Tag Archives: limited liability company

Will Someone Please Offer Investment Advice For Crowdfunding?

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Very few retail investors have the skill to pick a great deal from a mediocre deal. I know I don’t, and I’ve been representing real estate developers and entrepreneurs my whole career.

Taking a cue from the public stock market, one way to address the retail market is to create the equivalent of a mutual fund for Crowdfunding investments. You would create a limited liability company to act as the fund, raise money from investors using Crowdfunding, and the manager would select investments from Crowdfunding portals.

Great idea conceptually, but it doesn’t work legally:

  • The LLC would, by definition, be an “investment company” under the Investment Company Act of 1940. As such, you would be prohibited from using Title III or Title IV to raise money for the fund.
  • You could use Title II to raise money for the fund, but as an investment company the fund would be subject to extremely onerous and costly regulation, e., the same regulation that applies to mutual funds. To avoid the regulation, you would have to limit the fund to either (1) no more than 100 accredited investors, or (2) only investors with at least $5 million of investments. In either case, you defeat the purpose.

But there is another way! A licensed investment adviser could offer investment advice with respect to investments in Crowdfunding projects and, for that matter, make the investments on behalf of his or her retail customers, charging an annual fee based on the amount invested. The adviser would allow each retail investor to effectively create his or her own “mutual fund” of projects based on individual preferences.

Not only would the investment adviser make money, the availability of unbiased advice would draw retail investors into the space – a win for the industry.

To quote Pink Floyd, is there anybody out there?

Questions? Let me know.

You Can Use Subsidiaries Without Violating the 100 Investor Rule

crowdfunding_investorEveryone knows the “100 investor rule” is a thorn in the side of Crowdfunding portals. The good news is you can still use subsidiaries to protect yourself from liability.

The basics of the 100 investor rule:

  • A company engaged in the business of investing in securities is an “investment company” and subject to burdensome regulation under the Investment Act of 1940.
  • A “special purpose vehicle” formed by a portal to invest in a portfolio company is engaged in the business of investing in securities.
  • There’s an exception: if the SPV has no more than 100 investors, it’s not an investment company.

Today, most deals on Crowdfunding portals are funded with fewer than 100 investors and qualify for the exception. But that’s because most Crowdfunding deals are still small, i.e., less than $2 million. As the deals get bigger and, most important, as we start to see pools of assets rather than individual assets, SPVs will no longer be available. Already, they’re not available for Regulation A+ deals.

In the absence of an SPV, investors will be admitted directly to the issuer’s cap table. But what if the issuer owns one or more subsidiaries? Will the issuer itself be disqualified as an investment company?

Here’s an example. Suppose NewCo is raising $25 million to acquire 10 properties, and we expect 1,000 investors. We’d like to put each property in a separate subsidiary because (1) we might want to finance them separately, and (2) we don’t want the liabilities arising from one property to leak into another property. But would that make NewCo an investment company, holding the stock (securities) of 10 subsidiaries?

Fortunately, the answer is No.

For purposes of deciding whether NewCo is an investment company, the rule is that you ignore securities issued by any company that NewCo controls, as long as the company itself is not an investment company.

That means NewCo can put Business #1 in Subsidiary #1, Business #2 in Subsidiary #2, and so on and so forth, without becoming an investment company. Most likely, NewCo will hold each property in a separate limited liability company, serving as the manager of each.

Don’t fool around with investment company issues. A company that becomes an investment company without knowing it can face a world of trouble, including having all its contracts invalidated.

Questions? Let me know.

 

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