NASDAQ And NYSE American Shareholder Approval Requirement – Equity Based Compensation — Laura Anthony Esq. article republished by Ronald Woessner

See article below of Laura Anthony, Esq. which originally  appeared at this link.

Information about Ms. Anthony and her law firm appears below following the article.

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NASDAQ And NYSE American Shareholder Approval Requirement – Equity Based Compensation

Nasdaq and the NYSE American both have rules requiring listed companies to receive shareholder approval prior to issuing securities when a stock option or purchase plan is to be established or materially amended or other equity compensation arrangement made or materially amended, pursuant to which stock may be acquired by officers, directors, employees, or consultants. Nasdaq Rule 5635 sets forth the circumstances under which shareholder approval is required prior to an issuance of securities in connection with: (i) the acquisition of the stock or assets of another company (see HERE); (ii) equity-based compensation of officers, directors, employees or consultants; (iii) a change of control (see HERE); and (iv) transactions other than public offerings (see HERE). NYSE American Company Guide Sections 711, 712 and 713 have substantially similar provisions.

In this blog I am detailing the shareholder approval requirements related to equity-based compensation of officers, directors, employees or consultants.  Other Exchange Rules interplay with the rules requiring shareholder approval for equity issuances and for equity compensation issuances in general.  For example, the Exchanges generally require a Listing of Additional Securities (LAS) form submittal at least 15 days prior to establishing or materially amending a stock option plan, purchase plan or other equity compensation arrangement pursuant to which stock may be acquired by officers, directors, employees, or consultants without shareholder approval.

Nasdaq Rule 5635(c)

Nasdaq Rule 5635(c) requires shareholder approval prior to the issuance of securities when a stock option or purchase plan is to be established or materially amended or other equity compensation arrangement made or materially amended, pursuant to which stock may be acquired by officers, directors, employees, or consultants, except for: (1) warrants or rights issued generally to all security holders of the company or stock purchase plans available on equal terms to all security holders of the company (such as a typical dividend reinvestment plan); (2) tax qualified, non-discriminatory employee benefit plans (e.g., plans that meet the requirements of Section 401(a) or 423 of the Internal Revenue Code) or parallel nonqualified plans (including foreign plans complying with applicable foreign tax law), provided such plans are approved by the company’s independent compensation committee or a majority of the company’s Independent Directors; or plans that merely provide a convenient way to purchase shares on the open market or from the company at market value; (3) plans or arrangements relating to an acquisition or merger as permitted under IM-5635-1; or (4) issuances to a person not previously an employee or director of the company, or following a bona fide period of non-employment, as an inducement material to the individual’s entering into employment with the company, provided such issuances are approved by either the company’s independent compensation committee or a majority of the company’s Independent Directors. Promptly following an issuance of any employment inducement grant in reliance on this exception, a company must disclose in a press release the material terms of the grant, including the recipient(s) of the grant and the number of shares involved.

NYSE American Company Guide Section 711

Substantially similar to Nasdaq, the NYSE American Company Guide Section 711 requires shareholder approval with respect to the establishment or material amendments to a stock option or purchase plan or other equity compensation arrangement pursuant to which options or stock may be acquired by officers, directors, employees, or consultants, except for: (1)  issuances to an individual, not previously an employee or director of the company, or following a bona fide period of non-employment, as an inducement material to entering into employment with the company provided that such issuances are approved by the company’s independent compensation committee or a majority of the company’s independent directors, and, promptly following an issuance of any employment inducement grant in reliance on this exception, the company discloses in a press release the material terms of the grant, including the recipient(s) of the grant and the number of shares involved; or (2) tax-qualified, non-discriminatory employee benefit plans (e.g., plans that meet the requirements of Section 401(a) or 423 of the Internal Revenue Code) or parallel nonqualified plans, provided such plans are approved by the company’s independent compensation committee or a majority of the company’s independent directors; or plans that merely provide a convenient way to purchase shares in the open market or from the issuer at fair market value; or (3) a plan or arrangement relating to an acquisition or merger; or (4) warrants or rights issued generally to all security holders of the company or stock purchase plans available on equal terms to all security holders of the company (such as a typical dividend reinvestment plan).

The NYSE American requires a listed company to notify the exchange in writing if it intends to rely on any of the exemptions.

Interpretation and Guidance

                Definition of Consultant

For purposes of this rule, a “consultant” is anyone for whom the company is eligible to use a Form S-8.  Accordingly, shareholder approval would be required for stock awards, plans or arrangements for the issuance of equity to: (i) natural persons; (ii) that provide bona fide services to the company; and (iii) whose services are not in connection with the offer or sale of securities in a capital-raising transaction, and who does not directly or indirectly promote or maintain a market for the company’s securities.

Adoption of Plans

A company may adopt an equity plan or arrangement, and grant options (but not shares of stock) thereunder, prior to obtaining shareholder approval provided that: (i) no options can be exercised prior to obtaining shareholder approval, and (ii) the plan can be unwound, and the outstanding options cancelled, if shareholder approval is not obtained. Companies should be aware of any accounting issues that may arise under these circumstances.

A company that has a plan in place at the time of listing on an Exchange would not be required to obtain shareholder approval for that plan, but would be required to obtain approval for future amendments.

                Material Amendments

For purposes of the rule, both Exchanges specifically indicate that a material amendment would include, but not be limited to: (i) any material increase in the number of shares to be issued under the plan, including sublimits (other than as a result of a reorganization, stock split, merger or spin-off); (ii) a material increase in benefits including repricing (such as lowering the strike price of an option) or extensions of duration (though a change in a vesting schedule without more is not material); (iii) a material expansion of the class of participants eligible for the plan; or (iv) an expansion of the types of options or awards under the plan, including value for value exchanges.

If a plan allows for the issuance of stock options, adding stock appreciation rights (SARs) to a plan would not be material as SARs are substantially similar to options. Similarly, if a plan allows for the issuance of restricted stock, adding restricted stock units (RSUs) would not be material.

An amendment to increase tax withholding associated with awards to satisfy tax obligations is not considered a material amendment. Likewise, allowing a recipient to surrender unissued shares to satisfy a tax obligation would not be considered a material amendment. Adding a cashless exercise feature is also not a material amendment.

Neither Exchange will require shareholder approval if the plan, by its own terms, allows for specific actions without further approval, including, for example, the re-pricing of options.  In order to rely on the ability to amend, the plan must be specific in the terms and actions that are allowed. A general authority to amend will not obviate the need for shareholder approval for what would otherwise be considered a material amendment.  Moreover, some pricing changes, such as changing the exercise price from the closing bid price on the day of grant to the average of the high and low market price on the same day, would not require a new approval.

However, if a plan has a formula that allows for automatic increases of the shares available under the plan (“evergreen plan”) or a formula for automatic grants, the plan cannot have a term in excess of ten years unless shareholder approval is obtained every ten years.  Plans that do not contain a formula and do not impose a limit on the number of shares available for grant would require shareholder approval of each grant under the plan.

As the rule specifically only applies to equity grants, awards or compensation and not cash, a company could buy back outstanding awards for cash without first seeking shareholder approval.

                Mergers

Plans or arrangements involving a merger or acquisition do not require shareholder approval in two situations. First, shareholder approval will not be required to convert, replace or adjust outstanding options or other equity compensation awards to reflect the merger transaction. Second, shares available under certain plans acquired in acquisitions and mergers may be used for certain post-transaction grants without further shareholder approval provided the plan had originally been approved by shareholders.

In particular, where a non-listed company is acquired by or merged with a listed company, the listed company may use shares for post-transaction grants of options and other equity awards without further shareholder approval, provided: (i) the time during which those shares are available for grants is not extended beyond the period when they would have been available under the pre-existing plan, absent the transaction, and (ii) such options and other awards are not granted to individuals who were employed by the granting company or its subsidiaries at the time the merger or acquisition was consummated.

Plans adopted in contemplation of a merger or acquisition will not be considered pre-existing for purposes of this exception. Where an evergreen plan is assumed in a merger, the ten-year period for shareholder approval is measured from the date the target company established the plan.

Any additional shares available for issuance under a plan or arrangement acquired in connection with a merger or acquisition would be counted in determining whether the transaction involved the issuance of 20% or more of the company’s outstanding common stock, thus triggering the shareholder approval requirements under Rule 5635(a) related to mergers and acquisitions.

Source of Shares

A requirement that grants be made out of treasury shares or repurchased shares will not alleviate shareholder approval requirements.

Inducement Exemption

The inducement exemption can only be used for employment, and not consulting, arrangements. However, in some circumstances the exemption may be relied upon to induce a consultant to enter into an employment arrangement. An exchange would consider all facts and circumstances related to the relationship. This exemption can only relied upon in connection with the initial inducement for employment. Accordingly, if an inducement award is materially amended, the amendment would require shareholder approval notwithstanding that the initial award did not.

Likewise, the determination of a “bona fide period of non-employment” requires a facts and circumstances analysis. Generally an exchange will consider: (i) whether there was a relationship between the company and former employee during the time of non-employment; (ii) whether the former employee received payments from the company during the period of non-employment; (iii) the reasons for ending the employment relationship; (iv) whether the former employee was employed elsewhere after leaving the company; and (v) whether there was an agreement or understanding that the employee would return to the company.

For purposes of the required press release disclosure, four days will generally satisfy the “promptly” requirement. A company can aggregate the disclosure of inducements where the inducements were made in connection with a merger or acquisition, or a company regularly offers such awards.  In that regard, a company can adopt a plan that will be used solely for inducements, without the necessity of shareholder approval.  However, inducement grants made to executive officers must always be individually disclosed.

Parallel Nonqualified Plan

parallel nonqualified plan means a plan that is a “pension plan” within the meaning of the ERISA Act that is designed to work in parallel with a qualified tax plan to provide benefits that exceed IRS compensation limitations. A plan will not be considered a parallel nonqualified plan unless: (i) it covers all or substantially all employees of an employer who are participants in the related qualified plan whose annual compensation is in excess the compensation limits; (ii) its terms are substantially the same as the qualified plan that it parallels except for the elimination of the limitations; and, (iii) no participant receives employer equity contributions under the plan in excess of 25% of the participant’s cash compensation.

Below Market Sales

The private sale of securities to officers, directors, employees or consultants at a price less than market value is considered a form of “equity compensation” and, as such, requires shareholder approval. For purposes of this rule, market value is the consolidated closing bid price immediately preceding the time the company enters into a binding agreement to issue the securities.  Shareholder approval would not be required if the officer, director, employee or consultant was purchasing securities from the company in a public offering.

Issuances to an entity controlled by an officer, director, employee, or consultant of the a company may also be considered equity compensation under certain circumstances, such as where the issuance would be accounted for under GAAP as equity compensation or result in the disclosure of compensation under Regulation S-K.

Broker Votes

Broker-dealers may not vote client proxies on equity compensation plans unless the beneficial owner of the shares has given voting instructions. That is, equity compensation plans are considered “non-routine” items prohibiting broker votes on behalf of their clients.

Foreign Private Issuers

Although the rule applies to foreign private issuers, if such issuer is otherwise following its home country practices in accordance with the Exchange rules, it can do so related to this shareholder approval requirement as well.

Consequences for Violation

This rule is strictly construed and, as such, all plans or material amendments to a plan, regardless of the number of shares under the plan or arrangement, require shareholder approval. Consequences for the violation of any of the Exchange’s rules, including shareholder approval rules, can be severe, including delisting from the Exchange. Companies that are delisted from an Exchange as a result of a violation of these rules are rarely ever re-listed.

The Author

The Author
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

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Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provide ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded public companies as well as private companies going public on the NasdaqNYSE American or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For more than two decades Anthony L.G., PLLC 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. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions, securities token offerings and initial coin offerings, Regulation A/A+ offerings, as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-3, S-8 and merger registrations on Form S-4; compliance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including Nasdaq and NYSE American; general corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Ms. Anthony and her firm represent both target and acquiring companies in merger and acquisition transactions, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. The ALG legal team assists Pubcos in complying with the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the small-cap and middle market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.comCorporate Finance in Focus. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

 

Equity Market Structure – Musings By The SEC; Rule 15c2-11 And Penny Stocks — Laura Anthony Esq. article republished by Ronald Woessner

See article below of Laura Anthony, Esq. which originally  appeared at this link.

Information about Ms. Anthony and her law firm appears below following the article.

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Equity Market Structure – Musings By The SEC; 15c2-11 And Penny Stocks

In March, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and Brett Redfearn, Director of the Division of Trading and Markets, gave a speech to the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University regarding the U.S. equity market structure, including plans for future reform. Chair Clayton begins his remarks by praising the Treasury Department’s four core principles reports. In particular, the Treasury Department has issued four reports in response to an executive order dated February 3, 2017 requiring it to identify laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record-keeping requirements, and other government policies that promote or inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system.

The four reports include thorough discussions and frame the issues on: (i) Banks and Credit Unions; (ii) Capital Markets (see my blog HERE); (iii) Asset Management and Insurance; and (iv) Nonbank Financials, Fintech and Innovation (see my blog HERE).

The executive order dated February 3, 2017 directed the Treasury Department to issue reports with the following objectives:

  1. Empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;
  2. Prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;
  3. Foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk and market failures, such as moral hazard and information asymmetry;
  4. Enable American companies to be competitive with foreign firms in domestic and foreign markets;
  5. Advance American interests in international financial regulatory negotiations and meetings;
  6. Make regulation efficient, effective, and appropriately tailored; and
  7. Restore public accountability within federal financial regulatory agencies and rationalize the federal financial regulatory framework.

Chair Clayton and Director Redfearn began with a review of the recently adopted SEC’s initiatives related to market structure. In particular, In 2018, the SEC: (i) adopted the transaction fee pilot; (ii) adopted rules to provide for greater transparency of broker order routing practices; and (iii) adopted rules related to the operational transparency of alternative trading systems (“ATSs”) that trade national market system (“NMS”) stocks. The new rules were designed to increase efficiency in markets and importantly provide more transparency and disclosure to investors.

Clayton and Redfearn then turned to the equity market structure agenda for 2019, which is focused on a review and possible overhaul to Regulation NMS. Regulation NMS is comprised of various rules designed to ensure the best execution of orders, best quotation displays and access to market data. The “Order Protection Rule” requires trading centers to establish, maintain and enforce written policies and procedures designed to prevent the execution of trades at prices inferior to protected quotations displayed by other trading centers. The “Access Rule” requires fair and non-discriminatory access to quotations, establishes a limit on access fees to harmonize the pricing of quotations and requires each national securities exchange and national securities association to adopt, maintain, and enforce written rules that prohibit their members from engaging in a pattern or practice of displaying quotations that lock or cross automated quotations. The “Sub-Penny Rule” prohibits market participants from accepting, ranking or displaying orders, quotations, or indications of interest in a pricing increment smaller than a penny. The “Market Data Rules” requires consolidating, distributing and displaying market information.

In recent roundtables on the topics of the market structure for thinly traded securities, regulatory approaches to combating retail fraud, and market data and market access, Chair Clayton and Director Redfearn realized the impact of Regulation NMS on these matters. Each of these topics were then addressed.

Thinly Traded Securities

Regulation NMS mandates a single market structure for all exchange-listed stocks, regardless of whether they trade 10,000 times per day or 10 times per day. The relative lack of liquidity in the stocks of smaller companies not only affects investors when they trade, but also detracts from the companies’ prospects of success. Illiquidity hampers the ability to raise additional capital, obtain research coverage, engage in mergers and acquisitions, and hire and retain personnel. Furthermore, securities with lower volumes have wider spreads, less displayed size, and higher transaction costs for investors.

One idea to improve liquidity is to restrict unlisted trading privileges while continuing to allow off-exchange trading for certain thinly traded securities.  Similar to market maker piggyback rights for OTC traded securities, when a company goes public on an exchange, other exchanges can also trade the same security after the first trade on the primary exchange. This is referred to as unlisted trading privileges or UTP.  Where a security is thinly traded, allowing trading on multiple platforms can exacerbate the issue. If all trading is executed on a single exchange, theoretically, the volume of trading will increase.

Moreover, institutions are particularly hampered from trading in thinly traded securities as a result of Regulation NMS. That is, the Regulation requires that an indication of interest (a bid) be made public in quotation mediums which indication could itself drive prices up. The risk of information leakage and price impact has been quoted as a reason why a buy-side trader would avoid displaying trading interest on an exchange in the current market structure.

Combating Retail Fraud (Rule 15c2-11; Penny Stocks and Transfer Agents)

The SEC has clearly been focused on retail fraud, and in particular with respect to micro-cap and digital asset securities, under the current regime.  The SEC has actively pursued suspected retail fraud and scams in the last few years with the bringing of multiple enforcement actions and imposition of trading suspensions.

In that regard, I was pleased to learn from the speech that the SEC intends to review Rule 15c-211. I’ve written about 15c2-11 many times, including HERE. In that blog I discussed OTC Markets’ comment letter to FINRA related to Rule 6432 and the operation of 15c2-11. FINRA Rule 6432 requires that all broker-dealers have and maintain certain information on a non-exchange traded company security prior to resuming or initiating a quotation of that security. Generally, a non-exchange traded security is quoted on the OTC Markets. Compliance with the rule is demonstrated by filing a Form 211 with FINRA.

The specific information required to be maintained by the broker-dealer is delineated in Securities Act Rule 15c2-11. The core principle behind Rule 15c2-11 is that adequate current information be available when a security enters the marketplace. The information required by the Rule includes either: (i) a prospectus filed under the Securities Act of 1933, such as a Form S-1, which went effective less than 90 days prior; (ii) a qualified Regulation A offering circular that was qualified less than 40 days prior; (iii) the company’s most recent annual reported filed under Section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act or under Regulation A and quarterly reports to date; (iv) information published pursuant to Rule 12g3-2(b) for foreign issuers (see HERE); or (v) specified information that is similar to what would be included in items (i) through (iv).

The 15c2-11 piggyback exception provides that if an OTC Markets security has been quoted during the past 30 calendar days, and during those 30 days the security was quoted on at least 12 days without more than a four-consecutive-day break in quotation, then a broker-dealer may “piggyback” off of prior broker-dealer information.  In other words, once an initial Form 211 has been filed and approved by FINRA by a market maker and the stock quoted for 30 days by that market maker, subsequent broker-dealers can quote the stock and make markets without resubmitting information to FINRA. The piggyback exception lasts in perpetuity as long as a stock continues to be quoted.  As a result of the piggyback exception, the current information required by Rule 15c2-11 may only actually be available in the marketplace at the time of the Form 211 application and not years later while the security continues to trade.

Rule 15c2-11 was enacted in 1970 to ensure that proper information was available prior to quoting a security in an effort to prevent micro-cap fraud.  At the time of enactment of the rule, the Internet was not available for access to information. In reality, a broker-dealer never provides the information to investors, FINRA does not make or require the information to be made public, and the broker-dealer never updates information, even after years and years. Moreover, since enactment of the rules, the Internet has created a whole new disclosure possibility and OTC Markets itself has enacted disclosure requirements, processes and procedures. The current system does not satisfy the intended goals or legislative intent and is unnecessarily cumbersome at the beginning of a company’s quotation life with no follow-through.

The entire industry agrees that 15c2-11 needs an overhaul and so again, I was very pleased that Chair Clayton and Director Redfearn acknowledge the issue. Chair Clayton has directed the Division of Trading and Markets staff to promptly prepare a recommendation to the SEC to update the rules. I hope that the SEC will review and consider the OTC Markets’ suggestions for modification of the rules, including (i) make the Form 211 process more objective and efficient (currently FINRA conducts a merit review as opposed to a disclosure review); (ii) Form 211 materials should be made public and issuers should be liable for any misrepresentations; (iii) Interdealer Quotation Systems should be able to review 211 applications from broker-dealers; and (iv) allow broker-dealers to receive expense reimbursement for the 211 due diligence process.

Chair Clayton and Director Redfearn also hit on penny stocks. Penny stocks are generally defined by Exchange Act Rule 3a51-1 as securities priced below $5.00. The world of penny stocks has taken a hit lately, with Bank of America and its brokerage Merrill Lynch exiting the space altogether (see HERE) and with a slew of enforcement proceedings against clearing firms that accept customer deposits of low-priced securities. Chair Clayton indicates that he has asked the SEC staff to review the sales practice requirements relating to penny stocks. Director Redfearn adds that the staff plans to re-examine the current exceptions from the definition of “penny stock” with a view of providing heightened protections for retail customers.

Unfortunately I think that the SEC groups a stock trading at $.01 with no current information as the same as an OTCQX or Nasdaq Capital Markets security trading at $1.50 that is current in all its SEC Reporting Obligations. Likewise, the SEC groups a zero-revenue OTC Pink no-information company with one with $10 million in annual revenues and consistent yearly growth. I agree 100% that there are companies in the micro-cap space that should not be there and are ripe for scammers and fraudulent activity, but there are also great companies that are supplying the lifeline of American jobs and economic growth. I am concerned about the current regulatory discrimination against all low-priced securities and hope that in its reviews and studies, the SEC staff recognizes the distinctions.

Director Redfearn also has his sights set on transfer agents, mentioning the 2015 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Concept Release on Transfer Agents – see HERE.  The goal is to move forward transfer agent rule making and to propose a specific rule related to the transfer agents’ obligations related to the tracking and removal of restrictive legends.

Market Data and Market Access

There are currently two main sources of market data and market access in the U.S. equity markets. The first is the consolidated public data feeds distributed pursuant to national market system plans jointly operated by the exchanges and FINRA. The second is an array of proprietary data products and access services that the exchanges and other providers sell to the marketplace. The second set generally are faster, more content-rich, and more costly than the consolidated data feeds.

The SEC is exploring improving the free data feeds issued by the exchanges and FINRA, including to improve speed, content, order protection and best execution, depth of information, governance, transparency and fair and efficient access to the information.

The Author

The Author
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

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Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provide ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded public companies as well as private companies going public on the NasdaqNYSE American or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For more than two decades Anthony L.G., PLLC 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. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions, securities token offerings and initial coin offerings, Regulation A/A+ offerings, as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-3, S-8 and merger registrations on Form S-4; compliance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including Nasdaq and NYSE American; general corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Ms. Anthony and her firm represent both target and acquiring companies in merger and acquisition transactions, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. The ALG legal team assists Pubcos in complying with the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the small-cap and middle market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.comCorporate Finance in Focus. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

 

SEC Rules For Disclosure Of Hedging Policies — Laura Anthony Esq. article republished by Ronald Woessner

Smaller reporting companies and emerging growth companies must comply with the new disclosure requirements in their proxy and information statements during fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2020. All other companies must comply in fiscal years beginning July 1, 2019. As foreign private issuers (FPI) are not subject to the proxy statement requirements under Section 14 of the Exchange Act, FPIs are not required to make the new disclosures.

New Item 407(i) of Regulation S-K will require a company to describe any practices or policies it has adopted regarding the ability of its employees, officers or directors to purchase securities or other financial instruments, or otherwise engage in transactions that hedge or offset, or are designed to hedge or offset, any decrease in the market value of equity securities granted as compensation, or held directly or indirectly by the employee or director. The disclosure requirement may be satisfied by providing a full summary of the practices or policies or by including the full policy itself in the disclosure.

The disclosure requirement extends to equity securities of parent and subsidiaries of the reporting company. The rules regulate disclosure of company policy as opposed to directing the substance of that policy or the underlying hedging activities. The rule specifically does not require a company to prohibit a hedging transaction or otherwise adopt specific policies; however, if a company does not have a policy regarding hedging, it must state that fact and the conclusion that hedging is therefore permitted.

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs stated in its report that Section 14(j) is intended to “allow shareholders to know if executives are allowed to purchase financial instruments to effectively avoid compensation restrictions that they hold stock long-term, so that they will receive their compensation even in the case that their firm does not perform.”

Background

Currently disclosure requirements related to hedging policies are set forth in Item 402(b) of Regulation S-K and are included as part of a company’s Compensation Discussion and Analysis (“CD&A”). CD&A requires material disclosure of a company’s compensation policies and decisions related to named executive officers. Item 402(b) only requires disclosure of hedging policies “if material” and only for named executive officers. Moreover, CD&A is not required at all for smaller reporting companies, emerging growth companies, closed-end investment companies or foreign private issuers.

Hedging transactions themselves may be disclosed in other SEC reports. For example, Form 4 filings by officers, directors and greater than 10% shareholders would include disclosures of hedging transactions involving derivative securities. Hedging transactions involving pledged securities would be included in disclosures related to the beneficial ownership of officers, directors and greater than 5% shareholders in SEC reports such as a company’s annual report, registration statements or proxy materials. However, there is currently no rule that specifically requires the disclosure of hedging policies and that encompasses all reporting issuers.

New Item 407(i) of Regulation S-K

The SEC determined that disclosure of hedging policies constitutes a corporate governance disclosure and, as such, should be contained in Item 407, keeping all corporate governance disclosure requirements in one rule. As indicated above, the final new Item 407(i) of Regulation S-K will:

• require the company to describe any practices or policies it has adopted, whether written or not, regarding the ability of employees, officers, directors or their designees to purchase financial instruments (including prepaid variable forward contracts, equity swaps, collars and exchange funds), or otherwise engage in transactions that hedge or offset, or are designed to hedge or offset, any decrease in the market value of company equity securities granted to the employee, officer, director or designee or held directly or indirectly by the employee, officer, director or designee;
• a company will be required either to provide a fair and accurate summary of any practices or policies that apply, including the categories of persons covered and any categories of hedging transactions that are specifically permitted and any categories that are specifically disallowed, or to disclose the practices or policies in full;
• if the company does not have any such practices or policies, require the company to disclose that fact or state that hedging transactions are generally permitted. Likewise, if a company only has a practice or policy that covers a subset of employees, officers or directors, they would need to affirmatively disclose that uncovered persons are permitted to engage in hedging transactions;
• specify that the equity securities for which disclosure is required include equity securities of the company or any parent, subsidiary, or subsidiaries of the company’s parent. Moreover, the disclosure is not limited to registered equity securities, but rather any class of securities;
• require the disclosure in any proxy statement on Schedule 14A or information statement on Schedule 14C with respect to the election of directors. Disclosure is not required in a Form 10-K even if incorporated by reference from the proxy or information statement; and
• clarify that the term “employee” includes officers of the company.

The essence of Item 407(i) is to disclose any allowable transactions that could result in downside price protection, regardless of how that hedging is achieved (for example, purchasing or selling a security, derivative security or otherwise). Accordingly, the rule specifically does not define the term “hedge” but rather is meant to cover any transaction with the economic effect of offsetting any decrease in market value.

Similarly, the Rule does not define the term “held directly or indirectly” but rather will leave it to a company to describe the scope of their hedging practices or policies, which may include whether and how they apply to securities that are “indirectly” held. To the extent that it is undefined or a person may not be covered based on the definition, again, a company would disclose that hedging is permitted as to those that are not covered.

The new Rule only requires disclosure of policies and practices and not hedging transactions themselves. CD&A requires material disclosure of a company’s compensation policies and decisions related to named executive officers. The new Rule adds an instruction to Item 402(b) related to CD&A such that the required disclosure can be satisfied by the new disclosure required by Item 407(i).

Section 14(j) specifically referred to any employee or member of the board of directors. The final rule clarified that officers are also covered in the disclosure. The Rule covers all employees, regardless of the materiality of their position. As the disclosure is about policies and practices, and does not mandate required policy or practice, the SEC saw no benefit in limiting the disclosure requirement to only certain covered persons. Consistently with the concept of allowing a company to define terms and scope in their adopted policies and practices, the definition and scope of “held directly or indirectly” will be left to a company to describe in its policy, if any, and associated disclosure.

The Author

The Author
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

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Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provide ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded public companies as well as private companies going public on the NasdaqNYSE American or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For more than two decades Anthony L.G., PLLC 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. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions, securities token offerings and initial coin offerings, Regulation A/A+ offerings, as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-3, S-8 and merger registrations on Form S-4; compliance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including Nasdaq and NYSE American; general corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Ms. Anthony and her firm represent both target and acquiring companies in merger and acquisition transactions, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. The ALG legal team assists Pubcos in complying with the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the small-cap and middle market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.comCorporate Finance in Focus. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

 

 

OTC Updated Pink Basic Disclosure Guidelines & Attorney Letter Guidelines — republished by Ronald Woessner

OTC Markets has updated the Pink Basic Disclosure Guidelines and the Attorney Letter Guidelines for companies and their attorneys that publish disclosure and financial information to the market through OTCIQ.com. See here for the information on the OTC website.

Federal securities laws, such as Rules 10b-5 and 15c2-11 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) as well as Rule 144 of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”), and state Blue Sky laws, require issuers to provide adequate current information to the public markets. With a view to encouraging compliance with these laws, OTC Markets Group has created these Pink Basic Disclosure Guidelines (“Guidelines”).[1] These Guidelines set forth the disclosure obligations that make up the “Alternative Reporting Standard” for Pink companies. These Guidelines have not been reviewed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or any state securities regulator, although OTC Markets Group as a matter of policy welcomes comments from these and other regulators. We use information provided by companies under these Guidelines to designate the appropriate tier in the Pink Market: Current Information, Limited Information or No Information.[2] The information provided by companies under these Guidelines is subject to our Privacy Policy.

These Guidelines may be amended from time to time, in the sole and absolute discretion of OTC Markets Group, with or without notice.

Qualifications for the Pink Current Information Tier

Companies that make the information described below publicly available on a timely basis (90 days after fiscal year end for Annual Reports; 45 days after each fiscal quarter end for Quarterly Reports) may qualify for the Current Information Tier. Financial reports must be prepared according to U.S. GAAP or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) but are not required to be audited.

Initial Qualification:

  1. Subscribe to the OTC Disclosure & News Service by submitting an OTCIQ Order Form.
  2. Create the following documents, save them in PDF format and upload them via OTCIQ.com (note financial statements may be included within a disclosure statement or included by reference):
  • Disclosure Statements: Disclosure information pursuant to these Guidelines for the company’s latest fiscal year end and each subsequent quarter for which reports are due. Disclosure statements should include all information in accordance with these Pink Basic Disclosure Guidelines (see the fillable form staring on Page 4).
  • Financial Statements: Annual and quarterly financial statements (including a balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and notes to financial statements) for the previous two completed fiscal years and each subsequent quarter. If the annual financial statements are audited, please attach the audit letter from the audit firm. Financial statements may be included within the disclosure statement for corresponding periods or posted separately and incorporated in the disclosure statement by reference.
  1. If financial statements are not audited by a PCAOB registered firm:
  • Attorney Letter Agreement: Submit a signed Attorney Letter Agreement (first two pages of the Attorney Letter Guidelines) to OTC Markets Group via email to issuers@otcmarkets.com or fax (212-652-5920).
  • Attorney Letter: After following the appropriate procedures with a qualified attorney, submit an Attorney Letter in accordance with the Attorney Letter Guidelines through OTCIQ.
  1. Allow OTC Markets Group to process the posted documents (typically three to five business days) and provide any comments.

Ongoing Qualification for the Pink Current Information Tier:

  1. For each Fiscal Quarter End, file a Quarterly Report through OTCIQ within 45 days of the quarter end. (A separate Quarterly Report is not required for the 4th) The Quarterly Report should include:
  • Disclosure Statement: Disclosure information pursuant to these Guidelines. Use the fillable form beginning on page 4.
  • Financial Statements: Quarterly financial statements (including a balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and notes to financial statements). 
  1. For each Fiscal Year End, file an Annual Report through OTCIQ within 90 days of the fiscal year end. The Annual Report should include:

 Disclosure Statement: Disclosure information pursuant to these Guidelines. Use the fillable form beginning on page 4.

  • Financial Statements: Annual financial statements (including a balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and notes to financial statements).
  • Attorney Letter: If the annual financial statements are not audited by a PCAOB registered firm, submit an Attorney Letter in accordance with the Attorney Letter Guidelines through OTCIQ within 120 days of the fiscal year end.

Qualifications for the Pink Limited Information Tier

Companies that make the information described below publicly available within the prior 6 months may qualify for the Limited Information Tier.

  1. Subscribe to the OTC Disclosure & News Service by submitting an OTCIQ Order Form.
  2. Create a Quarterly Report or Annual Report for a fiscal period ended within the previous 6 months, save it in PDF format and file through OTCIQ. The Quarterly Report or Annual Report must include:
  • Financial Statements: A balance sheet and income statement for a period within the previous 6 months. The financial statements must be prepared in accordance with US GAAP or IFRS but are not required to be audited.[3]
  • Outstanding Shares: The current number of outstanding shares from a period no later than the financial statements above.
  • A company in the Pink Limited Information tier may, but is not required to, include information in accordance with these Pink Basic Disclosure Guidelines using the fillable form beginning on page 4.

Current Reporting of Material Corporate Events

Companies are expected to release quickly to the public any news or information regarding corporate events that may be material to the issuer and its securities.  Persons with knowledge of such events would be considered to be in possession of material nonpublic information and may not buy or sell the issuer’s securities until or unless such information is made public. If not included in the issuer’s previous public disclosure documents or if any of the following events occur after the publication of such disclosure documents, the issuer shall publicly disclose such events by disseminating a news release within 4 business days following their occurrence and posting such news release through an Integrated Newswire or OTCIQ.[4]

Material corporate events include:

    • Entry into or termination of a material definitive agreement
    • Completion of an acquisition or disposition of assets, including but not limited to merger transactions
    • Creation of a direct financial obligation or an obligation under an off-balance sheet arrangement of an issuer
    • Triggering events that accelerate or increase a direct financial obligation or an obligation under an off-balance sheet arrangement
    • Costs associated with exit or disposal activities
    • Material impairments
    • Sales of equity securities
    • Material modification to rights of security holders
    • Changes in issuer’s certifying accountant
    • Non-reliance on previously issued financial statements or a related audit report or completed interim review
  • Changes in control of issuer
  • Departure of directors or principal officers; election of directors; appointment of principal officers
  • Amendments to articles of incorporation or bylaws; change in fiscal year
  • Amendments to the issuer’s code of ethics, or waiver of a provision of the code of ethics
  • Any changes to litigation the issuer may be involved in, or any new litigation surrounding the issuer
  • Officer, director, or insider transactions in the issuer’s securities
  • Disclosure regarding stock promotion campaigns deemed material by the issuer
  • Other events the issuer considers to be of importance

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An IPO Without The SEC — Laura Anthony Esq. article republished by Ronald Woessner

On January 23, 2019, biotechnology company Gossamer Bio, Inc., filed an amended S-1 pricing its $230 million initial public offering, taking advantage of a rarely used SEC Rule that will allow the S-1 to go effective, and the IPO to be completed, 20 days from filing, without action by the SEC.  Since the government shutdown, several companies have opted to proceed with the effectiveness of a registration statement for a follow-on offering without SEC review or approval, but this marks the first full IPO, and certainly the first of any significant size. The Gossamer IPO is being underwritten by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, SVB Leerink, Barclays and Evercore ISI. On January 24, 2019, Nasdaq issued five FAQ addressing their position on listing companies utilizing Section 8(a).  Although the SEC has recommenced full operations as of today, there has non-the-less been a transformation in the methods used to access capital markets, and the use of 8(a) is just another small step in a new direction.

Section 8(a) of the Securities Act

Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) provides for the effectiveness of registration statements and amendments.  In particular, the statute provides that a registration statement shall automatically go effective on the 20th day after its filing or such earlier date as the SEC may determine.  Section 8(b) gives the SEC the power to issue a stop order to prevent a registration statement from going effective in accordance under Section 8(a) if the registration statement is “on its face incomplete or inaccurate in any material respect.”

In practice, companies avoid the Section 8(a) effectiveness by adding language to their registration statements known as the “delaying amendment.”  The typical language for a delaying amendment is similar to the following:

The information in this preliminary prospectus is not complete and may be changed. We may not sell these securities until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is effective. This preliminary prospectus is not an offer to sell these securities and it is not soliciting an offer to buy these securities in any state or other jurisdiction where the offer or sale is not permitted.

… and with that provision, Section 8(a) is avoided.  A company then goes through a comment, review and amendment process with the SEC which ultimately results in the SEC informing the company that it has cleared comments.  A company then files a letter with the SEC, relying on another rule (Rule 461) requesting that the registration statement become effective.  Technically the request is that the SEC accelerate the effectiveness of the registration statement so that a company does not have to file a final amendment removing the “delaying amendment” language and adding Section 8(a) language and then waiting 20 days for the registration statement to go effective.

The reasons that Section 8(a) is not used in practice are twofold. The first is that a company and its attorneys, auditors and underwriters believe that there is too much risk of litigation associated with forgoing SEC review. If the registration statement disclosures are later shown to have shortcomings, the unusual lack of SEC review adds fuel to the plaintiff’s lawyer’s claims. However, the SEC does not conduct a merit review, but rather just reviews to determine if the disclosures comply with the rules and regulations. Not only does the SEC not pass on whether a deal is good or bad, but making a statement to the contrary is a criminal offense and Item 501 of Regulation S-K specifically requires a disclaimer on the subject with suggested language, to wit:

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or passed upon the adequacy or accuracy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

It seems that if a company has competent counsel and the underwriter has competent counsel, they can together review the disclosures to determine if they are accurate and complete. Moreover, the fact is that if the stock price goes way down, the company is likely to face an investor lawsuit anyway, regardless of what the SEC reviews or doesn’t review. Besides, risk factors are designed to warn investors of potential issues, and Gossamer did so with its newest SEC filing adding the following risk factor:

As a result of the shutdown of the federal government, we have determined to rely on Section 8(a) of the Securities Act to cause the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part to become effective automatically. Our reliance on Section 8(a) could result in a number of adverse consequences, including the potential for a need for us to file a post-effective amendment and distribute an updated prospectus to investors, or a stop order issued preventing use of the registration statement, and a corresponding substantial stock price decline, litigation, reputational harm or other negative results.

The registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part is expected to become automatically effective by operation of Section 8(a) of the Securities Act on the 20th calendar day after the most recent amendment of the registration statement filed with the SEC, in lieu of the SEC declaring the registration statement effective following the completion of its review. Although our reliance on Section 8(a) does not relieve us and other parties from the responsibility for the adequacy and accuracy of the disclosure set forth in the registration statement and for ensuring that the registration statement complies with applicable requirements, use of Section 8(a) poses a risk that, after the date of this prospectus, we may be required to file a post-effective amendment to the registration statement and distribute an updated prospectus to investors, or otherwise abandon this offering, if changes to the information in this prospectus are required, or if a stop order under Section 8(d) of the Securities Act prevents continued use of the registration statement. These or similar events could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline substantially, result in securities class action or other litigation, and subject us to significant monetary damages, reputational harm and other negative results.

The second is that the S-1, which will go effective after 20 days, must be totally complete, including pricing information.  In a traditional IPO or follow-on offering, the company does not file the final amendment with pricing information until the day it goes effective.  This allows a company to judge the market at the moment of sale to choose the best price, which is especially important in a firm commitment underwritten deal where the underwriter buys all the company’s registered stock in the IPO and immediately resells it to customers and syndicated broker-dealers.  A company also may get feedback during its roadshow, which typically occurs in the 10-15 days prior to effectiveness that affects pricing decisions.

Interestingly, Gossamer has decided to ignore these market factors and let the world know its believed value up front.  I’m actually not surprised at all.  This is just another way that capital markets are shifting.  There has been a recent rise in different methods of going public including direct public listings without an IPO (see HERE).

Nasdaq FAQ

On January 24, 2019, Nasdaq issued five FAQ addressing the listing of new companies during the government shutdown and the impact on already listed companies.  Nasdaq will list companies that had cleared comments, but whose registration statement had not yet been declared effective at the time of the shutdown.  Likewise if a company has substantially cleared comments, Nasdaq is willing to proceed with the listing under certain circumstances.  In particular, the company will have had to clearly address the outstanding comments and Nasdaq will require a representation from the company’s counsel and auditor that they believe all disclosure and accounting comments have been fully addressed.  Nasdaq will not list a company that has not yet received SEC comments or that first filed for its IPO during the shutdown.  Gossamer announced that it has applied for the Nasdaq Global Select Market and so it will likely amend its S-1 to allow SEC review.

Nasdaq will also allow certain up-listings from the OTC Markets to proceed as long as the company satisfies the listing requirement.  In particular, if the company only needs to file a registration statement under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), such as a Form 10 or Form 8-A, Nasdaq will allow it to continue. Keep in mind a registration statement under the Exchange Act does not involve the offer or sale of any securities.  However, if the up-listing involves an offering and the filing of a registration statement under the Securities Act, Nasdaq will review the application the same as a new IPO. That is, if the company has already cleared or substantially cleared comments, they may continue, if not, they will need to complete the SEC review process.

If a company is already listed on Nasdaq, they may proceed with a follow-on offering without SEC review.

Although the SEC is again operational, they will be backlogged, so presumably Nasdaq is still willing to proceed with certain companies without SEC action.  Companies that have already filed a registration statement without the delaying amendment and with the appropriate Section 8(a) amendment will likely proceed.  For those that had one or two unsubstantial comments left, they will need to assess which route will be the quickest, wait for the SEC to review the final comments or file a new fully completed registration using Section 8(a).  Of course, Nasdaq may issue updated FAQ altering their position on accepting these applications.

Continued Shifting Capital Markets

The rise of decentralized platforms and imminent change in how the capital markets function as a whole and the role of intermediaries in the process has opened the market’s view to relying less on the SEC’s input in their disclosures.  tZero is scheduled to launch its security token platform this week, introducing a new way in which securities, or fractional ownership interests in a company, can be bought and sold.  tZero is starting with launching its own securities tokens on the platform but will soon open up to third-party companies and reportedly already has applications from over 60 companies. tZero may be the first to launch, but it will not be the only and soon we will have independent markets competing with Nasdaq and the NYSE.  Moreover, the securities token markets will have sectors for private company markets and public company markets, blurring the current private equity silo with public trading.

Much more significantly, though, is that this is the first step in a retooling and complete change in how the clearing and settlement of securities functions (for more on the current clearing and settlement, see HERE and HERE).  The new blockchain technology will allow for instantaneous clearing and settlement, a big change from the current t+2 and sometimes t+3 settlement of today (thus the name tZero).  Notably, blockchain eliminates the need for a trusted intermediary, thus opening up the question as to the future role of DTC and its custodial arm, Cede & Co.

No regulator, the SEC or FINRA included, is ready for a complete disruption of the capital markets system, but they have been thinking about it for a while.  FINRA published a report on the implications of blockchain for the securities industry back in January 2017 (see HERE).  Furthermore, the SEC has reportedly told tZero, and presumably others following in their lead, that they will allow incremental changes in the market system.

This is a small concession considering that they will have no choice as the proverbial train has left the station.  tZero is launching a joint venture with Boston Options Exchange, which is one of 12 SEC-listed security exchanges which together comprise the National Market System network. The joint venture seeks to launch a marketplace able to deal in both public securities and digital tokens.  Nasdaq Financial Framework, a software company owned by the exchange, just closed a $20 million Series B funding round into Symbiont which is working to “give Nasdaq the ability to originate a financial instrument and the smart contract to custody it on a blockchain, to allow trading to occur with their matching engine, to allow surveillance to occur across the network using Nasdaq technology and then to perform settlement on a blockchain.”

Meanwhile, the SEC is clearly not against forgoing the comment and review process and relying on Section 8(a).  As it was shutting down, the SEC posted an FAQ on its website reminding companies that they can proceed to rely on Section 8(a) to effectuate their registration statements, and even providing the exact language that needs to be included in order to accomplish this.  In particular: “This registration statement shall hereafter become effective in accordance with the provisions of Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933.”   Even with the re-opening of the SEC, CorpFin will be exponentially backlogged compared to the time it was shutdown.  It will be interesting to see how the SEC handles the workload – perhaps in addition to simply foregoing comments on many filings, the SEC will continue to support the use of 8(a) on others, especially follow-on offerings completed for a company that has had a full review in the last few years.

The Author
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

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Mr. Woessner of Dallas, Texas is former Senior Counsel to the US House Financial Services Committee where he served as special advisor to former Committee Chairman  Jeb Hensarling on capital formation and fintech issues. He currently mentors, advises, and helps start-up and smaller-cap companies raise capital through Regulation Crowdfunding (CF) and other means. He also advocates in Washington DC for policies that create a more hospitable public company environment for smaller-cap companies, enhance capital formation, support small business, promote entrepreneurship, and increase upward mobility for all Americans, particularly minorities. Mr. Woessner, a certified Toastmaster, speaks and writes about US public and private capital markets topics and his articles are published by equities.com and elsewhere. You may contact him about a speaking engagement at Linked In here.

 

 

SEC Updates CDI Related to Smaller Reporting Company Definition — Laura Anthony, Esq. article republished by Ronald Woessner

See article below of Laura Anthony, Esq. which originally  appeared at this link.  Information about Ms. Anthony and her law firm appears below following the article.

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SEC Updates CDI Related to Smaller Reporting Company Definition

On June 28, 2018, the SEC adopted the much-anticipated amendments to the definition of a “smaller reporting company” as contained in Securities Act Rule 405, Exchange Act Rule 12b-2 and Item 10(f) of Regulation S-K.  For more information on the new rules, see HERE

Among other benefits, it is hoped that the change will help encourage smaller companies to access US public markets. The amendment expands the number of companies that qualify as a smaller reporting company (SRC) and thus qualify for the scaled disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X. The SEC estimates that an additional 966 companies will be eligible for SRC status in the first year under the new definition.

As proposed, and as recommended by various market participants, the new definition of a SRC will now include companies with less than a $250 million public float as compared to the $75 million threshold in the prior definition. In addition, if a company does not have an ascertainable public float or has a public float of less than $700 million, a SRC will be one with less than $100 million in annual revenues during its most recently completed fiscal year. The prior revenue threshold was $50 million and only included companies with no ascertainable public float. Once considered a SRC, a company would maintain that status unless its float drops below $200 million if it previously had a public float of $250 million or more. The revenue thresholds have been increased for requalification such that a company can requalify if it has less than $80 million of annual revenues if it previously had $100 million or more, and less than $560 million of public float if it previously had $700 million or more.

The SEC also made related rule changes to flow through the increased threshold concept. In particular, Rule 3-05 of Regulation S-X has been amended to increase the net revenue threshold in the rule from $50 million to $100 million. As a result, companies may omit financial statements of businesses acquired or to be acquired for the earliest of the three fiscal years otherwise required by Rule 3-05 if the net revenues of that business are less than $100 million.

The new rules did not change the definitions of either “accelerated filer” or “large accelerated filer.” As a result, companies with $75 million or more of public float that qualify as SRCs will remain subject to the requirements that apply to accelerated filers, including the accelerated timing of the filing of periodic reports and the requirement that accelerated filers provide the auditor’s attestation of management’s assessment of internal control over financial reporting required by Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. However, Chair Clayton has directed the SEC staff to make recommendations for additional changes to the definitions to reduce the number of companies that would qualify as accelerated filers.

Furthermore, the conforming changes include changes to the cover page for most SEC registration statements and reports including, but not limited to, Forms S-1, S-3, S-4, S-11, 10-Q and 10-K.  On November 7, 2018, the SEC made conforming changes to its Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI).

In particular, the SEC issued four new C&DI to reflect the impact of the larger size threshold for SRC status and withdrew four C&DI addressing transition issues for SRCs and two additional obsolete C&DI which still referred to the old Regulation S-B.

New C&DI 102.01 illustrates that, under the new amendments, companies can now be both accelerated filers and SRCs, which means that, as SRCs, they can use the scaled disclosure rules but, as accelerated filers, their periodic reports are due under the time frames for accelerated filers and they must provide Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404(b) auditor attestation reports in their 10-Ks. In an example, a company was an accelerated filer with respect to filings due in 2018 and had a public float of $80 million on the last business day of its second fiscal quarter of 2018. Because its public float at that measurement date was below $250 million, the company would qualify as an SRC for filings due in 2019; however, it would also need to file its 10-K within 75 days as an accelerated filer and would need to comply with Section 404(b).  Since the company was an accelerated filer with respect to filings due in 2018, it would be required to have less than $50 million in public float on the last business day of its second fiscal quarter in 2018 to exit accelerated filer status for filings due in 2019.

New C&DI 102.02 recaps the circumstances under which a reporting company that fails to qualify as an SRC can later re-qualify if its revenues or public float decreases. Once a reporting company determines that it does not qualify as a smaller reporting company, it will remain unqualified unless, when making a subsequent annual determination, either:

  • It determines that its public float is less than $200 million; or
  • It determines that:

(i) for any threshold that it previously exceeded, it is below the subsequent annual determination threshold (public float of less than $560 million and annual revenues of less than $80 million); and

(ii) for any threshold that it previously met, it remains below the initial determination threshold (public float of less than $700 million or no public float and annual revenues of less than $100 million).

The C&DI provides an example where the company had exceeded one of the caps, but not the other: “A company has a December 31 fiscal year end. Its public float as of June 28, 2019 was $710 million and its annual revenues for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018 were $90 million. It therefore does not qualify as a smaller reporting company. At the next determination date, June 30, 2020, it will remain unqualified unless it determines that its public float as of June 30, 2020 was less than $560 million and its annual revenues for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019 remained less than $100 million.”

New C&DI 202.01 provides that in calculating annual revenues to determine whether a company qualifies as a SRC as defined in Regulation S-K, the company should include all annual revenues on a consolidated basis.  As such, a holding company with no public float as of the last business day of its second fiscal quarter would qualify as a smaller reporting company only if it had less than $100 million in consolidated annual revenues in the most recently completed fiscal year for which audited financial statements are available.

New C&DI 104.13 confirms that a company that is transitioning from an SRC (in the example, the company qualifies as an SRC in 2019 but will no longer qualify in 2020 based on its public float on the last day of its 2019 second quarter) may still rely on General Instruction G(3) to incorporate by reference executive compensation and other disclosure required by Part III of Form 10-K into the 2019 Form 10-K from its definitive proxy statement to be filed not later than 120 days after its 2019 fiscal year-end.

The Author
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Mr. Woessner  mentors, advises, and helps companies in the start-up and smaller-cap company ecosphere raise capital.  He also advocates in Washington DC for policies that create a more hospitable public company environment for smaller-cap companies, enhance capital formation, support small business, promote entrepreneurship, and increase upward mobility for all Americans, particularly minorities. See here for more information on Mr. Woessner’s background.

 

 

The SEC’s Strategic Hub For Innovation And Financial Technology — republished by Ronald Woessner

See article below of Laura Anthony, Esq. which originally  appeared at this link.  Information about Ms. Anthony and her law firm appears below following the article.

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Responding to the growing necessity, in mid-October the SEC launched a Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology (FinHub). The FinHub will serve as a resource for public engagement on the SEC’s FinTech-related issues and initiatives, such as distributed ledger technology (including digital assets), automated investment advice, digital marketplace financing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. The FinHub also replaces and consolidates several SEC internal working groups that have been working on these matters.

According to the SEC press release on the matter, the FinHub will:

  • Provide a portal for the industry and the public to engage directly with SEC staff on innovative ideas and technological developments;
  • Publicize information regarding the SEC’s activities and initiatives involving FinTech on the FinHub web page;
  • Engage with the public through publications and events, including a FinTech Forum focusing on distributed ledger technology and digital assets planned for 2019;
  • Act as a platform and clearinghouse for SEC staff to acquire and disseminate information and FinTech-related knowledge within the agency; and
  • Serve as a liaison to other domestic and international regulators regarding emerging technologies in financial, regulatory, and supervisory systems.

Although I’m sure FinHub supports engagement in all FinTech areas, the website itself is broken into four categories: (i) blockchain/distributed ledger; (ii) digital marketplace financing; (iii) automated investment advice; and (iv) artificial intelligence/machine learning. Under each category the SEC has tabs with information such as regulations, speeches and presentations, opportunities for public input and empirical information.

                Blockchain/Distributed Ledger 

Blockchain and distributed ledger generally refer to databases that maintain information across a network of computers in a decentralized or distributed manner.  Blockchains are often used to issue and transfer ownership of digital assets that may be securities, depending on the facts and circumstances.

Clearly illustrating the need for regulatory initiatives, the “regulation, registration and related matters” tab under blockchain/distributed ledger is limited to public speeches, testimony and pronouncements, and enforcement actions, and not regulation (as none exists). Although certainly we in the community give public statements weight, they actually have no binding legal authority. The speeches, testimony and pronouncements that the SEC lists in this tab, and as such the ones that the SEC gives the most weight to, include (i) Chair Clayton’s testimony on virtual currencies to the Senate banking committee (see HERE); (ii) William Hinman’s speech on digital asset transactions (see HERE); (iii) statement on potentially unlawful online platforms for trading digital assets (see HERE); and (iv) remarks before the AICPA National Conference of Banks & Savings institutions (see HERE and HERE).

Providing more legal guidance are the enforcement proceedings. The SEC has provided a running list of all cyber enforcement actions broken down by category including digital asset/initial coin offerings; account intrusions; hacking/insider trading; market manipulation; safeguarding customer information; public company disclosure and controls; and trading suspensions.

Digital Marketplace Financing

Digital marketplace financing refers to fundraising using mass-marketed digital media – i.e., crowdfunding. In this category, the SEC includes traditional Title III Crowdfunding under Regulation CF and platforms for the marketing of Regulation D, Rule 506(c) offerings for the offering of debt or equity financing. Under the Regulation tab the SEC includes Regulation CF and the SEC’s Regulation CF homepage, including investor bulletins.

The SEC does not include a link to Rule 506(c) or Section 4(c) of the Securities Act, which provide an exemption for advertised offerings where all purchasers are accredited investors, and the platforms or web intermediaries that host such offerings, respectively. However, many securities token offerings are being completed relying on these exemptions from the registration provisions – in fact, more so than Regulation CF which is limited to $1,070,000 in any twelve-month period. In my opinion, this is a miss on the site layout.

This area of the FinHub website also provides a link to one of the first published SEC investor bulletins on initial coin offerings, including some high-level considerations to avoid a scam. Finally, this area provides a link to a Regulation CF empirical information page published by the SEC. Unfortunately I do not find the data to be user-friendly and could not determine how many, if any, Regulation CF offerings have included digitized assets or FinTech-related issuers.

Automated Investment Advice

Automated investment advisers or robo-advisers are investment advisers that typically provide asset management services through online algorithmic-based programs. Since their introduction, the SEC has been involved with regulating these market participants. Under this section, the SEC provides links to guidance related to robo-advisors.

Robo-advisers, like all registered investment advisers, are subject to the substantive and fiduciary obligations of the Advisers Act. However, since robo-advisers rely on algorithms, provide advisory services over the internet, and may offer limited, if any, direct human interaction to their clients, their unique business models may raise certain considerations when seeking to comply with the Advisers Act. In particular, the Advisors Act requires that a client receive information that is critical to his or her ability to make informed decisions about engaging, and then managing the relationship with, the investment adviser. As a fiduciary, an investment adviser has a duty to make full and fair disclosure of all material facts to, and to employ reasonable care to avoid misleading, clients. The information provided must be sufficiently specific so that a client is able to understand the investment adviser’s business practices and conflicts of interests. Such information must be presented in a manner that clients are likely to read (if in writing) and understand.

Since robo-advisors provide information and disclosure over the internet without human interaction and the benefit of back-and-forth discussions, the disclosures must be extra robust and provide thorough material on the use of an algorithm. The SEC’s guidance on the subject contains a fairly thorough list of matters that should be included in the client information.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

Machine learning and artificial intelligence refer to methods of using computers to mine and analyze large data sets. The SEC includes links to a few speeches and presentations under this tab. The SEC uses machine learning and AI in numerous ways, including market risk assessment and helping identify risks that could result in enforcement proceedings such as the detection of potential investment adviser misconduct.

Further Reading on DLT/Blockchain and ICOs

For a review of the 2014 case against BTC Trading Corp. for acting as an unlicensed broker-dealer for operating a bitcoin trading platform, see HERE.

For an introduction on distributed ledger technology, including a summary of FINRA’s Report on Distributed Ledger Technology and Implication of Blockchain for the Securities Industry, see HERE.

For a discussion on the Section 21(a) Report on the DAO investigation, statements by the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Enforcement related to the investigative report and the SEC’s Investor Bulletin on ICOs, see HERE.

For a summary of SEC Chief Accountant Wesley R. Bricker’s statements on ICOs and accounting implications, see HERE.

For an update on state-distributed ledger technology and blockchain regulations, see HERE.

For a summary of the SEC and NASAA statements on ICOs and updates on enforcement proceedings as of January 2018, see HERE.

For a summary of the SEC and CFTC joint statements on cryptocurrencies, including The Wall Street Journal op-ed article and information on the International Organization of Securities Commissions statement and warning on ICOs, see HERE.

For a summary of the SEC and CFTC testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs hearing on “Virtual Currencies: The Oversight Role of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” see HERE.

To learn about SAFTs and the issues with the SAFT investment structure, see HERE.

To learn about the SEC’s position and concerns with crypto-related funds and ETFs, see HERE.

For more information on the SEC’s statements on online trading platforms for cryptocurrencies and more thoughts on the uncertainty and the need for even further guidance in this space, see HERE.

For a discussion of William Hinman’s speech related to ether and bitcoin and guidance in cryptocurrencies in general, see HERE.

For a review of FinCEN’s role in cryptocurrency offerings and money transmitter businesses, see HERE.

For a review of Wyoming’s blockchain legislation, see HERE.

For a review of FINRA’s request for public comment on FinTech in general and blockchain, see HERE.

For my three-part case study on securities tokens, including a discussion of bounty programs and dividend or airdrop offerings, see HERE; HERE; and HERE.

For a summary of three recent speeches by SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, including her views on crypto and blockchain, and the SEC’s denial of a crypto-related fund or ETF, see HERE.

The Author
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

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Mr. Woessner  mentors, advises, and raises capital for companies in the start-up and smaller-cap company ecosphere.  He also advocates in Washington DC for policies that create a more hospitable public company environment for smaller-cap companies, enhance capital formation, support small business, promote entrepreneurship, and increase upward mobility for all Americans, particularly minorities. See here for more information on Mr. Woessner’s background.

Understanding Short Sale Activity by Cromwell Coulson OTC Markets Group — republished by Ronald Woessner

See below for an article by Cromwell Coulson, President, CEO and Director of OTC Markets Group, regarding “Understanding Short Sale Activity.”

Quality data is essential to well-functioning markets. Improving the availability, relevance and usefulness of data aligns with OTC Market Group’s mission to create better informed, more efficient financial markets.  In our experience, short selling remains one of the most highly-debated topics among academics, companies, investors, market makers and broker-dealers. As a market operator and company CEO, I believe it’s critical to address the misconceptions that still exist around short sale data and the correlation to a stock’s fundamental value.

Short selling, the sale of a security that the seller does not own, has long been a controversial practice in public markets.  Advocates for short selling believe it builds price efficiency, enhances liquidity and helps improve the public markets, while critics are concerned that it can facilitate illegal market manipulation and is detrimental to investors and public companies.  Given the diverse range of opinions and opposing views, we believe the first step is to take a deeper dive into the data and help separate out the noise.

“The Reliable” – FINRA Equity Short Interest Data

The most accurate measure of short selling is the data reported by all broker-dealers to FINRA on a bi-weekly basis.   These numbers reflect the total number of shares in the security sold short, i.e. the sum of all firm and customer accounts that have short positions.

This information is available on www.otcmarkets.com on the company quote pages.  As an example, OTC Markets Group has a few hundred shares sold short on average, which represents a fraction of our daily trading volume and shares outstanding.

OTC Markets Group (OTCQX: OTCM) SHORT INTEREST Data

DATE SHORT INTEREST PERCENTAGE CHANGE AVG. DAILY SHARE VOL DAYS TO COVER SPLIT NEW ISSUE
9/28/2018 97 11.49 5,551 1 No No
9/14/2018 87 8.75 4,423 1 No No
8/31/2018 80 100.00 6,818 1 No No
7/31/2018 103 -48.24 3,197 1 No No
7/13/2018 199 -27.64 2,124 1 No No
6/29/2018 275 166.99 3,239 1 No No
6/15/2018 103 24.10 2,739 1 No No
5/31/2018 83 -72.33 3,925 1 No No
5/15/2018 300 1.69 3,944 1 No No
4/30/2018 295 100.00 4,278 1 No No

FINRA Rule 4560 requires FINRA member firms to report their total short positions in all over-the-counter (“OTC”) equity securities that are reflected as short as of the settlement date. In 2012 FINRA clarified that firms must report short positions in each individual firm or customer account on a gross basis under FINRA Rule 4560. Therefore, firms that maintain positions in master/sub-accounts or parent/child accounts must calculate and report short interest based on the short position in each sub- or child account.

Since this data is part of a clearing firm’s books and records, it is of high quality and FINRA regularly inspects broker-dealer compliance with the rule.  Of course, it would be great if this data was collected and published daily (with an appropriate delay).

“The Misleading” – Daily Short Volume

In contrast, the most frequently misinterpreted data is the Daily Short Volume, sometimes referred to as Naked Short Interest.  This data shows the percentage of published trade reports (called media transactions in FINRA Rules) that were marked short.   As an example, the recent data for OTC Markets Group shows that up to 90% of the trading volume comes from short

selling on some days.   If we did not carefully track our bi-weekly Short Interest, we could easily be led to believe that short selling is rampant in our stock.

Historical Short Volume Data for OTC Markets Group (OTCQX: OTCM)

DATE VOLUME SHORT VOLUME PERCENTAGE of VOL SHORTED
Oct 18 3,341 1,399 41.87
Oct 17 5,989 3,198 53.40
Oct 16 16,120 7,509 46.58
Oct 15 24,155 12,991 53.78
Oct 12 6,297 4,914 78.04
Oct 11 4,059 1,553 38.26
Oct 10 2,185 999 45.72
Oct 9 7,473 4,556 60.97
Oct 5 880 525 59.66
Oct 4 492 200 40.65
Oct 3 2,041 801 39.25
Oct 2 4,786 1,560 32.60
Oct 1 3,973 2,607 65.62
Sep 28 244 23 9.43
Sep 27 882 805 91.27
Sep 26 259 189 72.97
Sep 25 3,085 2,250 72.93
Sep 24 967 571 59.05
Sep 21 2,350 825 35.11
Sep 20 7,164 6,453 90.08
Sep 19 297 202 68.01

 

Seeing the above data can be alarming for public companies and their investors, until they understand the inner workings of how dealer markets function and broker trades are reported—which render the data virtually meaningless.

Since this data also comes from FINRA, what gives?  The daily short selling volume is misleading because market makers and principal trading firms report a large number of trades as short sales in positions that they quickly cover. For market makers with a customer order to sell, they will temporarily sell short (which gets published to the tape as a media transaction for public dissemination) and then immediately buy from their customer in a non-media transaction that is not publicly disseminated to avoid double counting share volumes.  SEC guidance also mandates that almost all principal trading firms that provide liquidity at multiple price levels, or arbitrage international securities, must mark orders they enter as short, even though those firms might also have strategies that tend to flatten by end of day. Since the trade reporting process for market makers and principal trades makes the Daily Short Volume easily misleading, we do not display it on www.otcmarkets.com.

Making daily short reporting data easily-digestible and relevant is not hard. On the contrary, it should be easy to aggregate all of the short selling that is reported as agency trades, as well as all of the net sum of buying and selling by each market maker and principal trading firm.  This would paint a clear picture for investors of overall daily short selling activity. Fixing the misleading daily short selling data would bring greater transparency and trust to the market.

 “The Missing Piece”– Short Position Reporting by Large Investors

There is ample evidence that short selling contributes to efficient price formation, enhances liquidity and facilitates risk management.  Experience shows that short sellers provide benefits to the overall market and investors in other important ways which include identifying and ferreting out instances of fraud and other misconduct taking place at public companies.  That said, we agree with the New York Stock Exchange and National Investor Relations Institute that there is a serious gap in the regulation of short sellers related to their disclosure obligations.   We understand that well-functioning markets rely on powerful players who cannot be allowed to hide in the shadows.  Since we require large investors, who accumulate long positions, to publicly disclose their holdings, why aren’t there disclosure obligations for large short sellers?   This asymmetry deprives companies of insights into their trading activity and limits their ability to engage with investors.  It also harms market functions and blocks investors from making meaningful investment decisions.

One point is clear, we all need to continue to work collaboratively with regulators to improve transparency, modernize regulations and provide investors with straightforward, understandable information about short selling activity.  We want good public data sources that bring greater transparency to legal short selling activity as well as shine a light on manipulative activities.  All while not restricting bona fide market makers from providing short-term trading liquidity that reduces volatility.

SEC Proposed Rule Regarding Covered Investment Fund Research Reports – Summary by Ronald Woessner

On May 23, 2018, as directed by Congress pursuant to the Fair Access to Investment Research Act of 2017, the SEC proposed a new rule under the Securities Act of 1933.

If adopted, the proposal would establish a safe harbor for an unaffiliated broker or dealer participating in a securities offering of a “covered investment fund” to publish or distribute a “covered investment fund research report.” If the conditions for the safe harbor are satisfied, this publication or distribution would be deemed not to be an offer for sale or offer to sell the covered investment fund’s securities for purposes of sections 2(a)(10) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933.

The SEC also proposed a new rule under the Investment Company Act of 1940. This proposal would exclude a covered investment fund research report from the coverage of section 24(b) of the Investment Company Act (or the rules and regulations thereunder), except to the extent the research report is otherwise not subject to the content standards in self-regulatory
organization rules related to research reports, including those contained in the rules governing communications with the public regarding investment companies or substantially similar standards.

Public comments on the proposal were required to be submitted to the SEC on July 9, 2018.

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This is a reprint of an earlier posting at ronaldwoessner.com.

See Mr. Woessner’s biography at the link here.

Summary of FINRA and SEC Regulations — republished by Ronald Woessner from OTC Markets Website

See below for SEC and FINRA regulations that govern trading in securities quoted on OTC Link® ATS,  the OTC Markets SEC registered Alternative Trading System, reprinted from the OTC Markets website.

FINRA

Rule 2000 — Business Conduct

Rule 2010 — Standards of commercial honor and principles of trade

Rule 2020 — Use of manipulative, deceptive or other fraudulent devices

Rule 4320 — Short sale delivery requirements

Rule 4560 — Short interest reporting

Rule 5210 — Publication of transactions and quotations

Rule 5220 — Offers at stated prices

IM-5220.01 — Firmness of quotations

Rule 5250 — Payments for market making

Rule 5310 — Best execution and Interpositioning

Rule 5320 — Prohibition Against Trading Ahead of Customer Orders

Rule 6431 — Recording of quotation information

Rule 6432 — Compliance with the Information Requirements of SEC Rule 15c2-11

Rule 6433 — Minimum quotation size requirements for OTC equity securities

Rule 6440 — Trading and quotation halt in OTC equity securities

Rule 6450 — Restrictions on Access Fee

Rule 6460 — Display of Customer Limit Orders

Rule 6490 — Processing of Company-Related Actions

Rule 6600 — OTC Reporting Facility

Rule 6620 — Reporting Transactions in OTC Equity Securities and Restricted Equity Securities

Rule 7400 — Order Audit Trail System (OATS)

SEC

Section 3 — Definitions and applications

Rule 3a38 — Definition of ‘Market Maker’

Rule 3a51-1 — Definition of Penny Stock

Section 17B — Automated quotation systems for Penny Stocks

Section 12 — Registration requirements for securities.

Rule 12a-8 — Exemption of Depositary Shares

Rule 12b-2 — Definitions (includes the definition of a Depositary Share)

Rule 12d2-2 — Removal from listing and registration

Rule 12g-1 — Exemption from Section 12(g)

Rule 12g3-2 — Exemptions for American Depositary Receipts and certain foreign securities

Rule 12g-4 — Certification of termination of registration

Rule 12g5-1 — Definition of securities ‘Held of Record’

Rule 12g5-2 — Definition of ‘Total Assets’

Rule 12h-3 — Suspension of 15(d) reports

Rule 12h-4 — Exemption from 15(d) reports

Rule 12h-6 — Certification by a Foreign Private Issuer regarding the termination of registration of a class of securities under Section 12(g) or the duty to file reports under Section 13(a) or 15(d)

Rule 15c2-11 — Initiation or resumption of quotations without specific information

Rule 15g-“2 — Risk disclosure document relating to the OTC Market

Rule 15g-3 —Broker or dealer disclosure of quotations and other information relating to the OTC Market

Rule 15g-5 — Disclosure of compensation of associated persons in connection with Penny Stock transactions

Rule 15g-6 — Account Statements for Penny Stock customers

Rule 15g-9 — Sales practice requirements for certain low-priced securities

Rule 15g-100 — Schedule 15G: Information to be included in the document distributed pursuant to 15g-2.

For a complete list of all SEC and FINRA rules, please see:

SEC Rules — SEC.gov

FINRA Rules — FINRA.org