As a younger lawyer I was regularly working on securities offerings. For the bulk of the offerings they were private placements to accredited investors under SEC Rule 506(b), which involved filing a Form D and state notice filings. In most states it was pretty straightforward. New York, however, was not straightforward then, and still remains a mystery to many people. Over the years I searched for a book that covered the basics of New York’s Martin Act (the law covering securities offerings in the State), but never found exactly what I was looking for. I kept working on deals and writing posts for this blog (in addition to memos and white papers, etc.), and over time I compiled a decent amount of information and knowledge of the subject and decided to put it all into one place. Next thing you know I had the beginnings of a book. Link to see it on Amazon here.
Now I don’t profess to being a specialist in the field of securities, as there are many complexities and rabbit holes to go down if you get outside the more “vanilla” type offerings. Startups, emerging companies and even investment funds, however, generally are raising money through private placements under SEC Rule 506(b). This book gives the basics and is, like its titled, a primer. I tried to walk a fine line to allow it to be read by non-lawyers, with enough citations to assist legal practitioners.
Admittedly, this book is a niche product. The prospective audience is those whose companies are looking to raise money, or individuals otherwise involved in some aspect of companies raising money. I hope it can be helpful to such individuals, including younger attorneys just getting started in the field.
In any event, the book is for sale in paperback and e-book on Amazon. I personally feel the paperback is easier to read and to flip back and forth to things, and to view the exhibits and addenda, which should be consulted. I have a number of copies of the book, and if any readers of this blog or friends and colleagues of mine would like a free copy, feel free to reach out. Thanks for the support.
The JOBS Act from way back in 2012, set forth the Crowdfunding exemption to the securities laws, and required that any Funding Portal that engaged in Crowdfunding registered with the SEC and became a member of FINRA. In late 2015, the SEC came out with the Regulation Crowdfunding Final Rules and forms to permit companies to offer and sell securities through Crowdfunding and to regulate the intermediaries which can sell the crowdfunded securities. The latest Funding Portal rules have been finalized by the SEC and FINRA. Read more
On February 16, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an investor bulletin addressing the new crowdfunding opportunities that will be available to investors starting as of May 2016. The SEC issues these alerts so that investors will be knowledgeable about such offerings, especially the risks inherent in same.
The full bulletin can be found here – SEC Crowdfunding Investor Alert.
The alert does a good job breaking down the ways investors calculate their net worth and how much can be invested in any twelve month period. It also cautions investors on the risks of crowdfunding investing and the structure of how such offering can be conducted through portals.
The SEC’s Final Rules for Regulation Crowdfunding were published on October 31, 2015, and are considered effective 180 days after such publication. Meaning that on May 16, 2016, Regulation Crowdfunding will be a go.
On that date, a company will be able to raise money under the new rules and file Form C (which still does not appear on the SEC’s Form Page).
To get a head start prior to the final rules allowing sales, and to catch up to broker-dealers who can also act as intermediaries and sell securities through the Regulation Crowdfunding final rules, Funding Portals were allowed to begin registering with the SEC on January 29, 2016, by filing the Form Funding Portal, among other things.
I’ve blogged on this before (here and here) and will be doing a number of posts solely on Regulation Crowdfunding in the near future to make sure that the basics are covered and will dig into some advanced topics.
Anyone company looking to take advantage of the new rules should start getting its house in order, by preparing its financials, its legal structure and investigating which intermediary it wishes to use for the sale of its shares, whether a broker-dealer or a funding portal.
After a further review of the new Regulation Crowdfunding rules I think they exemption provided may best serve companies looking to raise smaller amounts, such as below $500,000 (to avoid the audited financial requirement), or who are raising equity capital for the first time. There is a huge need for smaller companies to get access to capital. The Regulation Crowdfunding rules may allow investments to happen which otherwise wouldn’t, which is what Congress intended by passing the JOBS Act to modernize the antiquated securities laws. Companies that can attract accredited investors will likely continue to rely on the private placement exemption under Rule 506(b) due to its relative simplicity compared to other offerings. But again, I do think the Regulation Crowdfunding rules have a specific subset of issuers that can benefit from them.
So on October 30, 2015, the SEC adopted final rules which will, after the comment period is done (60) days and they are adopted, allow crowdfunding a/k/a Regulation Crowdfunding a/k/a Equity Crowdfunding in the United States.
At first glance the final rules appear similar to the previously issued versions, with individuals only authorized to invest a portion of their annual salary or net worth through crowdfunding each year. See the press release here.
Portals which will offer the securities of companies offering same through Regulation Crowdfunding will be effective January 29, 2016 so hopefully a decent number of platforms will be available to start the party in early 2016.
The final rules will be effective 180 days after they are published in the Federal Register. The below is a brief summary in FAQ form covering the Regulation Crowdfunding rules. Read more
On March 25, 2015, the SEC adopted final rules amending Regulation A, referred to now as Regulation A+. These amendments were required by Congress via Title IV of the JOBS Act which was passed some time ago. (we are all still waiting for the Regulation Crowdfunding rules to be finalized).
The general rule is that when a company offers or sells a security, the security must either be registered or an exemption from registration must be relied upon. Regulation A has been on the books for a long long time and has been relied on very little.
Now the SEC has a tough job, its tasked with allowing companies to raise money via offerings of securities but on the other hand it needs to ensure that fraud does not run rampant. These two goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but the SEC has generally focused on the latter of the two at the expense of the first. Read more
The JOBS Act contained many provisions which were aimed at making the capital raising process easier, simpler and quicker from a host of angles. Many things promised in the JOBS Act will not come to fruition until the SEC promulgates the regulations on the specific topic. Some of these are equity crowdfunding, and the ability for issuers to use general solicitation in Rule 506 offerings.
One of the things contained in the JOBS Act which went into effect immediately, was an exemption for broker-dealer registration for persons or entities acting as brokers in certain 506 offerings. The SEC just confirmed this in a recent FAQ available here. I’ll give a quick overview below. Read more
Last week the SEC issued its proposed regulations to allow for public advertising and general solicitation in Rule 506 offerings.
As way of background, at this point when companies are trying to raise funds in a private offering, they typically rely on Rule 506 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933, which allows for an unlimited amount of funds to be raised and minimal disclosure requirements if the securities are sold to accredited investors. Offering undertaken pursuant to Rule 506 also preempt state securities laws, except those relating to fraud and notice filing (and notice filing fee) requirements. While all of the above makes Rule 506 the “go to” securities law exemption, the main reason it was originally allowed is because it has historically only been able to be used in private offerings, where the issuer (or the broker acting for the issuer) had a pre-existing relationship with the investor.
The JOBS Act, which I’ve discussed, contained a provision which would require the SEC to promulgate regulations to allow general solicitation and advertising in Rule 506 offerings, provided that all purchasers in such offering are accredited investors.
As I’ve discussed earlier, the SEC is now preparing regulations to allow for Crowdfunding pursuant to the recently passed JOBS Act. These should be done by 2013 (emphasis on should be done by then – we’ll see when they actually come out). As you may have heard, it will allow for true equity sales over the World Wide Web. Companies will soon be able to sell shares of their corporation (or LLC) through online portals to regular persons that are not accredited investors (i.e. not millionaires or otherwise sophisticated).
There are a couple of things to discuss, the first is whether this is something your company actually would want to do. The second item is, if it is something you want to do, then what can you do to prepare your company to do a Crowdfunding raise in 2013 (or whenever the SEC finishes the regulations).