Introduction to Private Placements

what distinguishes a public offering from a private placement

Introduction

SECLaw.com is the result of the work of securities attorney Mark Astarita, a national securities attorney who has represented broker-dealers, financial professionals, hedge funds, individual brokers and investors, across the country, for over 25 years. This article is not intended to be legal advice. If you are looking to raise capital, call our office for a consultation to see how we can help you or email Mark .

This document is not legal advice, and is intended solely for information and educational purposes. If you are contemplating a private placement, or any legal transaction, you should consult an attorney who can provide you with the advice that you need, for your specific circumstances. Securities law, and corporate finance, is not the area for novices to play. Incorrect documentation can have serious ramifications for all involved parties.

The term "private placement" as used in this text refers to the offer and sale of any security by a brokerage firm not involving a public offering. Private offerings are not the subject of a registration statement filed with the SEC under the 1933 Act. Private placements are done in reliance upon Sections 3(b) or 4(2) of the 1933 Act as construed or under Regulation D as promulgated by the SEC, or both. Regulation D, promulgated in 1982, sets forth certain guidelines for compliance with the Private Offering Exemption. Any registered representative who are involved in the private placement process are expected to have a working familiarity with Regulation D. Links to the various statutes and rules are in the law section of our site.

To qualify as a private placement, an offering by an issuer must meet either the requirement of Sections 3(b) or 4(2) of the 1933 Act as developed through SEC interpretation and court decisions or must follow the conditions set out under Regulation D of the 1933 Act. Persons claiming the exemption from the 1933 Act carry the burden of proving that its activities came within that exemption.

Regulation D

Overview

Regulation D is a series of six rules, Rules 501-506, establishing three transactional exemptions from the registration requirements of the 1933 Act.

Rules 501-503 set forth definitions, terms and conditions that apply generally throughout the Regulation. Specific exemptions are set out in Rules 504-506.

Rule 504 applies to transactions in which no more than $1,000,000 of securities are sold in any consecutive twelve-month period. Rule 504 imposes no ceiling on the number of investors, permits the payment of commissions, and imposes no restrictions on the manner of offering or resale of securities. Further, Rule 504 does not prescribe specific disclosure requirements. Generally, the intent of Rule 504 is to shift the obligation of regulating very small offerings to state "Blue Sky" administrators, though the offerings continue to be subject to federal anti-fraud provisions and civil liability provisions of the Exchange Act.

Rule 505 applies to transactions in which not more than $5,000,000 of securities is sold in any consecutive twelve-month period. Sales to thirty-five "non-accredited" investors and to an unlimited number of accredited investors are permitted. An issuer under Rule 505 may not use any general solicitation or general advertising to sell its securities.

Rule 506 has no dollar limitation of the offering. Rule 506 is available to all issuers for offerings sold to not more than thirty-five non-accredited purchasers and an unlimited number of accredited investors. Rule 506, however, unlike 504 and 505, requires an issuer to make a subjective determination that at the time of acquisition of the investment each non-accredited purchaser meets a certain sophistication standard, either individually or in conjunction with a "Purchaser Representative." Like Rule 505, Rule 506 prohibits any general solicitation or general advertising.

"Accredited Investor" is defined in Rule 501(a). The principal categories of accredited investors are as follows:

1) Directors, executive officers, and general partners of the issuer, including general partners of general partners in two-tier syndicating. (The term "executive officers" is more fully defined in the Regulation.)

(2) Purchasers whose net worth either individually or jointly with their spouse equals or exceeds $1 million. It is important to note that while there is no definition of "net worth" in Regulation D, the value of the purchaser's home is excluded in Section501(a)(5)(i)(A)

(3) Natural person purchasers who have "income" in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years and who reasonably expect an income in excess of $200,000 in current year (or $300,000, jointly with their spouse).

(4) A business entity will be treated as a single accredited investor unless it was organized for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, in which case each beneficial owner of the security is counted separately.

Section 201(a) of the JOBS Act required the SEC to remove the general solicitation prohibition under Rule 506, in the situations where all purchasers of the securities are accredited investors and the issuer takes reasonable steps to verify that the purchasers are accredited investors.

In September 2013, the SEC adopted paragraph (c) of Rule 506. Under Rule 506(c), issuers can offer securities through means of general solicitation, provided that:
  • all purchasers in the offering are accredited investors
  • the issuer takes reasonable steps to verify their accredited investor status, and
  • certain other conditions in Regulation D are satisfied.
Issuers wishing to engage in general solicitation take "reasonable steps" to verify the accredited investor status of purchasers. Rule 506(c) sets forth a principles-based method of verification which requires an objective determination by the issuer (or those acting on its behalf) as to whether the steps taken are "reasonable" in the context of the particular facts and circumstances of each purchaser and transaction. Among the factors that an issuer should consider under this principles-based method are: "
  • the nature of the purchaser and the type of accredited investor that the purchaser claims to be;
  • the amount and type of information that the issuer has about the purchaser; and
  • the nature of the offering, such as the manner in which the purchaser was solicited to participate in the offering, and the terms of the offering, such as a minimum investment amount.
In addition to this flexible, principles-based method, Rule 506(c) includes a non-exclusive list of verification methods that issuers may use, but are not required to use, when seeking greater certainty that they satisfy the verification requirement with respect to natural person purchasers. This non-exclusive list of verification methods consists of: Rule 506(b) remains unchanged following the adoption of Rule 506(c) and continues to be available for issuers that wish to conduct a Rule 506 offering without the use of general solicitation or that do not wish to limit sales of securities in the offering to accredited investors.
  • verification based on income, by reviewing copies of any Internal Revenue Service form that reports income, such as Form W-2, Form 1099, Schedule K-1 of Form 1065, and a filed Form 1040;
  • verification on net worth, by reviewing specific types of documentation dated

    within the prior three months, such as bank statements, brokerage statements, certificates of deposit, tax assessments and a credit report from at least one of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies, and obtaining a written representation from the investor;

  • a written confirmation from a registered broker-dealer, an SEC-registered investment adviser, a licensed attorney or a certified public accountant stating that such person or entity has taken reasonable steps to verify that the purchaser is an accredited investor within the last three months and has determined that such purchaser is an accredited investor; and
  • a method for verifying the accredited investor status of persons who had invested in the issuer's Rule 506(b) offering as an accredited investor before September 23, 2013 and remain investors of the issuer.

Additional Compliance Considerations Under Regulation D

The SEC has pointed out the following regarding Regulation D:
  1. Regulation D does not exempt offerings from the anti-fraud and civil liability provisions of the various federal securities laws.
  2. Further, Regulation D in no way relieves issuers of their obligation to furnish to investors whatever material information may be needed to make any required disclosures not misleading.
  3. Similarly, notwithstanding exemption from registration at the federal level, Regulation D in no way obviates an issuer's obligation to comply with applicable state law.
  4. Regulation D is interpreted as providing "transactional" exemptions to issuers only. An investor whose purchase was exempt from registration cannot resell his or her interest without establishing an independent basis of exemption.
  5. The three exemptions are not intended to be mutually exclusive, that a reliance on one exemption is not deemed to be an election to the exclusion of any other applicable exemption.
  6. Finally, the exemptions of Regulation D may not be claimed with respect to any plan or scheme to evade the registration provisions of the act.
Existing state securities regulations at times impose substantially more onerous limitations on issuers than Regulation D. Issuer's counsel must be consulted regarding the requirements of the securities law of each state in which an offering is going to be sold.

Form D

Notices, on Form D, are due within fifteen days after the first sale of securities in an offering under Regulation D. It will be prepared by Issuer's counsel.

Private Placement of Restricted Securities Outside Regulation D

The specific requirements to be satisfied in establishing an exemption under Section 4(2) for a private placement are not stated in that section of the Securities Act of 1933. By studying SEC interpretations and court decisions dealing with Section 4(2), the basic requirements which a private placement must meet can be determined. They are summarized below:
  1. All the offerees and purchasers must have access to the same kind of information concerning the issuer which would appear in an SEC registration statement, and these persons must be able to comprehend and evaluate such information. It must be kept in mind that any offer to an offeree who would not qualify, as well as a sale to a purchaser who would not qualify, may destroy the private placement exemption and result in a violation of Section 5 of the 1933 Act.
  2. The issuer and any parties acting for the issuer, including the broker-dealer, must take all reasonable steps to insure that the information given to the offerees and purchasers is complete and accurate. This is "due diligence." All information passed on in the course of the private placement, either orally or by memorandum (or offering circular), is subject to the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The fact that the offering memorandum is not reviewed by the SEC does not lower the standards for accuracy which would be applicable to any registered offering.
  3. All of the offerees must have access to meaningful current information concerning the issuer. The fact than an offeree has considerable financial resources or is a lawyer, accountant or businessperson, and thus may be considered sophisticated, does not eliminate the need for appropriate information to be made available.
  4. While there is no specific limitation on the number of offerees, the greater the number of offerees, the greater the likelihood that the offering will not qualify for the exemption. In this connection, a private placement cannot be the subject of advertising, general promotional seminars or public meetings in connection with the offering. This limitation does not preclude meeting with offerees to discuss the terms of the offer or to present information concerning the issuer or the offer. After the private placement has been completed, a general announcement (such as a tombstone ad) concerning it may be made if this is desired.
  5. Purchasers in a private placement must acquire the securities for investment and not for the purpose of further distribution. If the purchaser acts in such a manner so as to participate in distribution of the securities to the public, either directly or indirectly as a link between the issuer and the public, he or she will be deemed to be an underwriter and the selling broker-dealer and other participants in the distribution, including the issuer, will be in violation of Section 5 of the 1933 Act. Each of the purchasers must intend to acquire for investment at the time the securities are purchased. Whether or not investment intent was present will be determined from all the circumstances surrounding the acquisition. Such circumstances would include the financial capability of the purchaser to hold the securities for the long term and whether the purchaser signed a letter of investment intent. The amount of time the securities have been held (the holding period) is one of the factors in a hindsight determination that an investment intent existed at the time of purchase. A two-year holding period is deemed to be the bare minimum.
What is readily apparent from the foregoing is that current and accurate information about the offerees in a private placement transaction is absolutely essential for the making of judgments as to suitability, ability to evaluate an offering, and investment intent.

Private Placement Offering Memorandum

To meet the requirement of Regulation D or the requirements of Section 4(2) of the 1933 Act (the private placement exemption), the issuer is almost always required to make extensive disclosures regarding the nature, character and risk factors relating to an offering. The disclosure document often is labeled "Offering Memorandum" or given a similar title, which, in the normal course, is based upon information provided to counsel to the issuer. While a properly executed private placement is exempt from the registration provisions (i.e. Section 5 of the 1933 Act) of the federal securities laws, the transaction (and the disclosures made or a lack thereof) is subject to the anti-fraud provisions. If the offering memorandum is a particular private placement turns out to be materially misleading in terms of disclosures which have been made (or which should have been made), the broker-dealer and its principals may be deemed to have violated or aided or abetted violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws.

Source: www.seclaw.com

Category: Bank

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