Securities & Going Public Blog
On August 12, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that a former executive at a worldwide software manufacturer has agreed to settle charges that he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by bribing Panamanian government officials through an intermediary to procure software license sales.
An SEC investigation found that Vicente E. Garcia, the former vice president of global and strategic accounts for SAP SE, orchestrated a scheme that violated the FCPA. According to the allegations, Garcia paid $145,000 in bribes to one government official and promised to pay two others in order to obtain four contracts to sell SAP software to the Panamanian government.
He essentially caused SAP, which is headquartered in Germany and executes most of its sales through a network of worldwide corporate partners, to sell software to a partner in Panama at discounts of up to 82 percent. Read More
A private placement memorandum (“PPM”) is also referred to as a confidential offering circular or memorandum. PPM’s are used by private companies in going public transactions and by existing public companies to raise capital by selling either debt or equity in an exempt offering. In registered direct public offerings, the resale of these shares are often registered on Form S-1. These exempt offerings are usually private placements. PPM disclosures vary depending on a couple of factors including whether the investor is accredited or non-accredited and whether the Company is subject to the SEC’s reporting requirements, and a few other factors.
When a Company sells equity, it most often offers common shares to investors who then become shareholders of the Company. Read More
On August 13, 2015, the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that three Maryland men have agreed to settle charges that they defrauded investors in a company that owns and operates residential and commercial real estate. Boston-based Signator Investors Inc. and one of its supervisors agreed to settle separate charges that they failed to supervise two of the men who worked in Signator’s Maryland office.
The SEC alleges that James R. Glover orchestrated the fraud by enticing family, friends, and fellow church members to become his clients at Signator and invest in Colonial Tidewater Realty Income Partners, which he co-managed. Most of Glover’s clients were financially unsophisticated and relied on him for investment guidance. Read More
A fiduciary duty exists where trust and confidence is placed in another. Fiduciary duties arise in many different contexts in securities matters and the going public process. Fiduciary duties also arise from a written agreement that authorizes another to act as the grantor’s agent. The existence and scope of a fiduciary duty is based on the nature of the relationship between the parties. Securities attorneys, auditors, brokers and investment advisors, investment companies and public companies are fiduciaries. Breach of fiduciary duty claims in securities matters most often arise from broker-dealer activity.
When a broker recommends an investment, the broker-dealer has a duty to:
- Understand the nature of the investment’s risks, rewards, and strategy before recommending the investment to its client;
- Make only suitable recommendations to its client based upon the investor’s objectives, needs, and circumstances;
- Furnish information to the client that would be material to the client’s decision about the recommendation; and
- Be truthful and not misrepresent or omit material information.
Aegis Capital Corporation has been fined $950,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority over allegations of improper sales of unregistered penny stocks of five issuers and anti-money laundering supervisory failures. As a result, Aegis is also required to retain an independent consultant to review its supervisory and AML systems and procedures. In addition, Charles D. Smulevitz and Kevin C. McKenna, who served successively as Chief Compliance and AML Compliance Officers at the time of the violations, agreed to 30- and 60-day principal suspensions, and fines of $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, for their supervisory and AML failures. In a separate proceeding, Robert Eide, Aegis’s President and CEO, was suspended for 15 days and fined $15,000 for failing to disclose more than $640,000 in outstanding liens.
The unregistered penny stock issuers are China Crescent Enterprises, Inc., TAO Minerals Ltd., New Market Technology, Inc., Numobile, Inc., and AlterNet Systems, Inc. All five issues were listed on the OTC Markets.
Brad Bennett, Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement, said, “Firms who open their doors to penny stock liquidators must have robust systems and procedures to ensure strict adherence to the registration and AML rules given the significant risk of investor fraud and market manipulation. The compliance officers sanctioned in this case were directly responsible for supervising sales of restricted securities but failed to conduct a meaningful inquiry in the presence of significant red flags indicating the sales could be illicit distributions of unregistered stocks.” Read More
The going public process involves a number of steps that vary depending on the characteristics of the private company wishing to go public, and whether it will become a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) reporting company. All companies seeking public company status must meet certain requirements in order for their securities to be publicly traded. This holds true for both reporting and non-reporting companies. An experienced going public lawyer can assist the company in complying with the SEC’s stringent requirements.
Shareholder Requirements in Going Public Transactions
The first step in a going public transaction is most often obtaining the number of shareholders required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). The shares issued to them must be unrestricted at the time of the filing of the Form 211 with FINRA, so that a public float will exist when the company’s stock begins trading. Read More
A company going public must understand which capital raising methods involve a “security”. A company is only subject to federal and state securities laws if it is selling what is defined as a “security.” If you are selling stock in your initial public offering or a direct public offering, you know you are selling a security. But Section 3(a)1 of the Securities Act of 1933 tells you all kinds of other instruments you sell may also be securities, as follows:
The term “security” means any note, stock, treasury stock, security future, security-based swap, bond, debenture, evidence of indebtedness, certificate of interest or participation in any profit-sharing agreement, collateral-trust certificate, preorganization certificate or subscription, transferable share, investment contract, voting-trust certificate, certificate of deposit for a security, fractional undivided interest in oil, gas, or other mineral rights, …, or, in general, any interest or instrument commonly known as a “security.” Read More
On July 31, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced it had charged Phillip Kueber, Canadian citizen with conducting a scheme to conceal his control and ownership of penny stock, Cynk Technology Corp. On July 11, 2014, the SEC suspended trading in the stock, Cynk Technology Corp., rose to more than $21 from less than 10 cents per share. According to its SEC filings, CYNK’s assets never exceeded $1,400.
The SEC alleges that Kueber was behind a false and misleading registration statement filed by Cynk and enlisted a small group of straw shareholders and sham CEOs to conceal his control of purportedly non-restricted shares in Cynk stock. The complaint alleges that the straw shareholders – mainly Kuber’s family members and associates in British Columbia and California – never received the shares they “purchased.” Read More
Going public is a big step for any company. The process of “going public” is complex and at times precarious. While going public offers many benefits it also comes with risks and quantities of regulations with which issuers must become familiar. Despite the risks even in a down economy, the U.S. market remains one of the most attractive sources of capital in the world for companies seeking capital. Going public is a complicated process, and it is important to have an experienced securities attorney to help your company navigate through the process and deal with the Securities & Exchange Commission the (“SEC”), Financial Regulatory Industry Authority (“FINRA”) & Depository Trust Company (“DTC”). Read More
Regulation A+’s new rules provide investors with more investment choices and issuers with more capital raising options during their going public transactions. Some confusion has arisen about whether SEC qualification of a Regulation A+ offering will result in the assignment of a stock ticker or trading symbol. Companies conducting Regulation A+ offerings must submit Form 1-A to to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Form 1-A is subject to SEC review and the SEC may issue comments to the filing. Once the SEC is satisfied that the required disclosures comply with the securities laws, it will qualify the offering and the company can offer and sell the securities covered by the Form 1-A. The Regulation A+ qualification process is similar to the SEC comment process that applies to registration of securities offerings on Form S-1. regulation a+ lawyers
Regulation A+ expands existing Regulation A, dramatically, opening new doors for capital raising for smaller issuers. Regulation A+ offerings can be used in combination with direct public offerings and initial public offerings as part of a Going Public Transaction. The exemption simplifies the process of obtaining the seed stockholder required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) while allowing the issuer to raise initial capital. Upon qualification of a Regulation A+ offering, companies seeking to obtain a stock trading symbol must locate a sponsoring market maker to file a Form 211 with FINRA. a+ lawyers
On March 25, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted final rules amending Regulation A. The new rules are often referred to as Regulation A+. These rules are designed to facilitate smaller companies’ access to capital. Regulation A+’s new rules provide investors with more investment choices and issuers with more capital raising options during their going public transactions. The rules adopting Regulation A+ are mandated by Title IV of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act.
Regulation A+ can be used in combination with direct public offerings and initial public offerings as part of a Going Public Transaction. The exemption simplifies the process of obtaining the seed stockholders required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority while allowing the issuer to raise initial capital. Read More
On March 25, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted amendments to Regulation A pursuant to the mandate of Section 401(a) of the JOBS Act. The amended rules known as Amended A+ were adopted to facilitate capital-raising by smaller companies. Regulation A+ expands existing Regulation A. Regulation A+ offerings can be used in combination with direct public offerings and initial public offerings as part of a going public transaction. The exemption simplifies the process of obtaining the seed stockholders required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) while allowing the issuer to raise initial capital enabling small companies to go public without a reverse merger.
Both public and private companies can use Regulation A+ but the exemption cannot be used by companies that are subject to the SEC’s reporting requirements. Regulation A+ may prove to be a popular exemption for private companies in going public transactions where the issuer seeks to ease into the public company reporting process without using a reverse merger. For years, small companies have been the victims of reverse merger purveyors because they had few options available for going public. Regulation A+ changes this by allowing companies to easily meet the requirements for going public with a direct public offering/DPO.
The final Regulation A+ rules amend Rule 262 to include bad actor disqualification provisions as adopted under Rule 506(d) of Regulation D. Consistent with the disqualification provisions of Rule 506(d), the final rules add two additional disqualification triggers to those existing in Regulation A.
The two new disqualification triggers are Securities & Exchange Commission cease-and-desist orders for violations of scienter-based anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws or the registration provisions of Section 5 of the Securities Act and the final orders and bars of certain state and other federal regulators.
The new additional disqualification triggers should strengthen investor protection from potential fraud in Regulation A+ offerings. The bad actor disqualification provisions in Regulation A+ will likely cause most issuers to restrict bad actor participation in their offerings. Issuers that are disqualified from using amended Regulation A may experience an increased cost of capital or a reduced availability of capital, which could have negative effects on capital formation. Disclosure of triggering events may also make it more difficult for issuers to attract investors and issuers may experience some or all of the impact of disqualification as a result. Some issuers may, accordingly, choose to exclude involvement in the Regulation A+ offering by prior bad actors to avoid providing damaging bad actor disclosures. Read More
Securities offerings are regulated by the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, (the “Securities Act”). Section 5 of the Securities Act requires that securities offerings be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) or be exempt from the SEC’s registration requirements. Private companies seeking to go public are often unaware of the SEC comment process. The SEC comment process applies to registration statements filed by companies who go public using an initial public offering (“IPO”) as well as to companies conducting a direct public offering.
On June 30, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced securities fraud charges and an asset freeze against the operators of a pyramid and Ponzi scheme falsely promising a gold mine of investment opportunity to investors in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking communities in Massachusetts, Florida, and elsewhere in the U.S.
The SEC alleges that DFRF Enterprises, and its founder Daniel Fernandes Rojo Filho, claimed to operate more than 50 gold mines in Brazil and Africa, but the company’s revenues came solely from selling membership interests to investors and not from mining gold. With the help of several promoters, they lured investors with such false promises as their money would be fully insured, DFRF has a line of credit with a Swiss private bank, and one-quarter of DFRF’s profits are used for charitable work in Africa. The scheme raised more than $15 million from at least 1,400 investors by recruiting new members in pyramid scheme fashion to keep the fraud afloat, and commissions were paid to earlier investors in Ponzi-like fashion for their recruitment efforts. The SEC charges allege that Filho has withdrawn more than $6 million of investor funds to buy a fleet of luxury cars among other personal expenses. Read More