Although Regulation A is legally an exemption from the registration requirements contained in Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, as a practical matter it is more analogous to registration than any other exemption. In particular, Regulation A provides for the filing of an offering prospectus which closely resembles a registration statement, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The SEC then can, and often does, comment on the filing. Practitioners often refer to Regulation A as a short form registration.
Moreover, although the Regulation A offering prospectus does not go “effective” the regulation calls for “qualification” of the offering prospectus under circumstances that mirror those for effectiveness of a registration statement. For example, Rule 252(g) provides for the technical possibility of automatic qualification twenty days after filing the offering prospectus much the same as Section 8(a) for registration statements. Rule 252(g) also provides for a procedure to delay such effectiveness until the SEC declares the offering “qualified” much the same way as a registration statement’s automatic effectiveness can be delayed until the SEC declares it “effective”.
Regulation A and 134 Registration Statements
Regulation A mirrors registration in many other ways. For example, oral offers may be made after the offering prospectus is filed, just as with registration statements. Written offers must be accompanied by a preliminary offering prospectus, just as for registration statements, and advertising may be made on a limited basis in rules that match Rule 134 for registration statements.
Although Regulation A offerings have many things in common with registered offerings, they differ in many respects as well. One of the most important differences is that, in Regulation A offerings, an issuer may formally “test the waters” before the filing of an offering prospectus, by oral and written communications to potential buyers, designed to gauge interest in the offering. The written documents that may be used to “test the waters” are limited in content and must be filed with the SEC. Though a failure to file the document will not destroy the exemption if the document otherwise meets the Regulation A requirements.
Regulation A and Rule 504 Similarities
The limitations on the availability to use Regulation A are similar to Rule 504. In particular Regulation A is only available to US or Canadian companies. In addition, the issuer cannot be an Exchange Act reporting company or an investment company, and neither the Company nor is officers and directors can have had previous regulatory problems (the so called “bad boy” exclusion). The maximum dollar amount of securities that may be sold under Regulation A is $5 million in a twelve month period, of which $1.5 million can be sold by security holders.
Regulation A offerings generally require the same effort and cost as registered offerings.
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