The Securities Act of 1933 recognizes two broad types of exemptions to the registration requirements of Section 5, exempt securities and exempt transactions.
The Exempt securities are set forth in Sections 3(a)(1) – (8), (13) and (14) of the Securities Act. Exempt securities are continuously exempt from the registration requirements regardless of the nature of the transaction in which they may be offered, issued, sold or resold. Examples of exempt securities which may be publicly offered, issued, sold and resold by their issuers or any other person without registration include:
- Securities issued or guaranteed by the federal government;
- Any security issued or guaranteed by a bank;
- Commercial paper with a maturity of nine months or less;
- Securities issued by non-profit religious, educational or charitable organizations; and
- Insurance contracts
The exempt transactions are set forth in Sections 3(a)(9), 3(b) and Section 4 of the Securities Act. Exempt transactions allow a security to be offered or sold in a particular transaction or circumstance or by a particular person or entity, although a subsequent offer or sale of the security could require registration under Section 5. Examples of exempted transactions include:
- Transactions by any person other than an issuer, underwriter or dealer (Section 4(1) – which permits most secondary trading of securities are form the basis for Rule 144)
- Transaction by an issuer not involving any public offering (Section 4(2) – often called the private placement exemption and is only available for use by the issuer and not for re-sale transactions)
- Brokers transactions (Section 4(3)); and
- An exchange of securities by an issuer with its existing security holders exclusively where no commission or other remunerations is paid or given (Section 3(a)(9) – conversion of convertible debt or equity securities and cashless exercises of warrants are typically accomplished using this exemption)
Examples of other common exemptions include:
- Offer or sales of a debtor through a bankruptcy court;
- Small offerings of less than $5 million under either Regulations A or D
- Offers and sales under written employee benefit plans (Rule 701); and
- Offshore offers and sales and Regulation S.
Of these exemptions the most commonly used are Regulations S, D and A. Regulation S is not technically an exemption but a jurisdictional provision regarding the reach of the Securities Act of 1933. In particular, Rule 901 provides “[F]or the purposes of Section 5 of the Act, the terms “offer to sell”, “sell”, “sale”, and “offer to buy” shall be deemed to include offers and sales that occur with the United States and shall be deemed not to include offers and sales that occur outside the United States.”
Regulation S covers (i) sales of securities to non-U.S. persons and to foreign securities markets by U.S. issuers, (ii) sales of securities to non-U.S. persons and in foreign securities markets by foreign issuers whose securities are not listed in the U.S. securities markets and which are non reporting companies under the Exchange Act, (iii) sales of securities to non-U.S. persons and in foreign securities markets by foreign issuers which are reporting companies under the Exchange Act, and (iv) resales of these securities.
Regulation D consists of eight (8) rules. Rule 501 through 503 contain definitions, conditions and other provisions that apply to Regulation D generally. Rules 504, 505 and 506 are the three current, specific exemptions from registration. Rule 504 provides an exemption for companies that are not subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act of 1934 for the offer and sale of up to $1 million of securities in a 12 month period. Rule 505 exempts offers by companies of up to $5 million of securities in a 12 month period as long as offers are made without general solicitation or advertising, and there are no more than 35 unaccredited purchasers.
Rule 506 is a safe harbor under the private placement exemption (Section 4(2)). There is no limit on the amount of securities that can be offered or sold, so long as (i) offers are made without general solicitation or advertising, and (ii) the sales are made only to accredited investors or no more than 35 unaccredited investors and all investors must be sophisticated.
Accredited investors are generally defined to include:
- Banks, insurance companies and pension plans;
- Corporations, partnerships and business entities with over $5 million in assets;
- Directors, executive officers and general partners of the issuer;
- Natural persons with over $1 million net worth or over $200,000 in annual income for two years; and
- Entities, all of whose equity owners are accredited.
Regulation A permits a public offering of up to $5 million by issuers, including up to $1.5 million by selling stockholders, within any 12 month period. Regulation A is only available to issuers who are not subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act. Affiliate resales are not permitted unless the issuer has had net income from continuing operations in one of its last two fiscal years.
Securities attorney Laura Anthony provides expert legal advice and ongoing corporate counsel to small public Companies as well as private Companies seeking to go public on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board Exchange (OTCBB). Ms. Anthony counsels private and small public Companies nationwide regarding reverse mergers, due diligence on public shells, corporate transactions and all aspects of securities law.
Ms. Anthony is the Founding Partner of Legal & Compliance, LLC, a national corporate, securities and civil litigation law firm based in West Palm Beach, Florida. The firm’s corporate and securities attorneys provide technical legal services to small and mid-size private and public (OTCBB) Companies, entrepreneurs, and business professionals nationwide. Contact us today for a FREE consultation!