As anticipated, on February 19, 2019 the SEC voted to propose an expansion of the ability to “test the waters” prior to the effectiveness of a registration statement in a public offering, to all companies. Currently only emerging growth companies (“EGCs”) (or companies engaging in a Regulation A offering) can test the waters in advance of a public offering of securities. The proposal would implement a new Securities Act Rule 163B. For an in-depth analysis of testing the waters and communications during an offering process, see my two-part blog HERE and HERE. The SEC proposal is open for public comment for a sixty (60)-day period.
Historically all offers to sell registered securities prior to the effectiveness of the filed registration statement have been strictly regulated and restricted. The public offering process is divided into three periods: (1) the pre-filing period, (2) the waiting or pre-effective period, and (3) the post-effective period. Communications made by the company during
Conducting concurrent private and public offerings has historically been very tricky and limited, mainly as a result of the SEC’s position that the filing of an S-1 registration statement and unlimited ability to view such registration statement on the SEC EDGAR database in and of itself acted as a general solicitation and advertisement negating the availability of most private placement exemptions. In addition to the impediment of finding a private exemption to rely on, concurrent private and public offerings raised concerns of gun jumping by offering securities for sale prior to the filing of a registration statement, as prohibited by Section 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. However, with the enactment of the JOBS Act including its Rule 506(c) allowing general solicitation and advertising in an exempt offering, rules allowing the confidential submittal of registration statements for emerging growth companies (EGC) and rules permitting testing the waters communications prior to and after the filing of a