OTC Market Group Has Modified Its Alternative Reporting Standard
Over the past few years, the historical Pink Sheets has undergone some major changes, starting with the creation of certain “tiers” of issuers and culminating in its refurbished website and new URL, otcmarkets.com.Otcmarkets.com divides issuers into three (3) levels: OTCQX, OTCQB and Pink Sheets.
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 obligations with the SEC but do not undergo additional quality review.
Issuers on the Pink Sheets are not required to be reporting with the SEC.However, such issuers are then further qualified based on the level of voluntary information provided to the otcmarkets.com.Issuers with no information are denoted by a skull and crossbones, Issuers with limited financial and business information are classified as “limited information,” and Issuers that provide information as set forth in the OTC
The OTCBB – Nearly Extinct, OTCQB is the Micro-Cap Reporting Standard
For the past two years it had appeared that the OTCBB had been replaced by the OTC Link run OTCQB and the OTCQX.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
New FINRA Rules For Corporate Actions
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
Has The OTCBB Been Replaced By The OTCQX And OTCQB?
Over the past few years, the historical “PinkSheets” has undergone some major changes, starting with the creation of certain “tiers” of issuers and culminating in its newly refurbished website and new URL www.otcmarkets.com. Where the term “PinkSheets” used to denote an over the counter quotation system using the website www.pinksheets.com it now simply refers to the lower tier of entities that trade on the over the counter market. In fact the URL www.pinksheets.com no longer exists with users being redirected to the new www.otcmarkets.com.
Three Levels of Reporting
The new www.otcmarkets.com divides issuers into three (3) levels: OTCQX; OTCQB and PinkSheets. The new website also provides quotes for the OTCBB but it seems this is just more as a comfort or segue until the industry gets used to the idea that the “bulletin board” is no more. The OTCBB has no particular listing or quotation requirements other than that the issuer be subject to the reporting requirements of
Rule 144 and Pink Sheet Shells; Selling Shares Post Merger
One of the most common inquiries received by securities attorneys today involves Issuers wanting to know when they and their shareholders can sell their shares on the open market following a merger with a Pink Sheet shell. In many cases, the answer they get is not the answer they want; twelve months after the Pink Sheet Company becomes a fully reporting entity.
If a private entity has merged with a Pink Sheet shell under the assumption that they can avoid the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reporting requirements, this revelation is devastating. As a result of the amendments to Rule 144 and Rule 145, enacted in February, 2009, private companies that wish to go public on the Pink Sheets are advised to do so directly, and not through a reverse merger with a shell company.
Technically Rule 144 provides a safe harbor from the definition of the term “underwriter” such that a selling shareholder may utilize the exemption
SEC Rule 144: Pledged Securities, Holding Periods and Subscriptions Agreements
Securities which are bona fide pledged may be tacked to the holding period of the pledgor as long as the pledge has full recourse against the pledgor. Gifted securities may be tacked with the holding period of the donor. Securities transferred to a trust may be tacked with the holding period of the settlor. Likewise securities transferred to a 401(k) or other individual retirement account will tack to the original issuance date. Securities obtained by beneficiaries of an estate may be tacked with the holding period of the deceased.
Securities acquired solely by the cashless exercise of an option or warrant are deemed to have been issued on the date of issuance of the underlying option or warrant; provided however, that the payment of any consideration, even a de minimus amount of cash, for the newly issued securities will restart the holding period. Accordingly, securities issued upon exercise of options or warrants in a stock option plan are deemed issued
SEC Rule 144: Current Public Information and Reporting Requirements
The current public information requirement is measured at the time of each sale of securities. That is, the Issuer, whether reporting or non-reporting, must satisfy the current public information requirements as set forth in Rule 144(c) at the time that each resale of securities is made in reliance on Rule 144. Most attorney opinion letters and Forms 144 cover a three month period and many Sellers sell securities over that three month period. However, the Seller (or person selling on behalf of Seller such as the broker dealer) is required to make a determination that current public information is available at the time of each sale.
Accordingly, if a reporting issuer does not file a required Q or K during this period, or 15c2-11 information lapses for a non-reporting issuer, sales must cease until the current public information requirement is again satisfied. Moreover, Sellers are taking a risk by selling during the 5-day or 15-day period following the filing of
SEC Rule 144: Resale Conditions and Exempt Transactions
There are many questions regarding the application of Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) Rule 144 for the resale of securities. Section 4(1) of the Securities Act provides an exemption for a transaction “by a person other than an issuer, underwriter, or dealer.” Therefore, an understanding of the term “underwriter” is important in determining whether or not the Section 4(1) exemption from registration is available for the sale of the securities. Rule 144 provides a safe harbor from the definition of “underwriter”. If all the requirements for Rule 144 are met, the seller will not be deemed an underwriter and the purchaser will receive unrestricted securities.
As Rule 144 only addresses the resale of restricted securities, the rule first defines “restricted securities”. Restricted securities include: (i) securities acquired directly or indirectly from the Issuer, of from an affiliate of the Issuer (affiliate includes spouses and family members living in the same household), in a transaction or chain of transactions not