Category Archives: broker-dealer

New Blog Post at www.maylawpc.net on FINRA’s 2014 Exam Priorities

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Future Blog Entries Are At Firm Website, www.maylawpc.net

Dear Reader,

Thank You for Making Securities Law and Compliance so successful!

Future Blog Posts Will Be Located at www.maylawpc.net.

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SEC Adopts Rule to Disqualify Felons and other “Bad Actors” from Using Rule 506 of Regulation D in Connection with Private Placement Offerings.

 Bad-Boys, Bad-Boys What You Going to Do?

In lieu of doing a public offering of securities, companies issuing securities can rely on an exemption from registration.  Regulation D is one of those exemptions. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act.  That law specifically ordered the SEC to prohibit felons and other bad actors from utilizing Rule 506 of Reg. D to issue securities pursuant to the before-mentioned “safe harbor.”

Persons who are subject to the ban include promoters, directors, investment managers or those owning more than twenty percent (20%) of the issuer’s securities. The “bad boy” behavior that would prevent one from using Rule 506 of Reg D includes:

i)                   criminal convictions;

ii)                 injunctions and restraining orders related to securities;

iii)              final orders from other securities regulators, banking regulators and the CFTC;

iv)               SEC disciplinary orders, SEC “cease and desist” orders, and SEC “stop orders;”

v)                 suspension or expulsion of broker-dealers (B-Ds) or registered representatives from the NASD, FINRA, NYSE; and

vi)                U.S. Postal Service “false representation orders.”

The length of time for the bar on events listed above is either within five (5) or ten (10) years.

While the disqualification events listed above would have to occur after the effective date of the amended Rule 506, matters previously existing and that would otherwise fall under the rule, are subject to mandatory disclosure to investors. The amended Rule 506 becomes effective in mid-September.

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SEC Adopts Rule to Disqualify Felons and other “Bad Actors” from Using Rule 506 of Regulation D in Connection with Private Placement Offerings.

 Bad-Boys, Bad-Boys What You Going to Do? In lieu of doing a public offering of securities, funds issuing securities can rely on an exemption from registration.  Regulation D is one of those exemptions. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act.  That law specifically ordered the SEC to prohibit felons and other bad actors from utilizing Rule 506 of Reg. D to issue securities pursuant to the before-mentioned “safe harbor.” Persons who are subject to the ban include promoters, directors, investment managers or those owning more than twenty percent (20%) of the issuer’s securities. The “bad boy” behavior that would prevent one from using Rule 506 of Reg D includes:

i)                   criminal convictions;

ii)                 injunctions and restraining orders related to securities;

iii)              final orders from other securities regulators, banking regulators and the CFTC;

iv)               SEC disciplinary orders, SEC “cease and desist” orders, and SEC “stop orders;”

v)                 suspension or expulsion of broker-dealers (B-Ds) or registered representatives from the NASD, FINRA, NYSE; and

vi)                U.S. Postal Service “false representation orders.”

The length of time for the bar on events listed above is either within five (5) or ten (10) years. While the disqualification events listed above would have to occur after the effective date of the amended Rule 506, matters previously existing and that would otherwise fall under the rule, are subject to mandatory disclosure to investors. The amended Rule 506 becomes effective in mid-September.

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SEC Adopts Final Rule to Allow General Solicitation and Advertising by Issuers, Private Companies and Startups.

JOBS Act and Congress Force the SEC to Go “Down the Rabbit Hole” of Mass Marketing.

The SEC’s recent vote changes the rules on the marketing of so called private placements or those securities not involved in a public offering.

This changed an 80 year prohibition on so-called general advertising or general solicitation, which generally speaking amount to broader types of marketing. So long as the investments are only sold to accredited investors, there is now no need for a pre-existing personal or business relationship between the issuer’s principals, internal marketers and broker-dealers (BDs) selling the offering of stock or debt.

Generally speaking, an accredited investor is the one with more than a one million dollar net worth, excluding home equity or one having incomes above $200,000 for individuals and $300,000 for couples. According to the SEC, 7.4% of U.S. households meet the definition of accredited investor according to the net worth definition. Under the amended Regulation D, the issuer of the private securities can no longer satisfy the accredited investor qualification by a “check the box” response. Now, issuers must take steps that amount to “reasonable verification of income and/or assets.” Companies/start-ups can review tax returns to substantiate the purchaser’s income or get confirmation of a person’s net worth or income by obtaining it from a registered broker-dealer (B-D), registered investment adviser (RIA), licensed attorney or a CPA.  

The JOBS Act itself was passed in April 2012. The Congressional deadline for the SEC to implement the JOBS Act expired more than 1 year ago. Nevertheless, the SEC has implemented the changes that will now allow for certain crowd-funding- type features to be used by issuers of securities.

Hedge funds, venture capital and private equity funds seemed to have “sneaked passed the bouncer,” as the impetus behind the change according to the JOBS Act was ease of raising capital and thus boost employment. It remains doubtful that loosening the rules on marketing by hedge funds, venture capital and private equity funds will lead to any additional hiring. The change in the marketing rules amount to a “sea change” when one considers that last year, the amount of private capital raised in the U.S. was just under 900 billion dollars.

The new rule takes effect sometime in mid-September 2013.

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SEC Adopts Final Rule to Allow General Solicitation and Advertising by Hedge Funds, Venture Capital and Private Equity Funds.

JOBS Act and Congress Force the SEC to Go “Down the Rabbit Hole” of Mass Marketing.

The SEC’s recent vote changes the rules on the marketing of so called private placements or those securities not involved in a public offering.

This changed an 80 year prohibition on so-called general advertising or general solicitation, which generally speaking amount to broader types of marketing. So long as the investments are only sold to accredited investors, there is now no need for a pre-existing personal or business relationship between the issuer’s principals, internal marketers and broker-dealers (BDs) selling the offering of the fund.

Generally speaking, an accredited investor is the one with more than a one million dollar net worth, excluding home equity or one having incomes above $200,000 for individuals and $300,000 for couples. According to the SEC, 7.4% of U.S. households meet the definition of accredited investor according to the net worth definition. Under the amended Regulation D, the issuer of the private securities can no longer satisfy the accredited investor qualification by a “check the box” response. Now, issuers must take steps that amount to “reasonable verification of income and/or assets.” Issuers/Funds can review tax returns to substantiate the purchaser’s income or get confirmation of a person’s net worth or income by obtaining it from a registered broker-dealer (B-D), registered investment adviser (RIA), licensed attorney or a CPA.

The JOBS Act itself was passed in April 2012. The Congressional deadline for the SEC to implement the JOBS Act expired more than 1 year ago.  Nevertheless, the SEC has implemented the changes that will now allow for certain crowd-funding- type features to be used by issuers of securities.

Hedge funds, venture capital and private equity funds seemed to have “sneaked passed the bouncer,” as the impetus behind the change according to the JOBS Act was ease of raising capital and thus boost employment. It remains doubtful that loosening the rules on marketing by hedge funds, venture capital and private equity funds will lead to any additional hiring. The change in the marketing rules amount to a “sea change” when one considers that last year, the amount of private capital raised in the U.S. was just under 900 billion dollars.

The new rule takes effect sometime in mid-September 2013.

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A FRESH TAKE ON FINRA’s 2013 ON-SITE EXAMINATION and REGULATORY PRIORITIES

With First Quarter in the books, what more do we know?
As you may recall, on January 13, 2013, FINRA came out with its letter listing its concerns. In counseling several clients and participating in a fair number of “On the Record” (“OTR”) interviews, this post will provide greater insight than simply relisting the priorities.

A) Suitability of Complex Products

Perhaps the prevalence of these products has to do with the extraordinary low interest rate environment that we find ourselves. FINRA believes that if you cannot effectively communicate the requisite information to them about such products upon request then you cannot hope to explain this to the customers. While that may not be the case, it certainly is a widely shared view at FINRA.

B) Exchanged Traded Funds and Products

Do you know the difference between an exchange traded fund (“ETF”) and an exchange traded note (“ETN”)? What about a commodity pool or grantor trust? You may not have cared before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but now you should be able to explain the difference and the risk that certain products may not track the index that they are designed to follow.

C) Non-Traded REITs and Closed End Funds

On non-traded REITs, is the money paid from operations/investment or just return of principal? Are those stated prices accurate? For closed end funds, what sort of risk is taken on to juice returns and are distributions from investment return? All of the foregoing is fair game in an OTR!

D) Private Placements

FINRA now has Rule 5123; Securities Law and Compliance, previously covered this on December 12, 2012, and will be examining “due diligence procedures,” whether they are followed and documented and the disclosures of material risks of the offering. How are conflicts resolved between say investment banking and the end purchasers/customers?

E) The Not so “New” Suitability Rule and Customer Identification Procedures

This was covered in depth previously by Securities Law and Compliance in posts from February 10, 2013 and post from June 24, 2012.

My take away from the first quarter and the 2013 priority letter are:

  1. Can the registered representative fully explain the products features and risks? You sold the product to a customer so now you need to explain to FINRA how it works, and “no” you are generally not allowed to take the prospectus into this examination.
  2. Due diligence on private placements must be done even if one is not an underwriter and effective due diligence means asking questions and not simply accepting answers given.
  3. More and more suitability is being morphed into a test of understanding products’ features.

How do your firm’s practices, procedures and compliance program deal with the above insights and criteria? The time to act is now and not after FINRA shows up on your threshold unannounced and planning to stay for a several week “visit!”

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