On March 13, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) published guidance to assist public companies, investment companies, shareholders and other market participants affected by COVID-19 in connection with their upcoming shareholder meetings. The SEC explained that this guidance was designed to allow these companies to continue to hold their meetings, including through the use of technology, and engage with shareholders under social distancing circumstances, while still complying with the federal securities laws.
Shareholder Meetings – The Impact of COVID-19 and the Natural Transition to Virtual Meetings
Generally, public companies and investment companies are required to hold annual meetings of security holders, with the federal securities laws requiring the delivery of proxy materials to the voting shareholders.Over the past few years, more and more companies have been transitioning to either complete “virtual” shareholder meetings or “hybrid” meetings, which avoid the need for in-person shareholder attendance. Continue reading “Shareholder Distancing”
This week, in a nearly 300-page release, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed significant changes to its rules applicable to online equity crowdfunding and other securities offerings that are exempt from SEC registration.
These kinds of offerings generally are most advantageous to smaller and emerging companies that have limited funds to spend on raising capital. Last year, exempt securities offerings accounted for an estimated $2.7 trillion (69.2%) of new capital, compared to $1.2 trillion (30.8%) raised through SEC-registered offerings.
In an unusual and courageous move last week, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce (aka “Crypto Mom”) urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt a rule that would exempt the sale of tokens or cryptocurrencies from most provisions of the federal securities laws. It’s courageous in its scope and unusual because she (and her staff) drafted the proposed rule leaving the SEC few excuses to avoid considering it.
If adopted by the SEC, the rule will allow anyone to conduct initial coin offerings (ICOs) of tokens intended to be used to develop a decentralized or functional network, provided, that “Network Maturity” occurs within three-years. “Network Maturity” is defined by the proposed rule as when the network is either (i) no longer controlled by a single group or (ii) is functional, as demonstrated by the ability of token holders to use tokens for the transmission and storage of value, to prove control over the tokens, to participate in an application running on the network or in a manner consistent with the utility of the network. Continue reading “SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce’s Provocative Crypto Proposal”
The definition of an “accredited investor” is the cornerstone of Regulation D that provides a safe harbor exemption for private placements of securities by startups and more mature companies. Only in 2018, $1.7 trillion was invested into the startup sector by means of Regulation D offerings, out of which $228 billion was raised by companies rather than investment funds. Nearly all of the investors in such offerings were accredited. Now, the definition of an accredited investor may be changing to include new categories of people. This will open the extremely risky but yet extremely lucrative startup investment opportunities to more participants.
This blog focuses on certain proposed changes to the definition as it relates to natural persons.
Although Regulation Crowdfunding (or Reg CF in short) is a great way to get funding for companies that otherwise would have been overlooked by angel or VC investors, running a successful and compliant Reg CF campaign is not an easy undertaking. Based on experience working with Reg CF issuers, in this blog I describe and discuss three key legal challenges that all Reg CF issuers should know about: restriction on advertising, hiring promoters, and putting together a complete and accurate Form C.
First, the issuer cannot generally solicit and advertise its Reg CF offering. All communications must be done through the portal. According to Rule 204 of Reg CF, the issuer can make factual statements and then direct potential investors to its page on the portal. Such factual statements are limited to the following information: the fact that the issuer is conducting a Reg CF offering; the terms of the offering (amount, nature of securities, price, and closing date), and factual business information about the issuer. While the first two categories are straight forward, issues can arise when talking about the factual business information. Such information cannot include predictions or opinions and must be limited only to facts, such as name, address, website of the issuer and a brief factual description of its business. Continue reading “Legal Perspective on Running a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign”
One of the main benefits afforded to a corporate structure is the limited liability protection for its owners. This means that the corporation and its shareholders are treated as separate legal entities and it is the corporation’s assets, and not the assets of its individual shareholders, that are available to pay for judgments and claims of creditors.
In certain limited circumstances such as fraud, disregard for corporate formalities, and inadequate capitalization, the limited liability shield can be “pierced” by the courts to hold the corporation’s shareholders personally liable for the corporation’s debts and other obligations. Such “piercing” of the corporate limited liability shield is a prevalent practice in most if not all states. Continue reading “Unlimited Liability for New York Business Owners”
On September 26, 2019, the SEC announced that all issuers —including non-reporting issuers and investment companies (including registered investment companies and business development companies) will soon be able to “test-the-waters” in initial public offerings and other registered securities offerings. Under the newly adopted Rule 163B, any issuer will be able to engage in “test-the-waters” communications with qualified institutional buyers and institutional accredited investors.
Previously, under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, only emerging growth companies were permitted to engage in “test-the-waters” communications. Rule 163B provides relief from the from restrictions imposed by Section 5 of the Securities Act on written and oral offers prior to, or after filing, a registration statement for issuers who do not qualify as emerging growth companies. This will give all issuers “flexibility in determining whether to proceed with a registered public offering while maintaining appropriate investor protections.”
On Thursday, April 18th, 2019, MSK Partner Arina Shulga and Associate Ignacio Celis-Aguirre were joined by Jor Law and Rob Christensen of tZERO to present via webinar on, “Take Your Business into the Future: Capital Raising Through Digital Token Offerings.” Please enjoy the video recording of the webinar and contact Arina at firstname.lastname@example.org for any additional information. Continue reading Webinar: Capital Raising Through Digital Token Offerings
On April 2, 2019, the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a no-action letter to TurnKey Jet, Inc. in connection with a proposed sale of tokens in the United States. It was the first no-action letter relating to cryptocurrencies and was widely heralded as a watershed event (e.g., “SEC Issues First ‘No-Action’ Letter Clearing ICO to Sell Tokens in US”) (see here).
But what does the SEC’s no-action letter really mean? First, a no-action letter is the SEC’s staff response to a request that the SEC not take enforcement action against the requestor based on the specific facts and circumstances set forth in the request. In most cases, the staff will not permit parties other than the requester to rely on the no-action letter. As was the case here, the staff’s response often is based in part on the legal opinion rendered by the requester’s lawyer that the proposed conduct is not a violation of the federal securities laws. Continue reading “SEC Issues First Cryptocurrency No-Action Letter – Where’s the Action?”