Tag Archives: 144 letters

Who is a Control Person Under Rule 144?

Affiliates According to Rule 144

An affiliate under SEC Rule 144 is, in general terms a person, such as an officer, director or large shareholder, in a relationship of control with the public company.

Rule 144 Affiliates Include Officers, Directors and Others by Beneficial Ownership

The standard group of easily identifiable affiliates includes a company’s officers, directors, or owners of greater than 9.99% of the securities of any class. But then, under the concept of beneficial ownership, we must add to that list, the spouse of an affiliate, or anyone living in the same household as an affiliate.  They too, are considered affiliates under Rule 144 because they are deemed in theory to exercise the same type of control.

How Does the SEC Define Control Person?

According to the SEC, “control” means the power to direct the management and policies of the public company.  That control could be exercised by an affiliate through ownership of voting securities or by agreement.

Does the Securities Act or Rule 405 Define Control Person?

However, the Securities Act of 1933 doesn’t define the terms “control person” or “control relationship”. That being said, in Rule 405, the SEC defines “control” as follows:

“The term “control” (including the terms “controlling,” “controlled by,” and “under common control with,” means the possession, direct or indirect, of the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of a person, whether through the ownership of voting securities, by contract, or otherwise.”

Affiliate shareholders of microcap public companies quoted on the OTC Markets, or listed on NASDAQ or NYSE can contact an experienced securities attorney for a no cost review of their Form 144, stock certificates and supporting documentation at (410) 429-7076.  If an opinion can be issued, affiliates will receive a prompt turnaround and a reasonable flat fee.

 

Sales of Affiliate Stock Under Rule 144

What Are the Conditions for Selling Stock Under Rule 144?

One possible way to sell restricted stock to the public, is to meet the criteria of Rule 144.  While Rule 144 is not the only exemption used by non-affiliate shareholders of restricted stock to sell their securities, Rule 144 offers a “safe harbor” exemption to Affiliates when the requirements are met.

Five Criteria For Using Rule 144 To Clear Restricted Stock

  1. Holding Period Under Rule 144

    If the public company that issued the Affiliate’s restricted stock is a “fully reporting company” that is technically “subject to” the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (a/k/a Exchange Act or 34 Act), then the minimum holding period is six months. If the public company that issued your restricted stock is not subject to the reporting requirements of the 34 Act, then you must hold the stock for at least one year. Please note that the calculation for the holding period does not begin until the stock is “fully paid for.”

  2. Current Public Information Requirement of Rule 144

    The public company’s filings must show “adequate current information” about the company, that is publicly available, before the sale can be made. For SEC filers subject to the Exchange Act this generally means that the the company has filed all of its 10-Q, 10-K, 8-K reports and links to such reports are available on its website. For non-reporting companies, whether they are voluntary filers under the 33 Act or just Pink Sheets filing disclosures on OTCMarkets.com, the SEC states that “certain company information, including information regarding the nature of its business, the identity of its officers and directors, and its financial statements” must be publicly available.

  3. Trading Volume Formula for Affiliates Under Rule 144

    For Affiliates of the public company only, there is a trading volume limitation placed on their ability to sell stock.  The SEC allows such an Affiliate (an owner of greater than 9.99% of the outstanding securities of any class, an officer, director, control person, or their spouses…or those living in the same household as the foregoing…)  to sell during any three-month period a maximum of 1% of the outstanding shares of the same class being sold (if an OTC Markets stock), or if the class is listed on a stock exchange, such as NASDAQ or NYSE, the greater of 1% or the average reported weekly trading volume during the four weeks preceding the filing of a notice of sale on Form 144.  OTC stocks, including those previously quoted on the old OTC Bulletin Board and those now quoted on the OTC Markets Pink Sheets, must be sold by Affiliates using the 1% maximum.

  4. Ordinary Brokerage Transactions Under Rule 144

    For Affiliates of publicly traded companies, their restricted stock sales must be handled in all respects as “routine trading transactions, and brokers may not receive more than a normal commission” according to the SEC.  That means neither the seller nor the broker “can solicit orders to buy the securities.”

  5. Filing a Notice of Proposed Sale With the SEC

    Affiliates must also file Form 144 if the sale involves more than 5,000 shares or the aggregate dollar amount is greater than $50,000 in any three-month period.  Most brokerages will require an Affiliate of the public company to fill out Form 144 for every sale, which will list the current issued and outstanding shares of common stock, and state the proposed maximum (1%) that the Affiliate intends to sell.  Affiliates must update their Form 144 periodically and brokers often require updated Rule 144 legal opinions to be issued in order for the Affiliate to continue selling.

It is important to note that Rule 144 cannot be used by Shareholders of non reporting Pink Sheets to clear restricted stock if the public company is a current shell or a former shell.    Shareholders of SEC filers which are subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act may use Rule 144 only if the requirements of the Evergreen Rule are met.  (In these cases, if Rule 144 is unavailable as an exemption, it may be possible for non-affiliate stockholders to use Section 4(a)(1) instead.)

Shareholders of OTC Markets public companies, or those trading on the NASDAQ or NYSE needing Rule 144 legal opinions to deposit restricted stock can reach an experienced securities attorney by calling (410) 429-7076 any time.  There is never a cost to review certificates and supporting documents, and if a legal opinion can be issued, a reasonable flat fee will be quoted.

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 is the Rule 144 Holding Period for a Warrant Exercise?

Rule 144 Holding Period for Cashless Warrant Exercise

If the exercise of a warrant is “cashless” then a Shareholder is allowed to tack the holding period of the warrant onto the common stock under Rule 144(d)(3)(x).  This means that as long as there is no consideration whatsoever paid in order to exercise the warrant, the holding period of the common stock will tack back to the date of the warrant itself.

Rule 144 Holding Period for Warrant Exercises Upon Payment of Cash

In contrast, if the warrant exercise is not “cashless”, then the holding period will begin on the date of the warrant exercise.

De Minimus Payments to Exercise Warrants Under Rule 144

This is true even if the payment to exercise the warrant is “de minimis.”  That is, even if the amount paid to exercise the warrant is a very tiny amount of cash, the Shareholder will be prevented from tacking the holding period of the warrant to that of the common stock under Rule 144(d)(3)(x).

No Cost Review of Documents by Rule 144 Legal Opinion Lawyer Matt Stout

Shareholders in need of Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions can contact OTC Bulletin Board and OTC Markets securities attorney Matt Stout for a no cost review of documents at (410) 429-7076 or via email at mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

 

Rule 144 Holding Period and Employee Stock Options

When does the Rule 144 holding period begin for restricted stock acquired under an Employee Stock Option plan?

The Option Grant Date Does Not Start the Rule 144 Holding Period

The Rule 144 holding period does not begin on the option grant date.  The grant of an option only gives an employee the right to acquire stock in the future.  The date of the employee’s stock option grant can never be used for Rule 144 holding period purposes, even if the exercise does not require the payment of cash or other consideration to the Issuer.

The Option Exercise Date Starts the Rule 144 Holding Period

The holding period under SEC Rule 144 starts on the date the option is exercised by the employee, and, unless the exercise is “cashless”, the full payment of the exercise price is made to the Issuer.  This is intuitive, since prior to exercising the option, the employee is not at risk, and the stock has not been in any way “earned” or “paid for.”

What is the Rationale Behind the Rule 144 Holding Period for Stock Options?

The SEC Rule 144 holding period does not begin to run until until the option is exercised.   The reason behind this is that because the employee did not pay for the option grant, prior to the issuance of the restricted stock, the employee “optionee” holds no investment risk in the Issuer.

The same rationale used here is consistent with that used when restricted stock is purchased through Subscription Agreement, since the Rule 144 holding period would not begin until the date of the check or wire transfer confirmation–when the subscription was actually paid for by the investor.

Rule 144 Securities Lawyer Matt Stout

OTC securities lawyer Matt Stout drafts Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions for shareholders in OTC Markets and OTC Bulletin Board companies.   Copies of certificates and supporting documentation can be sent for a no cost review via mstout@otclawyers.com.   Shareholders who wish to clear restricted stock using Rule 144 opinion letters can contact Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076.

Securities Law Opinion Letters Under Rule 144 and 4(1)

Legal Opinions for OTC Markets Issuers and Shareholders

A large part of Matheau Stout’s securities law practice includes the research and drafting of legal opinions for the sale of restricted stock of Issuers listed on the OTC Bulletin Board, Pink Sheets and OTCMarkets.

Rule 144 Opinion Letters

The most common type of securities opinion letter is known as the 144 Letter, or Rule 144 Legal Opinion.   144 Letters are used by Transfer Agents when removing restricted legends from OTC stocks. Most brokerages specializing in OTC Bulletin Board and Pink Sheet stocks will not accept deposits of certificates without a Rule 144 legal opinion drafted by an experienced securities attorney like Matt Stout.

Section 4(a)(1) Legal Opinion Letters

When Rule 144 is not available because the OTC Markets company is a current or former shell, experienced securities attorneys like Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. can review certificates and documentation to see if Section 4(a)(1) can apply.

Section 4(a)(1) is also known commonly as Section 4-1, and is available only if the securities in question are greater than Two (2) Years old, and the Shareholder is not an Issuer, Underwriter or Dealer.

OTC Markets Securities Lawyer Matt Stout

Shareholders and Brokers can request SEC Rule 144 opinions from Matt Stout, Securities Lawyer by calling (410) 429-7076 or via email, at mjwstout@gmail.com or mstout@otclawyers.com.

More information on clearing restricted stock using Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) is available at securities law blogs published by Matheau J. W. Stout including 144letters.net144-Opinions.comRestrictedStock.co, andRestrictedStockOpinion.net.

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

 

Supporting Documentation for Rule 144 Legal Opinions

One of the most common questions a securities lawyer receives is “What do I need to provide in order to have the restricted legend removed from my certificate?”   The best answer is always for the Shareholder to provide all of the documentation in his or her possession showing the origin and history of the shares.

Shareholders seeking Rule 144 legal opinions should first create PDF files of the stock certificates, and any other supporting documents which can show that the elements of Rule 144 are met.  Then email all of this to the securities lawyer.  The securities lawyer’s process cannot really begin until this information is reviewed and very few questions can be answered until then since most answers depend on the specific facts of the Rule 144 transaction.

SEC and OTC Markets Filings That Mention the Rule 144 Transaction

If the Shareholder is aware of a past SEC filing (10-Q, 10-K, 8-K) or OTC Markets filing (Quarterly Report, Annual Report, or Information and Disclosure Statement) that mentions their transaction, they should note this.   A reference in a public filing to their shares, or the transaction which originated their shares is perhaps the most helpful, and the most rare piece of documentation that can be provided.

Aside from documentation in the Issuer’s public filings, depending on the transaction which originated the shares, this documentation could include:

Documents in Support of a Debt Conversion Under Rule 144

Not all of these documents may be available to the Shareholder in every Rule 144 transaction, but in a best case scenario, all of these would be provided:

  1. Promissory Note; and
  2. Debt Purchase Agreement, if applicable; and
  3. Conversion Agreement signed by the Issuer, if possible; and
  4. Conversion Notice; and
  5. Board Resolutions in which the Issuer acknowledges the debt and the conversion; and
  6. Proof of payment via check or wire transfer; and
  7. Non Affiliate letters signed by the Shareholder and the Prior Debt Holder.

Documents in Support of a Private Stock Purchase Under Rule 144

Many of these documents may not be available, but they are helpful to establish the chain of ownership under Rule 144.  Since the Issuer is not usually involved, there are less Board Resolutions and documents provided:

  1. Stock Purchase Agreement (“SPA”); and
  2. Proof of payment via check or wire transfer; and
  3. Non Affiliate letters signed by Shareholder and the Prior Holder (unless the SPA clearly states this); and
  4. Documents showing how the Seller acquired the Shares in the first place.

Documents in Support of Shares Earned Under a Consulting Agreement Under Rule 144

Not all of these may be in a Shareholder’s packet, but more is better:

  1. Consulting Agreement between Shareholder and Issuer, which hopefully sets forth exactly when the Shares are considered fully “paid for” or earned under Rule 144; and
  2. Board Resolution acknowledging Consulting Agreement and confirming how and when the Shares were earned.  This essentially takes the place of “proof of payment” in the other examples; and
  3. Non Affiliate letter signed by Consultant unless non affiliate status is addressed in the Consulting Agreement.

It is rare when Shareholders have all of these documents handy when they go to sell restricted stock, since this is often years after the Shares were originally acquired.   On those occasions, a securities lawyer with expertise in drafting legal opinions under Rule 144 looks at the total picture and can request additional letters, affidavits and information when necessary.

Shareholders can contact securities lawyer Matt Stout with questions regarding Rule 144 legal opinions, Section 4(1) opinion letters and clearing restricted stock in general at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

 

How Do Stock Splits and Reverse Splits Affect Trading Volume Under Rule 144?

Affiliates of OTC Issuers Can Sell 1% Every 3 Months under Rule 144

Under Rule 144, Affiliates of OTC Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”) and OTC Markets OTCQB, OTCQX and Pink Sheet Issuers are only allowed to sell 1% of the total issued and outstanding shares during any 3 month period.

Affiliates of Exchange Listed Issuers Have a Choice Under Rule 144(e)

Affiliates of Issuers listed on national exchanges like the NASDAQ or NYSE MKT are allowed to sell either

  1. 1% percent of the issued and outstanding shares; or
  2. The average weekly trading volume during the 4 weeks before the Affiliate filed Form 144.

Stock Splits Do Not Affect the Affiliate’s Percentage of Ownership

Whether the Issuer is quoted on the Over-the-Counter markets or listed on a stock exchange, neither forward stock splits nor reverse stock splits will affect the trading volume limitations under Rule 144(e) since a forward or reverse split would not change the percentage of the Issuer’s stock that the Affiliate is allowed to sell during the time period chosen.

Calculate Available Volume Under Rule 144 Following a Stock Split

To calculate available trading volume following a forward stock split or reverse stock split, an Affiliate should measure the trading volume as if the split had occurred on the 1st day of the 3 month period, even if it occurs at some later point during the 3 months.

Affiliates of OTC, NASDAQ and NYSE MKT Issuers with questions regarding selling restricted stock under SEC Rule 144 can contact securities lawyer Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.