New York’s Blue Sky Securities Laws – A Primer for Startups and Other Issuers by Michael Stanczyk

3d blue sky bookAs 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.

Funding Portal Rules for Regulation Crowdfunding a/k/a Equity Crowdfunding

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

Strip Rights

In addition to the other ways we’ve discussed here (stock options, phantom stock, stock appreciation rights), another way to compensate individuals working for a startup is to give them a cash payment upon a change in control of the company, called in the industry a “strip right”.

For example if a startup company has four founders each owning 25% of the shares, and they bring on another but don’t grant him or her shares, the initial founders can agree to pay the new individual a percentage of the “net proceeds” received from a “change in control” of the corporation.   “Net proceeds” is usually defined as the gross proceeds received minus transaction costs and brokers commissions as well as some other items.   A “change in control” is defined as it normally is in these agreements, and covers if the company merges with another or sells substantially all of the company’s assets.  In such a case, the shareholders would receive cash (or assets it can sell for cash, like tradeable shares of the acquirer).  The strip right agreement would require the shareholders that granted it to pay to the holder of the strip right, either a percentage or flat fee before they received their cash for the change of control.

In the example, if the four founders grant a 10% strip right, and a couple years down the road the company is sold for one million dollars, with transaction fees of $100,000, the holder of the strip right would receive $90,000 (net proceeds of $900,000 x ten percent).    The shareholders would split the rest of the $810,000 and each receive $202,500.

One of the benefits of the granting of the strip right is that it is not taxable to the recipient.  The downside, at least to the recipient is that they are not a shareholder of the corporation and they may never receive a cent if there is never a change in control.  Due to its tenuous nature, the strip right is usually granted in connection with other compensation awards.

 

SEC Adopts Final Rules Amending Regulation A

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

Use your Retirement Plan to Fund your Startup

First of all, I won’t advise anyone to withdraw their 401(k) funds early as the tax hit the IRS enacts is insane.  If you are thinking about doing that, please don’t, or at least don’t do so until you’ve spoken to your accountant.

This post will, however, detail how to use your qualified retirement plan or IRA to start a new, or buy an existing, business.  This name given to the process I’ll discuss is rollovers as business startups (“ROBS”).  The main gist is that an individual’s current retirement plan is rolled over into a newly established 401(k) plan sponsored by a startup company and then used to purchase the startup company’s stock.  The ROBS arrangement allows income taxes and penalties (see IRC Section 72(t))to be avoided because it is a rollover from one qualified plan to another. Read more

Ten Tips for Pitching your Startup to Investors

I volunteer at a couple of small business incubators and programs.  I was sitting in on a mock pitch last week and giving some pointers on how the entrepreneur could polish their pitchdeck and overall presentation. I figured I’d put these up so people can take a look.  The below are offered to any startup looking to raise money: Read more

Domestic International Sales Corporations

If you export products for sale of any type and don’t know what an IC-DISC (or simply a DISC) is, or think it’s a round piece of plastic you put in your computer’s drive, then keep reading.  Any United States business with qualifying export sales can save a large amount of money with the use of a Interest Charge Domestic International Sales Corporation (referred to hereinafter as a “DISC”). Read more

Securities Laws as applied to Virtual and Online Items

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether online or virtual accounts can be deemed securities under the U.S. federal securities law.  The most well known at the moment is Bitcoin.

A case was just decided where the court found that Bitcoin was a currency.  Based on that fact, and that the protaganist in the case was offering a money making scheme (you put in money, wait and make more money off Bitcoin), the scheme was subject to the securities laws.   We’ll have to parse out the holding.  The court did not hold that the Bitcoin itself is a security, but rather that Bitcoins are a type of currency – because they can be converted into currency (which I’m not sure I agree with – any commodity, product or item can somehow be converted to currency – and the distinction between selling and converting seems like a big deal). Here’s the link to the case, its actually rather short and sparse on legal analysis for one that makes such huge leaps in legal doctrine as applied to a concept which the court is probably not overly familiar with.  The old adage that bad facts make bad law seems to be the culprit again, as the scheme the guy in Texas was attempting to pull off was not something a judge would let him off on.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the SEC v. Bitcoin debate.  Mark it up as SEC 1, Bitcoin 0 so far, unfortunately.

I’ll give a breakdown of the securities laws and how they could be, and have been, applied to virtual goods, online items, and currency, including Bitcoin (which I’m not conceding is technically a currency). Read more