The OTCQB Has Added Additional Quantitative Listing Standards

On May 20, 2018, the OTC Markets Group published the OTCQB Standards version 3.0 incorporating amendments to the OTCQB initial and ongoing listing standards to add further quantitative shareholder and public float requirements. The new standards went into effect on May 20, 2018 for new listing applications. Existing OTCQB traded companies have until May 20, 2020 to comply with the new requirements.

The amended listing standards now require that an applicant company:

  1. Have at least 50 beneficial shareholders holding at least one round lot (100 shares) each;
  2. Have a freely tradeable public float of at least 10% of the total issued and outstanding shares of the tradeable class of securities. OTC Markets may allow an exemption from this requirement for companies with a public float above 5% of total issued and outstanding and whose market value of public float is above $2 million or for a company that has a separate class of securities trading on a national exchange. Any exemption must be applied for in writing and will be granted at OTC Markets Group’s sole and absolute discretion.

Previously in October 2017, OTC Markets amended its OTCQB rules to increase the annual listing fee from $10,000 to $12,000. Prior to that on July 31, 2017, the OTC Markets Group enacted amendments to the OTCQB standards related to the processing and reporting of change in control events. For a review of the change of control standards, see HERE.

A review of OTCQB Listing Standards

The OTC Markets divide issuers into three (3) levels of quotation marketplaces: OTCQX, OTCQB and OTC Pink Open Market. The OTC Pink Open Market, which involves the highest-risk, highly speculative securities, is further divided into three tiers: Current Information, Limited Information and No Information. The OTCQB is considered the venture-market tier designed for entrepreneurial and development-stage U.S. and international companies. To apply to the OTCQB, a company must submit a completed application and quotation agreement and pay the application fee.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to be quoted on the OTCQB, all companies will be required to:

  • Meet a minimum closing bid price on OTC Markets of $0.01 for each of the last 30 calendar days and as of the day the OTCQB application is approved;
  • In the event that there is no prior public market and a 15c2-11 application has recently been approved by FINRA allowing a quotation at $0.01 or greater, or if the company is traded on a Qualified Foreign Exchange at a price greater than $0.01, OTC Markets can waive the bid requirement at its sole discretion. In this case, the company’s stock must trade above the $0.01 for each of the 30 calendar days immediately subsequent to the company first being quoted on the OTCQB;
  • Have at least 50 beneficial shareholders, each owning at least 100 shares;
  • Have a freely tradeable public float of at least 10% of the total shares issued and outstanding of the class of security to be traded on the OTCQB. OTC Markets may allow an exemption from this requirement for companies with a public float above 5% of total issued and outstanding and whose market value of public float is above $2 million or for a company that has a separate class of securities trading on a national exchange. Any exemption must be applied for in writing and will be granted at OTC Markets Group’s sole and absolute discretion;
  • Have current disclosure by meeting one of the following: (a) being subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and be current in such reporting obligations; (b) being a Regulation A reporting company and be current in such reporting obligations; (c) if an international issuer, be eligible to rely on the registration exemption found in Exchange Act Rule 12g-2(b) and be current and compliant in such requirements; (d) be a bank current in its reporting obligations to its bank regulator; or (e) be current in the OTC Markets Alternative Reporting Standards;
  • Have U.S. GAAP audited financials prepared by a PCAOB qualified auditor, including an audit opinion that is not adverse, disclaimed or qualified. International reporting companies or companies trading on a qualified foreign exchange may have audited financial statements prepared in accordance with IFRS.  Regulation A reporting companies are exempt from the requirement that the initial audits be prepared by a PCAOB auditor; however, subsequent financial statements are required to have a PCAOPB audit;
  • Be duly organized, validly existing and in good standing under the laws of each jurisdiction in which it is organized and does business;
  • Not be subject to any bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings;
  • Submit an application and pay an application and annual fee;
  • Maintain a current and accurate company profile on the OTC Markets website;
  • Use an SEC registered transfer agent and authorize the transfer agent to provide information to OTC Markets about the company’s securities, including but not limited to shares authorized, shares issued and outstanding, and share issuance history; and
  • Submit an OTCQB Annual Certification confirming the accuracy of the current company profile and providing information on officers, directors and controlling shareholders.
  • For companies that are relying on the Alternative Reporting Standard (i.e., not reporting to the SEC), meet minimum corporate governance requirements, including (i) have a board of directors that includes at least two independent directors; and (ii) have an audit committee comprised of a majority of independent directors. A company may request the ability to phase in compliance with this requirement if: (a) at least one member of the board of directors and audit committee are independent at the time of the application; and (b) at least two members of the board and a majority of the audit committee are independent within the later of 90 days after the company begins trading on the OTCQB or by the time of the company’s next annual meeting and in no event later than one year from joining the OTCQB.

All companies are required to post their initial disclosure on the OTC Markets website and make an initial certification.  The initial disclosure includes:

  • Confirmation that the company is current in its SEC reporting obligations, whether subject to the Exchange Act reporting requirements or Regulation A reporting requirements, and has filed all reports with the SEC on the EDGAR system that all financial statements have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP, and that the auditor opinion is not adverse, disclaimed or qualified;
  • Bank Reporting Companies must have filed all financial reports required to be filed with their banking regulator for the prior two years, including audited financial statements;
  • International Companies – (i) Companies subject to the Exchange Act reporting requirements must be current in such reports; (ii) A company that is not an SEC Reporting company must be current and fully compliant in its obligations under Exchange Act Rule 12g3-2(b), if applicable, and shall have posted in English through the OTC Disclosure & News Service or an Integrated Newswire, the information required to be made publicly available pursuant to Exchange Act Rule 12g3-2(b) for the preceding 24 months (or from inception if less than 24 months); and all financial statements have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and that the auditor opinion is not adverse, disclaimed or qualified;
  • Alternative Reporting Companies must have filed, through the OTC Disclosure and News Services, an information and disclosure statement meeting the requirements of the OTCQX and OTCQB disclosure guidelines. If the company was an SEC Reporting Company immediately prior to joining OTCQB and has a current 10-K or 20-F on file with the SEC, or was a Regulation A Reporting Company immediately prior to joining OTCQB and has a current 1-K on file with the SEC, the company is not required to file an information statement through the OTC Disclosure & News Service, but subsequent to joining OTCQB must file all annual, quarterly, interim and current reports required pursuant to the OTCQX and OTCQB Disclosure Guidelines; and
  • Verified Company Profile – verification that the company profile is current, complete and accurate.

In addition, all companies will be required to file an initial and annual certification on the OTC Markets website, signed by the CEO and/or CFO, stating:

  • The company’s reporting standing (i.e., whether SEC reporting, Regulation A reporting, Alternative Standards Reporting, bank reporting or international reporting) and briefly describing the registration status or the applicable exemption from SEC registration of the company;
  • If the company is an international company and relying on 12g3-2(b), that it is current in such obligations;
  • That the company is current in its reporting obligations as of the most recent fiscal year end and any subsequent reporting periods and that such information has been filed either on EDGAR or the OTC Disclosure & News Service, as applicable;
  • That the company profile on the OTC Markets website is current and complete and includes the total shares outstanding, authorized and in the public float as of that date;
  • The number of beneficial shareholders holding at least 100 shares and the number of shares in the public float as of the least practicable date;
  • That the company is duly organized, validly existing and in good standing under the laws of each state or jurisdiction in which the company is organized and conducts business;
  • Identifies the law firm and/or attorneys that assist the company in preparing its annual report or 10-K. Include the firm and attorney name if outside counsel, or name and title if internal counsel. If no attorney assisted in putting together the disclosure, the company must identify the person or persons who prepared the disclosure and their relationship to the company;
  • Identifies any third-party providers engaged by the company, its officers, directors or controlling shareholders, during the prior fiscal year and up to the date of the certification, to provide investor relations services, public relations services, stock promotion services or related services;
  • Names and shareholdings of all officers and directors and shareholders that beneficially own 5% or more of the total outstanding shares, including beneficial ownership of entity shareholders.

An application to OTCQB can be delayed or denied at OTC Markets’ sole discretion if they determine that admission would be likely to impair the reputation or integrity of OTC Markets group or be detrimental to the interests of investors.

Requirements for Bank Reporting Companies

Bank reporting companies must meet all the same requirements as all other OTCQB companies except for the SEC reporting requirements.  Instead, bank reporting companies are required to post their previous two years’ and ongoing yearly disclosures that were and are filed with the company’s bank regulator, on the OTC Markets website.

International Companies

In addition to the same requirements for all issuers as set forth above, foreign issuers must be listed on a Qualified Foreign Exchange and be compliant with SEC Rule 12g3-2(b). Moreover, a foreign entity must submit a letter of introduction from a qualified OTCQB Sponsor which states that the OTCQB Sponsor has a reasonable belief that the company is in compliance with SEC Rule 12g3-2(b), is listed on a Qualified Foreign Exchange, and has posted required disclosure on the OTC Markets website. A foreign entity must post two years’ historical and ongoing quarterly and annual reports, in English, on the OTC Markets website which comply with SEC Rule 12g3-2(b). I am a qualified OTCQB Sponsor and assist multiple international companies with this process.

Application Review Process

OTC Markets will review all applications and may request additional information on any of the information submitted. In addition, OTC Markets can require that a company provide a further undertaking, such as submission of personal information forms for any executive officer, director or 5%-or-greater beneficial owner. OTC Markets can request that third parties provide confirmations or information as well.  OTC Markets can, and likely will, conduct independent due diligence including through the review of publicly available information.

OTC Markets can deny an application if it determines, upon its sole and absolute discretion, that the admission of the company would be likely to impair the reputation or integrity of OTC Markets or be detrimental to the interests of investors.

Upon approval of an application, the company’s securities will be designated as OTCQB on the OTC Markets websites, market data products and broker-dealer platforms.

Ongoing Requirements

  • All companies are required to remain in compliance with the OTCQB standards, including the ongoing disclosure obligations;
  • S. OTCQB companies will be required to remain current and timely in their SEC reporting obligations, including either Exchange Act reports, Regulation A+ reports or Alternative Reporting Standard and including all audited financial statement requirements;
  • A foreign company that is not an SEC Reporting Company must remain current and fully compliant in its obligations under Exchange Act Rule 12g3-2(b), if applicable, and in any event shall, on an ongoing basis, post in English through the OTC Disclosure & News Service or an Integrated Newswire the information required to be made publicly available pursuant to Exchange Act Rule 12g3-2(b);
  • Audited financial statements must be prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP or, for international reporting companies or alternative reporting companies listed on a qualified foreign exchange, IFRS and all must contain an audit opinion that is not adverse, disclaimed or qualified. Audits must be completed by a PCAOB qualified auditor.
  • Banks must remain current in their banking reporting requirements and file copies of their reports on the OTC Markets website no later than 45 days following the end of a quarter or 90 days following the end of the fiscal year;
  • All OTC Markets postings and reports must be filed within 45 days following the end of a quarter or 90 days following the end of the fiscal year for US Exchange Act issuers and Alternative Reporting Standard filers, as required by Regulation A+ for Regulation A+ reporting issuers, and immediately after their submission to their primary regulator for international companies; where applicable, file a notice of late filing allowing for 5 extra days on a quarterly report and 15 extra days on an annual or semiannual report;
  • All OTCQB companies will be required to post annual certifications on the OTC Markets website signed by either the CEO or CFO no later than 30 days following the company’s annual report due date;
  • All companies are required to comply with all federal, state, and international securities laws and must cooperate with all securities regulatory agencies;
  • Must pay the annual fee within 30 days of prior to the beginning of each new annual service period;
  • All companies must respond to OTC Markets inquiries and requests;
  • All companies must maintain an updated verified company profile on the OTC Markets website and must submit a Company Update Form at least once every six months;
  • OTCQB is a recognized securities manual for purposes of blue sky secondary market exceptions. A precondition to relying upon the manual’s exemption is the maintenance of current updated disclosure information as required by OTC Markets;
  • All companies must make a press release and possibly other public disclosure (such as a Form 8-K) to inform the public of any news or information which might be reasonably expected to materially affect the market of its securities;
  • An OTCQB company must act promptly to dispel unfounded rumors which result in unusual market activity or price variations;
  • All companies must file interim disclosures in the event the company undergoes a reverse merger or change of control and make new updated certifications and disclosure related to the new business and control persons;
  • All OTCQB companies are subject to the OTC Markets Stock Promotion Policy, as such policy may be amended from time to time. In the event that OTC Markets determines, upon its sole discretion, that a company is the subject of promotional activities that encourage trading, OTC Markets may require the company to provide additional public information related to shareholdings of officers, directors and control persons and confirmation of shares outstanding, and any share issuance in the prior two years. OTC Markets may also require submission of a Personal Information Form for any executive officer, director or 5%-or-greater shareholder;
  • OTCQB companies must quickly issue press releases to the public to disclose any news or information which might reasonably be expected to materially affect the market for its securities.
  • Not be subject to bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings;
  • Be duly organized and in good standing under the laws of each jurisdiction in which the company is organized or does business;
  • Have at least 50 beneficial shareholders, each owning at least 100 shares;
  • Have a freely tradeable public float of at least 10% of the total shares issued and outstanding of the class of security to be traded on the OTCQB. OTC Markets may allow an exemption from this requirement for companies with a public float above 5% of total issued and outstanding and whose market value of public float is above $2 million or for a company that has a separate class of securities trading on a national exchange. Any exemption must be applied for in writing and will be granted at OTC Markets Group’s sole and absolute discretion;
  • Companies relying on the Alternative Reporting Standard must comply with the ongoing corporate governance requirements subject to a notice and one-year grace period if the company falls into noncompliance;
  • All OTCQB companies must meet the minimum bid price of $.01 per share at the close of business of at least one of the previous thirty (30) consecutive calendar days; in the event that the price falls below $.01, the company will begin a grace period of 90 calendar days to maintain a closing bid price of $.01 for ten consecutive trading days; and
  • Use an SEC registered transfer agent and authorize the transfer agent to provide information to OTC Markets about the company’s securities, including but not limited to shares authorized, shares issued and outstanding, and share issuance history.

Officers and directors of the company are responsible for compliance with the ongoing requirements and the content of all information.  Entities that do not meet the requirements of either OTCQX or OTCQB will be quoted on the OTC Pink.

Procedures for Change in Control Events

A “change in control event” is defined to mean a transaction resulting in: (i) a change in the majority ownership or effective control of a company; (ii) material changes to the company’s management team or board of directors; or (iii) in conjunction with either of the above, a material change in the nature of the company’s business operations.

Under Section 2.4, a company will be responsible for notifying OTC Markets upon the completion of a transaction resulting in a change of control. Regardless of notification, OTC Markets may also make a discretionary determination that a change of control event has occurred.

Upon a change of control event, a company will be required to submit a OTCQB Change in Control Notification together with a new OTCQB Application and application fee ($2,500) within 20 calendar days. OTC Markets will review the notice and application and may request additional information. The failure to respond or fully comply with such requests may result in removal from the OTCQB.

Furthermore, immediately following a change in control event, a company would be required to file a new OTCQB Certification and updated company profile page.

Fees

Newly applying entities must pay an initial application fee of $2,500, which fee is waived for existing OTCQB entities. All OTCQB companies will be required to pay an annual fee of $12,000. Companies may opt to make two semiannual installments of $6,500. Fees are nonrefundable.

Removal/Suspension from OTCQB

A company may be removed from the OTCQB if, at any time, it fails to meet the eligibility and continued quotation requirements subject to a notice and opportunity to cure. Companies that are delinquent in filing and reporting requirements are subject to a 45-day cure period.  Companies with a bid price deficiency shall have a 90-day cure period. However, in the event the company’s bid price falls below $0.001 at any time for five consecutive trading days, the company will be immediately removed from the OTCQB. All other deficiencies are subject to a 30-day cure period. OTC Markets may provide additional cure periods, but in no event may audited financial statements be older than 18 months.

Companies are granted a cure period of 30 calendar days for failure to maintain the minimum ongoing beneficial shareholder amount and public float requirements. A company may apply in writing to OTC Markets Group for an extension of the 30-day cure period by submitting a plan to cure the deficiency, which extension may be granted by OTC Markets Group in its sole and absolute discretion.

In addition, OTC Markets Group may remove the company’s securities from trading on OTCQB immediately and at any time, without notice, if OTC Markets Group, upon its sole and absolute discretion, believes the continued inclusion of the company’s securities would impair the reputation or integrity of OTC Markets Group or be detrimental to the interests of investors.

In addition, OTC Markets can temporarily suspend trading on the OTCQB pending investigation or further due diligence review.

A company may voluntarily withdraw from the OTCQB with 24 hours’ notice.

The Author

Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Legal & Compliance, LLC
Corporate, Securities and Going Public Attorneys
330 Clematis Street, Suite 217
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Phone: 800-341-2684 – 561-514-0936
Fax: 561-514-0832
LAnthony@LegalAndCompliance.com
www.LegalAndCompliance.com
www.LawCast.com

Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded issuers as well as private companies going public on the NASDAQ, NYSE MKT or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For nearly two decades Legal & Compliance, LLC has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service. The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-8 and S-4; compliance with the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; Regulation A/A+ offerings; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers, ; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including NASDAQ and NYSE MKT; crowdfunding; corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Moreover, Ms. Anthony and her firm represents both target and acquiring companies in reverse mergers and forward mergers, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. Ms. Anthony’s legal team prepares the necessary documentation and assists in completing the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA and DTC for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the OTC Market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, the securities law network. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

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