Category Archives: Regulation A

Crowdfunding and the Trust Indenture Act of 1939

Handing over moneyThe Securities Act of 1933. The Exchange Act of 1934. The Investment Company Act of 1940. Those are the pillars of the U.S. securities laws, as relevant today as they were 80 years ago. And here’s one more old law relevant to Crowdfunding: the Trust Indenture Act of 1939.

Here’s the idea. A company issues its promissory notes (obligations) to a large group of investors. If the company defaults on one or two notes, it might not be financially feasible for those particular investors to take legal action. Even if the company defaults on all the notes it will be a mess sorting out the competing claims. Which investor goes first? If there is collateral, which investor has priority? At best it’s highly inefficient, economically.

The Trust Indenture Act of 1939 imposes order and economic efficiency. It provides that where a company issues debt securities, like promissory notes, it must do so pursuant to a legal document called an “indenture” and, most important, with a trustee, normally a bank, to represent the interests of all the investors together. The TIA goes farther:

  • It provides that the indenture document must be reviewed and approved by the SEC in advance.
  • It ensures that the trustee is independent of the issuer.
  • It requires certain information to be provided to investors.
  • It prohibits the trustee from limiting its own liability.

Why don’t Patch of Land and other Crowdfunding portals that issue debt securities comply with the TIA? Because offerings under Rule 506 are not generally covered by the law. Conversely, because Lending Club and Prosper sell publicly-registered securities (their “platform notes”), they are covered, and have filed lengthy indenture documents with the SEC.

The real surprise is with Regulation A+. If a Regulation A+ issuer uses an indenture instrument to protect the interests of investors then it will be subject to the TIA and its extensive investor-protection requirements. If the issuer does not use an indenture, on the other hand hand, it will not be subject to the TIA as long as it has outstanding less than $50 million of debt. That’s a strange result – giving issuers an incentive not to use an indenture even though indentures protect investors.

That’s what happens sometimes when you apply very old laws to very new forms of economic activity. Welcome to Crowdfunding.

Questions? Contact Mark Roderick at Flaster/Greenberg PC.

INTEGRATION OF REGULATION A+ OFFERINGS WITH OTHER OFFERINGS

Yesterday I spoke about Regulation A+ on a panel at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. One topic was whether offerings under Regulation A+ would be “integrated” with other offerings, including offerings under Title II.

The word “integration” describes a legal concept in U.S. securities laws, where two offerings that the issuer intends to keep separate are treated as one offering instead. For example, I raise $1 million in an offering under Rule 506(b), where I admit 19 non-accredited investors. Needing more money, I start another offering under Rule 506(b) a month later – and for the same project – and admit 23 more non-accredited investors. Wrong! The SEC says those two offerings are “integrated” and now I’ve exceeded the limit of 35 non-accredited investors.growth captial summit

Today, entrepreneurs can raise money under Title II Crowdfunding only from accredited investors. Under Regulation A+ they’ll be able to raise money from non-accredited investors as well, vastly expanding the potential investor base. Unlike a Title II offering, however, where accredited investors can invest an unlimited amount, an investor in a Regulation A+ offering, accredited or non-accredited, will be limited to investing 10% of his or her income or net worth.

The question naturally arises, why not do a Regulation A+ offering for non-accredited investors while at the same time doing a Title II offering for accredited investors, thus maximizing the amount raised from everyone?

The answer, unfortunately, is integration. The two offerings would be treated as one, and they would both fail as a result.

But along with that bad news, the integration rules under the proposed-but-not-adopted Regulation A+ regulations offer good news as well:

  • A Regulation A+ offering will not be integrated with an offering that came first. Thus, I can raise money in a Title II offering, accepting an unlimited amount from accredited investors, and the day after that offering ends conduct a Regulation A+ offering for non-accredited investors.
  • A Regulation A+ offering will not be integrated with an offering to foreign investors under Regulation S. The two can happen simultaneously.
  • A Regulation A+ offering will not be integrated with an offering that begins more than six months after the Regulation A+ offering ends.
  • A Regulation A+ offering will not be integrated with a Title III offering, even if they happen at the same time.

Another takeaway from the conference is that the SEC plans to finalize the proposed regulations under Regulation A+ by the end of the year (this year). Issuers and portals, get ready.

Questions? Contact Mark Roderick at Flaster/Greenberg PC.

OUR EXPERIENCE WITH REGULATION A – BY BEN MILLER, CO-FOUNDER OF FUNDRISE

To improve the user experience, I am inviting guest bloggers. The first is Ben Miller, a Co-Founder of Fundrise, who explains how he and his brother Dan invented Crowdfunding through Regulation A.

Please let me know if you would like to post. I’m looking for content like Ben’s – interesting, informative, educational.

-MARK RODERICK

____________________________________________________________________________________

By: Ben Miller, Co-Founder of Fundrise.

My brother Dan and I were in the real estate business for a long time, developing commercial and residential projects in the Washington, D.C. area, before we thought about crowdfunding. We got some of our capital from the same place many real estate developers get their capital: from investment funds in New York or even outside of the country.

Most of them had little connection to the places we were building and often had never even heard of the neighborhood. On the other hand, our friends and neighbors, people with real connection to the projects, couldn’t invest with us.

fundriseWe started to imagine a world where everyone could invest in high-quality real estate deals, which were then limited to professional investors. We thought about ordinary people investing in their own communities, creating a win-win for the community and business owners. Like every other developer, we’ve had our share of battles with local zoning agencies. We imagined how that process might change if actual investors from the community showed up at council meetings to support the project.

This was before crowdfunding or the JOBS Act were on the table, and every lawyer we spoke to (and we spoke to plenty) told us that our idea was impossible.

Finally we discovered SEC Regulation A. Although Regulation A had been around since 1936, before we came along it had been used very rarely, which probably explains why the lawyers hadn’t heard about it. In all of 2012 fewer than a dozen companies had used Regulation A to raise capital across the whole country, as compared to more than 7,000 Regulation D offerings.

We soon found out why. Although Regulation A allows you to raise money from anybody, including from non-accredited investors, first you have to file a disclosure document with the SEC and with the state securities regulators in any state where you offer the security, and get the regulators to approve your offering. Regulation A is nothing like the new Crowdfunding under SEC Rule 506(c), which is simple and streamlined by comparison.

Once we figured out how to file the disclosure document, which is really like a mini registration statement, we learned that neither the SEC nor the state regulators had ever seen a real estate development project offered under Regulation A. We spent hundreds of hours and way too much in legal fees working through all of the issues. We were literally doing something that had never been done in the history of the U.S. capital markets, and at the same time paving the way for everyone else.

After lots of work, lots of frustration, and lots of conversations with regulators, we succeeded. Our Regulation A filing was approved and we raised $325,000 for the project. I won’t even tell you how much it cost to raise that $325,000, but we were okay with it because we saw the experience then, and still do, as an investment in our future.

We have completed three Regulation A offerings since then. Each time we’ve gotten better and faster, not to mention that the regulators have learned along with us.

Here’s what it took to complete our most recent Regulation A offering:

reg a breakdown

Our most recent filing:

fedex

Fundrise has branched out since those early days. As the leading real estate portal in the world we offer not only Regulation A projects but Rule 506(c) investments under the JOBS Act. And we’re very excited about the new Regulation A+. Regulation A+ improves on Regulation A by allowing us to raise up to $50 million of equity from non-accredited investors (subject to a limitation on how much each person can invest) and further streamline the process by filing only with the SEC, and not with state securities regulators. Fundrise has always been a pioneer, and we expect to pioneer the possibilities of Regulation A+ as well as soon as it becomes available.

Whatever the future holds for Fundrise, and we believe our future is unlimited, we’ll always remember that Regulation A allowed us to open the door into the world of crowdfunding and give unaccredited investors the chance to invest in real estate for the first time in history.

Follow @BenMillerise and @Fundrise on Twitter.

 

CROWDFUNDING CHEAT SHEET

Crowdfunding now comes in multiple flavors:

  • Title II Crowdfunding – Rule 506(c)
  • Title III Crowdfunding
  • Title IV Crowdfunding – Regulation A+
  • Existing Regulation A
  • Rule 504 of Regulation

All have one thing in common:  the entrepreneur can use “general solicitation and advertising” to raise money.

But that’s all they have in common. They differ on such critical features as: 

  • Who is allowed to invest
  • How much money can be raised
  • Whether Internet portals can be used
  • How much each investor can investCFCS
  • The degree of SEC oversight
  • Whether foreign companies can participate

I’ve created a chart to keep it all straight – a Crowdfunding Cheat Sheet. The chart won’t
format properly here in the blog, so you’ll need to click here to view it. You might want to print it for future reference.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE CROWDFUNDING CHEAT SHEET 

This is my takeaway from the chart:

Of the five flavors of Crowdfunding that will soon be available, only Title II Crowdfunding and Regulation A+ Crowdfunding are likely to play a major role. Title III Crowdfunding – ironically, the only thing the media talked about when the JOBS Act was passed in 2012 – seems doomed to a non-speaking part, at least as long as the $1 million limit remains in place. Those satisfied with raising money from only accredited investors will probably look to the simplicity of Title II while those needing to cast a wider net will likely take the plunge into Regulation A+. As for Rule 504 and the old version of Regulation A – they’re history.

But it’s a brand new world in the capital markets, and impossible to predict.

 Questions? Contact Mark Roderick.

What IS REGULATION A, AND WHAT’S IT GOT TO DO WITH CROWDFUNDING?

As if companies and investors didn’t have enough letters and numbers to remember, in December the SEC issued proposed new rules under Regulation A. We already have Title II Crowdfunding under the JOBS Act and Title III Crowdfunding under the JOBS Act – these new rules can be thought of as Title IV Crowdfunding under the JOBS Act.

Putting the new rules in context, Regulation A has always allowed companies to use general solicitation to find investors. But the drawbacks of Regulation A were very significant: a company could raise no more than $5 million; issuers were required to file a mini-registration statement with the SEC; and offerings under Regulation A were subject to the labyrinth of state securities laws, i.e., “blue sky” laws in every state where the securities were offered. As a result, Regulation A has been used very rarely.

But Title IV of the JOBS Act directed the SEC to liberalize Regulation A. The rules proposed by the SEC on December 18, 2013 would do just that:

  • They would create a new kind of Regulation A offering – already referred to as Regulation A+.
  • In a Regulation A+ offering, an issuer could raise up to $50 million during any 12 months.
  • The issuer could use general solicitation and advertising to find investors, e.g., the Internet.
  • The issuer could sell to non-accredited investors, subject to a maximum investment of 10% of the investor’s income or net worth in Regulation A+ offerings.
  • Regulation A+ offerings would be exempt from registration or qualification under state blue sky laws.

That will be music to the ears of many issuers: finding investors through the Internet free of state regulation, selling to non-accredited investors, raising up to $50 million rather than the paltry $1 million allowed in Title III Crowdfunding.

The main drawbacks under the proposed rules:

  • Regulation A+ offerings require a mini-registration statement filed with the SEC before any sales are made, including audited financial statements.
  • Regulation A+ offerings require significant ongoing reporting to the SEC.

Neither Title II Crowdfunding nor Title III Crowdfunding requires a registration statement, mini or otherwise, and Title II Crowdfunding in particular is free of most reporting requirements.

Nevertheless, the benefits of Regulation A+ – the $50 million limit and the ability to sell to non-accredited investors – will make it attractive for many issuers, certainly an option to be considered.

The proposed rules are subject to a 60 day comment period.

Questions? Contact Mark Roderick at Flaster/Greenberg PC.

%d bloggers like this: