Articles Tagged with Rule 506

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”), the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) must review the definition of “accredited investor” every four years to determine whether it needs to be modified or adjusted. The SEC staff recently conducted its first review and issued a Report on the Review of the Definition of “Accredited Investor.”

The report provides an in-depth examination of the history of the “accredited investor” definition and discusses possible alternative approaches. The report also responds to comments on the existing definition received from various financial services industry participants, including the Investor Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies. Lastly, the report provides recommendations for potential updates and/or modifications to the existing definition.

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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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On December 15, 2014, the North American Securities Administrators Association (“NASAA”) launched an online electronic filing system to be used for issuers filling Form D, Rule 506 offerings with state securities regulators. The purposes of this new electronic filing depository (“EFD”) website, according to NASAA president William Beatty, are to provide an efficient and streamlined process for regulatory filings and to allow for increased transparency for investors.

Issuers seeking an exemption under Rule 506 must meet certain requirements in order to avoid having to register their public or private offerings with the SEC or state regulators. However, those issuers must still file a notice of exempt offering of securities, or “Form D,” with the SEC and state securities regulators. Instead of the longer and more tedious process of registering with securities regulators, Form D requires only limited information about the issuer, the investors, and the securities offered.
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Several Congressmen and an SEC Commissioner have independently urged the SEC to move forward with adopting proposed rules that impose additional requirements on public solicitations of Rule 506 offerings. At the same time that the SEC finalized its initial rulemaking on the subject last September, it proposed additional rules that would require filing Form D prior to any general solicitation and would impose advertising restrictions, among other things. We discussed that action and the proposed rules in two earlier posts.

Rule 506 was adopted as a safe harbor under Section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, which provides that securities sold “by an issuer not involving any public offering” are exempt from registration under the Act. However, under Title II of the JOBS Act, passed in 2012, Congress required the SEC to adopt a rule allowing for the use of public solicitation in those offerings under conditions to be prescribed by the SEC. The initial rule adopted last September – requiring enhanced verification of accredited investor status – was the Commission’s first small step on the issue.

The comment period on the simultaneous rule proposal imposing additional requirements expired on November 4, 2013, but the Commission has taken no further action to date. On December 5, 2013, however, SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar, speaking at a Consumer Federation of America conference, forcefully called upon the rest of the Commission to move forward in adopting the strengthened rules. “Every day that these proposals are not adopted is another day that investors face great harm. I’m frustrated because investors are going to be damaged” said Commissioner Aguilar. “Unfortunately, it’s been almost five months since those proposals have been issued for comment.”
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On the same day that it released rule amendments allowing some Rule 506 offerings to be sold through public solicitation, the SEC proposed an additional set of rule amendments for those offerings. While the newly adopted rule primarily concerns verification of accredited investor status, the additional proposals relate more to the materials used by issuers to solicit those investors.

Currently, offerings under Regulation D require a Form D to be filed 15 days after the first sale; no prefiling is required. The proposal, however, would require that any offering to be sold using general solicitation would require that Form D be filed with the SEC 15 days prior to any solicitation. The SEC has also proposed a temporary rule, Rule 510T, which would go further and require all solicitation material to be filed with the SEC prior to its first use. Under the proposal, this temporary rule would expire in two years.

In addition, the proposed rule changes would require solicitation materials to include legends informing recipients of certain facts relating to the securities offered, such as the requirement that all investors must be accredited, that regulators have not approved the offering and that the securities have transfer restrictions. The proposal also extends to private funds the Rule 156 requirements currently relating to investment company advertising materials.
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One of the most significant provisions of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act is its elimination of the general solicitation ban currently contained in Rule 502 for Rule 506 offerings sold only to “accredited investors.” As a result, hedge funds will be able to advertise to investors through the internet, mass mailings, and other media. Previously hedge funds have been banned from soliciting or advertising their private offerings to the general public. This prohibition has created confusion among hedge fund managers because of uncertainty about the meaning of “general solicitation.”

The JOBS Act requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to eliminate the ban on general solicitation and advertising as long as all purchasers are either “accredited investors” or “qualified institutional investors.” An “accredited investor” includes an individual whose net worth is at least $1 million, excluding the value of his/her primary residence or who meets certain income criteria. We have previously discussed the definition of “accredited investor” in Financial Advisers Should Note More Restrictive Accredited Investor Definition. A “qualified institutional investor” includes companies that manage a minimum at $100 million in assets. Under the JOBS Act, the SEC must adopt rules to eliminate the ban on advertising for an offering by a private issuer within 90 days.
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With the passage of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will be required to create a number of new rules, in addition to the rules already required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act).

The first deadline that the SEC faces under the JOBS Act is adopting rules eliminating the ban on general solicitation of certain private offerings. It will have 90 days to revise Rule 506 of Regulation D to allow those securities to be sold using general solicitation or advertising when all of the purchasers of the securities are “accredited investors.”

The JOBS Act also created a new crowdfunding exemption to registration. The SEC will have 270 days to adopt the rules and regulations effectuating this exemption, as the SEC determines to be necessary or appropriate for the protection of investors. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority may also adopt rules regulating “funding portals” for issuers.
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