Andrew Abramowitz

The SEC Streamlines Accredited Investor Verification Under Rule 506(c)

The SEC’s recent final rule release regarding exempt offerings covered various topics, including the subject of my previous post, on the expanded offering limits for Regulation CF crowdfunding and Regulation A offerings. In the release, the SEC also provided some welcome relief in the accredited investor verification process for Rule 506(c) offerings.

The SEC Broadens the Crowdfunding and Regulation A Exemptions

The SEC issued a 388-page final rule release, entitled Facilitating Capital Formation and Expanding Investment Opportunities by Improving Access to Capital in Private Markets. (The clunky wording seems like it was done to accommodate a catchy acronym, but “FCFAEIOBIATCIPM” doesn’t really flow.) The release details rule changes in a variety of areas relating to private offerings, but I will focus for this post on the expansion of the crowdfunding (Regulation CF) and Regulation A offering exemptions, and cover other topics in future posts. Here are the SEC’s press release and fact sheet about all the new rule changes.

The SEC Proposes a Clear Finder Exemption

I’ve noted in several blog posts (most recently here) that the SEC had not provided definitive guidance on an exemption for so-called “finders” from broker-dealer registration requirements. Now we have that guidance, at least in proposed form, which if enacted would provide clarity for issuers and would-be finders. The proposal was approved by the SEC Commissioners on a 3-2 vote (because it’s 2020 and of course it’s contentious), so there is perhaps a greater than usual possibility of changes to the rules before finalization.

Payments to Independent Contractors Under Paycheck Protection Program Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has just launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), arranging for forgivable loans to small businesses affected by COVID-19. There are, however, widespread implementation issues, with several banks that will administer the loans not yet being ready to process loan applications, as of April 6, 2020. For general guidance on the program, I can provide you with this fact sheet from the Treasury Department and a website guide from the SBA. Additionally, most large law and accounting firms are constantly issuing client alerts summarizing the latest developments, which are available on those firms’ websites.

The SEC’s Proposed Expansion of Accredited Investors

When to use a Private Placement Memorandum | Andrew Abramowitz, PLLCThe SEC has issued a proposal to expand the definition of “accredited investor” as used for the Regulation D safe harbor for private offerings. This press release/fact sheet summarizes the changes. There are a number of technical updates to reflect developments in how business is now conducted, e.g., LLCs with sufficient assets would qualify in the same manner as corporations now do. However, the change that would likely have the most impact, at least in my practice, is the inclusion as accredited investors of natural persons with appropriate professional certification, such as holders of a Series 7 securities license, even if they don’t qualify under the existing standards for natural persons for income or net worth. I’m not aware of any significant opposition to this concept and assume it will be enacted by the SEC after public comment.

However, any time the topic of the accredited investor definition is raised serves as a trigger for me to raise the issue of investment limits in private offerings. Crowdfunding offerings under Regulation CF, enacted in recent years and still used far less than Regulation D, impose investment limits on investors that are based on a percentage of the investor’s income or net worth. Accordingly, the structure precludes a total financial wipeout of the individual investor as a result of a failed investment. …

The “Get Everyone in a Room” Fallacy

Every deal lawyer has had the experience. The deal negotiations have gone on longer than anyone expected. Frustration is setting in. At that point, one of the individuals involved, more likely to be one of the principals instead of an attorney, demands an all-hands, in-person meeting to get the deal done, and “we’re not leaving until we have a deal.” This impulse, while understandable, is often misguided and can lead to additional frustration.

Should Solo Lawyers Seek to Partner Up?

Use of Debt Financing by Law FirmsWriting in Above the Law, Jordan Rothman argues from personal experience that solo lawyers would be better off partnering in a law firm with one or more other attorneys. As someone who has operated partner-less for almost 10 years now, after Big Law partner experience (where one literally doesn’t know many of one’s partners because there are so many of them), I’ve seen different arrangements and have some thoughts on these issues. While there are some clear advantages to having partners, much of Rothman’s argument is based on an unduly restrictive assumption about how solo firms must operate.

The Role of Personal Trust in Lawyer Selection

In some ways, my law firm, Andrew Abramowitz, PLLC, is at the forefront of recent changes in the delivery of legal services. For example, the firm operates virtually, with the staff attorneys toiling away at home (or wherever – they could be doing it while hang-gliding as long as they do the job well and promptly, as far as I’m concerned). The ability to get the work done without housing everyone in an expensive Manhattan leased space gives the firm flexibility to offer more competitive rates than traditional firms.

The Challenges of Startup Legal Representation

When I am having initial discussions with potential startup clients, they often say they’re looking for a firm that understands the particular challenges of running a startup. Perhaps this can be a reference to the substantive transactional matters that startups deal with – like negotiating an agreement among founders or raising capital using methods particular to early-stage companies – that attorneys who’ve been trained by representing Fortune 500 companies may not understand. But often the subtext of the question is that startups are frequently short of cash and may not be in a position to pay legal bills on a regular basis. The challenge for the attorney is to secure these sorts of clients and still manage to make a living after doing so.

The SEC’s Concept Release on Exempt Offerings and Investment Limits

Share Buybacks as a Political Issue | Andrew Abramowitz, PLLCThe SEC recently issued a long “concept release” on harmonization of securities offering exemptions. Whenever I hear about one of these, my first thought is that it’s somehow like a concept album from a ‘70s prog rock outfit (and therefore to be avoided), but in reality, the point of concept releases is to solicit input from the securities law community on a broad topic without immediately proposing changes. In this case, it’s about the complex web of exempt offering types that have evolved over the years and whether and how to harmonize them.