Direct Listing Process for OTC Markets
Posted by Laura Anthony, Esq. on May 21, 2018
Direct Listing Process for OTC Markets- DIRECT PUBLIC LISTING – There are some fundamental differences between the direct listing process for OTC Markets and for an exchange. In particular, when completing a direct listing onto an exchange, the exchange issues a trading symbol upfront and the shares are available to be sold by the selling stockholders at prevailing market prices at any time. In an OTC Markets direct listing, a company must work with a market maker to file a 15c2-11 application with FINRA to obtain a trading symbol.
When completing a direct listing onto OTC Markets, the registered securities may only be sold by the listed selling shareholders at the registered price, regardless of prevailing market price. However, once a company is trading on the OTCQB or OTCQX tier of OTC Markets, and as long as the offering is not considered an indirect primary offering, the company could amend the registration statement to allow shares to be sold at market price. Generally an offering will be considered indirect primary if more than 30% of the float is being registered for resale.
Overall the direct listing process is a little less expensive and little quicker than a direct IPO process. The reason for this is that the company can work with a market maker to apply for a trading symbol immediately upon effectiveness of the S-1 as opposed to having to wait until after an offering has been sold and closed out.
I will now begin summarizing the direct listing process for an OTC Markets listing. To begin, a company should retain its team including legal, accounting and auditor. The company will also need a transfer agent and EDGAR agent. Our firm often makes referrals and recommendations as to various other service providers. A company may also use a broker-dealer placement agent in the private offering phase.
Generally, counsel will prepare a full transaction checklist including who is responsible for what items from the beginning until completion of the direct listing. The beginning of the process includes gathering due diligence and completing any corporate cleanup or reorganization that may be necessary in advance of a public listing. All companies need some level of cleanup, which can include amending articles of incorporation and bylaws to make them public company-friendly; creating employee stock option plans; entering into employment contracts with key officers; ensuring that licensing agreements and intellectual property rights are secure; adding board members and committees such as an audit committee; and establishing corporate governance including an insider trading policy.
While the company’s accounting and auditing are being completed, legal counsel will complete corporate cleanup and begin to draft the private offering documents, if the company is completing a new private offering round (sometimes a company begins the process after several prior rounds of offerings and will not need to complete another). In addition, legal counsel, together with the investment bankers if any, and other advisors will work with the company to determine valuation and the best structure for the private offering and the registration statement pricing. The final registration statement pricing will not need to be determined until the final pre-effective amendment is filed with the SEC.