Tag Archives: Rule 144

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.

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.

Tacking onto the Holding Period of Convertible Notes under Rule 144

Does Accrued Interest Affect the Holding Period Under Rule 144(d)?

When Convertible Promissory Notes with accrued but unpaid interest are exchanged for stock in a public company, the Rule 144 holding period for the Notes can be tacked to the holding period for the stock under Rule 144(d)(3)(ii) only if the exchange consists only “of other securities of the same Issuer.”

That means no additional consideration can be paid in the exchange other than the securities themselves and is consistent with Section 3(a)(9) of the Securities Act of 1933,

Accrued Interest is Not Considered Additional Consideration Under Rule 144

This brings up the question of whether or not accrued but unpaid interest on the Note is construed by the SEC as additional consideration inconsistent with Rule 144(d)(3)(ii).

The SEC’s position is that the right to receive payment for the accrued interest is not additional consideration, and the holding period for the Convertible Promissory Notes can be tacked to the holding period for all shares of stock received in the exchange.

Rule 144 Securities Lawyer Opinion Letters for Debt Conversions

Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. reviews Notes at no cost in preparation for issuing Rule 144 legal opinions for debt holders in OTC Markets and OTC Bulletin Board companies.  Debt holders can email documents to mstout@otclawyers.com or call Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076 for a free consultation on Rule 144, or on the Section 4(a)(1) alternative to Rule 144 if the securities are at least 2 years old.

When is an Amendment to Form 144 Needed?

Affiliate Shareholders of OTC Markets and Bulletin Board public companies are those serving as Officers, Directors, control persons or owners of more than 9.99% of the Issuers voting securities of any class (“Affiliates”).

Affiliates Submit SEC Form 144 When Selling Restricted Stock

Affiliates of OTC companies know that in order to clear and sell restricted stock, they need to fill out a Form 144 and submit that to their broker, which will allow them to sell up to 1% of the total issued and outstanding common stock of the Issuer within a 90 day period.

Increasing the Number of Shares Sold Requires an Amendment to Form 144

Under Rule 144(h), an amendment to SEC Form 144 needs to be filed if the Affiliate wishes to sell more securities during the 90 day period than was originally declared for sale on the original Form 144.

For example, if an Affiliate files a notice on SEC Form 144 for the proposed sale of less than the full amount of shares that could be sold under the volume limitations set forth in Rule 144(e), but then decides to sell up to 1% of the issued and outstanding, an amendment is needed.  For this reason, it may be wise for Affiliates to consider simply using the 1% number in the original Form 144 filing.

No Form 144 Amendment is Needed if the Affiliate Shares are Unsold

Under Rule 144(h), if the Affiliate filed a Form 144, but does not sell all of the securities referred to during the 90 day period, no amendment needs to be filed with the SEC.

No Form 144 Amendment is Needed Due to a Stock Split

If after an Affiliate’s filing of Form 144, the OTC Issuer declares a stock split,  no new Form 144 filing is needed within the 90 day period to sell the correct number of post-split shares which equate to the number of pre-split shares the Affiliate had already declared on Form 144.  The broker will simply make the adjustment and inform the Affiliate of the new maximum to be sold under the Rule 144 volume trading limitations.

No Form 144 Amendment is Needed to Change Brokers

Individual brokerages may have their own policies on this, but the SEC does not require a new Form 144 or amendment to be filed when an Affiliate uses more than one broker, since it is the share number and trading volume limitation which governs trading, and not the brokerage used to execute the trades.

Likewise, under Rule 144(h), an Affiliate filing Form 144 who indicates that the Affiliate may sell shares through more than one broker is not required to allocate a specific number of shares to each broker on Form 144.

OTC Securities Lawyer Helps Affiliates Sell Restricted Stock

Management and control persons of OTC Markets and Bulletin Board public companies can contact Matt Stout for referrals to OTC brokers and assistance filling out SEC Form 144.   Securities lawyer Matt Stout reviews certificates, filings and documents at no cost to determine if a Rule 144 legal opinion can be issued.   Shareholders can email Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq. at mstout@otclawyers.com or call (410) 429-7076.

How is the Six Month Holding Period Computed under Rule 144(d)(1)(i)?

For mandatory SEC filers, the Rule 144 holding period is Six (6) Months.  This means that under Rule 144(d)(1)(i), a minimum of Six (6) Months must pass from the date restricted securities are acquired from an Issuer or from an Affiliate of the Issuer, whichever is later (the “Acquisition Date”) and any resale of the restricted securities under Rule 144 (the “Resale Date”).

What is a Mandatory SEC Filer?

The Six (6) Month holding period only applies to mandatory SEC Filers.  A mandatory SEC filer is a public company that is, and for at least the immediately prior 90 days, has been subject to the reporting requirements of Exchange Act Section 13 or 15(d).

What is the Acquisition Date for the Purposes of Rule 144?

The Acquisition Date is the date on which the restricted securities were acquired by being “paid for” or “fully earned.”  This is often much earlier than the date of a stock certificate.

How to Calculate the Rule 144 Holding Period in a Debt Conversion

For shares originating in a debt conversion, Rule 144 allows tacking onto the holding period of a Promissory Note.   In that case, the Acquisition Date would be the later of the date of Note, or the date funds were paid to the Company in the form of wire transfer or check, if the Note is evidence of a loan.   The Acquisition Date could then be years before a Notice of Conversion or a stock certificate was even issued.

How to Calculate the Rule 144 Holding Period for a Subscription Agreement

For stock purchased from the Issuer via Subscription Agreement, the Rule 144 holding period will begin on the later of the date the Subscription Agreement was countersigned, or on the date the Shareholder purchased the shares via wire transfer or check.  That is, a Shareholder cannot start the Rule 144 holding period merely by promising to buy shares by signing the Subscription Agreement–the shares must be paid for.

How to Calculate the Rule 144 Holding Period for a Consulting Agreement

For stock awarded as compensation under a Consulting Agreement, when the Rule 144 holding period would start depends on the language of the document and when the services were provided.  The shares awarded under a Consulting Agreement must be “fully earned” by providing services.

In some cases, the document itself will specify the “term” or period of time in which services are to be provided, and the rate at which a number of shares is earned.  In cases where the document was vague, confirmation from the Company’s CEO or confirmed by correspondence between the parties or Transfer Agent can be used to verify when the shares were considered “fully earned.”

Rule 144 Legal Opinions by OTC Securities Lawyer Matheau J. W. Stout, Esq.

OTC Securities attorney Matt Stout reviews documents at no cost for Shareholders seeking legal opinions under Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1).   Shareholders who want to clear and sell restricted stock, or who want to remove the restricted legend from securities can contact OTCLawyers at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

Rule 144 Holding Period for Voluntary SEC Filers

What is a Voluntary SEC Filer?

A “voluntary filer” in a public company which continues filing SEC reports like the 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K, after its S-1 Registration Statement becomes effective, without technically being required to do so.

For the purposes of calculating a Rule 144 holding period, Voluntary SEC filers are not considered “subject to” the filing requirements of Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) because they are not obligated to file Exchange Act reports under either of those sections.

Does Having an Effective S-1 Affect the Rule 144 Holding Period?

Having an S-1 Registration Statement, which is filed under the Securities Act of 1933, rather than under the Exchange Act, does not make a filer “mandatory.”  An SEC filer goes from “voluntary” to “mandatory” by filing certain Exchange Act forms, like the 8A-12g or the Form 10 Registration Statement.   These Exchange Act forms obligate the public company to file the 10-K, 10-Q, and 8-K, by making the company “subject to” the filing requirements of Exchange Act Section 13 or 15(d).

Mandatory SEC Filers Have a Six Month Holding Period Under Rule 144

The Six (6) Month holding period requirement in Rule 144(d)(1)(i) applies only to the restricted securities of a public company that is, and has been for at least 90 days immediately prior to the sale, “subject to” the reporting requirements of Exchange Act Section 13 or 15(d).

Voluntary Filers Have a One Year Holding Period Under Rule 144

Because of this distinction, the One (1) Year holding period requirement in Rule 144(d)(1)(ii) applies to the restricted securities of voluntary filers.

Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) Opinion Letter Attorney Matt Stout

Shareholders in OTCQB and OTC Bulletin Board companies can contact Rule 144 and S-1 lawyer Matt Stout with questions on clearing and depositing restricted stock at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com for a no cost review.

What is the Rule 144 Holding Period for Securities Exchanged under Securities Act Section 3(a)(9)?

When a Shareholder receives new securities in exchange for old securities of the same Issuer under Section 3(a)(9), the new securities received in the exchange assume the same character as the exchanged securities.

Tacking of the Holding Period is Allowed Under Section 3(a)(9) Securities Exchanges

This means that when restricted securities are exchanged, the new securities received under Section (a)(9) are also restricted, but the SEC allows tacking onto the holding period of the former securities.

Rule 144 Legal Opinion Letters by Experienced Securities Counsel

Shareholders receiving shares in 3(a)(9) exchanges can contact OTC Markets and OTC Bulletin Board securities lawyer Matt Stout for a no cost review of their exchange documents, and for the issuance of Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1) legal opinions at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com.

 

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.

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.