On February 3, 2015, H.R. 686, a bill creating a registration exemption for M&A Brokers, was introduced in the House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Financial Services. This new bill is identical to Section 401 of H.R. 37, which included other financial regulations and had passed the House on January 14, 2015. H.R. 686 essentially duplicates the M&A Broker section – Section 401 of H.R. 37. Introducing this M&A Broker proposal as its own bill could signal a possible lack of confidence of behalf of lawmakers that an adequate amount of votes are available to pass H.R. 37 in the Senate and a hope that Section 401 can make it on its own and become law.

As discussed in previous posts, the M&A Broker exemption proposed by Congress in H.R. 37 – and now in H.R. 686 – fails to address the “grey area” of unregistered actors who participate in private placement of securities that are not M&A transactions. These Private Placement Brokers play an important and integral part for smaller businesses trying to raise capital. Having the M&A Broker exemption on its own in H.R. 686, and not with other significant financial regulations, may allow for amendments to be added more easily. Hopefully one of those amendments would be a Private Placement Broker exemption.

The Broker-Dealer section of the North American Securities Administrators Association (“NASAA”) recently sent out a notice of request for comment on a proposed uniform state model rule (“Model Rule”) that would exempt merger and acquisition brokers (“M&A Brokers”) from state securities registration if certain requirements were met. While NASAA’s proposed Model Rule is similar to the recent SEC No-Action letter concerning M&A Brokers and the exemption for M&A Brokers provided by HR 37, there are some notable differences. Comments on the Model Rule must be submitted to NASAA by February 16, 2015.

First, this post will lay out the three current proposals by SEC staff, Congress, and NASAA to create an M&A Broker registration exemption. Second, a comparison between all three will be made in order to highlight how each body plans to regulate and define the scope of the exemption for M&A Brokers. Each comparison will be broken up into key aspects of each proposal’s efforts to create an exemption for M&A Brokers. Third, this post will emphasize the need to create an exemption, along with M&A Brokers, that will encompass other important unregistered actors: Private Placement Brokers.
Continue reading

In 2005, an American Bar Association task force published an exhaustively researched report that highlighted a huge “gray market” of unregistered brokerage activity, conducted by people that sometimes refer to themselves as “finders,” that is critical to the development of early stage companies, but operating in technical violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“ABA Report”). Other than occasional enforcement actions against bad actors, the SEC did little to address this problem until early 2014, when it issued a No-Action letter which blessed certain restricted activities of merger and acquisition brokers (“M&A Brokers”). The SEC’s approach to other private placement brokers has been to restrict their activities even further. Compare Paul Anka, SEC No-Action Letter (July 24, 1991) (granting legal “finder” status) with Brumberg, Mackey & Wall, PLC., SEC No-Action Letter (May 17, 2010) (restricting “finder” status). Courts have not always agreed with the SEC. See SEC v. Kramer, 778 F.Supp.2d 1320 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (proposing a non-exhaustive six-factor test for registration).

On January 6th, the first day of the 114th Congress’s new session, the House of Representatives considered H.R. 37. This bill proposes again multiple pieces of legislation that passed the House in the previous congress but were not taken up by the Senate. The bill has now been remanded to the House Committee process. H.R. 37 contains eleven separate items which would affect the current financial regulatory landscape. One of the proposed provisions responds to concerns about financial intermediaries such as finders that participate in mergers and acquisitions. This blog post advocates that Congress, while considering legalization of M&A Brokers, should also legalize a limited class of private placement brokers.
Continue reading