Proposed Rule Changes To Simplify Registered Debt Offerings
This summer the SEC proposed rule changes to simplify disclosure requirements applicable to registered debt offerings for guarantors and issuers of guaranteed securities, as well as for affiliates whose securities collateralize a company’s securities. The proposed amendments apply to Rules 3-10 and 3-16 of Regulation S-X and are aimed at making the disclosures easier to understand and to reduce the cost of compliance for companies. The proposed rules follow the September 2015 SEC request for comment related to the Regulation S-X financial disclosure obligations for certain entities other than the reporting entity. The September 2015 request for comment specifically discussed Rules 3-10 and 3-16, which comment responses were considered in the current proposed rules. For more on the September 2015 comment request, see HERE.
In addition to the amending the contents of the rules, the SEC plans to create a new Article 13 in Regulation S-X and renumber Rules 3-10 and 3-16 to Rules 13-01 and 13-02. The proposed amendments also include conforming changes to related rules in Regulations S-K and S-X and Securities Act and Exchange Act forms.
The SEC hopes that the rule changes will encourage registration of debt offerings which include a subsidiary guarantee or pledge of affiliate securities, where a company may previously have only completed such offerings using private placement exemptions due to the high costs and burdens associated with registration. Moreover, if the registration process is less expensive, it might encourage companies to use guarantees or pledges of affiliate securities as collateral when they structure debt offerings which could result in a lower cost of capital and an increased level of investor protection.
The following review is very high-level. The rules are complex and an application of the specific requirements requires an in-depth analysis of the particular facts and circumstances of an offering and the relationship between the issuer and guarantor/pledger.
Currently Rule 3-10 requires financial statements to be filed for all issuers and guarantors of securities that are registered or being registered, subject to certain exceptions. These exceptions are typically available for wholly owned individual subsidiaries of a parent company when each guarantee is “full and unconditional.” Moreover, certain conditions must be met, including that the parent company provides delineated disclosures in its consolidated financial statements. If the conditions are met, separate financial statements of each qualifying subsidiary issuer and guarantor may be omitted.
The theory behind requiring these financial statements is that guarantor of a registered security is considered an issuer because the guarantee itself is considered a separate security. Accordingly, both issuers of registered securities, and the guarantor of those registered securities, have historically been required to file their own audited annual and reviewed stub period financial statements under Rule 3-10. Where qualified, Rule 3-10 currently allows for a tabular footnote disclosure of this information, as opposed to full-blown audits and reviews of each affected subsidiary. The footnote tables are referred to as Alternative Disclosure.
The requirements under Alternative Disclosure include tables in the footnotes for each category of parent and subsidiary and guarantor. The table must include all major captions on the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. The columns must show (i) a parent’s investment in all consolidated subsidiaries based on its proportionate share of the net assets; and (ii) a subsidiary issuer/guarantor’s investment in other consolidated subsidiaries using the equity accounting method.
To avoid a disclosure gap for recently acquired subsidiaries, a Securities Act registration statement of a parent must include one year of audited pre-acquisition financial statements for those subsidiaries in its registration statement if the subsidiary is significant and such financial information is not being otherwise included. A subsidiary is significant if its net book value or purchase price, whichever is greater, is 20% or more of the principal amount of the securities being registered. Currently, the parent company must continue to provide the Alternative Disclosure for as long as the guaranteed securities are outstanding.
When a subsidiary is not also considered an issuer of securities, a parent company consolidates the financial statements of its subsidiaries and no separate financial statements are provided for those subsidiaries. The SEC recognizes the overarching principle that it is really the parent consolidated financial statements upon which investors rely when making investment decisions. The existing rules impose certain eligibility restrictions and disclosure requirements that may require unnecessary detail, thereby shifting investor focus away from the consolidated enterprise towards individual entities or groups of entities and may pose undue compliance burdens for registrants.
The amendments would broaden the exception to the requirement to provide separate financial statements for certain subsidiaries as long as the parent company includes specific financial and non-financial disclosures about those subsidiaries. In particular, the amended rule would allow the exception for any subsidiary for which the parent consolidates financial statements as opposed to the current requirement that the subsidiary be wholly owned.
Furthermore, the amendments would replace the existing consolidated financial information with new summarized information, for fewer periods, and which may be presented on a combined basis. The new non-financial information disclosures would expand the qualitative disclosures about the guarantees and the issuers and guarantors, as well as require certain disclosure of additional information, including information about the issuers and guarantors, the terms and conditions of the guarantees, and how the issuer and guarantor structure and other factors may affect payments to holders of the guaranteed securities (“Proposed Alternative Disclosure”).
Importantly, the new disclosures may be provided in the body of a registration statement covering the offer and sale of the securities as opposed to the footnotes to the financial statements. However, the disclosures must move back to the financial statement footnotes beginning with the annual report for the fiscal year during which the first bona fide sale of the subject securities is completed.
The geography of a disclosure is significant. Disclosure contained in the footnotes to financial statements subject the information to audit and internal review, internal controls over financial reporting and XBRL tagging. Moreover, forward-looking statement safe-harbor protection is not available for information inside the financial statements.
The new rules would reduce the time that financial and non-financial disclosures are required to the time that the issuer and guarantor have an Exchange Act reporting obligation with respect to the guaranteed securities rather than for as long as the guaranteed securities are outstanding. The Exchange Act provides that if, at the beginning of any subsequent fiscal year after the effectiveness of a Securities Act registration statement, the securities of any class to which the registration statement relates are held of record by fewer than 300 persons, or in the case of a bank, a savings and loan holding company, or bank holding company, by fewer than 1,200 persons, the registrant’s Section 15(d) reporting obligation is automatically suspended with respect to that class.
Furthermore, the rule amendments would eliminate the requirement to provide pre-acquisition financial statements of recently acquired subsidiary issuers or guarantors.
Current Rule 3-16 requires a company to provide separate financial statements for each affiliate whose securities constitute a substantial portion of the collateral, based on a numerical threshold, for any class of registered securities as if the affiliate were a separate registrant. The affiliate’s portion of the collateral is determined by comparing (i) the highest amount among the aggregate principal amount, par value, book value or market value of the affiliate’s securities to (ii) the principal amount of the securities registered or to be registered. If the test equals or exceeds 20% for any fiscal year presented by the registrant, Rule 3-16 financial statements are required.
The proposed amendments would replace the existing requirement to provide separate financial statements for each affiliate whose securities are pledged as collateral with new financial and non-financial disclosures about the affiliate(s) and the collateral arrangement as a supplement to the consolidated financial statements of the company that issues the collateralized security.
In addition, the proposed amendment would change the geographic location of the disclosures to match the amendments to Rule 3-10. In particular, the new disclosures may be provided in the body of a registration statement covering the offer and sale of the securities as opposed to the footnotes to the financial statements. However, the disclosures must move back to the financial statement footnotes beginning with the annual report for the fiscal year during which the first bona fide sale of the subject securities is completed.
Furthermore, the proposed amendments would replace the requirement to provide disclosure only when the pledged securities meet or exceed a numerical threshold relative to the securities registered or being registered, with a requirement to provide the proposed financial and non-financial disclosures in all cases, unless they are immaterial to holders of the collateralized security.
Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provide ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded public companies as well as private companies going public on the Nasdaq, NYSE American or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For more than two decades Anthony L.G., PLLC 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, securities token offerings and initial coin offerings, Regulation A/A+ offerings, as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-3, S-8 and merger registrations on Form S-4; compliance with 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; 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 American; general corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Ms. Anthony and her firm represent both target and acquiring companies in merger and acquisition transactions, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. The ALG legal team assists Pubcos in complying with the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA 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 small-cap and middle market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, Corporate Finance in Focus. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, 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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Ms. Anthony is an honors graduate from Florida State University College of Law and has been practicing law since 1993.
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