the Exchange’s efforts to make the process more attractive and viable, based on a few articles on the subject, only 10 companies had gone public via direct listing as of December 31, 2021, and I could not find a single example of any others since that time. Moreover, and certainly due to the elevated listing standards and arduous process, each of the companies have been much more mature such as Spotify, Slack, Palantir and Coinbase.
In any event, both Nasdaq and the NYSE continue with an “if we build it they will come” approach. After multiple iterations with the SEC, both Nasdaq and the NYSE approved rules that allow a company to raise capital concurrently with a direct listing (see HERE). The very handy Nasdaq Initial Listing Guide
On October 26, 2022, the SEC adopted final rules on listing standards for the recovery of erroneously awarded incentive-based executive compensation (“Clawback Rules”) (see HERE). The Clawback Rules implement Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Act and require that national securities exchanges require disclosure of policies regarding and mandating clawback of compensation under certain circumstances as a listing qualification. The proposed rules were first published in July 2015 (see HERE) and have moved around on the SEC semiannual regulatory agenda from proposed to long-term and back again for years.
The Clawback Rules add a check box to Forms 10-K, 20-F and 40-F to indicate whether the form includes the correction of an error in previously issued financial statements and a related recovery analysis. Although the check box has already been added to the Forms, the new Clawback Rules are not effective until November 28, 2023. As such, the SEC has issued guidance regarding compliance with the check box in
In January, NYSE Regulation sent out its yearly Compliance Guidance Memo to NYSE American listed companies. As discussed in the Compliance Memo, on October 26, 2022 the SEC adopted final rules on listing standards for the recovery of erroneously awarded incentive-based executive compensation (“Clawback Rules”). The Clawback Rules implement Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Act and necessitate that national securities exchanges require disclosure of policies regarding and mandating the clawback of compensation under certain circumstances as a listing qualification. Each listed issuer will be required to adopt a compensation recovery policy, comply with that policy, and provide the necessary compensation recovery policy disclosures. An issuer will be subject to delisting if it does not adopt and comply with a compensation recovery policy that satisfies the listing standards. The NYSE must adopt the new listing standard by February 26, 2023. For more on the clawback rules, see HERE.
Annual Compliance Guidance Memo
Less than two months after the PCAOB and the China Securities Regulatory Commission and Ministry of Finance signed a Statement of Protocol reaching a tentative deal to allow the PCAOB to fully inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong, Nasdaq effectively halted all small-cap IPOs with a China connection. This time, the issue is not audit-related.
During the week of September 19, one of our clients had a deal ready to be priced and begin trading on Nasdaq. We had thought we cleared all comments when a call came from our Nasdaq reviewer – all small-cap IPOs were being temporarily halted while the Exchange investigated recent volatility. The same day, an article came out on Bloomberg reporting on 2200% price swings (up and then steeply back down) on recent IPOs involving companies with ties to China – a repeat of similar volatility in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s despite three decades of
The American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) has published a policy paper urging the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange to allow U.S. cannabis operators that “touch the plant” to list on their respective Exchanges. The current prohibition to listing is purely discretionary and not because of any regulatory action by the SEC or any other U.S. regulatory authority. The policy paper, published November 7, 2022, outlines very convincing arguments for allowing U.S. operators to list on the National Exchanges.
The policy paper notes that up until now, the National Exchanges have refused to list these companies while cannabis remains federally illegal out of concerns that they could be charged with aiding and abetting violations of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) or with money laundering by the receipt of listing fees. As of the time of the publication of the policy paper, cannabis is legal in 37 states, D.C. and U.S. territories. The ATACH rightfully asserts that
The rules related to direct listings continue to evolve as this method of going public continues to gain in popularity. The last time I wrote about direct listings was in September 2020, shortly after the SEC approved, then stayed its approval, of the NYSE’s direct listing rules that allow companies to sell newly issued primary shares on its own behalf into the opening trade in a direct listing process (see HERE). Since that time, both the NYSE and Nasdaq proposed rules to allow for a direct listing with a capital raise have been approved by the SEC.
The Nasdaq Stock Market has three tiers of listed companies: (1) The Nasdaq Global Select Market, (2) The Nasdaq Global Market, and (3) The Nasdaq Capital Market. Each tier has increasingly higher listing standards, with the Nasdaq Global Select Market having the highest initial listing standards and the Nasdaq Capital Markets being the entry-level tier for most micro- and small-cap issuers.
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.
|Requirements||Equity Standard||Market Value of
Although overshadowed by all things ESG and SPAC related, a new Wall Street backed national exchange, the Members Exchange (MEMX), launched in Q4 2020 with ambitions to rival the NYSE and Nasdaq. In the same month, the long-anticipated launch of the Silicon Valley backed Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) came to fruition. The MEMX, founded as a lower cost alternative to Nasdaq and the NYSE, started small, initially only trading the securities of 7 large cap companies including Alphabet and Exxon Mobil, but has since opened to all exchange traded securities.
The MEMX was backed by Blackrock, Charles Schwab, Citadel, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan, E-Trade and Virtu, among others. These financial giants invested over $135 million into the platform and as such, have a vested interest in its success. They also have the power to direct significant trading activity onto the MEMX, where others will likely follow. In the 6 months since it went live,
Like Nasdaq, I’ve written several times about the NYSE American listing requirements including the general listing requirements (see HERE) and annual compliance guidelines (see HERE). As an aside, although the Nasdaq recently enacted significant changes to its initial listing standards, the NYSE American has not done the same and no such changes are currently anticipated. I suspect that the NYSE American will see a large uptick in new company applicants as a result.
I recently drilled down on audit committee requirements and director independence standards for Nasdaq and in this and the next blog, I will do the same for the NYSE American. As required by SEC Rule 10A-3, all exchange listed companies are required to have an audit committee consisting of independent directors. NYSE American Company Guide Rule 803 delineates the requirements independent directors and audit committees. Rule 803 complies with SEC Rule 10A-3 related to audit committees for companies listed on a national securities exchange.