On May 25, 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a rule to deny certain securities offerings from qualifying for exemption from registration if they involve “felons and other bad actors.”
When an individual or a company offers or sells a security such as a stock or bond, generally the offering must be registered with the SEC. However, the SEC’s Regulation D provides three exemptions that can used to avoid such registration. The most widely used exemption is Rule 506, which accounts for more than 90% of the offerings made, as well as the majority of capital raised. If an offering qualifies for the Rule 506 exemption, an issuer can raise unlimited capital from an unlimited number of “accredited investors” and from up to 35 non-accredited investors.
Section 926 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires the SEC to adopt rules that would deny this exemption to any securities offering in which certain “felons and other bad actors” are involved. This new rule is substantially similar to the bad actor disqualification provisions of another limited offering exemptive rule – Rule 262 of Regulation A – which provides for an exemption from registration for certain small offerings.
Under the proposed rule, an offering cannot rely on the Rule 506 exemption if the issuer or any other person covered by the rule (including the issuer’s predecessors and affiliated issuers, directors, officers, general partners and managing members of the issuer, 10% beneficial owners and promoters of the issuer, persons compensated for soliciting investors, and the general partners, directors, officers and managing members of any compensated solicitor) has had a “disqualifying event” identified as follows:
- Criminal conviction in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, making of a false filing with the SEC or arising out of the conduct of certain types of financial intermediaries. The criminal conviction would have to have occurred within 10 years of the proposed sale of securities (or five years, in the case of the issuer and its predecessors and affiliated issuers).
- Court injunction and restraining order in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, making of a false filing with the SEC or arising out of the conduct of certain types of financial intermediaries. The injunction or restraining order would have to have occurred within five years of the proposed sale of securities.
- Final order from state securities, insurance, banking, savings association or credit union regulators, federal banking agencies or the National Credit Union Administration that bar the issuer from: 1) associating with a regulated entity; 2) engaging in the business of securities, insurance or banking; 3) engaging in savings association or credit union activities, or 4) orders that are based on fraudulent, manipulative or deceptive conduct and are issued within 10 years before the proposed sale of securities.
- Certain commission disciplinary order relating to brokers, dealers, municipal securities dealers, investment companies and investment advisers and their associated persons, which would be disqualifying for as long as the order is in effect.
- Suspension or expulsion from membership in a “self-regulatory organization” or from association with an SRO member, which would be disqualifying for the period of suspension or expulsion.
- Commission stop order and order suspending the Regulation A exemption issued within five years before the proposed sale of securities; and
- U.S. Postal Service false representation order issued within five years before the proposed sale of securities.
The proposed rule would provide an exception from disqualification when the issuer can show it did not know and, in the exercise of reasonable care, could not have known that a disqualification existed. Any pre-existing convictions, suspensions, injunctions and orders would be disqualifying. For further information, see http://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/2011/33-9211.pdf