Tag Archives: 144 opinion

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 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.

Are Shares Acquired By Anti-Dilution Rights Restricted Under Rule 144?

Anti-Dilution Rights Allow Shareholders to Maintain Their Ownership Percentage

In many cases, Shareholders who purchase restricted stock from an OTC Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”) or OTC Markets Pink Sheet Issuer in a Private Placement will be granted “anti-dilution” rights allowing them to increase and thereby maintain their ownership percentage in the public company even when the Issuer offers more shares to subsequent Investors.  The same is true for investors in NASDAQ and NYSE MKT securities.

Shares Acquired Under Anti-Dilution Clauses are Restricted Securities

When a Shareholder acquires more stock pursuant to the anti-dilution rights clause in that Private Placement, the new shares are considered restricted securities under SEC Rule 144.

What Is the Rule 144 Holding Period for the Anti-Dilution Shares?

Under SEC Rule 144, shares acquired by the exercise of anti-dilution rights in a Private Placement or other offering does not begin on the date the Transfer Agent issues the new shares.

The Holding Period Dates Back to the Original Purchase of Shares

As a benefit to Shareholders, since the acquisition of the Anti-Dilution shares was automatic, and not within the Shareholder’s control, the holding period on the Anti-Dilution shares dates back to the original purchase of shares, and not the exercise of the anti-dilution rights.

Shareholder who have purchased restricted stock under Private Placements can contact Matheau J. W. Stout with questions about anti-dilution rights or Rule 144 at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

Can Stock in Shell Companies Be Sold Under Rule 144?

What is a Rule 144 Legal Opinion Letter?

A Rule 144 legal opinion is a letter drafted by a securities attorney to a Transfer Agent that states whether or not a specific transaction complies with the requirements of SEC Rule 144.  Rule 144 has separate elements or requirements that must be met, and supported with documentation, in order for a restricted stock certificate to be cleared for sale under Rule 144.

One of the requirements for compliance with Rule 144 is that the Issuer is not a shell company.

What is a Shell Company under Rule 144?

A shell company under SEC Rule 144 is an Issuer that has either

  1. No operations or nominal operations;
  2. Assets that consists only of cash and cash equivalents; or
  3. Assets that consist of any amount of cash and cash equivalents and nominal other assets.

 What if the Issuer Used to Be a Shell Company But is Not Currently a Shell?

If the Issuer was ever classified or declared a shell company in its past, then the Issuer must have provided current public information for a minimum period of time since it ceased to be a shell, and it must be current in its reporting to the SEC, not under the OTC Markets Alternative Reporting Standard.

SEC Reporting Companies That Used to Be a Shell under Rule 144

For SEC reporting companies that file Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, these Issuers must be current in their SEC quarterly and annual report filings.  If the Issuer was ever a shell in its past, it must have filed these reports for at least 12 months since it stopped being a shell.

These Issuers will be quoted on the OTC Markets OTCQB or OTCQX market tiers.  They may also be quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board, if the Issuer has chosen to apply for OTCBB.  But a current SEC reporting company that is “fully reporting” will be shown as an OTCQB, at least, on OTCMarkets.com.

Pink Sheets That Used to Be a Shell under Rule 144

Non SEC reporting companies (Pink Sheets) that are subscribed to OTC Markets OTCIQ system, will be shown as a “Pink Current” Issuer on OTCMarkets.com, meaning that the Issuer is current in its quarterly financials, annual financials and disclosure statement filings under the Alternative Reporting Standard.

If a Pink Sheet public company was ever a shell in its past, broker-dealers and clearing firms are not likely to ever accept a Rule 144 legal opinion to clear its stock even if it has ceased being a shell.  This is true under Rule 144 no matter how long ago the Pink Sheet ceased to be a shell.

Pink Sheets that are not current in their filings will be shown as “Pink Limited Information” or Pink Yield Sign, while those Pink Sheets that have missed several filings will be shown as “Pink No Information” or Pink Stop Sign.

Shareholders of Pink Sheet Issuers that were formerly shells can contact Matt Stout, securities attorney for further information on other SEC provisions which may be useful in clearing their Shares under the facts specific to their case.