What Does Caveat Emptor or Skull & Crossbones Mean on OTC Markets?

caveat-emptor The Caveat Emptor or “Buyer Beware” warning on OTC Markets means that there is  a public interest concern involving the Issuer, its Management or Securities.

Although the skull and crossbones implies that there is something possibly toxic about the stock, and looks scary, it really functions to alert the Issuer to provide documentation requested by a regulatory authority like the SEC in order to clear up what might just be a misunderstanding.

Caveat Emptor is Inevitable When Issuers Ignore SEC Inquires

In many cases, the existing Management or prospective Buyers of Caveat Emptor pubic vehicles will discover that the source of the skull and crossbones is a matter easily explained when a securities lawyer takes the time to follow the process.

Another way of looking at a Caveat Emptor is that the skull and crossbones is the inevitable result when an Issuer ignores an SEC inquiry, even if there is nothing whatsoever wrong.

Issuers Should Respect the Process and Hire Counsel to Respond

The difference between having a skull and crossbones for a few days or forever comes down to whether an Issuer respects the process enough to respond properly.  Hoping it will go away doesn’t work.  Management hiding their heads in the sand won’t remove it.

It is not the goal of the SEC, OTC Markets or any other organization to blacklist companies for life; those with good management and transparent numbers, that take the time and demonstrate good faith by cooperating fully are often rewarded quickly.  There is nothing to lose by responding and Shareholders have a lot to gain if the stock can start trading again.

Even if there was a legitimate public interest concern which caused the Caveat Emptor warning, once the Issuer takes affirmative steps to address past problems, it can distance itself from bad actors or past mistakes.   This process is all about disclosure, and more transparency is always better for both Management and Shareholders.

Pink Current Issuers who suddenly find themselves saddled with the Caveat Emptor badge should pick up the telephone and hire experienced securities counsel, who can coordinate the process of providing the regulatory authority with the information they need.

When is the Caveat Emptor Warning Removed By OTC Markets?

OTC Markets quoted companies may have the Caveat Emptor warning removed by providing their investors with detailed disclosures following the Alternative Reporting Standard.  This is accomplished by using either the OTC Markets Disclosure & News Service or, if the Issuer is an OTCQB, by becoming current again in their SEC filings.  Even after filings are brought current, OTC Markets may continue to mark an Issuer as Caveat Emptor if it believes there might still be a public interest concern.  For this reason, Issuers should specifically address any public interest concerns in their disclosures rather than trying to pretend it didn’t happen.

Experienced Securities Counsel for Caveat Emptor Vehicles

OTC Markets Issuers facing a Caveat Emptor situation should contact experienced securities legal counsel to discuss what is required to remove the skull and crossbones.  There are many reasons why the Caveat Emptor warning can be added to an Issuer’s trading symbol and the proper actions in response depend on why the Issuer was flagged.

Caveat Emptor May Create An Opportunity for Buyers of Public Vehicles

When existing Management of a Caveat Emptor vehicle gives up in frustration or chooses not to respond properly to an SEC inquiry, this can create an opportunity for a group with the money and patience to deal properly with any lingering public interest concerns.  Due diligence is essential in evaluating the difficulty of removing the Caveat Emptor warning, and this should be factored in when looking at a skull and crossbones vehicle that is for sale.

Management or Shareholders of OTC Markets skull and crossbones public vehicles can contact securities attorney Matt Stout at (410) 429-7076 for further information.