On April 3, 2018, Spotify made a big board splash by debuting on the NYSE without an IPO. Instead, Spotify filed a resale registration statement registering the securities already held by its existing shareholders. The process is referred to as a direct listing. As most of those shareholders had invested in Spotify in private offerings, they were rewarded with a true exit strategy and liquidity by becoming the company’s initial public float.
In order to complete the direct listing process, NYSE had to implement a rule change. NASDAQ already allows for direct listings, although it has historically been rarely used. To the contrary, a direct listing has often been used as a going public method on the OTC Markets and in the wake of Spotify, may gain in popularity on national exchanges as well.
January 8, 2018, OTC Markets Group, Inc. (“OTC Markets”) submitted a comment letter to FINRA related to FINRA Rule 6432. Rule 6432 requires that a market maker or broker-dealer have the information specified in Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c2-11 before making a quotation in a security on the over-the-counter market. Although I summarize the salient points of the OTC Markets comment letter, I encourage those interested to read the entire letter, which contains an in-depth analysis and comprehensive arguments to support its position. On February 8, 2018, OTC Markets submitted a second comment letter to FINRA, this one related to FINRA Rule 5250. Rule 5250 prohibits companies from compensating market makers in connection with the preparation and filing of a Form 211 application.
Rule 6432 – Compliance with the Information Requirements of SEA Rule 15c2-11
As OTC Markets Group continues to position itself as a respected venture trading platform, it has adopted a new stock promotion policy and best practices guidelines to improve investor transparency and address concerns over fraudulent or improper stock promotion campaigns. The stock promotion policy and best practices guidelines are designed to assist companies with responsible investor relations and to address problematic issues. Recognizing that fraudulent stock promotion is a systemic problem requiring an all-fronts effort by industry participants and regulators, the new policy focuses on transparency and disclosure of current information, and the correction of false statements or materially misleading information issued by third parties.
For several years, OTC Markets Group has been delineating companies with a skull-and-crossbones sign where they have raised concerns such as improper or misleading disclosures, spam campaigns, questionable stock promotion, investigation of fraudulent or other criminal activity, regulatory suspensions or disruptive corporate actions. While labeled with a skull and crossbones, a company that does not
On June 30, 2017, the OTC Markets Group published amendments to the OTCQB standards related to the processing and reporting of change in control events. The new rules went into effect on July 31, 2017.
OTC Markets has been initiating a series of changes related to the OTCQB including amending the qualification requirements to allow quotation by companies that follow its alternative reporting standard (“Alternative Reporting Standard”) which went effective on May 18, 2017. For a review of the new qualification changes, see my blog HERE.
Highlights of Changes
The OTCQB has added a new Section 2.4 to the OTCQB Standards published by OTC Markets. The OTCQB Standards include a comprehensive summary of admission and eligibility requirements, application processes, initial and ongoing disclosure requirements, continued eligibility requirements, fees and removal processes.
Section 2 of the OTCQB Standards set forth the continued OTCQB Eligibility requirements, and includes the new Section 2.4 related to change in control events.
A “change in
The SEC recently published a paper on OTC equity securities on their website. While I am always happy to see more research around OTC equities, I am surprised by the paper’s overly negative and misinformed conclusions about the growth in OTC dollar volumes.
Moreover, I am concerned that these flawed conclusions, drawn from outdated research and a study of a small group of securities subject to investigative requests by the SEC or FINRA, will be used to develop new regulations that harm capital formation. Regulatory action based on this skewed sample could negatively impact the vast majority of companies that trade successfully on the OTC Markets.
The OTC Markets are More Transparent Today
The SEC’s paper, “Outcomes of Investing in OTC Stocks,” by Joshua White, does not address the improvements in transparency and technology made over the past several years. Instead, it focuses on negative outcomes for investors of Pink companies that provide no information to the market.
OTC Markets has unveiled changes to the quotations rule and standards for the OTCQB, which changes become effective July 10, 2015. The OTC Markets rule amendments will allow a company to use its required Regulation A+ ongoing reporting requirements to satisfy the initial and ongoing OTCQB disclosure requirements.
Concurrently with this substantive amendment, OTCQB has made clarifying general amendments to its listing standards for all listed and prospective OTCQB companies. OTC Markets has invited comments on the proposed changes.
To summarize, the Regulation A related amendment to the OTCQB rules and regulations includes:
- The addition of definitions for “Regulation A” and “Regulation A Reporting Company”
- Initial Disclosure Obligations – a Regulation A Reporting Company can meet the OTCQB initial disclosure obligations by having filed all required reports on EDGAR, including annual audited financial statements;
- OTCQB Certification – clarifying amendment to the OTCQB Certification including that a Regulation A Reporting Company is required to file periodic reports with the SEC under
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
OTC Markets has unveiled changes to be quoted on the OTCQB, which changes become effective May 1, 2014. The OTC Markets changes are designed to attract venture investors to provide more information to investors and to improve such information with Real-Time Level 2 quotes. The OTC Markets press and informational releases related to the change concentrate on the push to create a successful venture-stage marketplace by removing underperforming companies.
The www.otcmarkets.com divides issuers into three (3) levels: OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink.
Issuers on the OTCQX must be fully reporting and current in their reporting obligations with the SEC and also undergo a quality review by industry professionals. Issuers on the OTCQB must be fully reporting and current in their reporting
On May 16, 2013, the SEC updated their Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations addressing the point at which an equity line agreement can be determined to be a completed transaction for purposes of filing a resale registration statement.
Equity line financings are transactions where a company has a long-term contract to put shares to an investor (the equity line provider) at a price, generally determined by a formula based on a discount to market price. That is, the Issuer has the right to tell the investor when to buy securities from the Issuer over a set period of time and the investor has no right to decline to purchase the securities (or a limited right to decline). Generally, the dollar value of the