The rules related to direct listings continue to evolve, with the latest Nasdaq rule change being approved on December 2, 2022, although their utilization has been slow to gain traction. Despite the Exchange’s efforts to make the process more attractive and viable, based on a few articles on the subject, only 10 companies had gone public via direct listing as of December 31, 2021, and I could not find a single example of any others since that time. Moreover, and certainly due to the elevated listing standards and arduous process, each of the companies have been much more mature such as Spotify, Slack, Palantir and Coinbase.
In any event, both Nasdaq and the NYSE continue with an “if we build it they will come” approach. After multiple iterations with the SEC, both Nasdaq and the NYSE approved rules that allow a company to raise capital concurrently with a direct listing (see HERE). The very handy Nasdaq Initial Listing Guide
The Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation (“Office”) has delivered a report to Congress following the 41st annual small business forum (“Report”). The Report includes recommendations of the Office and its annual forum participants. The forum itself featured panelists and discussions on (i) empowering entrepreneurs, including tools for capital raising; (ii) hometown entrepreneurship including how entrepreneurs can thrive outside of capital raising hubs; (iii) new investor voices including how emerging fund managers are diversifying capital; and (iv) small-cap world including what to know and how to think ahead.
I’ve been writing about the forum for many years and have even attended a few times. Each year the topics are similar, but the recommendations tend to transform over time. Last year the topics included (i) navigating ways to raise early rounds; (ii) diligence including how savvy early-stage investors build diversified portfolios; (iii) tools for emerging and smaller funds and their managers; and (iv) perspectives on smaller public companies.
I often get calls from clients or potential clients that have engaged in exempt offerings, have not filed a Form D and are wondering what the consequences might be. Taking it further, what are the consequences of not complying with the minor state blue sky requirements for any federally covered securities?
Form D – In General
A Form D is a brief fill-in-the-blank form that is filed with the SEC in connection with an offering or issuance of securities in reliance on the exemptions from the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) registration requirements found in Regulation D. The offering exemptions in Regulation D consist of Rules 504, 506(b) and 506(c) (see HERE).
A Form D is a notice filing. Rule 503 of Regulation D, which was last amended in November 2016, requires that a company relying on Rules 504 or 506 must file a Form D, notice of sales, with the SEC for each new offering
On November 2, 2020, the SEC adopted final rule changes to harmonize, simplify and improve the exempt offering framework. The SEC had originally issued a concept release and request for public comment on the subject in June 2019 (see HERE). For my five-part blog series on the proposed rules, see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. The new rules go into effect on March 14, 2021.
The 388-page rule release provides a comprehensive overhaul to the exempt offering and integration rules worthy of in-depth discussion. As such, like the proposed rules, I will break it down over a series of blogs, with this first blog focusing on integration.
Current Exemption Framework
As I’ve written about many times, the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) requires that every offer and sale of securities either be registered with the SEC or exempt from registration. The purpose of registration is to provide investors with full and fair disclosure
On March 4, 2020, the SEC published proposed rule changes to harmonize, simplify and improve the exempt offering framework. The SEC had originally issued a concept release and request for public comment on the subject in June 2019 (see HERE). The proposed rule changes indicate that the SEC has been listening to capital markets participants and is supporting increased access to private offerings for both businesses and a larger class of investors. Together with the proposed amendments to the accredited investor definition (see HERE), the new rules could have as much of an impact on the capital markets as the JOBS Act has had since its enactment in 2012.
The 341-page rule release provides a comprehensive overhaul to the exempt offering and integration rules worthy of in-depth discussion. As such, I will break it down over a series of blogs, with the second blog in the series which focuses on offering communications, the new demo day exemption, and
SEC Proposes Amendments Related To Intrastate And Regional Securities Offerings- Part II- Rules 504 And 505
On October 30, 2015, the SEC published proposed rule amendments to facilitate intrastate and regional securities offerings. The SEC has proposed amendments to Rule 147 to modernize the rule and accommodate adopted state intrastate crowdfunding provisions. In addition, the SEC has proposed amendments to Rule 504 of Regulation D to increase the aggregate offering amount from $1 million to $5 million and to add bad actor disqualifications from reliance on the rule. The SEC has also made technical amendments to Rule 505 of Regulation D.
In Part I of the blog, I discussed the Rule 147 amendment, and in this Part II will discuss the changes to Rules 504 and 505. I have never really written about either Rules 504 or 505 in the past, the simple reason being that they are rarely used exemptions. Perhaps with the current proposed changes, Rule 504 will have a new life. I do not think Rule 505 will gain favor, and in fact,
Effective September, 2013, the SEC adopted final rules eliminating the prohibition against general solicitation and advertising in Rules 506 and 144A offerings as required by Title II of the JOBS Act. The enactment of new 506(c) resulting in the elimination of the prohibition against general solicitation and advertising in private offerings to accredited investors has been a slow but sure success. Trailblazers such as realtymogul.com, circleup.com, wefunder.com and seedinvest.com proved that the model can work, and the rest of the capital marketplace has taken notice. Recently, more established broker-dealers have begun their foray into the 506(c) marketplace with accredited investor-only crowdfunding websites accompanied by marketing and solicitation to draw investors.
The historical Rule 506 was renumbered to Rule 506(b) and issuers have the option of completing offerings under either Rule 506(b) or 506(c). Rule 506(b) allows offers and sales to an unlimited number of accredited investors and up to 35 unaccredited investors, provided however that if any unaccredited investors
The SEC has published clarifying guidance and information on defining “voting equity securities” for purposes of the application of the bad actor rules under Rule 506 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). The clarifying language was contained within the SEC’s March 25, 2015 release of the final rules amending and adopting Regulation A+.
Rules 262 and 505 of the Securities Act disqualify the use of offerings under Regulation A and Rule 505 of Regulation D if an issuer, its predecessor, or an affiliate of the issuer is considered a “bad actor” as defined by such rules. In particular, the rules disqualify the issuer if the specified covered person is subject to certain administrative orders, industry bars, an injunction involving certain securities law violations or certain specified criminal convictions. “Covered persons” under the rules extends to the issuer, predecessor, affiliate, directors, officers, general partners, 20% or greater beneficial owners, promoters, underwriters, persons
The National Markets Improvement Act of 1996 (NSMIA)
Generally, an offering and/or sale of securities must be either registered or exempt from registration under both the federal Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) and state securities laws. As a result of a lack of uniformity in state securities laws and associated burden on capital-raising transactions, on October 11, 1996, the National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996 (“NSMIA”) was enacted into law.
The NSMIA amended Section 18 of the Securities Act to pre-empt state “blue sky” registration and review of specified securities and offerings. The preempted securities are called “covered securities.” The NSMIA also amended Section 15 of the Exchange Act to pre-empt the state’s authority over capital, custody, margin, financial responsibility, making and keeping records, bonding or financial or operational reporting requirements for brokers and dealers.
In Part I of this blog, I summarized the NSMIA pre-emption provisions. In this Part II, I discuss state blue sky laws.
ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100
As the end of 2014 approaches, I find myself reflecting on the significant successes and failures in the private offering arena since the enactment of the Jumpstart our Business Startups Act (“JOBS Act”) on April 5, 2012. Some provisions under the JOBS Act became law without further rule-making action on the part of the SEC; others took time to pass; and significantly, Title III Crowdfunding, the most anticipated change in capital market access, has completely stalled. This blog is a summary of the in-depth detailed blogs I’ve previously written on each of these topics with some added commentary.
506(c) – The Elimination of the Prohibition Against General Solicitation and Advertising in Private Offerings to Accredited Investors; Broker-Dealer Exemption for 506(c) Funding Websites
The enactment of new 506(c) resulting in the elimination of the prohibition against general solicitation and advertising in private offerings to accredited investors has been a slow but sure success. Trailblazers