Category Archives: Pink Sheets

The JOBS Act and Foreign Private Issuers Going Public in the United States

The JOBS Act reduces many of the regulatory burdens on smaller companies that are filing an initial public offering (“IPO”) in the United States in order to go public on the OTC Bulletin Board or OTCMarkets. For a Foreign Private Issuer (“FPI”) that qualifies as an Emerging Growth Company, the JOBS Act allows for a streamlined IPO “on‐ramp” process that either avoids or defers some of the more costly SEC disclosure requirements.

The JOBS Act allows a Foreign Issuer that is also an Emerging Growth Company the option in certain cases to do the following when filing an F-1 Registration Statement:

  1. Confidential Submissions: An Emerging Growth Company is allowed in certain cases to submit a draft F-1 Registration Statement or a draft Form 20‐F to the SEC for confidential, nonpublic review prior to the public filing.
  2. Testing‐the‐Waters: An Emerging Growth Company is allowed to continue oral or written communications with qualified institutional buyers, (“QIBs”), and institutional accredited investors in order to gauge their interest in a proposed IPO, both before and after filing an F-1 Registration Statement.
  3. Research Report: A broker‐dealer can publish and distribute a research report about an Emerging Growth Company  without the research report being deemed an “offer” under the Securities Act whether or not the broker‐dealer is participating in the IPO.
  4. Audited Financials: An Emerging Growth Compay is required to present only Two (2) Years of audited financial statements with its F-1 Registration Statement.
  5. Auditor Attestation Report on Internal Controls: An Emerging Growth Company is exempt from the requirement to obtain an auditor attestation report on internal controls over financial reporting.

Securities Attorney for Foreign Companies Going Public in the United States

US securities attorney Matt Stout represents foreign companies going public in the United States via F-1 Registration Statement.  All securities legal representation is performed under an agreed upon flat fee, payable in stages, and defined under a written scope of work in an F-1 Engagement Agreement.

OTC Markets securities lawyer Matt Stout can introduce FPI’s to all other service providers needed in order to go public, including PCAOB Auditors, Transfer agents, EDGAR filers and Market Makers.

Management of Foreign Private Issuers considering an IPO in the US OTC Markets can contact Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. for a no cost consultation at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

 

How Does a Foreign Private Issuer Go Public in the United States?

Foreign Issuers File F-1 Registration Statements to Go Public in the US

A Foreign Private Issuer (“FPI”) that wants to raise capital in the United States publicly for the first time must register its shares on SEC Form F‐1. An F-1 Registration Statement is similar to a Form S‐1 filed by US domestic Issuers in that it requires detailed disclosures about the FPI’s business operations and financials.

An experienced US securities attorney can help a Foreign Issuer draft an F-1 and respond to all SEC comments efficiently under a flat fee.  Once the F-1 is declared Effective by the SEC, a securities attorney can recommend a Market Maker to sponsor the Foreign Issuer for a FINRA ticker symbol so that its securities can be quoted on the OTCMarkets OTCQB or OTC Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”).

What Types of Securities Can a Foreign Company Register in the United States?

A Foreign Issuer may offer any type of securities that a US domestic Issuer is allowed to offer. In addition, an FPI may choose to offer its securities using American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”). Most Foreign Issuers will choose to register their Common Stock in an F-1 Registration Statement, just like a US domestic Issuer.

Securities Lawyer for Foreign Companies Going Public in the United States

Management of Non US domiciled companies seeking to become publicly traded in the United States can contact OTC securities lawyer Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. to discuss the time frame and costs involved with going public on the OTC Markets or OTC Bulletin Board via F-1 Registration Statement.

Qualified Foreign Issuers can later uplist to the OTCQX, NASDAQ or NYSE MKT when appropriate.  Matt Stout can be reached at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com for a free consultation.

Selling Stock in Former Shell Companies Under Rule 144

Rule 144 is the most common exemption from registration of microcap stock, and is often cited by securities attorneys in legal opinions used to deposit restricted shares in OTCMarkets companies.

However, Rule 144 can never be used if the Issuer is currently a shell company.  If the Issuer is a former shell, Rule 144 can only be used by a shareholder if certain conditions apply.  These requirements for former shells are known informally as “The Evergreen Rule.”

What are the Requirements of the Evergreen Rule under Rule 144?

  1. The Issuer of the securities must have ceased to be a shell company;
  2. The Issuer must be “subject to” the reporting requirements of Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”).  This means the Issuer must be a “mandatory SEC filer” or “fully reporting.”;
  3. The Issuer must have filed all reports and other materials required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, during the last 12 months, other than Form 8-K reports; and
  4. The Issuer must have filed current ‘‘Form 10 information.”  This includes audited financials and could be done in a Form 10, but is more likely achieved in a combination of other SEC filings, including a “Super 8-K.”

If the foregoing requirements of the Evergreen Rule are met, then Rule 144 might be available, subject to all other applicable Rule 144 conditions, such as Affiliate status, and holding period.

Section 4(a)(1) Alternative to Rule 144 for Current and Former Shells

In many cases, the requirements of the Evergreen Rule cannot be met.  For instance, if an Issuer is currently marked a shell company, or if a former shell is delinquent in its SEC filings, then Rule 144 cannot be used.   If the securities are greater than Two (2) Years old, Section 4(a)(1) may offer a solution.

Requirements of Section 4(a)(1) Legal Opinions

Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. drafts Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions for shareholders who are not “issuers, underwriters or dealers.”   Because shell status is not an element of Section 4(a)(1), these legal opinions can issued for Non Affiliate shareholders in current shells or former shell companies.

Current information is also not an element of Section 4(a)(1), such that these opinions can also be drafted even when the Issuer is delinquent in its filings, and marked as a Yield Sign or Stop Sign at OTCMarkets.com.

Section 4(a)(1) is concerned with the shareholder, rather than the Issuer.   Section 4(a)(1) opinions cite case law extensively and are typically much longer than the average Rule 144 opinion, as they go into great detail when examining whether or not a shareholder can be classified as an issuer, underwriter, or dealer in securities.

Securities Attorney Drafting Section 4(a)(1) Opinion Letters for Shareholders

Shareholders with stock in current or former shell companies quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board or OTC Markets can contact OTC securities lawyer Matt Stout for a no cost review of their certificate and supporting documents at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

 

Broker and Finder Registration Under the Securities Act

Many transactions in the OTC Markets involve the work of Brokers, Finders and other Intermediaries serving as Consultants.  Microcap companies often engage consultants to assist in marketing, investor relations, raising capital and introducing or closing M&A transactions.

Most often, consultants are not registered broker-dealers with the SEC.  In many cases, registration as a Broker is not required.  However, depending on the language of the agreements, how consultants are paid, and the actual work performed, there may be occasions when SEC registration is either advisable or mandated under the Securities Act.

Who Must Register with the SEC as a Broker?

Section 3(a)(4)(A) of the Securities Act of 1933 defines a “Broker” broadly as “any person engaged in the business of effecting transactions in securities for the account of others.”

Examples of Persons Who May Need to Register as a Broker

In its Guide to Broker Dealer Registration, the SEC provides examples of certain individuals or businesses that may need to register under the Securities Act.  In typical microcap OTC Markets transactions, these may include “Finders” or “Consultants” if their activities include the following:

  1. Finding investors or clients for registered broker-dealers, investment companies (or mutual funds, including hedge funds) or other securities intermediaries;
  2. Making referrals to registered broker-dealers, investment companies, etc., or splitting commissions with them;
  3. Finding investment banking clients for registered broker-dealers;
  4. Finding Investors for “Issuers”, even in a consulting role;
  5. Engaging in, or finding investors for, venture capital or “angel” financing rounds, including private placements (PPMs);
  6. Finding buyers and sellers of businesses in reverse merger or acquisition transactions when the sale of securities (debt or equity) is involved;
  7. Acting as “Placement Agents” for private placements of securities;

How to Tell if a Finder Should Be Registered as a Broker with the SEC

If consultant fits into one of the examples above,  the SEC looks at the actions or duties the person or business actually performs to determine if registration as a Broker is necessary.  Some of the questions the SEC considers when examining the conduct of Finders or consultants include:

  1. Does the consultant participate in the solicitation, negotiation, or execution of the securities transaction?
  2. Does the consultant’s compensation depend upon, or is it determined by the outcome or size of the transaction or deal?
  3. Does the consultant receive trailing commissions, such as 12b-1 fees?
  4. Does the consultant receive any other transaction-related compensation?
  5. Is the consultant engaged in the business of effecting or facilitating securities transactions or is this a one-time deal?
  6. Does the consultant handle the securities or funds of others in connection with securities transactions?

According to the SEC’s compliance guidelines, if a consultant answers “yes” to any of these questions, they may need to register as a Broker.

Brokers Generally Must Register with the SEC under Section 15(a)(1)

Section 15(a)(1) of the Securities Act generally makes it unlawful for any Broker to “effect any transactions in, or to induce or attempt to induce the purchase or sale of, any security” unless that Broker or dealer is registered with the SEC under Section 15(b) of the Securities Act.

Microcap Securities Attorney Matt Stout

OTC Bulletin Board and Pink Sheet Issuers and Consultants seeking compliance with SEC guidelines can contact securities regulation lawyer Matt Stout for a review of business practices, as well as existing contracts and agreements to determine if registration as a Broker under Section 15(b) is necessary at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

SEC Adopts Amendments to Implement JOBS Act and FAST Act Changes for Exchange Act Registration Requirements

The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved amendments to revise the thresholds for registration of securities, termination of registration, and suspension of reporting obligations under Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

How Do the Amendments Affect SEC Reporting Companies?

For the majority of microcap OTC Bulletin Board and OTC Markets public companies, the practical effect of these amendments make it easier for delinquent SEC reporting companies which are facing de-registration to file SEC Form 15 in order to become Current Pink Sheets on OTCMarkets.com under the Alternative Reporting Standard.

What are the JOBS Act Amendments to Exchange Act Rules 12g?

The Commission approved final rules to implement the JOBS Act and FAST Act by:

  1. Amending Exchange Act Rules 12g-1 through 12g-4 and 12h-3, governing registration and termination of registration under Section 12(g), and suspension of Section 15(d) reporting obligations, to reflect new thresholds established by the JOBS Act and the FAST Act.
  2. Using the definition of “accredited investor” in Securities Act Rule 501(a) to determine which record holders are accredited investors for purposes of Exchange Act Section 12(g)(1).
  3. Allowing the Issuer to make the accredited investor determination as of the last day of its fiscal year.

New Thresholds for Assets and Number of Shareholders of Record

As a result of JOBS Act and FAST Act changes, an Issuer that is not a bank, bank holding company or savings and loan holding company is required to register a class of equity securities under the Exchange Act if

  1. it has more than $10 million of total assets; and
  2. the securities are “held of record” by either 2,000 persons; or
  3. 500 persons who are not accredited investors.

The vast majority of OTC Bulletin Board and OTC Markets SEC filers have far less than $10 Million in total assets and most never reach 2,000 shareholders.

Filing SEC Form 15 to Cease Exchange Act Reporting Obligations

For this reason, the key threshold change as a result of the JOBS Act is that SEC filers which are delinquent in their 10-K, 10-Q filings due to audit costs can more readily file the Form 15 to cease reporting under the Exchange Act.

By reviewing a Shareholder List as of the end of the Issuer’s last fiscal year, Management with close to 500 shareholders may be able to identify several which are clearly accredited, in order to meet the threshold of 500 non-accredited shareholders.

OTC Securities Lawyer for Delinquent SEC Filers Seeking to Become Pink Current

Matheau J.W. Stout, Esq. represents delinquent SEC filers in becoming current using the OTC Markets Alternative Reporting Standard and can be reach at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

As part of the Pink Current process, securities attorney Matt Stout can file SEC Form 15, prepare Information and Disclosure Statements for OTCMarkets, and issue the Current Information Legal Opinion.

 

Rule 144 Holding Period for Stock-for-Stock Acquisitions

Reverse Mergers of OTC Markets microcap companies are typically achieved using a stock-for-stock exchange under which the public company issues restricted stock in exchange for the private stock of the company being “vended in.”

Holding Period of Private Company Stock Does Not Tack under Rule 144

Shareholders in the private company may have already held their private stock for many years prior to the reverse merger.  Thus these private shareholders are often under the mistaken but intuitive impression that they can tack their ownership of the stock in the private company prior to the reverse merger in order to meet the holding period requirement under Under Rule 144.   However, this is not true.

Rule 144 Holding Period Starts Upon the Closing of the Share for Share Exchange

In a stock-for-stock acquisition or reverse merger achieved via a share exchange, the date of closing determines when the Rule 144 holding period starts.  Why?  Because the shareholders receiving OTC Bulletin Board or OTC Markets Pink Sheet public company shares are not at risk until the transaction actually closes and the public company’s shares are actually issued in exchange for the private company’s shares.

The Date of the Merger Agreement Does Start the Rule 144 Holding Period

For example, if the closing of the reverse merger will be delayed until the private company’s financials are audited, then the date of the Merger Agreement or the 8-K announcing the proposed Merger will not determine the start of the Rule 144 holding period.

When the closing is delayed for any reason, the Rule 144 holding period for those receiving the public company’s stock will not start until the reverse merger closes because the recipients will not be at economic risk until that time.

Rule 144 Securities Attorney Opinions by Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq.

Rule 144 has many nuances and experienced securities attorneys issue legal opinions only after a thorough review of all shareholder documents and Issuer filings.   Shareholders seeking Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions can email documents to OTC securities lawyer Matt Stout at mstout@otclawyers.com or call (410) 429-7076 for a no cost review.

How are Free Trading Shares Issued Under 3(a)(10)?

Creditors of OTC Markets companies often contact securities lawyer Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. with questions about exchanging bona fide claims for free trading stock under 3(a)(10).   OTC Bulletin Board and Pink Sheet Issuers also have questions about how they can clear debt and payables from their balance sheets using 3(a)(10).

In many respects, 3(a)(10) is easy to understand, but there are certain rules that must be followed in order for the stock issued to be eligible for the 3(a)(10) exemption from registration.

What Makes 3(a)(10) Advantageous to Creditors?

3(a)(10) permits claims arising from legitimate and documented unpaid invoices or contracts to be exchanged for free trading stock, which helps creditors that did not receive a promissory notes from the Issuer.

3(a)(10) also provides a Court Order to a successful Plaintiff which is binding on the Issuer.  This makes future conversions of the Claim Amount easier, since the Issuer cannot later refuse to honor the Settlement Agreement reached in the 3(a)(10) case.

3(a)(10) transactions are by their nature a matter of public record, such that the entire claim settlement process and the issuance in accordance with the 3(a)(10) exemption from registration are done transparently.  This transparency has an inherent advantage to creditors holding 3(a)(10) claims under the Court Order, making it easier to obtain opinions, and clear stock later.

Why is 3(a)(10) Advantageous to Issuers?

An OTC company with debt and mounting accounts payable clogging its balance sheet is unlikely to attract new investors or lenders unless the balance sheet can be cleaned up.

3(a)(10) provides an opportunity for an Issuer to settle multiple claims within one lawsuit, often at a discount, limiting the expense and time associated with litigation, and providing the certainty of a Court Order which specifies the criteria under which shares will be issued.

The transparency of a 3(a)(10) lawsuit, settlement and Court Order also benefits the Company by providing certainty to its shareholders and would-be financial partners.  There is no guess work as to the Company’s liability to issue shares under a 3(a)(10) settlement, and no question as to the Court Order.

What is a Bona Fide 3(a)(10) Claim?

Bona fide means “genuine” or “real.”  The claim holder has the responsibility for documenting the bona fide nature of the monies owed, and copies of the unpaid invoices, contracts or other correspondence are attached to the Complaint in a 3(a)(10) lawsuit.

Documentation is easier when the debts or claims are in SEC filings or OTC Markets reports. Email correspondence evidencing services provided, monies owed and collection activities are also helpful in proving the bona fide nature of a 3(a)(10) claim.

Of course, promissory notes and wire transfer confirmations evidencing loans to an OTC Bulletin Board or OTC Markets Pink Sheet Issuer also can prove a debt is bona fide.

Requirements for the Section 3(a)(10) Exemption from Registration

Section 3(a)(10) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Act”) provides an exemption from the registration of securities under the following criteria:

  1. The securities must be issued in exchange for a bona fide claim; and
  2. The terms of the issuance and exchange must be found by a court to be “fair” to those receiving shares; and
  3. Notice of the Fairness Hearing must be provided to those to receive shares and they must be afforded the opportunity participate in a Fairness Hearing; and
  4. The issuer must advise the court prior to a Fairness Hearing that it intends to rely on the exemption provided in Section 3(a)(10) of the Act; and
  5. There cannot be any impediments to the appearance of interested parties at the Fairness Hearing.

What is Not Allowed in a 3(a)(10) Transaction?

Aside from the need to document the bona fide nature of the claims exchanged in a 3(a)(10) transaction, the main pitfall all creditors and Issuers need to be wary of is the temptation to secretly funnel money to the Issuer or its Affiliates.

In some cases, the SEC has found that claims were fabricated by insiders.  The claims were for services which were not provided, or were actually fake invoices from companies secretly controlled by Affiliates.  This is prohibited.

In other cases, plaintiffs in 3(a)(10) cases were secretly sending an Issuer’s Affiliates a percentage of monies made when the free trading stock was sold.  This is prohibited.

3(a)(10) should be used as a transparent exchange of bona fide claims for securities only.  The fact that an Issuer’s balance sheet will be cleared of old debt is in itself a clear benefit to the Issuer and this should result in future financing opportunities without the need for any surreptitious kickbacks.

Securities Lawyer With Expertise in 3(a)(10) Matters

Experienced securities attorneys like Matt Stout perform due diligence on aged debt, promissory notes and invoices to confirm their bona fide nature in preparation for 3(a)(10) transactions.

3(a)(10) securities lawyer Matt Stout represents both OTC Markets companies and their debt holders with bona fide claims in 3(a)(10) settlement agreements and drafts legal opinions for clearing restricted stock under 3(a)(10).

What is Tacking Under Rule 144?

Tacking under Rule 144 allows a holder of restricted securities to aggregate the separate holding periods of prior holders in order to meet the Rule 144 holding period requirement.

Rule 144 Holding Periods:  Either Six Months or One Year

The holding period for mandatory SEC filers is 6 months.  These are fully reporting Issuers filing 10-K, 10-Q and 8-Ks and “subject to” the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

In contrast, the Rule 144 holding period for voluntary SEC filers and non-reporting Pink Sheets is 12 months.

Rule 144 Tacking is Allowed for Restricted Stock and Convertible Debt

Tacking is used for both restricted stock, and for convertible promissory notes, as well.

For example, if a Note is documented at over a year old, the Rule 144 holding period is likely met even if the Note holder converts into common stock immediately prior to seeking a Rule 144 legal opinion.  This is because the Note holder is allowed to tack the age of the Note onto the age of the newly issued stock to meet the 12 month holding period.

Tacking Under Rule 144 is Only Permitted to Non Affiliates

By permitting tacking, the SEC allows a selling security holder to include the holding period of a prior non-affiliate holder.   However, if the securities were purchased from an affiliate, tacking is not permitted and the holding period starts over.

For example, if a non affiliate shareholder who owned stock in an SEC mandatory filer for seven months sells stock in a private Stock Purchase Agreement to a new non affiliate shareholder today, the new shareholder has already exceeded the 6 month holding period.

Removing the restricted legend on the stock will require the new shareholder to provide documentation which shows the origin and history of the shares, including the prior holder’s purchase date and non affiliate status.

OTC Securities Lawyer Answers Rule 144 Questions on Tacking

Shareholders with questions regarding tacking under SEC Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1) can contact OTC Bulletin Board and OTCMarkets securities attorney Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

Tacking of Rule 144 Holding Periods for Distributions of Stock

Do pro rata distributions of restricted stock from a corporate entity shareholder to its individual shareholders affect the Rule 144 holding period?

No.  Under Rule 144(d), the holding period of the corporate entity shareholder may be tacked onto the holding period of an individual shareholder who receives the distribution of restricted stock.

Documenting the Origin and History of Rule 144 Restricted Stock

In order for a Rule 144 opinion letter to be issued by an experienced OTC Markets Pink Sheet and Bulletin Board securities attorney like Matt Stout, the shareholder must provide documentation showing the origin and history of the shares.  The main task of an OTC securities lawyer issuing Rule 144 legal opinions is to confirm when and how the securities were first issued, and then to track every transaction from that point forward.

Rule 144 Securities Attorney Matt Stout Drafts Legal Opinions for Shareholders

OTC securities lawyer Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. reviews documents at no cost in preparation for drafting legal opinions under Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) for Pink Sheets and OTCMarkets OTCQB stocks.   Shareholders can email certificates and Rule 144 documentation to mstout@otclawyers.com or call Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076 to discuss Rule 144 and clearing restricted stock.

When Does the Rule 144 Holding Period Begin When Payment is Escrowed?

As many OTC investors know, Bulletin Board and Pink Sheet Issuers raising capital using a Private Placement Memorandum (“PPM”) sometimes choose to escrow all subscription payments until a minimum amount is raised.

When an OTC private placement offering is made on this type of “minimum/maximum basis”, shares are not issued to investors and proceeds are not delivered to the Issuer from an escrow account unless and until the target minimum amount is sold.

Rule 144(d) Applied to PPM Investors with Escrowed Funds

Under Rule 144(d), the holding period for shares acquired in an OTC Markets company using a “minimum/maximum” offering begins when the shareholder pays for the shares and payment is deposited in the escrow account.

When is the Shareholder Committed to Purchase PPM Shares?

The reason that the Rule 144 holding period begins before the release of the escrowed funds is because the shareholder is committed to participate in the offering if the minimum amount is sold, and that factor is not in the shareholder’s control once the payment is sent and accepted for deposit by the escrow agent.

When are the Shareholder’s Funds At Risk under Rule 144?

This is the moment when the shareholder’s funds are “at risk.”  In contrast, if the language of the subscription or escrow agreement somehow gave the shareholder the right to withdraw the funds upon request, then the funds would not be considered “at risk” and the Rule 144 holding period would not begin to run.

Rule 144 Opinion Attorney Offers No Cost Review of Documents

OTC securities lawyer Matt Stout reviews shareholder documents at no cost in preparation for issuing Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions to clear restricted stock.

Questions about the Rule 144 holding period, Affiliate Status, and Shell Status are reviewed and if a legal opinion cannot be issued there is no cost to the shareholder.  Contact Matt Stout with Rule 144 questions at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.