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.