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.

S Corporations: Electing to be taxed as an S Corporation

I’m going to be posting a number of posts on the ins and outs of electing and operating a corporation which elects to be taxed as a small business corporation (an “S Corp”) with the IRS.  There are many benefits to such an election, but there are also pitfalls that many owners run into that could jeopardize the election.

The first post in this series is simply how to make the election. Read more

New York’s STARTUP-NY Program

Starting at the beginning of 2014, New York’s STARTUP-NY Program went live.  Here is the official website for the initiative.  Its goals are laudable but its only available to a small niche of companies.  If your company qualifies, however, the benefits are rather nice.

In summary, the Program provides eligible companies with free office space (at certain locations) for a period of time and the employees of the company pay no state income tax on their income (at least for the first five years, with a small amount possibly paid in years 5 through ten).  The Program is attempting to lure out-of-state companies into New York, while encouraging sprouting of new startups that otherwise may not have started without these benefits.  Overall New York is looking to add more jobs in the state, and the more jobs now (even with tax breaks) the more taxes the state can collect in teh future.  Read more

Series LLCs

If you are one of those people who is tired of having to form seperate entities (LLCs or corporations) for each type of business you operate, or for each piece of real estate that you own, a Series LLC may be useful to you. Nearly a decade ago, the state of Delaware introduced a legal entity that would become known as the Series LLC. Despite its origins in Delaware, several other states have now started to permit the usage of Series LLCs.  Read more

Benefit Corporations (B-Corps) & Other “Good Vibe” Corporate Structures

It used to be that if you wanted to start a corporation and the end goal was not to maximize shareholder value (or other typical corporate goals), you’d start a not-for-profit corporation.  That’s no longer the case. Now in New York (and at least six other states) you can form a Benefit Corporation (a “B-corp”) which has other purposes besides making money.  There are also other strategies you can use in a for-profit company to give it more of an egalitarian feel.  We’ll discuss below. Read more

How to form a Single Member LLC in New York State

There are a lot of small businesses out there operating as sole proprietorships, that is they operate the business through the individual(s), and there is no formal entity.  Many sole proprietors tell me that they’ve filed a d/b/a with the local county (here, the counties of Onondaga, Tompkins or Monroe), and therefore believe that is all they need to ensure that they are not personally liable, but this is not correct.

The main reason people incorporate or organize LLCs is to limit liability.  Debts and contractual obligations are not something that you want to owe personally if you can avoid it.  Setting up an LLC will create a seperate legal entity from yourself that you will operate the business through, own business assets, and contract through.  Not much has to change when you form a single member LLC.  LLC’s are also useful because the IRS will let you choose how you want the LLC taxed (either as a disregarded entity, S corp or C corp).

Read more

Hack-a-thon Agreements

I hit on the Hack-a-thon craze in an earlier post. The IP that is created by the hackers in these programs has to be owned by someone, although there are still times where everyone walks away not knowing what everyone’s rights are.  If nothing is ever signed by all participants and the hackathon sponsor, its unclear who owns what.

There are a couple different options.  The sponsor may want to own everything, or may want to at least have a perpetual paid up license to use the IP created.  The hackers should get some rights as well, but its been hard to delineate what and how it should be handled.

A friend of mine and a fellow startup lawyer, Dave Capuccilli of The Capucilli Firm has been working on a solution to this dilemma. Check out his latest iteration to a Hack-a-thon Collaboration Agreement, courtesy of Docracy.  Its a great way to ensure all hackers and the sponsor get a fair shot at using the IP created.

I currently represent a few companies that were born at Hack-a-thons and Startup Labs (a similar idea but slightly different format/program), and if they had an agreement like this signed before they came to me it would have made things much smoother.

Corporate Dual Class Share Structures

A dual class share structure is used in certain corporations where one or more classes are given all or a bulk of the voting rights and another class or class has the same economic interest in the company, but none of the voting rights.   There can also be other rights that are given to one class instead of the other.  This type of structure is used so that the existing Board of Directors and management of the corporation maintain their control of the company.  It bcaeme common in news organizations (think the Economist Group, or the News Corporation a la Rupert Murdoch) so that the company could ostensibly keep its journalistic integrity and credibility or to stay true to its goals, without pesky shareholders muddying the waters.

A dual class share structure can serve desirable goals, such as shielding management and the board from short term views of dissident shareholders/analysts and hostile takeovers.  This can be helpful, as the constant quarterly pressure to meet revenue expectations is a burden on many companies at the expense of long term sustainable growth.  Management at companies with dual class structures argue that if shareholders aren’t happy with the structure, they are free to sell their shares and walk away.  Not surprisingly, only companies that are rather a hot commodity in the market can really get away with using this structure.

Read more

Crowdfunding – Prepare your Company to Crowdfund

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).

Read more

Remember to make your 83 B elections! Here’s why and how to do it

As I’ve written about in the past, founders of a startup should have their equity vested. There are times when you may not want to, but the majority of the time it is beneficial. Some investors may insist upon it, although its one of the things in the negotiations.  If the founder’s stock is vested, they should make an 83-b election.  To not do so could turn into a lot of tax due to the IRS over the years the stock will vest.  We’ll discuss how it works and how to make the election here. Read more