Last month, the Nasdaq quietly submitted a proposal to the SEC regarding Regulation A+. It is simple enough to quote: “Any Company listing on Nasdaq in connection with an offering under Regulation A of the Securities Act of 1933 must, at the time of approval of its initial listing application, have a minimum operating history of two years.” On April 18 the SEC published the proposal soliciting comments on the proposed rule change.
Last week I gave a talk at The Reg A Conference entitled, “Where Has Reg A+ Gone Right?” There are a number of good things to list since deal making began in earnest in July 2016 following dismissal of a court challenge to the Reg A+ rules. Almost 125 deals, averaging $10 million per deal, have been completed. About a dozen community banks and tons of real estate investment trusts have successfully gone public using Reg A+. And ten issuers got listed on Nasdaq or the NYSE, though unfortunately their stocks have not fared well generally. The SEC also approved allowing full reporting issuers to use Reg A+, particularly helping smaller OTC companies with an easier path to raising money. Cannabis companies, which generally are not able to list on the big exchanges, also have begun to see the benefit of Reg A+ to raise money in the over-the-counter markets without dealing with state “blue sky” merit review of their IPO.
The NYSE recently decided to pause taking new Reg A+ issuers, and the Nasdaq lately had been slow walking them. This proposed requirement to be operating two years to get a Nasdaq listing makes sense. Some (but not all) of the 10 exchange listed IPOs were pretty new companies. This may partially explain their challenge in building market support for their stocks. Newer companies can list over the counter initially then move up. If this encourages more use of Reg A+ and Nasdaq’s support of these listings, then this can be a positive step in the Reg A+ story, which is only in the first inning.
HR 2864, the “Improving Access to Capital Act,” passed the US House of Representatives on September 5, 2017 with a lopsided bipartisan vote of 403-3. The short bill directs the SEC to permit full Securities Exchange Act reporting companies to use Regulation A+ for a public offering. Previously, only non-reporting companies could utilize the new streamlined approach with unlimited testing the waters capabilities.
Some smaller companies trading in the over-the-counter markets have been contemplating suspending their SEC reporting obligations to be able to move forward with a Reg A+ offering. If this bill passes the Senate and is signed by Pres. Trump, that would no longer be necessary. The bill makes clear that the company would be deemed to satisfy the post-offering reporting obligations under Reg A+ so long as they continue with full quarterly and other reporting required of most Exchange Act reporting companies.
As a practical matter, this change would only help companies trading in the over-the-counter markets with under $75 million market capitalization, companies that went public in the last year or those that have not made recent filings on a timely basis, since all others have some ability to utilize short registration Form S-3, which is a very simple and quick process even compared with Reg A+. It also avoids the limits on the value of shares that can be registered on Form S-3 for smaller exchange listed companies. But help it would.
After years of (perhaps excessive) regulation aimed at promoting transparency and accountability, the JOBS Act, signed by the President and overwhelmingly passed by Congress, undoes many of these requirements for companies that have the least experience in providing appropriate information upon which an investor can base its investment decision. It may also open the gateway for investors who arguably aren’t armed with the financial knowledge to protect themselves – they may just put it all on red and let it ride.
Continue reading Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Companies Seeking Capital… The JOBS Act: A New Path to Prosperity or an Opening for Securities Fraud?