Select Page

By Laura Anthony, Esq.

In October 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Economic and Risk Analysis issued a white paper study on unregistered securities offerings from 2009 through 2014 (the “Report”). The Report provides insight into what is working in the private placement market and has been on my radar as a blog since its release, but with so many pressing, timely topics to write about, I am only now getting to this one. The SEC Report is only through 2014; however, at the end of this blog, I have provided supplemental information from another source related to PIPE (private placements into public equity) transactions in 2015.

Private offerings are the largest segment of capital formation in the U.S. markets. In 2014 private offerings raised more than $2 trillion. The SEC study used information collected from Form D filings to provide insight into the offering characteristics, including types of issuers, investors and financial intermediaries that participate in offerings. The Report focuses on Regulation D offerings and in particular Rules 504, 505, 506(b) and 506(c).


A summary of the main findings in the Report includes:


  • In 2014, there were 33,429 Regulation D offerings reported on Form D filings, accounting for more than $1.3 trillion raised.
  • Issuers in non-financial industries reported raising $133 billion in 2014. Among financial issuers, hedge funds raised $388 billion, private equity funds raised $316 billion and non-pooled investment funds (such as banks, insurance companies and investment banks) raised $375 billion.
  • Foreign issuers accounted for 20% of the 2014 total. Most foreign issuers are based on Canada, the Cayman Islands or Israel.
  • Rule 506 accounts for 99% of all private offerings. Rule 506 was used 97% of the time for offerings below the Rule 504 and 505 limits, showing that Rule 506 is preferred regardless of the amount of the offering (I believe this is firmly as a result of the state law pre-emption in a 506 offering).
  • Since the effectiveness of Rule 506(c) on September 23, 2013, allowing for general solicitation and advertising, only a small portion of raises – i.e., 2% of the total or $33 billion – relied on this exemption.
  • Capital raised through private markets correlates with the strength of public markets. The strength of the private market is closely tied to the health of the public market.
  • The median offer size of non-financial issuers is less than $2 million, indicating that small businesses rely on private, unregistered offerings the most.
  • Approximately 301,000 investors participated in Regulation D offerings during 2014. A large majority of these investors participated in offerings by non-financial issuers (presumably because financial issuers relied on a small number of institutional investors). Non-accredited investors participated in only 10% of the offerings.


Background on private offerings

All offers and sales of securities must be either registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”) or made in reliance on an available exemption from registration. Public offerings generally must always be registered (with the exception of a Rule 506(c) offering) and private offerings can generally be completed in reliance on an exemption. The private offering rules have various investor restrictions (limits on sales to non-accredited investors), information requirements and/or offering limits to balance the competing directives of the SEC to assist with capital formation and protect investors.


SEC Study On Unregistered Offerings – Part I

The Report is organized by discussions on the overall private offering market; capital formation in the market for Regulation D offerings and characteristics of market participants.


The exemptions for private offerings are found in Sections 3 and 4 of the Securities Act. In particular, most private offerings are governed by Sections 4(a)(2), 3(b) and 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act. Rules 506(b) and 506(c) of Regulation D, Regulation S and 144A provide safe harbors under Section 4(a)(2). Section 3(b) provides the authority for Rules 504 and 505 of Regulation D. Section 3(a)(11) provides statutory authority for intrastate offerings.

Even after the JOBS Act, private offerings remain the biggest source of capital formation for small and emerging companies, which companies are the largest source for creating new jobs, driving innovation and accelerating economic growth. At $1.3 trillion raised in 2014, private offerings represented more than what was raised in public equity and debt offerings combined.

From 2009 – 2014, there were more than 64,000 offerings by small businesses with a median offer size of less than $2 million. Only 21% of private offerings reported using a financial intermediary such as a broker-dealer. For those that did use such a placement agent, the average commission size was 5%.

Although the Report was issued in October 2015, it only examines the private offering market through 2014. The Report indicates that the vast majority of offerings are completed under Rule 506(b) with Rule 506(c) being only a very small percentage.

The analysis in the Report takes into consideration factors that may affect an issuer’s choice of private offering exemption, including pre-emption of state securities laws, ability to advertise, ability to sell to non-accredited investors, limits on amount of capital raise, geographical constraints, and levels of required disclosure. The Report is organized by discussions on the overall private offering market; capital formation in the market for Regulation D offerings and characteristics of market participants. This blog maintains that order of discussion.


The size of the private offerings market

The SEC Report does not give complete information on the size of the private offerings market. The information in the Report is based on Form D filings, which does not necessarily include offerings relying on straight Section 4(a)(2) or Regulation S as neither of these require a Form D filing. Moreover, many issuers that rely on Regulation D neglect to file a Form D and accordingly, the market size is somewhat larger than as stated in the SEC report.

In 2014 registered offerings accounted for $1.35 trillion compared to $2.1 trillion raised in private offerings. As reported by the SEC, Regulation D and Rule 144A are the most common offering methods, being primarily equity and Rule 144A being primarily debt. The Report includes comparative information on registered offerings as well. During the years 2009-2014, registered debt offerings far outweighed equity offerings.


SEC Study On Unregistered Offerings – Part I

A private offering can be completed far quicker and with greater frequency than a public offering that is subject to SEC filings, comment process and effectiveness procedures.


The number of private offerings per year also far outweighs the number of registered offerings, though this is to be expected. A private offering can be completed far quicker and with greater frequency than a public offering that is subject to SEC filings, comment process and effectiveness procedures. As Regulation D is commonly used by smaller entities, it follows that there are significantly more of such offerings at smaller dollar values. Rule 144A, on the other hand, usually involves institutional investors at a much higher dollar amount and lower frequency. For instance, there were approximately 33,429 Regulation D offerings in 2014 compared to 1,534 Rule 144A offerings in the same year. In 2014 there were 1,176 registered public equity offerings and 1,576 registered public debt offerings.

The Report gives comparable information for each year from 2009 through 2014 as well. As a summary, 2010 was a very big year in the offering marketplace (both private and public), skewing the results somewhat, but other than that, the number of all offerings has increased year over year since 2009.


Click Here To Print- LC PDF Printout SEC Study On Unregistered Offerings


Note 1:  Read Part II of this Article. Click HERE
Note 2:  Original appeared on Legal & Compliance, LLC on 30 June 2015.   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.



Featured image: SEC via Flickr | Securities and Exchange Commission

Subscribe Now to Stay Updated

* indicates required