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 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.
When I am estimating costs for a project for prospective clients, particularly those new to the formation of business entities and deal-doing, a common source of confusion is why there needs to be a fee paid to my law firm as well as to a corporate service company like CT Corporation or CSC. So, I thought it would be useful to briefly outline the different roles that each of us plays in the creation and maintenance of entities.
I am very much a member of the target audience of Billions, the Showtime drama about the intersection of law and finance in New York. As a corporate lawyer with the professional background to decipher at least some of the dense jargon, I sometimes have to suspend disbelief at the plot twists, including a U.S. Attorney who doesn’t recuse himself from a criminal investigation of a hedge fund that employs his wife, as well as a coordinated FBI mass arrest of politicians at a funeral service.
As I’ve blogged about in the past, the SEC in recent years has taken a relatively strict position against payments to “finders” who are not registered broker-dealers, as compensation for introducing investors to companies. The SEC’s focus has primarily been on “transaction-based compensation,” i.e., payment to the finder that is contingent on investment by the introduced investor, which according to the SEC is a hallmark of broker-like activity that requires registration.