On October 30, 2015, the SEC published proposed rule amendments to facilitate intrastate and regional securities offerings. The SEC has proposed amendments to Rule 147 to modernize the rule and accommodate adopted state intrastate crowdfunding provisions. In addition, the SEC has proposed amendments to Rule 504 of Regulation D to increase the aggregate offering amount from $1 million to $5 million and to add bad actor disqualifications from reliance on the rule. The SEC has also made technical amendments to Rule 505 of Regulation D.
In Part I of the blog, I discussed the Rule 147 amendment, and in this Part II will discuss the changes to Rules 504 and 505. I have never really written about either Rules 504 or 505 in the past, the simple reason being that they are rarely used exemptions. Perhaps with the current proposed changes, Rule 504 will have a new life. I do not think Rule 505 will gain favor, and in fact, as part of the rule release the SEC is seeking comment as to whether Rule 505 should simply be eliminated.
Currently Rule 504 of Regulation D provides an exemption from registration for offers and sales up to $1 million in securities in any twelve-month period. Current Rule 504, like Regulation A/A+, is unavailable to companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act, are investment companies or blank check companies. Moreover, current rule 504 prohibits the use of general solicitation and advertising unless the offering is made (i) exclusively in one or more states that provide for the registration of the securities and public filing and delivery of a disclosure document; or (ii) in one or more states that piggyback on the registration of the securities in another state and they are so registered in another state; or (iii) exclusively according to a state law exemption that permits general solicitation and advertising so long as sales are made only to accredited investors (i.e., a state version of the federal 506(c) exemption).
Rules 504, 505 and 506 together comprise Regulation D. Rule 506 is promulgated under Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act and preempts state law. Rules 505 and 506 are promulgated under Section 3(b) of the Securities Act and do not preempt state law. Currently Rules 505 and 506 have bad actor disqualification provisions but Rule 504 does not.
The vast majority of states require the registration of Rule 504 offerings. Rule 504 is similar to the Intrastate Offering found in Section 3(a)(11) in that on the federal level it defers to state legislation and oversight. In fact, of the 29 states that have recently passed state-based crowdfunding exemptions, Maine specifically allows an issuer to rely on Rule 504 in utilizing its crowdfunding provisions.
As Rule 504 is in essence a deferral to the states for small offerings, the SEC is of the position that it does not warrant imposing extensive regulation on the federal level. I agree. As stated by the SEC, the purpose of Rule 504 is to assist small businesses in raising seed capital by allowing offers and sales of securities to an unlimited number of persons regardless of their level of sophistication – provided, however, that the offerings remain subject to the federal anti-fraud provisions and general solicitation and advertising is prohibited unless sales are limited to accredited investors.
The SEC has proposed to increase the amount of securities that may be offered and sold in reliance on Rule 504 to $5 million in any 12-month period, and to add bad actor disqualification provisions to the rule. The SEC believes the change will help facilitate capital formation and give states greater flexibility in developing state-coordinated review programs for multi-state registrations. The proposed rule also corrects the technical reference to Section 3(b) of the Securities Act in the current Rules 504 and 505 to Section 3(b)(1), which change was made by the JOBS Act in 2012.
The proposed bad actor disqualification provisions are substantially the same as those in place for Rule 506 offerings. For a review of the Rule 506 bad actor disqualification provisions, see my blog HERE.
Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded issuers as well as private companies going public on the NASDAQ, NYSE MKT or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For nearly two decades Legal & Compliance, LLC has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service. The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-8 and S-4; compliance with the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; Regulation A/A+ offerings; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers, ; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including NASDAQ and NYSE MKT; crowdfunding; corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Moreover, Ms. Anthony and her firm represents both target and acquiring companies in reverse mergers and forward mergers, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. Ms. Anthony’s legal team prepares the necessary documentation and assists in completing the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA and DTC for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the OTC Market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, the securities law network. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.
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