The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is issuing this Investor Bulletin to educate investors about investing in unregistered securities offerings, or private placements, under Regulation D of the Securities Act.
A securities offering exempt from registration with the SEC is sometimes referred to as a private placement or an unregistered offering. Under the federal securities laws, a company may not offer or sell securities unless the offering has been registered with the SEC or an exemption from registration is available.
Generally speaking, private placements are not subject to some of the laws and regulations that are designed to protect investors, such as the comprehensive disclosure requirements that apply to registered offerings. Private and public companies engage in private placements to raise funds from investors. Hedge funds and other private funds also engage in private placements.
As an individual investor, you may be offered an opportunity to invest in an unregistered offering. You may be told that you are being given an exclusive opportunity. The opportunity may come from a broker, acquaintance, friend or relative. You may have seen an advertisement regarding the opportunity. The securities involved may be, among other things:
-common or preferred stock,
– limited partnerships interests,
-a membership interest in a limited liability company, or
– an investment product such as a note or bond.
Keep in mind that private placements can be very risky and any investment may be difficult, if not virtually impossible to sell.
Regulation D: What is it?
When reviewing private placement documents, you may see a reference to Regulation D. Regulation D includes three SEC rules—Rules 504, 505 and 506—that issuers often rely on to sell securities in unregistered offerings. The entity selling the securities is commonly referred to as the issuer. Each rule has specific requirements that the issuer must meet.
If you have reason to believe that an unregistered offering claiming to rely on one of these rules does not satisfy the applicable requirements, consider this a red flag about the investment.
Rule 504 permits certain issuers to offer and sell up to $1 million of securities in any 12-month period. These securities may be sold to any number and type of investor, and the issuer is not subject to specific disclosure requirements. Generally, securities issued under Rule 504 will be restricted securities (as further explained below), unless the offering meets certain additional requirements. As a prospective investor, you should confirm with the issuer whether the securities being offered under this rule will be restricted.
Under Rule 505, issuers may offer and sell up to $5 million of their securities in any 12-month period. There are limits on the types of investors who may purchase the securities. The issuer may sell to an unlimited number of accredited investors, but to no more than 35 non-accredited investors. If the issuer sells its securities to non-accredited investors, the issuer must disclose certain information about itself, including its financial statements. If sales are made only to accredited investors, the issuer has discretion as to what to disclose to investors. Any information provided to accredited investors must be provided to non-accredited investors.
An unlimited amount of money may be raised in offerings relying on one of two possible Rule 506 exemptions. Similar to Rule 505, an issuer relying on Rule 506(b) may sell to an unlimited number of accredited investors, but to no more than 35 non-accredited investors. However, unlike Rule 505, the non-accredited investors in the offering must be financially sophisticated or, in other words, have sufficient knowledge and experience in financial and business matters to evaluate the investment. This sophistication requirement may be satisfied by having a purchaser representative for the investor who satisfies the criteria. An investor engaging a purchaser representative should pay particular attention to any conflicts of interest the representative may have.
As with a Rule 505 offering, if non-accredited investors are involved, the issuer must disclose certain information about itself, including its financial statements. If selling only to accredited investors, the issuer has discretion as to what to disclose to investors. Any information provided to accredited investors must be provided to non-accredited investors.
What should you do before investing?
Private placements may be pitched as a unique opportunity being offered to only a handful of investors, including you. Be careful. Don’t be fooled by this high-pressure sales tactic. Even if the deal is “unique,” it may not be a good investment.
It is important for you to obtain all the information that you need to make an informed investment decision.
In fact, issuers relying on the Rule 505 and 506(b) exemptions from registration must provide non-accredited investors an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers regarding the investment. If an issuer fails to adequately answer your questions, consider this a warning against making the investment.
Unlike registered offerings in which certain information is required to be disclosed, investors in private placements are generally on their own in obtaining the information they need to make an informed investment decision. Investors need to fully understand what they are investing in and fully appreciate what risks are involved.
This information is being provided by The White Law Group. The White Law Group, LLC is a national securities fraud, securities arbitration, and investor protection law firm with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Vero Beach, Florida.
If you have suffered significant losses and want to learn more about your legal options against the broker-dealer that sold you a private placement, please contact the securities attorney of The White Law Group at 888-637-5510 for a free consultation.
For more information on The White Law Group, visit http://www.whitesecuritieslaw.com.