Regulation A – Practice Tips
Posted by Attorney Laura Anthony on February 27, 2017
Regulation A – Practice Tips- In the last LawCast in this series, I talked about whether Regulation A is really a public or private offering and pointed out that it can be considered one or the other depending on the rule and reason for making the determination. However, it is clear that for purposes of SEC rules, a Form 1-A is not considered a “registration statement.” Accordingly, a Form 1-A would not technically be included in contractual provisions related to registration rights. In particular, the typical language in a piggyback or demand registration right provision creates the possibility that the company could do an offering under Regulation A/A+ and take the position that the shareholder is not entitled to participate under the registration rights provision because it did not do a “registration.” As an advocate of avoiding ambiguity, practitioners should carefully review these contractual provisions and add language to include a Form 1-A under Regulation A/A+ if the intent is to be sure that the shareholder is covered. Likewise, if the intent is to exclude Regulation A/A+ offerings from the registration rights, that exclusion should be added to the language to avoid any dispute.
In the next several Lawcasts in this series I am going to go over the Regulation A rules indepth. Before that, I have a few general thoughts to share on the subject. Tier 2 offerings in particular present a much-needed opportunity for smaller companies to go public without the added time and expense of state blue sky compliance. To compromise with opponents to the state blue sky preemption, the SEC included investor qualifications for Tier 2 offerings. In particular, Tier 2 offerings have a limitation on the amount of securities non-accredited investors can purchase of no more than 10% of the greater of the investor’s annual income or net worth.
However, as companies continue to learn about Regulation A+, many still do not understand that it is just a legal process with added benefits, such as active advertising and solicitation including through social media. There is no pool of funds to tap into; it is not a line of credit; it is just another process that companies can use to reach out to the investing public and try to convince them to buy stock in, or lend money to, their company.
As such, companies seeking to complete a Regulation A offering must consider the economics and real-world aspects of the offering. Key to a successful offering are a reasonable valuation and rational use of proceeds. A company should demonstrate value through its financial statements and disclosures and establish that the intended use of proceeds will result in moving the business plan ahead and hopefully create increased value for the shareholders. Investors want to know that their money is being put to the highest and best use to result in return on investment. Repayment of debt or cashing out of series A investors is generally not a saleable use of proceeds. Looking for $50 million for 30% of a pre-revenue start-up just isn’t going to do it! The company has to be prepared to show the investor, that it has a plan, management, vision and ability to carry out the business proposition it is selling.
From the investors’ perspective, these are risky investments by nature. Offering materials should be scrutinized. The SEC does not pass on the merits of an offering – only its disclosures. The fact that the prospectus has been qualified by the SEC has no bearing on the risk associated with or quality of the investment. That is for each investor to decide, either alone or with advisors, and requires really reviewing the offering materials and considering the viability of the business proposal. At the end of the day, the success of the business, and therefore the potential return on investment, requires the company to perform – to sell their widgets, keep ahead of the competition, and manage their business and growth successfully.