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JOBS Act Timing – Regulation D and Shareholder Thresholds

On March 27, 2012, the House of Representatives approved the version of the JOBS Act, as amended by the Senate, by a vote of 380 to 41.  Accordingly the legislation has been sent to President Obama for signature, who has previously indicated his support of the legislation.  The White House has indicated that the President anticipates signing the JOBS Act early in the week of April 2, 2012.

The text of the final JOBS Act is available here.  We have previously summarized the provisions of the JOBS Act generally applicable to the community banks, as well as the impact of the Senate amendment to the JOBS Act.  In this post we focus on the timing implications for effectiveness of the amendments to Regulation D and shareholder thresholds for SEC registration and deregistration.

With regard to Regulation D, Section 201 of the JOBS Act requires the SEC to eliminate the prohibitions on general solicitation and general advertising in connection with Rule 506 and Rule 144A offerings, so long as the securities are only sold to accredited investors and qualified institutional buyers, respectively.  The JOBS Act requires the SEC to implement these changes no later than 90 days after the JOBS Act is signed by the President.  Until the SEC amends the existing regulations, general solicitation and general advertising will remain prohibited.

With regard to the shareholder threshold changes, Sections 501 and 601 of the JOBS Act immediately amend the statutory provisions related to the number of shareholders of record at which a company must register and when the company is permitted to register.  The statutory changes are effective immediately upon enactment of the JOBS Act.  However, the SEC has also adopted regulatory requirements based on the original statutory language that will likely need to be amended in order to fully take advantage of the revised thresholds.

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Senate Adopts Slightly Amended JOBS Act Bill

On March 22, 2012, the U.S. Senate adopted H.R. 3606, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (a.k.a., the JOBS Act) by a vote of 73 to 26.  Prior to its passage, the U.S. Senate adopted Amendment 1884 proposed by Senators Merkley and Brown that replaced the “Crowdfunding” exemption contained in the house-passed legislation with a narrower provision.  As the Senate and the House have adopted different versions, the House will have to consider and pass the Senate amendment before a bill could become law, or convene a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.  (The Senate rejected by a voice vote Amendment 1931 proposed by Senator Reed that would have changed the SEC’s shareholder counting rules from record holders to beneficial owners.)

As the bulk of the JOBS Act was approved without change, our summary of the impact of the JOBS Act on community banks remains accurate.

The amended “Crowdfunding” provision includes significant restrictions on the potential utility of the new exemption, particularly for how it may have utilized by community banks.  The ultimate utility of the Crowdfunding exemption will largely be tied to the implementing regulations to be adopted by the SEC.  Under the Senate’s version of the JOBS Act, the Crowdfunding exemption would be available for up to $1 million in issuances in any 12-month period, require investors to purchase no more than 5-10% of their net worth in the issuance, and require the use of either a broker or “funding portal” as that term is defined in the bill.

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Impact of Proposed JOBS Act on Community Banks

While still in proposed form, and subject to significant political uncertainty, we offer this summary of the impact of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (a.k.a., the JOBS Act).  This summary is based on the version that passed the House on March 8, 2012, and was brought to the Senate floor on March 19, 2012.  On March 20, 2012, the Senate failed to achieve sufficient votes to substitute the JOBS Act for the INVEST in America Act of 2012 (technically, it would have been the “Invigorate New Ventures and Entrepreneurs to Succeed Today in America Act of 2012,” but I think the acronym is a LOT better in this case), which contained some similar, but not identical, provisions.  Accordingly, it appears that the JOBS Act, as adopted in the House, may be voted upon by the Senate this week.

Emerging Growth Companies

The bulk of the JOBS Act, and focus of most of the congressional debate, is on the creation of a new class of registered companies deemed “Emerging Growth Companies.”  These registrants are not limited by business operations, and banks and bank holding companies could quality.  An Emerging Growth Company would generally consist of newly public companies (IPO registration statement effective after December 8, 2011), with market caps of less than $750 million and total gross annual revenues (presumably interest income plus non-interest income for banks) of less than $1 billion.  New registrants could quality for Emerging Growth Company status for up to five years following their IPO, at which time they would lose the advantages of being an Emerging Growth Company even if they otherwise continued to qualify.

An Emerging Growth Company would be exempt for the say on pay vote, as well as pay vs. performance and pay equality disclosures, and would not be required to have independent auditors attestations regarding internal controls under SOX 404.  In addition, they would be eligible to generally rely on the scaled disclosures otherwise permitted for smaller reporting companies.  In addition, an Emerging Growth Company would be provided the opportunity to initially file their draft IPO materials confidentially with the SEC and otherwise have greater flexibility in communications with regard to their IPO.

Modification of Securities Offering Exemptions

Within 90 days of passage, the SEC would be required to amend Regulation D and Rule 144A to permit general solicitation and advertising in Rule 506/Rule 144A  offerings so long as the securities are only sold to accredited investors or qualified institutional buyers, respectively.

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Potential Securities Relief on the Horizon

While any relief still has a long (and uncertain) path before it would be effective, on October 26, 2011, the House Financial Services Committee approved four bills (with bipartisan support) that would remove regulatory federal securities law obstacles to capital formation.

H.R. 1965 would, for banks and bank holding companies, raise the SEC registration threshold to 2,000 shareholders and the deregistration threshold to 1,200 shareholders.

H.R. 2167, the “Private Company Flexibility and Growth Act,” would raise the SEC registration threshold for all companies to 1,000 shareholders and would exclude accredited investors and certain employees from the definition of “held of record” for registration purposes.

H.R. 2940, the “Access to Capital for Job Creators Act,” would permit general solicitation and general advertising for private offerings conducted under Rule 506, so long as all purchasers were accredited investors.

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Lyn Schroeder Featured in Deal Watch

Lyn Schroeder’s legal advice to a South Carolina bank seeking to go private was featured yesterday in the Fulton County Daily Report’s Deal Watch blog.

We believe that Powell Goldstein has assisted more financial institutions deregister from the SEC than any other law firm in the last four years.  We have prepared a comprehensive presentation on how and why community banks are electing to go or stay private.

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