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
On February 15, 2023, the SEC adopted final rules shortening the standard settlement cycle from two business days (T+2) to one business day (T+1). A shorter settlement cycle will reduce the credit, market and liquidity risks in securities transactions. The SEC previously shorted the standard cycle from three days (T+3) to T+2 in 2017 (see HERE) and at that time, and in speeches and rule making agendas since then, has consistently indicated efforts to move to T+1.
In addition to shortening the standard settlement cycle, the new rules also shorten the standard settlement cycle for firm commitment offerings priced after 4:30 p.m. from four business days (T+4) to T+2. However, the rules do allow for underwriters and issuers to agree to an alternative settlement date, which is helpful in completing the numerous closing documents and processing steps that occur between the pricing and closing of deals.
The final rules will improve the processing of institutional trades by requiring
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
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
On August 6, 2021, the SEC approved Nasdaq’s board diversity listing standards proposal. Nasdaq Rule 5605(f) requires Nasdaq listed companies, subject to certain exceptions, to: (i) to have at least one director who self-identifies as a female, and (ii) have at least one director who self-identifies as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, two or more races or ethnicities, or as LGBTQ+, or (iii) explain why the company does not have at least two directors on its board who self-identify in the categories listed above. The rule changes also made headlines in most major publications. One of the most common themes in the press was the lack of inclusion of people with disabilities in the definition of an “underrepresented minority” for purposes of complying with the new rules.
The original rules had tiered compliance deadlines which Nasdaq (and practitioners) found confusing and unnecessarily complicated. On December 14,
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
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
The OTC Markets divide issuers into three (3) levels of quotation marketplaces: OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink Open Market. The OTC Pink Open Market, which involves the highest-risk, highly speculative securities, is further divided into three tiers: Current Information, Limited Information and No Information. Companies trading on the OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink tiers of OTC Markets have the option of reporting directly to OTC Markets under its Alternative Reporting Standards. The Alternative Reporting Standards are more robust for the OTCQB and OTCQX in that they require audited financial statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and audited by a PCAOB qualified auditor in the same format as would be included in SEC registration statements and reports.
Companies that report to the SEC under Regulation A and foreign companies that
Without fanfare, the issuance of guidance, or any other formal notice, the SEC quietly changed its policy related to the filing of an at-the-market resale registration statement for an equity line financing by OTC Pink listed companies. To be clear, an OTC Pink listed company may now utilize a re-sale registration statement on Form S-1 for an equity line financing transaction, pursuant to which the securities may be sold by the investor, into the market, at market price. This results in a dramatic shift, for the better, for OTC Pink companies in the world of capital markets.
Rule 415 sets forth the requirements for engaging in a delayed offering or offering on a continuous basis. Under Rule 415 a re-sale offering may be made on a delayed or continuous basis other than at a fixed price (i.e., it may be priced at the market). It is axiomatic that for a security to be sold at market price, there must