Investor Groups, Securities Lawyers, and Business Community Comment on the JOBS Act Reg D’s Investor Verification Process

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act’s Title II eliminates the general solicitation and general advertising ban for offers and sales of private offerings under 1933 Securities Act Rule 144A and Reg D Rule 506 as long as the offerings’ buyers are accredited investors. Now, five investor groups have written a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission recommending that when the regulator implements this change, it should “enhance the standards” that issuers have to adhere to when confirming that only accredited investors are buying the offerings. The groups are the Consumer Federation of America, Fund Democracy, AFL-CIO, Consumer Action, and Americans for Financial Reform. They believe that such enhancements are necessary because removing the ban will significantly decrease investor protections even as fraudulent behavior is likely to increase.

Right now, the SEC is in the process of writing rules for the new requirements that come with the statute. It has 90 days from April 5, when the JOBS act was enacted, to implement Title II. While under the statute’s Rule 506, the offerings’ issuers are required to take “reasonable steps” to confirm that buyers are accredited, Rule 144A issuers only have to “reasonably believe” that the buyers are qualified institutional purchasers. In their letter, the investor groups argued that Congress most certainly intended for the Commission to set up more rigorous the standards for identifying accredited investors. They are recommending that at the very least, the SEC substantially increase the Rule 506’s accredited investor standard for individual investors in each of the two most recent years to at least $400,000 in yearly income (up from at least $200,000) or $2.5 million in net worth, with the primary residence’s value subtracted (up from $1 million). They also said that the Commission should mandate that issuers that decide to engage in general solicitation and advertising file Form D in advance, enhance filing and recordkeeping requirements having to do with buyers’ accredited investor status, and think about excluding non-accredited investors from taking part in all Rule 506 offerings.

Offering different perspectives from these investors groups are securities lawyers and business groups. For instance, the National Investment Banking Association is pressing the SEC to make sure that any rule promulgated on the verification process is one that issuers of all sizes can meet. Meantime, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association wrote a letter to the SEC in April arguing that the steps that Title II requires shouldn’t create a greater burden than the existing “reasonable belief” standard of Rule 506. The American Bar Association Business Law Section’s Federal Regulation of Securities Committee said in its letter that what are considered reasonable steps should be determined by circumstances, facts, and the accredited investor category that applies. The group believes that the Commission’s rules should reflect existing practices and customs that take such factors into consideration.

Our securities attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP represents institutional and individual investors that have been defrauded or sustained other losses as a result of misconduct by members of the securities industry.

Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (PDF)

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SEC Investor Advisory Committee Members Warn the Commission Not to Neglect Its Rulemaking Duties Even While Working to Implement the JOBS Act, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 21, 2012

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