By Laura Anthony, Esq.
On June 6, OTC Markets filed a petition for rulemaking with the SEC requesting that the SEC amend Regulation A to expand the eligibility criteria to include all small issuers, including those that are subject to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) reporting requirements and to allow “at-the-market offerings.”
On March 25, 2015, the SEC released final rules amending Regulation A. The new Regulation A creates two tiers of offerings. Tier I of Regulation A, which does not preempt state law, allows offerings of up to $20 million in a twelve-month period. Due to difficult blue sky compliance, Tier 1 is rarely used. Tier 2, which does preempt state law, allows a raise of up to $50 million. Issuers may elect to proceed under either Tier I or Tier 2 for offerings up to $20 million. The new rules went into effect on June 19, 2015 and have been gaining traction ever since. Since that time, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance has issued periodic Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) to provide guidance related to Regulation A. I have previously written several articles on Regulation A and the C&DI. For a good review and summary, please see my blog HERE.
From inception, a Regulation A company could apply for a listing on the OTC Markets OTCQX Tier assuming it meets the qualifications. Elio Motors trades on the OTCQX. For a review of such qualifications, see my blog HERE. Unlike the OTCQX, generally a company that is not subject to the Exchange Act reporting requirements did not qualify for the OTCQB; however, effective July 10, the OTCQB has amended their rules to allow a Tier 2 reporting entity to qualify to apply for and trade on the OTCQB. My blog on the OTCQB rules related to Regulation A can be read HERE.
Whether trading on the OTCQX or OTCQB, keep in mind that unless the issuer has filed a Form 8-A or Form 10, they will not be considered “subject to the Exchange Act reporting requirements” for purposes of benefiting from the shorter 6-month Rule 144 holding period. For a short overview of Rule 144, see HERE.
Regulation A Eligibility – Reporting Issuers
As enacted, Regulation A is available to companies organized and operating in the United States and Canada. The following issuers are not eligible for a Regulation A+ offering:
- Companies currently subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act;
- Investment companies registered or required to be registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, including BDC’s;
- Blank check companies, which are companies that have no specific business plan or purpose or whose business plan and purpose is to engage in a merger or acquisition with an unidentified target; however, shell companies are not prohibited, unless such shell company is also a blank check company. A shell company is a company that has no or nominal operations; and either no or nominal assets, assets consisting of cash and cash equivalents, or assets consisting of any amount of cash and cash equivalents and nominal other assets. Accordingly, a start-up business or minimally operating business may utilize Regulation A+;
- Issuers seeking to offer and sell asset-backed securities or fractional undivided interests in oil, gas or other mineral rights;
- Issuers that have been subject to any order of the SEC under Exchange Act Section 12(j) denying, suspending or revoking registration, entered within the past five years;
- Issuers that became subject to Exchange Act reporting requirements, such as through a Tier 2 offering, and did not file required ongoing reports during the preceding two years; and
- Issuers that are disqualified under the “bad actor” rules and, in particular, Rule 262 of Regulation A+.
Although companies subject to the reporting requirement have been disqualified from day one, the SEC quickly issued guidance clarifying that Regulation A may be used by many existing “reporting entities” either because they voluntarily report (generally because they never filed a Form 8-A or Form 10 after an S-1 registration statement and the initial required reporting period has passed) or through a wholly owned subsidiary resulting in a complete or partial spin-off.
The SEC specifically provided that a company that was once subject to the Exchange Act reporting obligations but suspended such reporting obligations by filing a Form 15 is eligible to utilize Regulation A. The determination of eligibility is made at the time of the offering. Moreover, a company that voluntarily files reports under the Exchange Act is not “subject to the Exchange Act reporting requirements” and therefore is eligible to rely on Regulation A. In addition, a wholly owned subsidiary of an Exchange Act reporting company parent is eligible to complete a Regulation A+ offering as long as the parent reporting company is not a guarantor or co-issuer of the securities being issued.
Note: Original appeared on Legal & Compliance, LLC on 28 June 2016. Click HERE
Securities attorney Laura Anthony is the founding partner of Legal & Compliance, LLC, a corporate, securities and business transactions law firm. The firm’s experienced legal team provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded issuers as well as private companies going public on the NASDAQ, NYSE MKT or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For nearly two decades Legal & Compliance, LLC has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service. The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker-dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances.