Case Study of Online Funding as Related to Broker-Dealer Exemptions


As a recurring topic, I am discussing exemptions to the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities and individuals that assist companies in fundraising and related services.  On February 18th I published a blog about the new no-action-letter-based exemption for M&A brokers, the exemptions for websites restricted to accredited investors and for crowdfunding portals as part of the JOBS Act.  Further on, I wrote on the statutory exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements found in Securities Exchange Act Rule 3a4-1, including for officers, directors and key employees of an issuer.

This blog addresses the statutory and related exemptions that affect, and would permit, the operation of a funding website, including the statutory exemption from broker-dealer registration enacted into law as part of the JOBS Act on April 5, 2012.  This blog also includes an analysis of a fictional funding website.

Summary of Exemption from Broker-Dealer Registration Found in Title II of the JOBS Act

Title II of the JOBS Act created

The SEC Establishes Key Exemption to the Broker-Dealer Registration Requirements for M&A Brokers

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
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