On March 26, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) announced that it would be providing additional temporary regulatory relief to market participants in response to the effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”). This relief addresses: (1) temporary relief from the notarization requirement for Form ID for certain filers who cannot secure a notarization because of COVID-19; (2) extending the filing deadline for specified Regulation A and Regulation Crowdfunding reports and forms from certain companies unable to file timely reports and forms because of COVID-19; and (3) extending the filing deadline for submitting annual update filings (“Form MA-A”) to Form MA for certain municipal advisors affected by COVID-19. Continue reading “Additional SEC Relief is Revealed”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) provided conditional regulatory relief to those public companies impacted by COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) with a 45-day extension to file certain SEC filings that would have been otherwise due between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020. The SEC announced today that it was modifying that prior relief to cover certain filings due on or before July 1, 2020. The SEC acknowledged that many companies’ operations continue to be significantly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which may result in difficulties for those companies to meet their applicable SEC filing deadlines. Continue reading “COVID-19 Causes Coverage”
On March 25, 2020, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance provided disclosure guidance to public companies to assist in the evaluation of a company’s disclosure obligations with respect to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic and related business and market disruptions.
While it may be difficult for companies to assess or predict the exact impact of COVID-19 on individual companies or entire industries, the SEC explained that a company may have obligations to disclose certain risks and effects to the extent material to investment and voting decisions. Such risks and effects include the impact of COVID-19 on the current state of a company’s operations, management expectations regarding its future effects, a company’s response to the evolving pandemic and operational plans to address such uncertainties. The SEC noted that disclosure of these risks and COVID-19-related effects may be necessary or appropriate in various sections of SEC filings, including, but not limited to, management’s discussion and analysis, the business section, risk factors, legal proceedings, disclosure controls and procedures, internal control over financial reporting, and a company’s financial statements. Continue reading “SEC Sets Course on COVID-19 Disclosure”
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”
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 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?”