Foreign Private Issuers – an Introduction

Posted by on November 15, 2016

Foreign Private Issuers – an Introduction- Changes In India’s Laws Related To Foreign Direct Investments- A U.S. Opportunity; Brief Overview For Foreign Private Issuer- In June 2016, the Indian government announced new rules allowing for foreign direct investments into Indian owned and domiciled companies. The new rules continue a trend in laws supporting India as an open world economy. A large portion of the U.S. public marketplace is actually the trading of securities of foreign owned or held businesses. Foreign businesses may register and trade directly on U.S. public markets as foreign private issuers, or they may operate as partial or wholly owned subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies that in turn quote and trade on either the OTC Markets or a U.S. exchange.

As a precursor it is important to provide a brief overview of “foreign private issuers” under the U.S. securities laws.
Both the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 contain definitions of a “foreign private issuer.” Generally, if a company does not meet the definition of a foreign private issuer, it is subject to the same registration and reporting requirements as any U.S. company.

The determination of foreign private issuer status is not just dependent on the country of domicile, though a U.S. company can never qualify regardless of the location of its operations, assets, management and subsidiaries. There are generally two tests of qualification as a foreign private issuer, as follows: (i) relative degree of U.S. share ownership; and (ii) level of U.S. business contacts. As with many securities law definitions, the overall definition of foreign private issuer starts with an all-encompassing “any foreign issuer” and then carves out exceptions from there. In particular, a foreign private issuer is any foreign issuer, except one that meets the following as of the last day of its second fiscal quarter:

(i) is a foreign government;

(ii) one in which more than 50% of its voting securities are directly or indirectly held by U.S. residents; and any of the following: (a) the majority of the executive officers or directors are U.S. citizens or residents; (b) more than 50% of the assets are in the U.S.; or (c) the principal business is in the U.S. Principal business location is determined by considering the company’s principal business segments or operations, its board and shareholder meetings, its headquarters, and its most influential key executives.

That is, if fewer than half of a foreign company’s shareholders are located in the U.S., it qualifies as a foreign private issuer. If more than 50% of the record shareholders are in the U.S., the company must further consider the location of its officers and directors, assets and business operations.