September 2012

Regulation A+, one of the most overlooked provisions of the JOBS Act, promises to be the best new way for private companies to raise money without the headaches of going public or the restrictions of private offerings.  As part of the JOBS Act, the SEC was tasked with creating a new offering exemption that has been dubbed “Regulation A+” due to its improvement upon the current Regulation A exemption.  The upgrades should take little-used Regulation A and transform it into the primary way for private companies to raise capital in the U.S.  In fact, I believe that Regulation A+ will end up having the opposite effect of the stated intent of the JOBS Act, which is to have more companies go public.  In contrast, Regulation A+ will allow smaller and mid-cap public companies to more easily raise capital without having to going public.  As noted in the recent GAO review of current Regulation A, investment banks that had stayed away from Regulation A offerings in the past because of the small offering maximum will now be attracted to the new exemption.

In the past, Regulation A has suffered from some serious limitations.  Particularly, the exemption only allows for $5 million to be raised in any 12-month period.  This amount is too small for many companies, given the offering costs.  In addition, the securities in Regulation A offerings do not qualify as “covered securities” under the National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996, which would have exempted them from state securities laws.  Thus, a Regulation A offering still has to comply with time consuming and expensive state “Blue Sky” law requirements.  Regulation A also requires SEC review of an issuer’s offering materials (generally, a scaled-down version of a full registration statement).  This offering statement, which includes a notification and a fairly extensive offering circular and exhibits, still requires a substantial outlay, despite being less expensive than a full registration statement.

So companies ultimately turn to other exemptions to raise capital.  The main exemption used is SEC Rule 506, which allows an unlimited amount to be raised, but places limits on solicitation, sales to non-accredited investors and resale (elimination of these solicitation limits are subject to current proposed rules).  With the creation of new Regulation A+, however, we should see the SEC throwing out the bad, and keeping the good, parts of Regulation A.  As a result, I believe Regulation A+ will overtake Rule 506 Continue Reading Regulation A+: Raise the capital you need without the hassle or expense

Photo by Giandomenico Ricci

On September 12, 2012, Apple, Inc. held a highly anticipated conference at which it announced the upcoming release of the latest model of the iPhone. These types of conferences have been part of Apple’s standard operations for many years and seem to be a key element of its marketing strategy. Although attendance is limited to select persons, many Apple enthusiasts are able to keep up-to-date on an almost real-time basis by following any one of the numerous live blogs that usually cover the events. However, the manner in which these conferences are conducted, notably some of the information disclosed during the presentations, may inadvertently run afoul of Regulation FD

Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) is an issuer disclosure rule that addresses selective disclosure. The regulation provides that when an issuer, or person acting on its behalf, discloses material nonpublic information to certain enumerated persons (in general, securities market professionals and holders of the issuer’s securities who may well trade on the basis of the information), it must make public disclosure of that information. The timing of the required public disclosure depends on whether the selective disclosure was intentional or non-intentional; for an intentional selective disclosure, the issuer must make public disclosure simultaneously; for a non-intentional disclosure, the issuer must make public disclosure promptly. Under the regulation, the required public disclosure may be made by filing or furnishing a Form 8-K, or by another method or combination of methods that is reasonably designed to effect broad, non-exclusionary distribution of the information to the public. 

As mentioned above, Regulation FD applies to disclosures of “material nonpublic” information about the issuer or its securities. The regulation does not define the terms “material” and “nonpublic,” but relies on existing definitions of these terms established in the case law. Generally speaking, information is material if “there is a substantial Continue Reading Did Apple violate Regulation FD at its iPhone 5 release conference?

cybersecurity intrusionA number of well-known companies, including Zappos.com, Google, Quest Diagnostics, Eastman Chemcial and AIG, have recently experienced actual or potential intrusions into their computer systems and related confidential data. Some of these incidents have been active criminal attacks by sophisticated hackers, while others have resulted from situations such as lost or stolen laptops. The frequency and severity of hacking incidents have been steadily increasing.  In fact, virtually all companies today are subject to the risks of such incidents due to the widespread use of Internet and information technology. The advent of a substantial mobile workplace with workers accessing data remotely through smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices has also multiplied companies’ risks in this area.  

As the risks have increased, the SEC has been recently increasing the pressure on public companies to disclose “hacking” and other cyberintrustion incidents in their regulatory filings. There are still no SEC rules governing such disclosure, but I believe that this has clearly become a high priority disclosure item. I also foresaw these increased cybersecurity disclosure requirements in my prior blog post (“Get Ready for Increased Cybersecurity Disclosure Requirements”). Public companies that experience a hacking or other cyberintrustion incident should carefully review the recent actions taken by the SEC and other public companies that have experienced these incidents.

The SEC took a major step in encouraging disclosure of hacking and other cybersecurity items with its issuance of “2011 CF Disclosure Guidance:  Topic No. 2 (Cybersecurity)” (the “Release”) in October 2011. This Release only provided general guidance on disclosure of cyberincidents. The SEC has not yet developed any rules or regulations on cybersecurity or hacking incident disclosure, although we believe that such rules and regulations will be enacted at some point soon. In any case, based on recent events it appears that the Commission is strongly encouraging such disclosure despite the lack of existing rules and, in some cases, engaging in de facto rulemaking.

Companies tend to resist disclosure of hacking incidents for several Continue Reading SEC pushes for disclosure of hacking incidents

Following up on my post on the subject, I had the opportunity to speak with Colin O’Keefe of LXBN regarding the Facebook/Instagram deal.  In the brief interview, I explain how things have changed since Facebook’s IPO and what, if anything, that meant for the deal’s fairness review with the California Department of Corporations.

Following up on my post on the subject, I had the opportunity to speak with Colin O’Keefe of LXBN regarding the Facebook/Instagram deal.  In the brief interview, I explain how things have changed since Facebook’s IPO and what, if anything, that meant for the deal’s fairness review with the California Department of Corporations.

seed moneyThis is the second part of our Securities Law 101 series.  Because capital raising is such a critical function for emerging start-up companies, we designed this series to introduce their management teams to some of the fundamental concepts in securities law.  We hope that this series will prevent some of the most common mistakes management teams of start-up companies make.  We will periodically publish posts examining different aspects of securities law. 

So your company would like to raise money?  These days it seems like every company is in need of more capital, even banks that are in the business of lending their funds out to others.  Whether your business needs new funding for growth, or more funding to meet regulatory capital requirements, or your company has not been able to secure that loan the business needs, there are a lot of reasons to consider a private placement.  Here, we will explore the use of the private placement to raise funds and the recent changes in securities laws that make this a better alternative than it was before.

We all know that there are many ways to raise money out there (and sales of stock through crowdfunding isn’t one of them yet), but one typical way would be to sell equity in your company to private investors.  All securities offerings must be registered unless an exemption exists.  Therefore, these deals are generally set up as private placements exempt from registration under SEC Rule 506, which allows an unlimited amount of money to be raised from an unlimited number of accredited investors (and up to 35 non-accredited investors).  Accredited investors are those individuals whose joint net worth with their spouse is at least $1 million, excluding the value of any equity in personal residences but including any mortgage debt to the extent it exceeds the fair market value of the residences.  The term also includes individuals with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years, or joint income with their spouse exceeding $300,000 in each of those years, plus a reasonable expectation of reaching these income levels in the current year.  There are also other types of accredited investors such as companies with total assets in excess of $5 million.  Consequently, there are several categories of accredited investors out there that can potentially help with funding.

We recommend limiting the offer of securities in a private offering to only accredited investors.  The reason for this is that Continue Reading Securities Law 101 (Part II): Avoiding the pitfalls in a private placement