On December 16, 2016, the SEC announced several new settled enforcement proceedings against market participants including issuers, attorneys and a transfer agent, related to penny stock fraud. On the same day the SEC issued a new white paper detailing the risks associated with investing in penny stocks. This blog summarizes the SEC white paper.
As I have written about on numerous occasions, the prevention of micro-cap fraud is and will always be a primary focus of the SEC and other securities regulators. In fact, the SEC will go to great lengths to investigate and ultimately prosecute micro-cap fraud. See my blog HERE regarding the recent somewhat scandalous case involving Guy Gentile.
The SEC Division of Economic and Risk Analysis published a white paper on the risks and consequences of investing in stocks quoted in the micro-cap markets versus those listed on a national securities exchange. The paper reviewed 1.8 million trades by more than 200,000 investors and concludes that
OTC Markets divide issuers into three (3) levels of quotation marketplaces: OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink. The OTC Pink, which involves the highest-risk, highly speculative securities, is further divided into three tiers: Current Information, Limited Information and No Information. This page provides a summary of the listing requirements for each level of quotation on OTC Markets.
The OTCQX divides its listing criteria between U.S. companies and International companies, though they are very similar. The OTCQX has two tiers of quotation for U.S. companies: (i) OTCQX U.S. Premier (also eligible to quote on a national exchange); and (ii) OTCQX U.S. and two tiers for International companies: (i) OTCQX International Premier; and (ii) OTCQX International. Quotation is available for American Depository Receipts (ADR’s) or foreign ordinary securities of companies traded on a Qualifying Foreign Stock Exchange, and an expedited application process is available for such companies.
Issuers on the OTCQX must meet specified eligibility requirements. Moreover, OTC Markets have the discretionary
ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100
On October 7, 2014, the SEC published a release instituting proceedings to determine whether to approve FINRA’s request to delete the rules related to, and the operations of, the OTC Bulletin Board quotation service. On June 27, 2014, FINRA quietly filed a proposed rule change with the SEC seeking to adopt rules relating to the quotation requirements for OTC equity services and to delete the rules relating to the OTCBB and thus cease its operations. Although the rule filing was published in the Federal Register, it garnered no attention in the small cap marketplace. Only one comment letter, from OTC Market Group, Inc. (“OTC Markets”) (i.e., the entity that owns and operates the inter-dealer quotation system known by its OTC Pink, OTCQB and OTCQX quotation tiers) was submitted in response to the filing.
The OTCBB has become increasingly irrelevant in the OTC marketplace for years. In October 2010, I wrote a blog titled
The Sale of Unregistered Securities Must Satisfy Form 8-K Filing Requirements In a 3(a)(10) Transaction
Introduction and Background
Recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has been taking action against public reporting companies for the failure to file a Form 8-K upon the completion of a transaction exempt under Section 3(a)(10) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). The SEC has served a Wells notice on numerous companies for the failure to file such Form 8-K without any prior communication with such companies. Since enforcement actions for the failure to file a Form 8-K are very rare, it is my view that the SEC is concerned with the 3(a)(10) transaction itself.
A Wells notice, often referred to as a Wells letter, is a notice delivered by the SEC to persons and entities under investigation providing the opportunity to such persons and entities to present their position to the SEC prior to the commencement of an enforcement proceeding. A Wells letter gives notice of the SEC’s intended charges and enforcement recommendation and
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
For the past two years it had appeared that the OTCBB had been replaced by the OTC Link run OTCQB and the OTCQX. For all intents and purposes since the fall of 2010, the industry-wide proliferation of the OTCQB and OTCQX has marginalized the OTCBB to the brink of extinction. It is has now become incredibly apparent that the OTCQB is the new micro-cap reporting standard.
Over the past few years the historical “Pink Sheets” and its online presence has undergone some considerable changes, starting with the creation of several well-defined “tiers” of issuers and culminating in a completely refurbished website and a new URL – www.otcmarkets.com; and new name for the Inter-dealer quotation system – the OTC Link. The OTC Link divides issuers into three levels: OTCQX; OTCQB and Pink Sheets. Quotation on both the OTCQB and OTCQX requires that the Issuer be subject to and current with the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act
On April 5, 2012 President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law. In my excitement over this ground-breaking new law, I have been zealously blogging about the Crowdfunding portion of the JOBS Act. However, the JOBS Act impacts securities laws in many additional ways. The following is a summary of the many ways the JOBS Act will amend current securities regulations, all in ways to support small businesses.
A. The New “Emerging Growth Company” Category
The JOBS Act will create a new category of companies defined as “Emerging Growth Companies” (EGC). An EGC will be defined as a company with annual gross revenues of less than $1 billion, that has been public and reporting for a minimum of five years and whose non-affiliated public float is valued at less than $700 million. EGC’s will have reduced requirements associated with initial public offerings (IPO’s) and ongoing reporting requirements. For many purposes, EGC’s will be allowed to use the less
A promissory note is a written promise by a person, persons or entity to pay a specific amount of money (called “principal”) to another, usually to include a specified amount of interest on the unpaid principal amount. In addition, a promissory note will include the basic specifics of the debt, including full names of both debtor and creditor and an address for making payments. The specified time of payment may be written as: a) whenever there is a demand, b) on a specific date, c) in installments with or without the interest included in each installment, d) installments with a final larger amount (balloon payment). In the event that the written note does not include language specifying the time of payment, the law assumes it is payable on demand by the creditor.
Terms of Payment
A promissory note may contain other terms such as the right of the promisee to order payment be made to another person, security or collateral,
The SEC has recently approved the NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.’s application to form the BX Venture Market (“BX Market”) as an alternative quotation medium to the OTCBB and OTC Markets, Inc. (including PinkSheets, OTCQB and OTCQX). The new BX Market will provide companies that do not otherwise qualify for an exchange listing, an opportunity to list their shares. The BX Market will compete with the OTCBB and the OTC Markets OTCQB and OTCQX (interestingly and as an aside, NASDAQ sold the OTCBB last year to a private buyer). The SEC has issued an in-depth order approving the application.
The OTCBB, OTCQB and OTCQX Alternative
The BX Market is marketing itself as a more transparent, better regulated, listing alternative to both the OTCBB and OTCQB and OTCQX. Presumably this means that companies trading on the BX Market would appear to have greater credibility than those on the OTCBB or OTCQB/QX. The BX Market will be run through joint ventures with NASDAQ
Effective September 27, 2010, the SEC has approved new FINRA Rule 6490 (Processing of Company Related Actions). Rule 6490 requires that corporations whose securities are trading on the over the counter market (OTCQX, OTCQB, OTCBB or PinkSheets) timely notify FINRA of certain corporate actions, such as dividends, forward or reverse splits, rights or subscription offerings, and name changes. The Rule grants FINRA discretionary power when processing documents related to the announcements, and implements fees for these services.
FINRA and the OTCBB
FINRA (the Financial Industry National Regulatory Authority) operates the OTC Bulletin Board and processes corporate actions for changes such as splits and name changes. FINRA also issues trading symbols to over the counter (non-exchange) traded issuers and maintains a symbols database for issuers. When processing by FINRA of a corporate action is complete, FINRA notifies the OTC marketplace of such changes and actions, such as repricing securities following a forward or reverse split, or issuing a new trading symbol