On January 31, 2014, the SEC Division of Trading and Markets issued a no-action letter in favor of entities effecting securities transactions in connection with the sale of equity control of private operating businesses (“M&A Broker”). The SEC stated that it would not require broker-dealer registration for M&A Brokers arranging for the sale of private businesses, in accordance with the facts and circumstances set forth in the no action letter, as described below.
For many years the SEC has maintained a staunch view that any and all activities that could fall within the broker-dealer registration requirements set forth in Section 15(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), require registration. See also the SEC Guide to Broker-Dealer Registration (2008) on the SEC website.
In accordance with the SEC Guide to Broker-Dealer Registration, providing any of the following services may require the individual or entity to be registered as a broker-dealer:
- “finders,” “business brokers,” and
Section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933 provides that the registration requirements of Section 5 do not apply to “transactions by an issuer not involving any public offering.” The definition of an “issuer” is pretty straightforward as found in Section 2(a)(4) and includes, “the person who issues or proposes to issue” a security and is understood to mean the entity that originally sells the securities. However, not so straightforward is what constitutes a “public offering,” which term is not defined in the Securities Act. In reliance on Section 4(2) the SEC enacted Rule 506 as part of Regulation D.
Rule 506 as a Safe Harbor Provision
Rule 506 is a Safe Harbor. In other words, if all the conditions of Rule 506 are met, you can rest assured that the conditions of Section 4(2) have been satisfied. However, Section 4(2) can be satisfied as a standalone exemption separate from Rule 506. The importance of the distinction between Section 4(2)
The integration doctrine prevents issuers from circumventing the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1934 by determining whether two or more securities offerings are really one offering that does not qualify as an exempt offering, or an exempt offering is really part of a registered public offering.
Securities Act Release No. 33-4552 (November 6, 1962) sets forth a five factor test that is used as a guideline in determining whether the separate offerings of an issuer that occur within a short time of one another will be integrated. These same factors are set forth in the Note to Rule 502(a) of Regulation D, which factors address whether the offerings:
- are part of a single plan of financing;
- involve the issuance of the same class of securities (convertible securities, warrants, and other
- derivative instruments generally are deemed to be the same class as the underlying security unless the terms of the primary security prohibit exercises until at least the one