Category Archives: Pink Sheets

Rule 144 Holding Period for Shares Issued Per Anti-Dilution Rights

When does the Rule 144 holding period begin for shares received due to anti-dilution rights?

For purposes of Rule 144(d), additional shares of stock acquired from an Issuer pursuant to anti-dilution rights have the same holding period as the original shares governed by the anti-dilution provision.   Another way of saying this is that the new shares can tack onto the holding period of the old shares.

Shareholder Opinion Letters for OTC Markets and Bulletin Board Stocks

OTC securities attorney Matt Stout drafts Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) opinion letters for Shareholders of Pink Sheet and Bulletin Board companies trying to clear and sell restricted stock.

Questions regarding Rule 144 holding periods, shell status or Section 4-1 alternatives to Rule 144 can be emailed at mstout@otclawyers.com or (410) 429-7076.

What are Convertible Securities?

Convertible securities include bonds and preferred stock.  For OTC Markets and Bulletin Board companies, the term usually means a debt secured by a Promissory Note, which can be converted into common stock.  These are known as Convertible Notes or simply Convertible Debt.

Convertible Debt in OTC Markets Companies

Most convertible promissory notes issued by OTC Markets public companies include provisions that allow the debt holder to decide if and when to convert a Note into common stock.  SEC Rule 144 usually allows a debt holder to trace their holding period to the date of the Note, rather than the date of conversion, which could be months or years after the Note was issued.

Why Do OTC Markets Companies Issue Convertible Debt?

OTC Markets companies issue Promissory Notes primarily to raise capital or to pay for services. It is a fact of life for services providers that OTC public companies often lack the cash to pay their vendors.

Why Do Debt Holders Convert Promissory Notes into Stock?

Statistically, experienced OTC lenders and service providers accepting Convertible Notes in lieu of cash know that microcap companies quoted on the over-the-counter markets will probably default on their obligation to pay.  Given that probability, drafters of Convertible Promissory Notes must take into consideration that the debt holder will later need to convert a defaulted Promissory Note into common stock after the Rule 144 holding period has been satisfied.

9.99% Blocker Clauses in Convertible Promissory Notes

Convertible Promissory Notes issued by OTC Markets  companies usually include “blockers” which are clauses preventing the debt holder from owning greater than 9.99% of the OTC company’s issued and outstanding shares of stock at any one time.  This blocker is intended to prevent the debt holder from being classified as an Affiliate, which would cause Rule 144 Affiliate volume trading limitations to be applicable under Rule 144.

Exceeding 9.99% ownership in an SEC reporting company also brings the obligation of filing SEC Forms 3, 4 and 5.

Institutional financiers that specialize in providing capital to OTC Markets Pink Sheets and Bulletin Board companies using convertible debt typically do not convert a Note again until they are “flat.”  Being “flat” means that the common stock in their brokerage account from the prior conversion has all been sold, such that it is easy to verify with the Company and Transfer Agent that the debt holder has complied with the 9.99% blocker.

4.99% Blocker Provisions in OTC Markets Convertible Debt

For SEC reporting companies filing under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, sometimes the blocker clause will specify a maximum of 4.99% if the debt holder also wants to avoid the additional obligation of filing a Schedule 13d or Schedule 13g.

When a debt holder converts a Note into 5% of the common stock in company subject to the reporting requirements under Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the debt holder is required to file a Schedule 13D or 13G.

The rationale behind the 4.99% blocker is that the institutional financiers who provide capital to multiple OTC Markets and Bulletin Board companies tend to do many conversions.  Typically these lenders will only convert after the stock can be cleared using a Rule 144 legal opinion or Section 4(a)(1) opinion, and they will convert the debt in regular increments which are then immediately sold into the market, such that their accounts are flat before each subsequent conversion.

Such repeated and regular conversions in which stock is owned for perhaps only a few days at a time would cause an administrative burden to file multiple SEC forms each time the debt holder’s ownership in a particular OTC Issuer fluctuated above and below 5%.

Conversion Metrics and Formulas in OTC Convertible Debt

Convertible Promissory Notes issued by OTC Markets and Bulletin Board companies to raise capital or pay for services usually contain a conversion ratio based on fluctuating market prices.

Converting OTC Stock at a Discount to Market

That ratio or formula of a market price conversion is typically referred to as a “discount to market” which means that the debt holder will have the right to convert at a share price that is a particular percentage of the share price on the date of conversion or based on some average during a trailing conversion period.

Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) Legal Opinions for Debt Conversions

Management and Debt Holders of OTC Markets and OTC Bulletin Board companies can contact OTC Securities Lawyer Matt Stout for Rule 144 legal opinions and Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

 

Defunct OTC Companies That Continue to Trade

What is a Defunct OTC Company?

Sometimes when a public company is no longer operating or in business, its stock can continue to trade on the OTC Markets even when its filings are delinquent. These OTC companies are shown as a Stop Sign on OTCMarkets.com, and they are often labeled as “Defunct” or “Dark.”

Why Does a Defunct Public Company’s Stock Continue Trading?

The common stock of Defunct public companies or Stop Signs can continue to trade as long as there are shares in its public float.  These shares may have been previously registered under an S-1 Registration Statement when the company’ s SEC filings were current, or they may have been deposited by long-time Shareholders using Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1) as an exemption to registration.

When Does a Defunct OTC Company’s Stock Cease Trading?

The free trading stock in the OTC Company’s public float will continue to trade unless those shares are deregistered by the SEC, trading is suspended or halted, or the registration of the Defunct public company’s stock is revoked by the SEC.

When Does the SEC Halt or Suspend Trading in a Defunct Public Company?

Unless there is evidence of wrongdoing, the SEC generally does not like to prohibit trading of stock in a Defunct OTC public company because doing so would harm those Shareholders who are holding stock in Defunct Stop Signs and those willing buyers and sellers who want to trade the stock despite the risks involved.

SEC Will Suspend Trading if There is Manipulation or False and Misleading Information

The SEC will halt or suspend trading in the stock of a Defunct public company when either

  1. The Defunct OTC company’s stock price appears to be manipulated; or
  2. When the SEC believes that the OTC company’s public information posted in filings or press releases is false or misleading.

When a trading suspension occurs, OTCMarkets.com will label the stock with a Caveat Emptor or skull and cross bones symbol, indicating that there is a public interest concern and that investors should take special care.

When Does the SEC Deregister a Defunct Company’s Stock?

The SEC may also revoke the registration of a Defunct public company’s stock. Under Section 12(j) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the SEC is authorized to revoke the registration of a security if the public company fails to comply with the federal securities laws.

The deregistration of a public company’s stock will also result in the Caveat Emptor label and skull and crossbones at OTCMarkets.com, and then the Company’s trading symbol or ticker will not be searchable at all.  The SEC prohibits broker-dealers from executing trades in stocks when a Defunct public company’s registration is revoked pursuant to Section 12(j).

Securities Attorney for Shareholders of Defunct Public Companies

Shareholders owning stock in OTC Markets Stop Signs, which are delinquent in their filings or marked Defunct can contact OTC securities lawyer Matt Stout for a no cost review of their certificate and supporting documents to see if Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1) can be used to clear restricted stock.

Securities Lawyer to Bring Defunct Companies Current

Management of delinquent SEC filers marked as Stop Signs or Caveat Emptor often work with Matt Stout to bring their companies current under the Exchange Act, or file Form 15 with the SEC in order to begin reporting as a current Pink Sheet on OTCMarkets.com.

OTC Bulletin Board and OTC Markets Securities lawyer Matt Stout can be reached at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

What is a Penny Stock?

Penny Stocks are Quoted on the OTC Markets Pink Sheets

Penny Stocks are securities that are not listed on a national securities exchange like the NYSE or NASDAQ, and are also priced under Five Dollars ($5.00) Per Share.  The SEC’s definition of a Penny Stock is found in SEC Rule 3a51-1.  Penny Stocks are usually quoted on the over-the-counter (OTC) Markets on the Pink Sheets.  As a practical matter, most Penny Stocks trade well under a dollar, and many trade below a penny.

Penny Stocks Can Be Quoted on the OTCQB

OTCMarkets has three market tiers where OTC stocks are quoted.  These include Pink Sheets, OTCQB and OTCQX.  While stock price is a criteria for uplisting on the OTCMarkets.com to OTCQB, the minimum share price is One Penny ($0.01), well below the Five Dollars ($5.00) per share used by the SEC to define a penny stock. Since there is no minimum asset or revenue criteria for uplisting to the OTCQB, many OTCQB stocks are considered Penny Stocks.

OTCQX Companies Are Not Technically Penny Stocks

Stock price is not the only criteria for Penny Stocks. Although OTCQX, the highest market tier on OTCMarkets.com, has an initial minimum bid price criteria for US OTCQX companies of only Twenty-Five Cents ($0.25) and an ongoing minimum price of Ten Cents ($.10), OTCQX companies are not technically Penny Stocks because they meet at least One (1) of the exceptions to the Penny Stock Rule below.

Exceptions to the Penny Stock Rules

OTCQX securities are not Penny Stocks, because the criteria for quotation on the OTCQX requires these securities meet One (1) of these exclusions from the Penny Stock Rules:

  1. Net tangible assets  greater than Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000) if the company has been in operation at least Three (3) Years; or
  2. Net tangible assets of greater than Five Million Dollars ($5,000,000) if the company has been in operation less than Three (3) Years; or
  3. Revenue of at least Six Million Dollars ($6,000,000) for the last Three (3) Years.

Legal Opinion Letters for Shareholders with Restricted Penny Stocks

OTC Markets and Bulletin Board securities lawyer Matt Stout issues Rule 144 legal opinions and Section 4(a)(1) opinions for shareholders who own penny stocks and over-the-counter stocks, as well as OTC Markets Pink Sheets seeking to become current or to uplist on the OTCQB.

Contact OTCLawyers at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com today.

What is Rule 144?

Rule 144 Safe Harbor for Clearing Restricted Stock

SEC Rule 144 is the most common safe harbor that Shareholders of restricted stock in OTC Markets companies use to sell their shares.

Rule 144 has three major questions that must be answered before it can be used to remove a restricted legend from a stock certificate.  These questions determine Affiliate Status, 144 Holding Period and Shell Status.

Is the Shareholder an Affiliate of the Issuer under Rule 144?

Under Rule 144, an Affiliate is a “control person” which is most often an officer, director, or owner of greater than 9.99% of the total issued and outstanding shares of any class of stock in the Issuer.

If a Shareholder is an Affiliate, or was an Affiliate within the past 90 days, then he or she is subject to trading volume limitations under Rule 144.

What are the Affiliate Trading Volume Limitations Under Rule 144?

Affiliate Shareholders of OTC Bulletin Board and OTC Markets OTCQB, OTCQX and Pink Sheets, can only sell up to 1% of the Issuer’s total issued and outstanding shares during any 3 month period, and such sales must be reported to the SEC on Form 144.

What is the Shareholder’s Holding Period under Rule 144?

Whether or not the Shareholder is an Affiliate, the restricted stock must be held for a certain period of time, known as the Rule 144 “holding period” after the Shareholder acquires the shares and before the Shareholder sells the stock.

What is the 144 Holding Period for SEC Reporting Companies?

For SEC reporting public companies, like those quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and the OTC Markets OTCQB and OTCQX, and for those listed on the NASDAQ or NYSE MKT, the Rule 144 holding period is a minimum of six (6) months.

In order to qualify, the public company must be “subject to” the reporting requirements of Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  This is also known as a mandatory SEC filer.

Rule 144 Holding Period for Non Reporting Companies

For Non SEC Reporting Issuers, like those quoted on the OTC Markets Pink Sheets and filing OTC Markets Disclosure Statements, the Rule 144 holding period is twelve (12) months.

Voluntary SEC filers are also considered non reporting companies and have a Rule 144 holding period of twelve (12) months.

Voluntary filers are those which go public via S-1, but which have not yet filed an 8A-12g or 8A-12b or Form 10 under the 34 Act, so they are not yet technically “subject to” the reporting requirements of Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Was the Issuer Ever A “Shell Company” under Rule 144?

Current Shells Cannot Use Rule 144 to Clear Stock

Rule 144 does not allow Shareholders of public companies that are currently classified as a “shell company” to use its safe harbor to clear and sell restricted stock.

This is true even if the Shareholder is not an Affiliate, and if the Shareholder has held stock for longer than the required holding period under Rule 144.

Can Former Shells Use Rule 144?

Former shell companies that now have assets and an operating business must wait one (1) year after the Issuer ceases to be a shell before their shares may be sold using Rule 144, and then only if the public company is an SEC filer and subject to the filing requirements of the Exchange Act of 1934.

The moment a public company ceases to be a shell is sometimes clear because it is found in an SEC filing, like a “Super 8-K” for instance.  This could be the date upon which the company acquired an operating business or assets, in a reverse merger.

The Evergreen Rule:  Rule 144 Applied to Former Shell Companies

Former shells that are fully reporting OTCQB, OTCQX and OTC Bulletin Board companies must have filed current SEC reports like the 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K for a minimum of one (1) year from the date they ceased to be a shell, and they must be current in their filings now, before its Shareholders can avail themselves of the exemption from registration offered by Rule 144.

The term “Evergreen Rule” refers to the requirement that former shell companies must remain current in their filings (forever) in order for Rule 144 to be used.  If a former shell becomes delinquent in SEC filings, Rule 144 cannot be used until the Issuer is current.

Non Reporting Pink Sheet Former Shells Cannot Use Rule 144

Former shell companies that are OTC Markets Pink Sheets cannot used Rule 144 even if they are “Pink Current” now meaning that they are up to date on their OTC Markets Quarterly Reports, Annual Reports and their Information & Disclosure Statements.

Section 4(a)(1) Can Be Used to Clear Stock of Pink Sheet Former Shells

If the shares are greater than Two (2) Year old, OTC shareholders in Pink Sheets or delinquent SEC filers may be able to use Section 4(a)(1) (also known as Section 4(1) or simply 4-1) to clear and deposit their restricted stock.

Section 4(a)(1) can only be used if the shareholder is not an Issuer, Underwriter or Dealer, and if the shareholder can document the origin and history of the Shares as dating back greater than Two (2) Years.

OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and OTC Markets Issuers seeking a securities attorney with expertise in Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) can contact Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com for further information.

What does an E Suffix Mean for an OTCBB Trading Symbol?

NASDAQ and OTCBB Companies Delinquent in SEC Filings

Whenever a public company trading on the NASDAQ or the OTC Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”) becomes delinquent in its SEC reporting obligations, the letter “E” is added to company’s ticker symbol.

NYSE Companies Delinquent in SEC Filings

Companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) which fall behind in their SEC reports receive the suffix “LF” following their trading symbol.

OTCMarkets Companies Delinquent in Filings

Public companies quoted on OTCMarkets.com which are delinquent in their SEC filings are marked “delinquent” first if they are on the OTCQB Market Tier.  After remaining delinquent for a period of time, they get further marked down to Pink Yield and are removed from the OTCQB.

Bulletin Board and OTC Markets Lawyer Matt Stout

Management and shareholders of SEC filers which are delinquent in their filings under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 can contact securities attorney Matt Stout to discuss the implications for depositing restricted stock using Rule 144 legal opinion letters and Section 4(a)(1) opinions at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

Removing Restrictive Legends from OTC Stock

 The most common questions by shareholders of OTC Markets stocks, including Pink Sheets and OTCBB Bulletin Board securities involve the removal of restrictive legends from stock certificates.

There are two common exemptions from registration which are used every day by OTC shareholders to clear and deposit restricted stock.  They are Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1).

Rule 144 May Be Available to Remove a Restrictive Legend

Rule 144 is the most commonly used method for removing a legend from restricted stock. Many microcap shareholders quickly learn that their broker and the transfer agent require a Rule 144 legal opinion drafted by a securities attorney in order to sell restricted stock.

But Rule 144 is not available if the Issuer is a current or former “shell” and its filings are delinquent.  In those instances, shareholders can contact an experienced securities lawyer to review their supporting documents to see if Section 4(a)(1) can be used to clear their restricted stock.

Section 4(a)(1) Legal Opinions By Experienced Securities Attorneys

When Rule 144 is not available, and the securities are greater than Two (2) Years old, experienced OTC Markets securities counsel like Matt Stout can often provide a Section 4(a)(1) legal opinion to clear restricted stock.  A Section 4(a)(1) opinion is also commonly referred to by experienced securities lawyers simply as 4(1) opinion or 4-1 legal opinion.

Differences Between Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1)

The main differences between a Rule 144 opinion and a Section 4(a)(1) opinion are

  1. Rule 144 Legal Opinions cannot be issued for a current shell company.
  2. Rule 144 Legal Opinions cannot be issued for a former shell company unless the company complies with the elements of the “Evergreen Rule” which basically means it emerged from shell status at least one (1) year ago, is subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, has filed “Form 10 Information” including audited financials for a year, and is current in its SEC filings at the time of the opinion.
  3. Section 4(a)(1) opinions require that the shareholder and/or prior holders have held the securities for at least Two (2) Years in contrast to a shorter Rule 144 holding period of either six (6) months for mandatory SEC filers or one (1) year for non reporting Pink Sheets.
  4. Section 4(a)(1) opinions can be drafted for either current or former shell companies because “shell status” is not an element of 4-1.
  5. Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions cannot be drafted for shareholders considered an issuer, underwriter or dealer.

Shareholders in OTC Markets companies can contact securities attorney Matt Stout for a no-cost review of their restricted stock certificates and supporting documentation at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com

 

What is the Penny Stock Rule?

SEC Penny Stock Rule

The Penny Stock Rule refers to the requirements of Section 15(h) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), under which broker-dealers must follow a series of compliance measures in order to effect transactions in penny stocks.

The term “penny stock” usually refers to a security issued by a very small company trading at less than Five Dollars ($5.00) per share.

Penny stocks are sometimes known as OTC Markets stocks and are typically quoted over-the-counter on OTCMarkets.com  operated by OTC Markets Group, Inc. or on FINRA’s Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”).

Section 15(h) of the Exchange Act

Because of the inherently speculative characteristics of penny stocks, Congress prohibited broker-dealers from effecting transactions in penny stocks unless they comply with the requirements of Section 15(h) of the Exchange Act, which states that broker-dealers  must

  1. approve the customer for the specific penny stock transaction and receive a written agreement to the transaction;
  2. furnish the customer with a disclosure document describing the risks of investing in penny stocks;
  3. disclose to the customer the current market quotation, if any, for the penny stock;
  4. disclose to the customer the amount of compensation the firm and broker will receive for executing the trade; and
  5. after executing the trade, a broker-dealer must send to its investing customer monthly account statements that show the market value of all penny stock held in the customer’s account.

Transactions Exempt from the Penny Stock Rule

Some transactions in penny stocks are exempt from the Penny Stock Rule. Examples of exempt transactions are those with an established customer, who has either done business with the brokerage for greater than one year, or who has made at least three penny stock purchases.  Likewise, transactions with institutional investors may also be exempt.

Some Companies with Low Stock Prices are Not Penny Stocks

Companies quoted on the OTCQX, the highest market tier of OTCMarkets.com, are not considered Penny Stocks even if they have low stock prices because they must meet one of the exemptions to the Penny Stock Rules involving minimum net tangible assets or revenue.

Brokerages Specialize in OTC Markets Penny Stocks

An experienced securities attorney like Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. can refer shareholders to one of the few brokerage firms which specialize in OTC Markets stocks.

These OTC brokers have streamlined the process of opening accounts for penny stock investors.  Their compliance and legal departments are familiar with penny stocks and the Rule 144 legal opinions needed to deposit OTC stocks.

Interested OTC stock shareholders can review SEC Schedule 15g for further information or contact Matt Stout, microcap securities attorney at (410) 429-7076 or via email at mstout@otclawyers.com.

What is a Spin Off?

Why Would a Public Company Spin Off a Subsidiary?

A public company may choose to  “spin off” a subsidiary when the sub’s operations or assets and liabilities are inconsistent with its target business model.  A spin off is also commonly used as a way to create a new public company with a built in shareholder base.

The Mechanics of a Spin Off

Technically, a spin off is when a parent company distributes shares of its subsidiary to the parent company’s shareholders.  The result is the subsidiary becoming a separate, stand-alone company completely independent of its parent.

The shares in the subsidiary are typically distributed on a pro-rata basis to each shareholder of the parent. The resulting new company then has the same shareholders as the parent, and if that shareholder base is large, it may be easier to attract market makers for the new stock.

Certain states of incorporation and the rules of stock exchanges may require a company to receive majority shareholder approval before a spin off can be executed.

What are Bid and Ask Prices?

Companies with the goal to go public on the OTC Markets are ultimately looking for their stock to trade.  In the over-the-counter markets,  the most basic terms to understand are the “bid” and “ask.”

What is the Bid?

The “bid” is the highest price a Market Maker will pay to purchase a specific number of shares of stock.  For instance, on a penny stock, a Market Maker may quote a bid of $0.05 and a size of 10,000, meaning that you can sell up to 10,000 shares to the Market Maker at five cents a share.

What is the Ask?

The “ask” is the lowest price at which a Market Maker will sell a specific number of shares of stock.  The ask price is also known as the “offer” price.  The ask price is almost always higher than the bid price.  For example, on the same penny stock, the Market Maker may quote an ask of $0.06 and a size of 20,000, meaning that you can buy up to 20,000 shares from the Market Maker at six cents a share.

What is the Spread?

The spread is the difference between the bid and the ask price.  In the example above, the spread is $0.01.  Market makers make money on the difference between the bid price and the ask price.

In thinly traded markets where volume in a microcap stock is very low, the spread is higher.  When trading volume increases, more shares are bought and sold so a Market Maker will decrease the spread to encourage more volume.  Eventually, multiple Market Makers compete for business by constantly adjusting their bid and ask prices to facilitate trading.