The SEC has published the final report and recommendations of the 2017 annual Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation (the “Forum”). As required by the Small Business Investment Incentive Act of 1980, each year the SEC holds a forum focused on small business capital formation. The goal of the forum is to develop recommendations for government and private action to eliminate or reduce impediments to small business capital formation. I previously summarized the opening remarks of the SEC Commissioners. See HERE.
The forum is taken seriously by the SEC and its participants, including the NASAA, and leading small business and professional organizations. Recommendations often gain traction. For example, the forum first recommended reducing the Rule 144 holding period for Exchange Act reporting companies to six months, a rule which was passed in 2008. In 2015 the forum recommended increasing the financial thresholds for the smaller reporting company definition, and the SEC did indeed propose a change
Effective May 18, 2017, the OTC Markets has amended its qualification rules for the OTCQB to allow quotation by companies that follow its alternative reporting standard (“Alternative Reporting Standard”). OTC Markets aligned the new requirements with the existing OTCQX Alternative Reporting Standard requirements. In addition, the OTC Markets made clarifying amendments to its rules, amended the rules related to the timing of removal for delinquent filers, and revised the rules for international reporting companies.
Highlights of Changes
To qualify for the OTCQB using the Alternative Reporting Standard, a company must file audited financial statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP by a PCAOB qualified auditor, have a minimum bid price of $0.01, not be subject to bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings, and maintain corporate governance including (i) have a board of directors that includes a minimum of two independent directors, and (ii) have an audit committee comprised of a majority of independent directors.
The cure period for delinquent filings has
On November 17, 2016, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance issued three new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) to provide guidance related to Regulation A/A+. Since the new Regulation A+ came into effect on June 19, 2015, its use has continued to steadily increase. In my practice alone I am noticing a large uptick in broker-dealer-placed Regulation A+ offerings, and recently, institutional investor interest.
Following a discussion on the CD&I guidance, I have included some interesting statistics, practice tips, and thoughts on Regulation A+, and a refresher summary of the Regulation A+ rules.
New CD&I Guidance
In the first of the new CD&I, the SEC has clarified that where a company seeks to qualify an additional class of securities via post-qualification amendment to a previously qualified Form 1-A, Item 4 of Part I, which requires “Summary Information Regarding the Offering and Other Current or Proposed Offerings,” need only include information related to the new class of securities seeking
On June 23, 2016, the SEC issued seven new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI”) related to Rule 701 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). On October 19, 2016, the SEC issued an additional three C&DI. The majority of the new C&DI focus on the effect on Rule 701 issuances following a merger or acquisition and clarify financial statement requirements under Rule 701. Two of the new C&DI address restricted stock awards including the disclosure requirements are triggered and when the holding period begins under Rule 144.
Rule 701 – Exemption for Offers and Sales to Employees of Non-Reporting Entities
Rule 701 of the Securities Act provides an exemption from the registration requirements for the issuance of securities under written compensatory benefit plans. Rule 701 is a specialized exemption for private or non-reporting entities and may not be relied upon by companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as
The JOBS Act enacted in 2012 made the most dramatic changes to the landscape for the marketing and selling of both private and public offerings since the enactment of the Securities Act of 1933. These significant changes include: (i) the creation of Rule 506(c), which came into effect on September 23, 2013 and allows for general solicitation and advertising in private offerings where the purchasers are limited to accredited investors; (ii) the overhaul of Regulation A creating two tiers of offerings, which came into effect on June 19, 2015 and allows for both pre-filing and post-filing marketing of an offering, called “testing the waters”; (iii) the addition of Section 5(d) of the Securities Act, which came into effect in April 2012, permitting emerging growth companies to test the waters by engaging in pre- and post-filing communications with qualified institutional buyers or institutions that are accredited investors; and (iv) Title III crowdfunding, which came into effect May 19, 2016 and allows
On June 6, OTC Markets filed a petition for rulemaking with the SEC requesting that the SEC amend Regulation A to expand the eligibility criteria to include all small issuers, including those that are subject to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) reporting requirements and to allow “at-the-market offerings.”
On March 25, 2015, the SEC released final rules amending Regulation A. The new Regulation A creates two tiers of offerings. Tier I of Regulation A, which does not preempt state law, allows offerings of up to $20 million in a twelve-month period. Due to difficult blue sky compliance, Tier 1 is rarely used. Tier 2, which does preempt state law, allows a raise of up to $50 million. Issuers may elect to proceed under either Tier I or Tier 2 for offerings up to $20 million. The new rules went into effect on June 19, 2015 and have been gaining traction ever since. Since that time, the
On February 25, 2016, the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) met and listened to three presentations on access to capital and private offerings. The three presentations were by Jeffrey E. Sohl, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Decision Science Director, Center For Venture Research at University of New Hampshire; Brian Knight, Associate Director of Financial Policy, Center for Financial Markets at the Milken Institute; and Scott Bauguess, Deputy Director, Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the SEC. The presentations expound upon the recent SEC study on unregistered offerings (see blog HERE).
The presentations were designed to provide information to the Advisory Committee as they continue to explore recommendations to the SEC on various capital formation topics. This blog summarizes the 3 presentations.
By way of reminder, the Committee was organized by the SEC to provide advice on SEC rules, regulations and policies regarding “its mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient
I have often written about state blue sky compliance and issues in completing offerings that do not pre-empt state law, including Tier 1 of Regulation A+ and initial or direct public offerings on Form S-1. I’ve also often expressed my opinion that the SEC, together with FINRA, is best suited to govern most securities-related registrations and exemptions, including both for offerings and broker-dealer matters, and that the states should be more focused on state-specific registrations and exemptions (such as intrastate offerings) and investigation and enforcement with respect to fraud or deceit, or unlawful conduct.
Despite the SEC support for the NASAA-coordinated review program to simplify the state blue sky process for securities offerings, such as under Tier 1 of Regulation A+, only 43 states participate. I say “only” in this context because the holdouts – including, for example, Florida, New York, Arizona and Georgia – are extremely active states for small business development and private capital formation. Moreover, even
On March 25, 2015, the SEC released final rules amending Regulation A. The new rules are commonly referred to as Regulation A+. The existing Tier I Regulation A, which does not preempt state law, has been increased to $20 million and the new Tier 2, which does preempt state law, allows a raise of up to $50 million. Issuers may elect to proceed under either Tier I or Tier 2 for offerings up to $20 million. The new rules went into effect on June 19, 2015.
On June 23, 2015, the SEC updated its Division of Corporation Finance Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) to provide guidance related to Regulation A/A+. The SEC published 11 new C&DI’s and deleted 2 related to forms and in particular, related to paper filings and annotations which are no longer relevant or applicable.
Practical Effects of New Regulation A/A+
On March 25, 2015, the SEC released final rules amending Regulation A. The new rules are commonly referred to as Regulation A+. The existing Tier I Regulation A, which does not preempt state law, has been increased to $20 million and the new Tier 2, which does preempt state law, allows a raise of up to $50 million. Issuers may elect to proceed under either Tier I or Tier 2 for offerings up to $20 million. The new rules are expected to be effective on or near June 19, 2015.
On March 31, 2015, I published a blog with a high-level summary of the new rules. In this blog, I will give a deeper review of the entire new Regulation and then in future installments will drill down on different aspects of the new rules as such become relevant to this new offering regime.
Background on Rules
On December 18, 2013, the SEC published proposed rules to implement Title