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SEC Proposes Rules to Relax the Ban on General Solicitation: First Take

Posted in Rule 506 Rulemaking

At a meeting this morning, the SEC voted to propose rules relaxing the ban on general solicitation for certain offerings conducted pursuant to Rule 506 and resales under Rule 144A.  In a meeting that lasted approximately 45 minutes, the Staff outlined the principal aspects of the proposed rules.  The Staff indicated that it was proposing rules for comment, and not proposing an interim final rule.  As a result, market participants will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal and the Staff will have an opportunity to consider these comments prior to the adoption of final rules.  As anticipated, close attention will be required in relation to the Staff’s proposals regarding the “reasonable steps” to be taken to verify accredited investor status for offerings in which general solicitation is used.  The Staff discussed generally the verification process.  The Staff also discussed proposed changes to Form D.  The Staff also noted that the proposal would address the “directed selling effort” prong of Regulation S.  We will provide a detailed analysis of the proposal shortly.

The Commissioners provided interesting perspectives on the proposed rules and on the rulemaking process.

Commissioner Walter noted her support for modification of the communications rules in order to make these rules more contemporary.  She noted that allowing general solicitation is “a profound change,” which likely will have “unintended consequences.”  Commissioner Walter noted that comments on the proposal should help to identify these potential unintended consequences.  She also suggested that the Staff consider updating Form D in order to make it a source for more information regarding the types of offerings in which general solicitation is used and that the Staff should study the uses of general solicitation.  Commissioner Walter asked how the Staff intended to monitor the use of Rule 506 offerings involving general solicitation.  Meredith Cross noted that a multi-divisional task force would be formed in order to identify offerings in which general solicitation was used and to understand the verification processes used in these offerings.

Commissioner Aguilar noted he did not support the proposal and he would issue a separate statement which would be forthcoming.  He expressed concerns about investor protection.

Both Commissioners Paredes and Gallagher expressed their support for the proposal, while noting their significant concerns with the rulemaking process itself.  The two Commissioners noted that the original rulemaking course, which had been to release an interim final rule (not a proposal), had been changed in midstream.  This change had been occasioned after significant concerns had been expressed by various groups, including state regulators.  Both Commissioners Paredes and Gallagher noted their concern regarding the change in course and the resulting delays.