Articles Tagged with Crowdfunding

Tennessee’s new “Invest Tennessee Exemption” to the state’s securities registration requirements went into effect on January 1, 2015. Like other securities exemption laws recently adopted by other states, Tennessee’s exemption allows for the intrastate offerings of certain securities that do not exceed $1 million. The law sets out the rules for issuers to use this exemption as an alternate way to raise capital.

Under the Invest Tennessee Exemption, securities offerings meeting the following requirements will be exempt from state registration:

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On October 22, 2014, Michigan took a significant step to increase investment crowdfunding opportunities for Michigan businesses by becoming the first state to establish an intrastate market where broker-dealers can sell securities of Michigan-based companies. While “crowdfunding” can have different meanings, including rewards-based fundraising campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, “investment crowdfunding” generally refers to small businesses seeking investment capital in small amounts from a large number of investors.

The signing of House Bill 5273 by Governor Rick Snyder, along with the state’s preexisting registration exemption for securities issued by Michigan businesses under the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (“MILE Act”), allows Michigan business to raise capital over the Internet or though general solicitation by selling the exempt securities within a newly-created alternative intrastate market.
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In a settlement that underscores the SEC’s increased scrutiny of crowdfunding sites and whether they are acting as broker-dealers, the SEC agreed to a settlement with Eureeca Capital SPC (“Eureeca”), on November 10, 2014, over charges alleging willful violations of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act and Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act. The settlement involves Eureeca’s failure to register as a broker-dealer and to conform with the exemption from securities registration provided by Rule 506(c). According to the terms of the settlement, Eureeca, while neither admitting nor denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to the cease and desist order and the accompanying sanctions.

Eureeca is a crowdfunding portal organized in the Cayman Islands. The site connects issuers with potential investors looking to invest in businesses in exchange for equity. Eureeca receives a percentage of the funds raised in successful offerings as compensation. During the period of time covered by the settlement agreement, the offerings of securities listed on Eureeca’s website were neither registered with the SEC nor did they meet the registration exemption of Rule 506(c) that allows for the sale of unregistered securities for which general solicitation occurs.
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The Indiana Securities Division recently issued an emergency rule to explain new distinctions in Indiana’s crowdfunding exemptions, which became effective July 1, 2014. Indiana’s new rule is similar to Georgia’s “Invest Georgia” rule, which we have previously profiled.

The Invest Indiana Crowdfunding Exemption, Sec. 23-19-2-2(27), permits Indiana-organized entities to offer or sell securities for intrastate offerings to Indiana residents only. The exemption requires the Indiana-organized entity to file with the Indiana Securities Division SEC Form D, which clearly states “Indiana Only” on the first page, and to include a cover letter identifying that the filing is for the 23-19-2-2 (27) exemption, and to include a $100 filing fee. The Exemption details the requirements for both issuers and investors in regards to an Invest Indiana offering.
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The Alabama Legislature passed a crowdfunding exemption bill this April, but the bill is still awaiting the Governor’s signature to become effective. Alabama is the eleventh state to enact legislation or develop regulations on this topic. Other states that have adopted crowdfunding exemption bills include, Washington, Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Maryland, and Maine.

Similar to the approach taken by other states, Alabama’s new legislation is intended to unlock capital and increase access to it for local small businesses and entrepreneurs. While it is still uncertain how successful state measures such as these will be in achieving the goal of increased capital access, the ability of small business owners to raise capital should be enhanced through the relaxation of some of the previous constraints. It is important to note, however, that regulatory agencies will require strict adherence to the new standards in return for less-regulated access to capital. Businesses using the Alabama crowdfunding exemption, and other, similar state exemptions, bear the burden of ensuring its sale of unregistered securities does not run afoul of restrictions governing them.
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Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) spoke at the recent NASAA/SEC Rule 19(d) Conference in Washington D.C. He addressed the importance of cooperation and collaboration between federal and state securities regulatory agencies in order to improve investor protection. Commissioner Aguilar also expressed a desire to have a continuing collaborative relationship between the SEC and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). “I continue to be interested in exploring more opportunities and avenues for the SEC and NASAA to partner and leverage our collective resources to protect investors,” Commissioner Aguilar said, “At a time when regulators are under greater constraints than ever, it makes sense for us to come closer together to further our common goals.”

Commissioner Aguilar discussed four areas in which the SEC and NASAA have worked together to improve investor protection. These areas include the transition of advisers to state regulation, crowdfunding, financial exploitation of the elderly and the creation of the Investor Advisory Committee.
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On April 11, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it will accept comments prior to creating rules required by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. The SEC believes it is important to hear the public’s opinion before releasing proposed rules. It previously requested comments before rulemaking when the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed.

The SEC will disclose all information pertaining to the JOBS Act on its website. This will include all meetings with interested parties. The meeting participants must provide an agenda of intended topics in advance, which will be released to the public. The participants will also be encouraged to submit written comments to the public file in order for other interested parties to review the information.
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With an overwhelming majority, 390 to 23, the House of Representatives passed another crowdfunding bill on March 9, 2012. The House had previously passed a similar bill in November 2011 called the “Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act” which we previously discussed in a blog, New “Invest Georgia Exemption” Helps Small Businesses Raise Capital. That Republican bill stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate, as did another bill related to crowdfunding requirements which included lower investment amounts and the requirement to use a “crowdfunding intermediary.” The Senate currently has three crowdfunding bills before it, although none of the bills have yet to move out of committee. The Senate Banking Committee did hold another hearing on the topic of crowdfunding earlier this week.

The bill that passed most recently in the House was originally introduced by Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and was rolled into a broader package called the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS), which included six bills bundled together. Rep. McHenry stated, “Crowdfunding is a key component of the JOBS Act. Economists predict the legislation will lead to a ten percent increase in new business startups, helping to create at least 170,000 jobs in the next five years. The bill is critical in getting our economy back on the right track.”
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The Georgia Commissioner of Securities recently adopted the “Invest Georgia Exemption,” which will make it easier and less expensive for almost any small business located in Georgia to raise capital from fellow Georgians. Unlike most other securities registration exemptions, the Invest Georgia Exemption allows businesses to engage in public solicitations of investors, provided certain conditions are met.

Any business wanting to raise capital using this new exemption must be a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) organized in Georgia and registered with the Secretary of State. In addition,

  • The offering of securities must meet the federal exemption for intrastate offerings requirements, Rule 147, meaning all investors must be Georgia residents;
  • The total amount raised cannot exceed $1,000,000, not including investments from control persons of the business;
  • Unaccredited investors (as defined by the SEC) may not invest more than $10,000 each. However, there is no investment limitation for accredited investors;
  • All investments received must be deposited in an institution authorized to do business in the state of Georgia;
  • The issuer must file a form of notice with the Commissioner briefly explaining the offering. The notice may be filed after sales have been made, unless there is any general solicitation, in which case the notice must be filed prior to the solicitation; and
  • The issuer must inform the purchaser that the securities have not been registered and that there are resale restrictions.

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