Laura Anthony

    • Member Type(s): Expert
    • Title:Founding Partner
    • Organization:Legal & Compliance, LLC
    • Area of Expertise:Securities Law

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    The CFTC And Cryptocurrencies

    Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 9:15 AM [General]
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    The SEC and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have been actively policing the crypto or virtual currency space. Both regulators have filed multiple enforcement actions against companies and individuals for improper activities including fraud. On January 25, 2018, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo published a joint op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on the topic.

    Backing up a little, on October 17, 2017, the LabCFTC office of the CFTC published “A CFTC Primer on Virtual Currencies” in which it defines virtual currencies and outlines the uses and risks of virtual currencies and the role of the CFTC. The CFTC first found that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are properly defined as commodities in 2015. Accordingly, the CFTC has regulatory oversight over futures, options, and derivatives contracts on virtual currencies and has oversight to pursue claims of fraud or manipulation involving a virtual currency traded in interstate commerce. Beyond instances of fraud or manipulation, the CFTC generally does not oversee “spot” or cash market exchanges and transactions involving virtual currencies that do not utilize margin, leverage or financing. Rather, these “exchanges” are regulated as payment processors or money transmitters under state law.

    The role of the CFTC is substantially similar to the SEC with a mission to “foster open, transparent, competitive and financially sound markets” and to “protect market users and their funds, consumers and the public from fraud, manipulation and abusive practices related to derivatives and other products subject to the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA).” The definition of a commodity under the CEA is as broad as the definition of a security under the Securities Act of 1933, including a physical commodity such as an agricultural product, a currency or interest rate or “all services, rights and interests in which the contracts for future delivery are presently or in the future dealt in” (i.e., futures, options and derivatives contracts).

    Where the SEC regulates securities and securities markets, the CFTC does the same for commodities and commodity markets. At times the jurisdiction of the two regulators overlaps, such as related to swap transactions (see HERE). Furthermore, while there are no SEC licensed securities exchanges which trade virtual currencies or any tokens, there are several commodities exchanges that trade virtual currency products such as swaps and options, including the TeraExchange, North American Derivatives Exchange and LedgerX.

    The Commodity Exchange Act would prohibit the trading of a virtual currency future, option or swap on a platform or facility not licensed by the CFTC. Moreover, the National Futures Association (NFA) is now requiring member commodity pool operators (CPO’s) and commodity trading advisors (CTA’s) to immediately notify the NFA if they operate a pool or manage an account that engaged in a transaction involving a virtual currency or virtual currency derivative.

    The CFTC refers to the IRS’s definition of a “virtual currency” and in particular:

    A virtual currency is a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and/or a store of value. In some environments it operates like real currency but it does not have legal tender status in the U.S. Virtual currency that has an equivalent value in real currency, or that acts as a substitute for real currency, is referred to as a convertible virtual currency.  Bitcoin is one example of a convertible virtual currency.

    I note that neither the CFTC’s definition of Bitcoin as a commodity, nor the IRS’s definition of a virtual currency, conflicts with the SEC’s position that most cryptocurrencies and initial cryptocurrency offerings today are securities requiring compliance with the federal securities laws. The SEC’s position is based on an analysis of the current market for ICO’s and the issuance of “coins” or “tokens” for capital raising transactions and as speculative investment contracts. In fact, a cryptocurrency which today may be an investment contract (security) can morph into a commodity (currency) or other type of digital asset. For example, an offering of XYZ token for the purpose of raising capital to build a software or blockchain platform or community where XYZ token can be used as a currency would rightfully be considered a securities offering that needs to comply with the federal securities laws. However, when the XYZ token is issued and can be used as a form of currency, it would become a commodity. Furthermore, the bundling of a token securities offering to include options or futures contracts may implicate both SEC and CFTC compliance requirements.

    The CFTC primer gives a little background on Bitcoin, which was created in 2008 by a person or group using the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” as an electric payment system based on cryptographic proof allowing any two parties to transact directly without the need for a trusted third party, such as a bank or credit card company. Bitcoin is partially anonymous, with individuals being identified by an alphanumeric address. Bitcoin runs on a blockchain-decentralized network of computers and uses open-source software and “miners” to validate transactions through solving complex algorithmic mathematical equations.

    A virtual currency can be used as a store of value; however, virtual currencies are not a yield asset in that they do not generate dividends or interest. Virtual currencies can generally be traded with resulting capital gains or losses. The CFTC, like all regulators, points out the significant speculation and volatility risk. The CFTC reiterates the large incidents of fraud involving crypto marketplaces. Furthermore, there is a significant cybersecurity risk. If a “wallet” holding cryptosecurities is hacked, they are likely gone without a chance of recovery.

    Although many virtual currencies, including Bitcoin, market themselves as a payment method, the ability to utilize Bitcoin and other virtual currencies for everyday goods and services has not yet come to fruition. In fact, the trend toward Bitcoin being a regularly accepted payment has seemed to have gone the other way, with payment processor Stripe, tech giant Microsoft and gaming platform Steam discontinuing Bitcoin support due to lengthy transaction times and increased transaction failure rates.

    Further Reading on DLT/Blockchain and ICO’s

    For an introduction on distributed ledger technology, including a summary of FINRA’s Report on Distributed Ledger Technology and Implication of Blockchain for the Securities Industry, see HERE.

    For a discussion on the Section 21(a) Report on the DAO investigation, statements by the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Enforcement related to the investigative report and the SEC’s Investor Bulletin on ICO’s, see HERE.

    For a summary of SEC Chief Accountant Wesley R. Bricker’s statements on ICO’s and accounting implications, see HERE.

    For an update on state distributed ledger technology and blockchain regulations, see HERE.

    For a summary of the SEC and NASAA statements on ICO’s and updates on enforcement proceedings as of January 2018, see HERE.

    To read about the SEC and CFTC joint statements and the Wall Street Journal op-ed article, see HERE.

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    The New Auditor Report

    Tuesday, February 13, 2018, 8:32 AM [General]
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    In October 2017, the SEC approved a new rule by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) requiring significant changes to public company audit reports. Among other additions, an audit report will need to include critical audit matters (CAMs) and disclosure the tenure of the auditor. The new rule and requirements related to audit reports are significant as the audit report is the document in which the auditor itself communicates to the public and investors.

    The new standard will require auditors to describe CAMs that are communicated to a company’s audit committee. Critical audit matters are those that relate to material financial statement entries or disclosures and require complex judgment. One of the purposes of the proposed change is to require the auditor to communicate to investors, via the audit report, those matters that were difficult or thought-provoking in the audit process and that the auditor believes an investor would want to know.

    The new audit report standard also adds information related to the audit firm tenure, and the auditor’s role and responsibilities. Tenure can be an important factor in an audit, including an auditor’s experience and thus understanding of a company’s business and audit risks.

    The process in finalizing the rule has been lengthy, having begun in 2010 in response to investor- and public-initiated comments. Once proposed, the rule went through three rounds of public solicitation for comment. Of particular concern is whether the new requirements will result in increased nuisance shareholder litigation, costing the company and its investors, and whether it will result in a chill on auditor-company communications. In a statement related to the new auditor report, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton expressly addressed this concern, stating:

    “I would be disappointed if the new audit reporting standard, which has the potential to provide investors with meaningful incremental information, instead resulted in frivolous litigation costs, defensive, lawyer-driven auditor communications, or antagonistic auditor-audit committee relationships — with Main Street investors ending up in a worse position than they were before.

    I therefore urge all involved in the implementation of the revised auditing standards, including the Commission and the PCAOB, to pay close attention to these issues going forward, including carefully reading the guidance provided in the approval order and the PCAOB’s adopting release.”

    As an aside, as with any rule making, SEC rules and regulations can and do result in unintended consequences. This is an issue I’ve raised many times over the years in my blogs, including, for example, the multitude of differences between requirements for smaller reporting companies and emerging growth companies, a topic the SEC is now working on addressing and rectifying. It is great to see Chair Clayton discuss this phenomenon directly and for the rule itself to take measures to monitor and initiate changes based on implementation analysis.

    There are certain carve-outs from some of the rule requirements, including the CAM requirements. In particular, the CAM reporting does not apply to emerging growth companies (EGCs), broker-dealers, investment companies, business development companies or employee stock plans; however, they do specifically apply to smaller reporting companies.  Moreover, the rule requires extensive post-implementation review, in light of the potential for negative unintended consequences, and such review could result in changes to the rule itself and its implementation schedule.

    The New Audit Report Rules

    The new rules have broken old AS 3101, which covered all audit reports, into two parts: (i) AS 3101, The Auditor’s Report on an Audit of Financial Statements When the Auditor Expresses an Unqualified Opinion, and (ii) AS 3105, Departures from Unqualified Opinions and Other Reporting Circumstances. From a high level, audit reports have a pass/fail standard—i.e., they are either qualified or unqualified. The new rules clarify the auditor’s report standards in each case.

    The new rules require an auditor to communicate critical audit matters (CAMs) in the audit report, or affirmatively state that there were no CAMs. A CAM is defined as “any matter arising from the audit of the financial statements that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee and that: (i) relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements; and (ii) involved especially challenging, subjective or complex auditor judgment.”

    For clarity, the rules provide a list of considerations when determining whether a matter was especially challenging, subjective or complex. These considerations include: (i) the auditor’s assessment of the risks of material misstatement; (ii) the degree of auditor judgment in areas that involved a high degree of judgment or estimation by management, including any measurements with significant uncertainty; (iii) the nature and timing of significant unusual transactions and audit effort and judgment involved; (iv) the degree of auditor subjectivity in applying audit procedures; (v) the nature and extent of audit effort, including specialized skill or knowledge or need for outside consultation; and (vi) the nature of audit evidence.

    The SEC rule release and PCAOB release stress that CAMs should not be boilerplate disclosures carried in each report, which would then lessen their impact and usefulness. Rather, a CAM should only be a material event that has required thought and complexity to the auditor and company. Furthermore, a CAM only includes those matters that meet each element of the definition, including materiality, requirement to communicate with the audit committee, and matters involving especially challenging, subjective or complex judgment.

    Each audit report must: (i) identify the CAM; (ii) describe the considerations that led the auditor to determine that the matter is a CAM; (iii) describe how the CAM was addressed in the audit; and (iv) refer to the relevant financial statement accounts or disclosures. That is, an auditor must articulate “why” a matter is a CAM and how it was addressed.  The auditor must keep documentation and thorough records on the process, including how any particular issue was determined to be a CAM or not.

    The CAM reporting does not apply to emerging growth companies (EGCs), broker-dealers, investment companies, business development companies or employee stock plans. Although EGCs are exempt, smaller reporting companies are not. The SEC comment process concluded that CAMs could provide new information about smaller reporting companies, and in fact may be even more critical since these smaller companies generally have less analyst coverage and other reliable outside information sources. Auditors for smaller reporting companies have an additional 18 months to comply with the new rules.

    In addition to CAM discussions, the new rules require the following additions to the audit report: (i) a disclosure of the auditor tenure, including the year the auditor began serving the company; (ii) a statement regarding the auditor independence requirement; (iii) addressing the report to both the company’s shareholders and board of directors; (iv) adding particular standardized language, phrases and qualifiers, including adding the phrase “whether due to error or fraud” when describing the auditor’s responsibility under PCAOB standards to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement; and (v) standardizing the form of the report, including adding sections and titles to guide the reader.

    All other changes in the audit report rules, including tenure reporting, as well as guidelines pertaining to form (headers, etc.), apply to all companies, including EGCs.

    The new rules make various conforming changes to related rules, including requiring the engagement quality reviewer to evaluate the determination, communication and documentation of CAMs. Moreover, the auditor will be required to prevent a draft of the report to the company’s audit committee and engage in discussions on the report contents.

    The rule changes also conform an auditors Section 404(b) report to the new report format. As a reminder, Section 404(a) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires companies to include in their annual reports on Form 10-K a report of management on the company‘s internal control over financial reporting (“ICFR”) that: (i) states management‘s responsibility for establishing and maintaining the internal control structure; and (ii) includes management‘s assessment of the effectiveness of the ICFR. Section 404(b) requires the independent auditor to attest to, and report on, management‘s assessment.

    Effective Dates

    All changes other than CAM-related requirements go into effect for audits beginning with the fiscal year ending on or after December 15, 2017. CAM requirements go into effect for large accelerated filers beginning with the fiscal year ending on or after June 20, 2019 and for all other companies beginning with the fiscal year ending on or after December 15, 2020.

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    The SEC And CFTC Joint Statements On Cryptocurrencies; Global Regulators Join In

    Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 7:58 AM [General]
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    On January 19, 2018 and again on January 25, 2018, the SEC and CFTC divisions of enforcement issued joint statements regarding cryptocurrencies. The January 19 statement was short and to the point, reading in total:

    “When market participants engage in fraud under the guise of offering digital instruments – whether characterized as virtual currencies, coins, tokens, or the like – the SEC and the CFTC will look beyond form, examine the substance of the activity and prosecute violations of the federal securities and commodities laws. The Divisions of Enforcement for the SEC and CFTC will continue to address violations and bring actions to stop and prevent fraud in the offer and sale of digital instruments.”

    The January 25, 2018 statement was issued by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo and was published as an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal.  In summarizing the statements, I add my usual commentary and facts and information on this fast-moving marketplace.

    Distributed ledger technology, or DLT, is the advancement that underpins an array of new financial products, including cryptocurrencies and digital payment services. Clearly the regulators understand the technological disruption, pointing out that “[S]ome have even compared it [DLT] to productivity-driving innovations such as the steam engine and personal computer.”

    The regulators are careful not to discourage the technological advancement or investments themselves but rather are concerned that only those that are sophisticated and can afford a loss, participate. Likewise, unfortunately with every boom comes fraudsters, and investors have to ask the right questions and perform the right due diligence.

    Like the dot-com era, of the hundreds (or thousands) of companies popping up in this space, few will survive and investments in those that do not, will be lost. The message from the regulators remains consistent, cautioning investors about the high risks with investments in this new space and stating that “[T]he CFTC and SEC, along with other federal and state regulators and criminal authorities, will continue to work together to bring transparency and integrity to these markets and, importantly, to deter and prosecute fraud and abuse.”

    While the initial cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin and ether, were likened to a payment alternative to fiat currencies like the dollar and euro, these alternative currencies are very different.  None are backed by a sovereign government, and they lack governance standards, accountability and oversight, reliable reporting of trading, or consistent reporting of price and other financial metrics.

    Of course, this is an exciting era of development and Chairs Clayton and Giancarlo know that, stating:

    “This is not a statement against investments in innovation. The willingness to pursue the commercialization of innovation is one of America’s great strengths. Together Americans embrace new technology and contribute resources to developing it. Through great human effort and competition, strong companies emerge. Some of the dot-com survivors are the among the world’s leading companies today. This longstanding, uniquely American characteristic is the envy of the world. Our regulatory efforts should embrace it.”

    The SEC and CFTC are considering whether the historic approach to the regulation of currency transactions is appropriate for the cryptocurrency markets. Check cashing, payment processing and money transmission services are primarily state regulated. Many of the Internet-based cryptocurrency trading platforms have registered as payment services and are not subject to direct oversight by the SEC or the CFTC. For example, Coinbase has money transmitting licenses from the majority of states. Gemini is a licensed trust company with the New York State of Financial Services. Furthermore, the Bank Secrecy Act and its anti-money laundering (AML) requirements apply to those in the business of accepting and transmitting, selling or storing cryptocurrencies.

    Not a single cyptocurrency trading platform is currently registered by the SEC or CFTC.  However, two CFTC regulated exchanges have now listed bitcoin futures products and, in doing so, engaged in lengthy conversations with the CFTC, ultimately agreeing to implement risk mitigation and oversight measures, heightened margin requirements, and added information sharing agreements with the underlying bitcoin trading platforms. In my next blog I will drill down on the CFTC’s regulatory role and position on cryptocurrencies including a discussion of its October 17, 2017 published article, “A CFTC Primer on Virtual Currencies.”

    The SEC does not have jurisdiction over transactions involving currencies or commodities; however, where an offering of a cryptocurrency has characteristics of a securities offering, the SEC and state securities regulators have, and have exercised, jurisdiction. In addition to the many SEC enforcement proceedings I have written about, state regulators have likewise been very active in the enforcement arena against those offering cryptocurrency- or blockchain-related investments. The SEC is carefully monitoring the entire marketplace including issuers, broker-dealers, investment advisors and trading platforms.  On January 18, 2018, the SEC issued a no-action letter prohibiting the registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940 of U.S. investment funds that desire to invest substantially in cryptocurrency and related products. I will provide further details on this letter in an upcoming blog.

    As the boom has continued, many cryptocurrencies are simply being marketed for their potential increase in value on secondary trading platforms, again none of which are licensed by the SEC or CFTC.  The utility side of the tokens (if any) has taken a back seat to the craze.  Although a few trading platforms are licensed by state regulators as payment processors, many overseas are not licensed by any regulator whatsoever.

    As the SEC has been repeating, the op-ed piece again clearly states that “federal securities laws apply regardless of whether the offered security—a purposefully broad and flexible term—is labeled a  ‘coin’ or ‘utility token’ rather than a stock, bond or investment contract. Market participants, including lawyers, trading venues and financial services firms, should be aware that we are disturbed by many examples of form being elevated over substance, with form-based arguments depriving investors of mandatory protections.”

    While attending the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami a few weeks ago, I was amazed at the thousands of attendees and companies. I go to a lot of financial conferences and had never seen anything like this. I understand the concerns of the regulators and the need to issue constant warnings. While I met some extremely smart people and learned about great companies that could have hugely successful futures, many others were obviously trying to ride a boom, with nothing to offer. They lacked a strong management team, technological know-how, engineers and programmers, a real business, a real plan, or anything to support lasting value of the token issued in their ICO, or being touted for a future issuance. The sole opportunity for an investor was a potential increase in secondary trading value, which was being propped up with hundreds of thousands of dollars (raised in the ICO) of marketing, including crews of people paid to talk about the token on chat boards such as Telegram.

    Like many practitioners, I am fascinated with the technology and disruption it will bring to many aspects of our lives including the arenas of corporate finance and trading markets, and have even invested.

    International Organization of Securities Commissions Issues Warning on ICO’s

    On January 18, 2018, the Board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“IOSCO”) issued a warning on ICO’s including the high risk associated with these speculative investments and concerns about fraud. The IOSCO is the leading international policy forum for securities regulators and is a recognized standard setter for securities regulation. The group’s members regulate more than 95% of the world’s securities markets in more than 115 jurisdictions.

    The statement from IOSCO points out that ICO’s are not standardized and their legal and regulatory status depends on a facts and circumstances analysis. ICO’s are highly speculative and there is a chance that an entire investment will be lost. The warning continues: “[W]hile some operators are providing legitimate investment opportunities to fund projects or businesses, the increased targeting of ICOs to retail investors through online distribution channels by parties often located outside an investor’s home jurisdiction — which may not be subject to regulation or may be operating illegally in violation of existing laws — raises investor protection concerns.”

    The IOSCO has provided its members with information on approaches to ICO’s and related due diligence. The IOSCO has also established an ICO Consultation Network with its members to continue the discussion.

    Further Reading on DLT/Blockchain and ICO’s

    For an introduction on distributed ledger technology, including a summary of FINRA’s Report on Distributed Ledger Technology and Implication of Blockchain for the Securities Industry, see HERE.

    For a discussion on the Section 21(a) Report on the DAO investigation, statements by the Divisions of Corporation Finance and Enforcement related to the investigative report and the SEC’s Investor Bulletin on ICO’s, see HERE.

    For a summary of SEC Chief Accountant Wesley R. Bricker’s statements on ICO’s and accounting implications, see HERE.

    For an update on state distributed ledger technology and blockchain regulations, see HERE.

    For a summary of the SEC and NASAA statements on ICO’s and updates on enforcement proceedings as of January 2018, see HERE...

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    SEC Issues C&DI On Use Of Non-GAAP Measures

    Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 8:29 AM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    On October 17, 2017, the SEC issued two new Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) related to the use of non-GAAP financial measures by public companies. The SEC permits companies to present non-GAAP financial measures in their public disclosures subject to compliance with Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K. Regulation G and Item 10(e) require reconciliation to comparable GAAP numbers, the reasons for presenting the non-GAAP numbers, and govern the presentation format itself including requiring equal or greater prominence to the GAAP financial information.

    My prior two-part blog series on non-GAAP financial measures, Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K can be read HERE and HERE.

    GAAP continues to be criticized by the marketplace in general, with many institutional investors publicly denouncing the usefulness of the accounting standard. Approximately 90% of companies provide non-GAAP financial metrics to illustrate their financial performance and prospects. As an example, EBITDA is a non-GAAP number. I expect continued friction between the SEC’s enforcement of GAAP requirements and a company’s need to present non-GAAP numbers to satisfy the investment community.

    New C&DI

    The first of the new C&DI addresses whether forecasts provided to a financial advisor in relation to a business combination transaction would be considered non-GAAP financial measures requiring compliance with applicable rules. In particular, the SEC confirms that providing forecasts to a financial advisor in connection with a business combination transaction would not be considered non-GAAP financial measures.

    Item 10(e)(5) of Regulation S-K and Rule 101(a)(3) of Regulation G provide that a non-GAAP financial measure does not include financial measures required to be disclosed by GAAP, SEC rules, or pursuant to specific government regulations or SRO rules that are applicable to a company. Accordingly, financial measures provided to a financial advisor would be excluded from the definition of non-GAAP financial measures, and therefore not subject to Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K and Regulation G, if and to the extent: (i) the financial measures are included in forecasts provided to the financial advisor for the purpose of rendering an opinion that is materially related to the business combination transaction; and (ii) the forecasts are being disclosed in order to comply with Item 1015 of Regulation M-A or requirements under state or foreign law, including case law, regarding disclosure of the financial advisor’s analyses or substantive work.

    Although the disclosure of projections to a financial advisor in a business combination transaction does not implicate rules related to non-GAAP financial measures, that same disclosure in a registration statement, proxy statement or tender offer statement would need to comply with Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K.

    In the second new C&DI, the SEC addresses the limited exemptions from the non-GAAP rules for communications relating to business combination transactions.  In particular, Rule 425 of the Securities Act requires that certain business combination communications, that would not be considered solicitation materials in other contexts, be filed with the SEC, generally as part of a registration statement on Form S-4, proxy statement or tender offer statement. Likewise, limited solicitations under Exchange Act Rule 14a-12 and 14d-2(b)(2) that are made prior to filing a proxy statement are exempted from the non-GAAP measure requirements.

    Other than the limited exemptions set forth in the rules listed above, and communications to a financial advisor, business combination communications must comply with Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K related to non-GAAP financial measures, including a reconciliation to comparable GAAP numbers and the reasons for presenting the non-GAAP numbers.

    Refresher on Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K

    Regulation G was adopted January 22, 2003 pursuant to Section 401(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and applies to all companies that have a class of securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) or that are required to file reports under the Exchange Act. The SEC permits companies to present non-GAAP financial measures in their public disclosures subject to compliance with Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K.

    Regulation G governs the use of non-GAAP financial measures in any public disclosures including registration statements filed under the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”), registration statement or reports filed under the Exchange Act or other communications by companies including press releases, investor presentations and conference calls. Regulation G applies to print, oral, telephonic, electronic, webcast and any and all forms of communication with the public.

    Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K governs all filings made with the SEC under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act and specifically prohibits the use of non-GAAP financial measures in financial statements or accompanying notes prepared and filed pursuant to Regulation S-X. Item 10(e) also applies to summary financial information in Securities Act and Exchange Act filings such as in MD&A.

    Definition of non-GAAP financial measure and exclusions

    A non-GAAP financial measure is any numerical measure of a company’s current, historical or projected future financial performance, position, earnings, or cash flows that includes, excludes, or uses any calculation not in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

    Specifically, not included in non-GAAP financial measures for purposes of Regulation G and Item 10(e) are: (i) operating and statistical measures such as the number of employees, number of subscribers, number of app downloads, etc.; (ii) ratios and statistics calculated based on GAAP numbers are not considered “non-GAAP”; and (iii) financial measures required to be disclosed by GAAP (such as segment profit and loss) or by SEC or other governmental or self-regulatory organization rules and regulations (such as measures of net capital or reserves for a broker-dealer).

    Non-GAAP financial measures do not include those that would not provide a measure different from a comparable GAAP measure. For example, the following would not be considered a non-GAAP financial measure: (i) disclosure of amounts of expected indebtedness over time; (ii) disclosure of repayments on debt that are planned or reserved for but not yet made; and (iii) disclosure of estimated revenues and expenses such as pro forma financial statements as long as they are prepared and computed under GAAP.

    Neither Regulation G nor Item 10(e) applies to non-GAAP financial measures included in a communication related to a proposed business combination, the entity resulting from the business combination or an entity that is a party to the business combination as long as the communication is subject to and complies with SEC rules on communications related to business combination transactions. This exclusion only applies to communications made in accordance with specific business combination communications, such as those in Section 14 of the Exchange Act and the rules promulgated thereunder. As clarified in SEC C&DI on the subject, if the same non-GAAP financial measure that was included in a communication filed under one of those rules is also disclosed in a Securities Act registration statement or a proxy statement or tender offer statement, no exemption from Regulation G and Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K would be available for that non-GAAP financial measure.

    Regulation G and Item 10(e) requirements

    Together, Regulation G and Item 10(e) require disclosure of and a reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP numbers, the reasons for presenting the non-GAAP numbers, and govern the presentation format itself including requiring equal or greater prominence to the GAAP financial information.

    As with any and all communications, non-GAAP financial measures are subject to the state and federal anti-fraud prohibitions. In addition to the standard federal anti-fraud provisions, Regulation G imposes its own targeted anti-fraud provision. Rule 100(b) of Regulation G provides that a company, or person acting on its behalf, “shall not make public a non-GAAP financial measure that, taken together with the information accompanying that measure and any other accompanying discussion of that measure, contains an untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact necessary in order to make the presentation of the non-GAAP financial measure, in light of the circumstances under which it is presented, not misleading.” As clarified in C&DI published by the SEC on May 17, 2016, even specifically allowable non-GAAP financial measures may violate Regulation G if they are misleading.

    As is generally the case with SEC reporting, companies are advised to be consistent over time.  Special rules apply to foreign private issuers, which rules are not discussed in this blog.

    Below is a chart explaining the Regulation G and Item 10(e) requirements, which I based on a chart posted in the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation on May 23, 2013 and authored by David Goldschmidt of Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom, LLP. I made several additions to the original chart created by Skadden.

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    Multiple Changes To Private Offering Compliance And Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI)

    Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 8:08 AM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    The SEC has been fine-tuning its Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI), making multiple amendments, additions and deletions on September 20, 2017. The SEC made revisions to reflect changes to Rules 147 and 504, the repeal of Rule 505, as well as numerous non-substantive revisions throughout the C&DI to update for current rules and statutory references. Likewise, several C&DI have been removed that did not accurately reflect current rules.

    On October 26, 2016, the SEC passed new rules to modernize intrastate and regional securities offerings. The final new rules amended Rule 147 to reform the rules and allow companies to continue to offer securities under Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”). The SEC created a new Rule 147A to accommodate adopted state intrastate crowdfunding provisions. New Rule 147A allows intrastate offerings to access out-of-state residents and companies that are incorporated out of state, but that conduct business in the state in which the offering is being conducted. In addition, the SEC amended Rule 504 of Regulation D to increase the aggregate offering amount from $1 million to $5 million and to add bad-actor disqualifications from reliance on the rule. Finally, the SEC repealed the rarely used and now redundant Rule 505 of Regulation D.

    Amended Rule 147 and new Rule 147A took effect on April 20, 2017. Amended Rule 504 took effect on January 20, 2017, and the repeal of Rule 505 was effective May 22, 2017. For a review of the rule changes, see my blog HERE.

    This blog summarizes the substantive changes in the C&DI. Non-substantive changes were made to twenty-two C&DI, which the SEC marked with an asterisk (*) to indicate that they had been modified.

    Regulation D

    The SEC has made multiple changes to the C&DI related to Regulation D.

    Rule 503 – Filing of Notice of Sales (Form D)

    Rule 503 sets forth the requirements related to the filing of a Form D, notice of sales, with the SEC when completing an offering in reliance on Regulation D, including Rules 504 and 506.  In 2009, the SEC issued a C&DI (Question 257.07) confirming that the filing of a Form D is not a condition to the availability of the exemptions under Rules 504 and 506.

    All offers and sales of securities must comply with both federal and state securities laws, unless federal law specifically pre-empts state law compliance. The National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996 (“NSMIA”) amended Section 18 of the Securities Act to pre-empt state blue sky review of specified securities and offerings. The pre-empted securities are called “covered securities.” For more information on the NSMIA, see HERE and HERE.

    The new C&DI (Question 257.08) bolsters the comfort level for issuers that fail to file a Form D (hopefully inadvertently) by confirming that the failure to file a Form D does not effect the Section 18 “covered security” status of securities issued under a Rule 506 offering.

    Rule 504 – Exemption for Limited Offerings and Sales of Securities Not Exceeding $5 Million

    The SEC has issued three new and withdrawn one C&DI related to Rule 504. Rule 504 provides an exemption from registration for offers and sales up to $5 million in securities in any twelve-month period. The purpose of Rule 504 is to assist small businesses in raising seed capital by allowing offers and sales of securities to an unlimited number of persons regardless of their level of sophistication – provided, however, that the offerings remain subject to the federal anti-fraud provisions; furthermore, general solicitation and advertising is prohibited unless sales are limited to accredited investors.

    Rule 504, like Regulation A, is unavailable to companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act, are investment companies or are blank-check companies. Rule 144 has bad actor disqualification provisions matching those provisions in Rule 506. For more information on bad actor disqualification provisions, see HERE.

    Rule 504 offerings do not pre-empt state law and are, in essence, a deferral to the states for small offerings. Rule 504 prohibits the use of general solicitation and advertising unless the offering is made (i) exclusively in one or more states that provide for the registration of the securities and public filing and delivery of a disclosure document; or (ii) in one or more states that piggyback on the registration of the securities in another state and they are so registered in another state; or (iii) exclusively according to a state law exemption that permits general solicitation and advertising so long as sales are made only to accredited investors (i.e., a state version of the federal 506(c) exemption).

    The SEC has consistently viewed exempt offerings that involve general solicitation as public offerings. Accordingly, where a Rule 504 offering involves general solicitation or advertising, it would be considered a public offering.

    One new C&DI (Question 258.03) confirms that a private fund which relies on either the Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940 would not be able to make a public Rule 504 offering. The Investment Company Act exemptions in Sections 3(c)(1) and 3(c)(7) are not available to funds that conduct public offerings.  If a private fund made a “public offering” of its securities, that private fund would no longer be able to rely on the applicable exclusion under Section 3(c)(1) or (7) and thus would be required to be registered under the Investment Company Act, unless another exclusion or exemption is available.

    In the same C&DI, the SEC notes that a private fund could, however, rely on Rule 506(c) without losing its Investment Company Act exemption because Section 201(b)(2) specifically provides that offerings under Rule 506(c) are not considered “public offerings” under the federal securities laws. Interestingly, on November 17, 2016, the SEC issued a C&DI related to the integration of a 506(b) offering with a new 506(c) offering. Relying on Securities Act Rule 152, the SEC concluded that the two offerings would not integrate because the subsequent Rule 506(c) offering would be considered a “public offering.” See my blog HERE.

    In new Question 258.05, the SEC confirms that the example for calculating aggregate offering price found in the instructions to Rule 504 does not contemplate integration of multiple offerings. Withdrawn Question 258.04 had also dealt with the calculation of the aggregate offering price.

    In new Question 258.06, the SEC addresses the compliance date for the new Rule 504 bad actor disqualifications. That is, Rule 504 is not available to any issuer that is subject to disqualification under Rule 506(d) on or after January 20, 2017. On or after this date, issuers must determine if they are subject to bad actor disqualification any time they are offering or selling securities in reliance on Rule 504.

    Rule 505

    C&DI Questions 259.01 through 259.05 and 659.01 relating to Rule 505 have all been withdrawn consistent with the withdrawal of the Rule 505 exemption effective May 22, 2017.

    Rule 506 – Exemption for Limited Offers and Sales Without Regard to Dollar Amount of Offering

    Rule 506(b) allows offers and sales to an unlimited number of accredited investors and up to 35 unaccredited investors, provided however that if any unaccredited investors are included in the offering, certain delineated disclosures, including an audited balance sheet and financial statements, are provided to potential investors. Rule 506(b) prohibits the use of any general solicitation or advertising in association with the offering. Rule 506(c) requires that all sales be strictly made to accredited investors and adds a burden of verifying such accredited status to the issuing company.

    The SEC did not add any new C&DI on Rule 506 but did withdraw Question 260.02, which had addressed the now outdated preclusion of general solicitation or advertising for any Rule 506 offering.

    Rule 147

    For a complete summary of Rule 147, see HERE.  The SEC has each added one and deleted one C&DI related to determining residence of a trust.

    Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (Securities Act) provides an exemption from the registration requirements of Section 5 for “[A]ny security which is a part of an issue offered and sold only to persons resident within a single State or Territory, where the issuer of such security is a person resident and doing business within or, if a corporation, incorporated by and doing business within, such State or Territory.” Section 3(a)(11) is often referred to as the Intrastate Exemption.  Rule 147, as amended is a safe harbor under Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act.

    Rule 147 defines the residence of a purchaser that is a legal entity, such as a corporation or trust, as the location where, at the time of the sale, it has its principal place of business. The Rule specifies that if a trust is not a separate legal entity, it is deemed to be a resident of each state or territory in which its trustee is, or trustees are, resident.

    The added C&DI (541.03) provides that where a family trust is not a separate legal entity and has two trustees residing in two separate states, an issuer may offer and sell securities to the trust, in reliance on Rule 147, as long as the Rule 147 offering is being conducted in one of the states in which a trustee resides.

    The deleted C&DI (541.02) had provided that a trust could not be offered securities where the trust had a non-resident beneficiary that held a 50% interest in the trust.

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