Is Regulation A a Private or Public Offering?
Posted by Laura Anthony, Esq. on February 22, 2017
Is Regulation A a Private or Public Offering?- A question that the SEC and practitioners continue to discuss is whether Regulation A is a private or public offering? The legal nuance that Regulation A is an “exempt” offering under Section 5 has caused confusion and the need for careful thought by practitioners and the SEC staff alike. So far, it appears that Regulation A is treated as a public offering in almost all respects except as related to the applicability of Securities Act Section 11 liability. Section 11 of the Securities Act provides a private cause of action in favor of purchasers of securities, against those involved in filing a false or misleading public offering registration statement. Any purchaser of securities, regardless of whether they bought directly from the company or secondarily in the aftermarket, can sue a company, its underwriters, and experts for damages where a false or misleading registration statement had been filed related to those securities. Regulation A is not considered a public offering for purposes of Section 11 liability.
Securities Act Section 12, which provides a private cause of action by a purchaser of securities directly against the seller of those securities, specifically imposes liability on any person offering or selling securities under Regulation A. The general antifraud provisions under Section 17 of the Securities Act, which apply to private and public offerings, also applies to Regulation A.
When considering integration, the SEC has now confirmed that a Regulation A offering can rely on Rule 152 such that a completed exempt offering, such as under Rule 506(b), will not integrate with a subsequent Regulation A filing. Under Rule 152, a securities transaction that at the time involves a private offering will not lose that status even if the company subsequently makes a public offering. The SEC has also issued guidance that Rule 152 applies to prevent integration between a completed 506(b) offering and a subsequent 506(c) offering, indicating that the important factor in the Rule 152 analysis is the ability to publicly solicit regardless of the filing of a registration statement.
However, in a nod to its technical exempt status, as mentioned in a prior Lawcast in this series, Item 6 of Part I of a Regulation A Form 1-A, which requires disclosure of unregistered securities issued or sold within the prior year, must include a disclosure of all securities issued or sold pursuant to Regulation A in the prior year.
On the other hand, Regulation A is definitely used as a going public transaction and, as such, is very much a public offering. A recent SEC white paper refers to regulation A as a mini IPO. Securities sold in a Regulation A offering are not restricted and therefore are available to be used to create a secondary market and trade such as on the OTC Markets or a national exchange.
Tier 2 issuers that have used the S-1 format for their Form 1-A filing are permitted to file a Form 8-A to register under the Exchange Act and become subject to its reporting requirements. A Form 8-A is a simple registration form used instead of a Form 10 for companies that have already filed the substantive Form 10 information with the SEC. Upon filing a Form 8-A, the company will become subject to the full Exchange Act reporting obligations which is a pre-requisite to making application to trade on a national exchange.