Articles Tagged with Rule 506

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Written by: Jay B. Gould

On September 23, 2013, the JOBS Act rules that roll back the 80 year old ban on the use of general advertising and public solicitation by issuers of unregistered securities will be a reality. At least it will be a reality for fund managers that do not rely on an exemption from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Private funds managers will decide over time whether they would like to avail themselves of the new rules, which will allow them to post performance numbers on their websites, talk openly about their funds on CNBC and Bloomberg, sponsor NASCAR events, and just generally be more open and transparent about their businesses. The responsibilities associated with these new rights are the requirements that the fund manager verify the accredited status of each investor, refrain from committing financial fraud, and file a revised Form D to indicate that the fund is following the new rules. Whether to use these new rules will be a tough call for many fund managers as they consider whether greater transparency provides a benefit for their specific business model. Hedge funds have often avoided the glare of public scrutiny, but the trade-off of building a more recognizable brand and more easily reaching potential investors could provide motivation for some fund managers to give these new rules a try.

But what happens if a fund manager is initially enamored of the new rules and decides to advertise generally, but later changes his mind? Can a fund manager go back to the old “pre-existing, substantial relationship” days, and how do you do that once the fund has been “generally offered” to the public? This could happen for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most prevalent would be that the manager reaches capacity in the fund in either assets, such as a quant fund, or investor slots, which would more likely be the case for a fund that relies on Section 3(c)(1) for its exemption from investment company registration. A fund manager in one of these situations may have originally liked the idea of generally advertising, but subsequently finds public solicitation of limited utility and not worth the potential added scrutiny from regulators and market participants.

If a fund commences an offering pursuant to Rule 506(c) using general solicitation, and later wants to go back and use the old rules, (i.e., rule 506(b)), the issue is one of integration. Rule 506(b) prohibits general solicitation; accordingly, the only way to stop using the public offering rules once a fund manager has done so, would be to wait a period of time so the rule 506(c) offering is not integrated with the rule 506(b) offering. Rule 502(a) of Regulation D provides for a safe harbor from integration so long as the selling effort of the earlier offering ceases for six months, and the fund does not commence a subsequent offering for 6 months after completion of the earlier offering. Therefore, a fund manager would need to cease the offering, file the Form D to indicate that the offering is over, and wait six months before commencing the “private” offering. A new Form D would need to be filed for the private offering under Rule 506(b) once that offering commences.

There is another way whereby fund managers could go straight from the public offering to the private offering without the six month cooling off period. It is possible that a fund manager could use the five factor test safe harbor of Rule 502(a) to avoid integration and commence a new private offering immediately. For most hedge fund managers, this would be fairly tough test to meet. The five factors that a fund would need to consider are as follows:

(a) Whether the sales are part of a single plan of financing;
(b) Whether the sales involve issuance of the same class of securities;
(c) Whether the sales have been made at or about the same time;
(d) Whether the same type of consideration is being received; and
(e) Whether the sales are made for the same general purpose.

In order to meet the requirements of the five factor test, the fund seeking to avoid integration would need to offer a different class of shares/interests, for a different investment purposes, with different terms and conditions. For many hedge fund managers, this will be a difficult standard to meet. So the bottom line here appears to be that you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again, he will just need six months in intensive care.

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Written by:  Jay B. Gould and Jessica Brown

On July 10, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) voted to lift the ban on general solicitation and advertising by private funds (and other private company issuers) as mandated by Congress in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (“JOBS Act”). In addition to lifting the ban on general solicitation, the SEC approved a disqualification rule that will prospectively prohibit any felon or “bad actor” from relying on Rule 506 exemptions. Finally, the SEC voted to propose amendments to the current private offering rules.

I.          New Rule 506(c) 

Summary

Rule 506(c), as adopted by the SEC, permits private issuers to use general solicitation and general advertising when making a securities offering, provided the issuer only sells to accredited investors.[1] Issuers must take affirmative and reasonable steps to verify that each investor is accredited under the Rule 501 definition, and cannot simply rely upon a representation from the investor.

Verification Rule

The burden now shifts to private fund managers to determine “reasonableness” when making a determination of an investor’s accredited status. In response to comments it received, the SEC has provided some ideas an issuer can consider when determining its verification procedures. The non-exclusive, non-required verification methods published by the SEC include: (i) review federal tax forms, (ii) confirm net worth through documentation, or (iii) obtain written confirmation from a registered broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, licensed attorney in good standing, or registered CPA.  Accordingly, private fund managers will be able to rely upon certain third parties to make a determination of accreditation.

Current Rule 506 Exemptions

Rule 506(c) does not modify or repeal any of the current Rule 506 exemptions and issuers may still rely on those exemptions as written.   Therefore, private fund managers that do not see the value in advertising or soliciting to the public, or find the conditions of the new rules too onerous, may continue under the current private offering regime and will remain subject to all of the same restrictions on communications with the public to which they are currently subject. 

Form D

The current Form D filing document will be amended to include a “check-the-box” option to designate if the issuer is relying on the new Rule 506(c) in its present offering.  For those private funds and other issuers that do intend to generally advertise, the SEC has proposed that a Form D would need to be filed with the SEC 15 days in advance of the offering and again within 30 days after the offering closes.  It is proposed that an issuer that fails to make these filings would be prohibited from using the public advertising rules in the future.

II.        Rule 144A

Similar to the changes to Rule 506, under the new rules, securities sold pursuant to Rule 144A may be “offered” to investors other than qualified institutional buyers, because information about such offerings would be made public by way of general advertising, but the securities may only be sold to investors the seller reasonably believes to be qualified institutional buyers.[2]

III.       Felons and “Bad Actors” Disqualification

The SEC unanimously adopted a rule that disqualifies certain felons and “bad actors” from relying on any Rule 506 exemption.[3] This disqualification will be effective sixty days after the publication of the final rules in the Federal Register. 

The SEC identified a number of events that would disqualify an issuer from relying on Rule 506, such as securities-related criminal convictions, court injunctions and restraining orders, final orders from regulators and agencies, certain SEC disciplinary orders, anti-fraud or registration-related cease-and-desist orders from the SEC, SEC stop orders, suspension or expulsion from membership or association with a self-regulated organization, or recent U.S. Postal Service false representation orders. 

However, much to the consternation of the lone dissenting Commissioner Luis Aguilar, this provision will not bar persons who have committed financial and other crimes in the past.  It will only bar such bad actors on a going forward basis. Presumably, the fact that a principal of an issuer is a convicted felon would be a material fact that would be required to appear in the offering materials of the issuer, and for private funds, this information would, in most cases, get picked up in the Form ADV of the fund manager.

IV.       What Happens Next

Timing

The effective date of Rule 506(c) and the disqualification rule is 60 days following the date the rule is published in the Federal Register. For an ongoing offering under Rule 506 that began before the effective date of Rule 506(c), the issuer may elect to continue the offering after the effective date in accordance with the requirements of either the current Regulation D rule or new Rule 506(c), which permits general solicitation and advertising.  Accordingly, if an issuer chooses to continue its offering under Rule 506(c), any general solicitations that take place after the effective date, will not impact the exempt status of offers and sales that took place prior to the effective date in reliance on Rule 506(b).

What Funds Can Do Now

After the effective date of Rule 506(c), private funds that are not otherwise disqualified from using the Rule 506 exemptions may begin advertising and soliciting generally. An issuer that chooses to advertise or solicit generally must put policies and procedures in place to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to verify that each purchaser is accredited and that no sales are made to non-accredited investors.

Limitations, CFTC Considerations and Fund Advertising

Since February 2012, when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) rescinded Rule 4.13(a)(4), most private funds have relied upon the de minimus exemption of Rule 4.13(a)(3) in order to be exempt from CFTC registration. Other funds that trade futures or other instruments that are subject to CFTC oversight above the de minimus threshold, avail themselves of the “registration lite” exemption in Rule 4.7, pursuant to which all fund investors must be “qualified eligible persons.”  However, both of these exemptions require that the fund securities must be offered and sold without any marketing to the public in the United States.  Therefore, until the CFTC acts to amend these exemptive rules on which many private fund managers rely, none of these private funds will be able to use the general solicitation provisions of new Rule 506(c).  The Managed Funds Association submitted an outline of proposed rule amendments to the CFTC that would harmonize the CFTC rules with the SEC’s JOBS Act rules, but it is uncertain when the CFTC will act on this matter.

For a discussion of these provisions, see this discussion on Bloomberg. 

Proposed Amendments to Regulation D, Form D and Rule 156

In connection with the approval of Rule 506(c), the SEC proposed amendments to Regulation D, Form D and Rule 156 under the Securities Act. These proposed “investor protection” amendments are intended to enhance the SEC’s ability to evaluate market changes, the nature of advertising used by issuers, the steps taken by the issuer to verify that all investors were accredited and the intended use of the proceeds of the sale. It is likely that these provisions will soon become part of the new Form D and be applicable to private fund managers that advertise or solicit to the public. 

Finally, fund managers and their compliance officers should familiarize themselves with the requirements of Rule 156, as it appears likely that this anti-fraud rule will soon apply to the sales literature and advertising produced by hedge fund and private equity funds.

Questions regarding new Rule 506(c), the CFTC rules, Rule 156 and other implications regarding this recent SEC action should be directed to your Pillsbury attorney contact.

 


[1] Rule 501 of Regulation D defines an individual as an “accredited investor” if they have individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, in excess of $1 million at the time of the purchase, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person, or with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year.

[2] Rule 144A defines “qualified institutional buyers” as certain institutions that own and invest at least $100 million in securities of issuers that are unaffiliated with the institutions, banks and financial institutions must also have a net worth in excess of $25 million. A registered broker-dealer qualifies if it owns and invests on a discretionary basis over $10 million in securities of issuers that are unaffiliated with the broker-dealer. 

[3] An issuer will be disqualified from relying on Rule 506 exemptions if any “covered person” has had a “disqualifying event.” The rule defines “covered persons” as: (i) the issuer, (ii) the issuer’s predecessors and affiliated issuers, (iii) directors and certain officers, general partners and managing members of the issuer, (iv) 20 percent beneficial owners of the issuer, (v) promoters, (vi) investment managers and principals of pooled investment funds, and (vii) persons compensated for soliciting investors as well as the general partners, directors, officers, and managing members of any compensated solicitor.