When Private Placements Go Public – Going Public Attorneys
Rule 506 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) provides for a private placement exemption from federal securities registration which is increasingly being used by companies seeking to raise capital prior to going public. While the term “private offering” leaves much to the imagination, the Securities Act provides substantial guidance about the circumstances in which an offering will be deemed a private placement.
Most private placements are made pursuant to Regulation D of the Securities Act. Rule 506 provides two distinct offering exemptions each with unique requirements. Companies are not required to advertise, and if that is their choice, they may use the prior Rule 506 which is now Rule 506(b), which does not allow solicitation of any kind. If they wish to advertise, they must comply with Rule 506(c) which permits general solicitation advertising, but excludes non-accredited investors from participation in the offering. In addition, to Rule 506(c) offerings, issuers must take reasonable steps to verify whether purchasers are accredited investors. As explained below, the SEC has suggested several methods that companies may use to verify accredited investor status.
What is a Private Offering Anyway?
Whether an offering is private or deemed to involve general solicitation or general advertising is determined by various interpretations of relevant SEC releases and case law. An issuer seeking to raise capital in a private placement should consider a 4 factors:
♦ The number of offerees (not only those who invest) and their relationship to each other and the company conducting the offering;
♦ The number of securities offered in the private placement;
♦ The size of the offering; and
♦ The manner in which the offering is conducted.
Since Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) have different requirements it is critical that issuers know which exemption is available. This will depend upon whether the offering is public or private.
The Private Placement Offering Exemptions
Private placement exemptions under the Securities Act are:
♦ Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act, which provides a statutory exemption for “transactions by an issuer not involving any public offering”; and
♦ Rule 506 (b) of SEC Regulation D, allows an issuer engaged in a non-public offering to sell securities to up to 35 non-accredited and an unlimited number of accredited purchasers .
Offerings made pursuant to Rule 506 (c) of SEC Regulation D are often referred to as private placements but they are not private offerings if general solicitation and advertising are used. The rule provides a safe harbor for an issuer engaged in a private placement using general solicitation and advertising so long as the issuer takes reasonable steps to confirm that the investors in the Offering are accredited investors.
What is an Accredited Investor?
The definition of accredited investor is found in Rule 501(a). An accredited investor is any person whom the issuer reasonably believes falls within any of the following categories at the time of the sale of securities to that person:
♦ a bank, insurance company, registered investment company, business development company, or small business investment company;
♦ an employee benefit plan, within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, if a bank, insurance company, or registered investment adviser makes the investment decision, or if the plan has total assets in excess of $5 million;
♦ a charitable organization, corporation, or partnership with assets exceeding $5 million;
♦ a director, executive officer, or general partner of the company selling the securities;
♦ a business in which all the equity owners are accredited investors;
♦ a natural person who has individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase not including the value of the person’s primary residence, or the mortgage or debt secured by the primary residence if the amount of that debt is less than the fair market value of that residence;
♦ a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years of joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year; or
♦ a trust with assets in excess of $5 million, not formed to acquire the securities offered, whose purchases are made by a financially sophisticated person.
The issuer conducting a private placement offering in reliance upon either 4(a)(2) or Rule 506 must establish that:
♦ the intended private placement offering meets the required purchaser qualification requirements;
♦ the issuer conducting the private placement complies with the informational requirements of the securities laws;
♦ the private placement offering is not integrated with another exempt or registered securities offering;
♦ the securities offering does not involve any general solicitation or advertisement; and
♦ the securities offering includes appropriate resale restrictions which are communicated to potential investors.
Disclosure Requirements in Section 4(2) & Rule 506(b) Private Placement Offerings
Section 4(a)(2) and Rule 506 contain informational requirements for private placement offerings. If a disclosure obligation exists, the information must be provided prior to the time of sale.There are no informational requirements for accredited investors in private placements made under Rule 506(b) or Rule 506(c); however, SEC Rule 10b-5, under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), creates liability for material misstatements or omissions. In all exempt offerings including those under Rule 506, each offeree must possess or have access to the type of information that would be included in a registration statement under the Securities Act and which would enable the offeree to make an informed investment decision. This information generally addresses the issuer’s business & related risks, securities, history, financial condition, results of operations, property, and management.
Each of the 35 non-accredited purchasers in a Rule 506 (b) offering must receive certain information, which varies depending on the nature of the issuer and the size of the offering. Non-reporting issuers conducting private placement offerings must provide investors with certain non-financial information and with specific types of financial statement information depending upon the size of the offering.
Reporting companies must furnish the same disclosures regardless of the size of the private placement offering. This information may either be:
♦ An issuer’s most recent annual report to shareholders. It must meet the requirements of Exchange Act Rule 14a-3 (which specifies the information required to be delivered in connection with proxy solicitations) or Rule 14c-3 (annual report information requirements delivered in non-proxy solicitations prior to an annual meeting or other shareholder meeting), the definitive proxy statement filed in connection with that annual report, and, if requested in writing, the issuer’s most recent Form 10-K; or
♦ The information contained in the issuer’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K or a Form 10 under the Exchange Act or a Form S-1 under the Securities Act.
Issuers must update and supplement any disclosures provided with additional information and must provide disclosures regarding material changes concerning the issuer that are not covered in documents furnished to investors. The securities issued and sold to investors in Rule 506(b) or Rule 506(c) offerings are restricted securities. In order for a holder to resell shares purchased in a Rule offering, the holder must either locate a resell exemption or the issuer must register the shares.An issuer seeking to conduct a private placement could lose its exemption from registration if it does not comply with the requirements of the exemption. As such, issuers should consult a competent securities attorney to guide them through the rules and regulations applicable to private placements.
For further information about this securities law blog post, please contact Brenda Hamilton, Securities Attorney at 101 Plaza Real S, Suite 202 N, Boca Raton, Florida, (561) 416-8956, or to [email protected]. This securities law blog post is provided as a general informational service to clients and friends of Hamilton & Associates Law Group and should not be construed as, and does not constitute legal advice on any specific matter, nor does this message create an attorney-client relationship. For more information about going public and the rules and regulations affecting the use of Rule 144, Form 8K, crowdfunding, FINRA Rule 6490, Rule 506 private placement offerings and memorandums, Regulation A, Rule 504 offerings, SEC reporting requirements, SEC registration statements on Form S-1 , IPO’s, OTC Pink Sheet listings, Form 10 and OTC Markets disclosure requirements, DTC Chills, Global Locks, reverse mergers, public shells, direct public offerings and direct public offerings please contact Hamilton and Associates at (561) 416-8956 or [email protected]. Please note that the prior results discussed herein do not guarantee similar outcomes.
Hamilton & Associates | Securities Lawyers
Brenda Hamilton, Securities Attorney
101 Plaza Real South, Suite 202 North
Boca Raton, Florida 33432
Telephone: (561) 416-8956
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