General Solicitation and Advertising in Rule 506 Offerings
Both public and private companies may conduct securities offerings using Rule 506. The exemption provides a valuable tool for enabling issuers to obtain shareholders in connection with a going public transaction particularly issuers electing to go public direct.
Rule 506(b) of Regulation D
Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act exempts from registration “transactions by an issuer not involving any public offering.” Rule 506(b) is a rule under Regulation D that provides conditions that an issuer may rely on to meet the requirements of the Section 4(a)(2) exemption. One of these conditions is that an issuer must not use general solicitation to market the securities.
“General solicitation” includes advertisements published in a variety of media including but not limited to newspapers and magazines, public websites, communications broadcasted over television and radio, and seminars where attendees have been invited by general solicitation or general advertising. Importantly, the use of an unrestricted, and therefore publicly available, website constitutes general solicitation. The solicitation must be an “offer” of securities, but solicitations that condition the market for an offering of securities may be considered to be offers.
Rule 506(c) of Regulation D
Under Rule 506(c), issuers can offer securities through means of general solicitation, provided that:
- all purchasers in the offering are accredited investors,
- the issuer takes reasonable steps to verify their accredited investor status, and
- certain other conditions in Regulation D are satisfied.
An “accredited investor” includes a natural person who:
- earned income that exceeded $200,000 (or $300,000 together with a spouse) in each of the prior two years, and reasonably expects the same for the current year, or
- has a net worth of over $1 million, either alone or together with a spouse (excluding the value of the person’s primary residence).
An “accredited investor” may also be an entity such as a bank, partnership, corporation, nonprofit or trust, when the entity satisfies certain criteria.
The full definition of “accredited investor” is available below:
An accredited investor is any person who comes within any of the following categories, or who the issuer reasonably believes comes within any of the following categories, at the time of the sale of the securities to that person:
(1) Any bank as defined in section 3(a)(2) of the Act, or any savings and loan association or other institution as defined in section 3(a)(5)(A) of the Act whether acting in its individual or fiduciary capacity; any broker or dealer registered pursuant to section 15 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; any investment adviser registered pursuant to section 203 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or registered pursuant to the laws of a state; any investment adviser relying on the exemption from registering with the Commission under section 203(l) or (m) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940; any insurance company as defined in section 2(a)(13) of the Act; any investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 or a business development company as defined in section 2(a)(48) of that act; any Small Business Investment Company licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration under section 301(c) or (d) of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958; any Rural Business Investment Company as defined in section 384A of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act; any plan established and maintained by a state, its political subdivisions, or any agency or instrumentality of a state or its political subdivisions, for the benefit of its employees, if such plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000; any employee benefit plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 if the investment decision is made by a plan fiduciary, as defined in section 3(21) of such act, which is either a bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or registered investment adviser, or if the employee benefit plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000 or, if a self-directed plan, with investment decisions made solely by persons that are accredited investors;
(2) Any private business development company as defined in section 202(a)(22) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940;
(3) Any organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, corporation, Massachusetts or similar business trust, partnership, or limited liability company, not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000;
(4) Any director, executive officer, or general partner of the issuer of the securities being offered or sold, or any director, executive officer, or general partner of a general partner of that issuer;
(5) Any natural person whose individual net worth, or joint net worth with that person’s spouse or spousal equivalent, exceeds $1,000,000;
(A) The person’s primary residence shall not be included as an asset;
(B) Indebtedness that is secured by the person’s primary residence, up to the estimated fair market value of the primary residence at the time of the sale of securities, shall not be included as a liability (except that if the amount of such indebtedness outstanding at the time of sale of securities exceeds the amount outstanding 60 days before such time, other than as a result of the acquisition of the primary residence, the amount of such excess shall be included as a liability); and
(C) Indebtedness that is secured by the person’s primary residence in excess of the estimated fair market value of the primary residence at the time of the sale of securities shall be included as a liability;
(ii) Paragraph (a)(5)(i) of this section will not apply to any calculation of a person’s net worth made in connection with a purchase of securities in accordance with a right to purchase such securities, provided that:
(A) Such right was held by the person on July 20, 2010;
(B) The person qualified as an accredited investor on the basis of net worth at the time the person acquired such right; and
(C) The person held securities of the same issuer, other than such right, on July 20, 2010.
(6) Any natural person who had an individual income in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with that person’s spouse or spousal equivalent in excess of $300,000 in each of those years and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year;
(7) Any trust, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000, not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, whose purchase is directed by a sophisticated person as described in § 230.506(b)(2)(ii);
(8) Any entity in which all of the equity owners are accredited investors;
(9) Any entity, of a type not listed in paragraph (a)(1), (2), (3), (7), or (8), not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, owning investments in excess of $5,000,000;
(10) Any natural person holding in good standing one or more professional certifications or designations or credentials from an accredited educational institution that the Commission has designated as qualifying an individual for accredited investor status. In determining whether to designate a professional certification or designation or credential from an accredited educational institution for purposes of this paragraph (a)(10), the Commission will consider, among others, the following attributes:
(i) The certification, designation, or credential arises out of an examination or series of examinations administered by a self-regulatory organization or other industry body or is issued by an accredited educational institution;
(ii) The examination or series of examinations is designed to reliably and validly demonstrate an individual’s comprehension and sophistication in the areas of securities and investing;
(iii) Persons obtaining such certification, designation, or credential can reasonably be expected to have sufficient knowledge and experience in financial and business matters to evaluate the merits and risks of a prospective investment; and
(iv) An indication that an individual holds the certification or designation is either made publicly available by the relevant self-regulatory organization or other industry body or is otherwise independently verifiable;
(11) Any natural person who is a “knowledgeable employee,” as defined in rule 3c-5(a)(4) under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (17 CFR 270.3c-5(a)(4)), of the issuer of the securities being offered or sold where the issuer would be an investment company, as defined in section 3 of such act, but for the exclusion provided by either section 3(c)(1) or section 3(c)(7) of such act;
(12) Any “family office,” as defined in rule 202(a)(11)(G)-1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (17 CFR 275.202(a)(11)(G)-1):
(i) With assets under management in excess of $5,000,000,
(ii) That is not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, and
(iii) Whose prospective investment is directed by a person who has such knowledge and experience in financial and business matters that such family office is capable of evaluating the merits and risks of the prospective investment; and
(13) Any “family client,” as defined in rule 202(a)(11)(G)-1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (17 CFR 275.202(a)(11)(G)-1)), of a family office meeting the requirements in paragraph (a)(12) of this section and whose prospective investment in the issuer is directed by such family office pursuant to paragraph (a)(12)(iii).
The JOBS Act requires that issuers wishing to engage in general solicitation take “reasonable steps” to verify the accredited investor status of purchasers. Rule 506(c) sets forth a principles-based method of verification that requires an objective determination by the issuer (or those acting on its behalf) as to whether the steps taken are “reasonable” in the context of the particular facts and circumstances of each purchaser and transaction.
Among the factors that an issuer should consider are:
- the nature of the purchaser and the type of accredited investor that the purchaser claims to be;
- the amount and type of information that the issuer has about the purchaser; and
- the nature of the offering, such as the manner in which the purchaser was solicited to participate in the offering, and the terms of the offering, such as a minimum investment amount.
In addition to this flexible, principles-based method, Rule 506(c) includes a non-exclusive list of verification methods that issuers may use, but are not required to use, when seeking greater certainty that they satisfy the verification requirement with respect to natural person purchasers. This non-exclusive list of verification methods consists of:
- verification based on income, by reviewing copies of any Internal Revenue Service form that reports income, such as Form W-2, Form 1099, Schedule K-1 of Form 1065, and a filed Form 1040;
- verification of net worth, by reviewing specific types of documentation dated within the prior three months, such as bank statements, brokerage statements, certificates of deposit, tax assessments and a credit report from at least one of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies, and obtaining a written representation from the investor;
- a written confirmation from a registered broker-dealer, an SEC-registered investment adviser, a licensed attorney or a certified public accountant stating that such person or entity has taken reasonable steps to verify that the purchaser is an accredited investor within the last three months and has determined that such purchaser is an accredited investor; and
- a method for verifying the accredited investor status of persons who had invested in the issuer’s Rule 506(b) offering as an accredited investor before September 23, 2013, and remain investors of the issuer.
Rule 506(b) is available for issuers seeking to conduct a Rule 506 offering without the use of general solicitation and/or that do not seek to limit their sales of securities in the offering to accredited investors.
Purchasers in a Rule 506(b) or Rule 506(c) offering receive “restricted securities. The company must file a notice with the Commission on Form D within 15 days after the first sale of securities in the offering. Although the Securities Act provides a federal preemption from state registration and qualification under Rule 506(c), the states still have the authority to require notice filings and collect state fees.
To speak with a Securities Attorney, please contact Brenda Hamilton at 200 E Palmetto Rd, Suite 103, Boca Raton, Florida, (561) 416-8956, or by email at [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. Please note that the prior results discussed herein do not guarantee similar outcomes.
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Brenda Hamilton, Securities Attorney
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Boca Raton, Florida 33432
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