Subsidiaries using RegCF

Subsidiaries using RegCF: introduction

This came up no less than three times last week, so I figured it was worth a blog post.

Subsidiaries can raise funds under Reg CF, even if they are subsidiaries of companies who cannot use Reg CF themselves, because they have a class of securities registered with the SEC, or they are not US companies. To determine eligibility, you look at the status of the potential issuer. Is it a US company? Have you confirmed it’s not an investment company? If it’s raised funds under Reg CF before, is it in compliance with ongoing reporting requirements?

We need to add another element to this determination: is the US sub genuinely the issuer under Reg CF, or is there a “co-issuer” in the picture? And if there is, is the co-issuer prevented from using Reg CF because it’s an SEC-registered or foreign company?

There’s no useful definition of “co-issuer” under securities law (and if you go looking for one, what you will find will only confuse you) but when faced with the issue, we often ask clients to take a step back and ask themselves: “Whose performance is the investor relying on when they make their investment?” If the funds raised are going to be used at the subsidiary level, and the subsidiary is a genuine operating company, with employees, and a business plan, then everything may be ok, even if some portion of the funds end up at the parent level; for instance, payments for contracted support functions, or as license payments. But if the US sub is being effectively used as a finance sub, has no employees, and the funds are sent upstream to the parent, then you probably have a co-issuer, who is subject to the same eligibility, financial statement, and disclosure requirements as its sub.

It’s always going to be a matter of judgement, and as the SEC loves to remind us, dependent on facts and circumstances. It is worth going through the above analysis with your counsel to determine if the subsidiary is eligible to raise funds under Reg CF.

 

 

* Subsidiaries using RegCF was originally published on Crowdcheck.

Communications and publicity by issuers prior to and during a Regulation CF (RegCF) Offering

The idea behind crowdfunding is that the crowd — family, friends, and fans of a small or startup company, even if they are not rich or experienced investors — can invest in that company’s securities. For a traditionally risk-averse area of law, that’s a pretty revolutionary concept.  

In order to make this leap, Congress wanted to ensure that all potential investors had access to the same information. The solution that Congress came up in the JOBS Act with was that there had to be one centralized place that an investor could access that information — the website of the funding portal or broker-dealer that hosts the crowdfunding offering (going forward we will refer to both of these as “platforms”). 

This means (with some very limited exceptions that we’ll describe below) most communications about the offering can ONLY be found on the platform. On the platform, the company can use any form of communication it likes, and can give as much information as it likes (so long as it’s not misleading). Remember that the platforms are required to have a communication channel — basically a chat or Q&A function — a place where you can discuss the offering with investors and potential investors (though you must identify yourself). That gives you the ability to control much of your message. 

So with that background in mind, we wanted to go through what you can and cannot do regarding communications prior to and during the offering. Unfortunately, there are a lot of limitations. Securities law is a highly regulated area and this is not like doing a Kickstarter campaign. Also, bear in mind this is a changing regulatory environment. We put together this guide based on existing law, the SEC’s interpretations that it put out on May 13, and numerous conversations with the SEC Staff. As the industry develops, the Staff’s positions may evolve. 

We do understand that the restrictions are in many cases counter-intuitive and don’t reflect the way people communicate these days. The problems derive from the wording of the statute as passed by Congress. The JOBS Act crowdfunding provisions are pretty stringent with respect to publicity; the SEC has “interpreted” those provisions as much as possible to give startups and small businesses more flexibility. 

What you can say before you launch your offering 

US securities laws regulate both “offers” and sales of securities; whenever you make an offer or sale of securities, that offer or sale must comply with the SEC’s rules. The SEC interprets the term “offer” very broadly and it can include activity that “conditions the market” for the offering. “Conditioning the market” is any activity that raises public interest in your company, and could include suddenly heightened levels of advertising, although regular product and service information or advertising is ok (see discussion below). 

Under new rules which went into effect on March 15, 2021, companies considering making a crowdfunding offering may “test the waters” (TTW) in order to decide whether to commit to the time and 2 expense of making an offering.1 Prior to filing the Form C with the SEC, you may make oral or written communications to find out whether investors might be interested in investing in your offering. The way in which you make these communications (eg, email, Insta, posting on a crowdfunding portal site) and the content of those communications are not limited, but the communications must state that: 

  • No money or other consideration is being solicited, and if sent in response, will not be accepted; 
  • No offer to buy the securities can be accepted and no part of the purchase price can be received until the offering statement is filed and only though the platform of an intermediary (funding portal or broker-dealer); and 
  • A person’s indication of interest includes no obligation or commitment of any kind.2 

You can collect indications of interest from potential investors including name, address, phone number and/or email address. The rule does not address getting any further information, such as the manner of any potential payment. If you do make TTW communications, you must file any written communication or broadcast script as an exhibit to your Form C. And TTW communications are subject to the regular provisions of securities law that impose liability for misleading statements. 

Before the point at which you file your Form C with the SEC, the TTW process is the only way you can make any offers of securities, either publicly or privately. This would apply to meetings with potential investors, giving out any information on forums which offer “sneak peeks” or “first looks” at your offering, and public announcements about the offering. Discussions at a conference or a demo day about your intentions to do a crowdfunding offering must comply with the TTW rules and you should read out the information in the bullets above. Any non-compliant communication made prior to filing the Form C may be construed as an unregistered offer of securities made in violation of Section 5 of the Securities Act — a “Bad Act” that will prevent you from being able to use Regulation CF, Rule 506, or Regulation A in the future. 

Normal advertising of your product or service is permitted as the SEC knows you have a business to run. However, if just before the offering all of a sudden you produce five times the amount of advertising that you had previously done, the SEC might wonder whether you were doing this to stir up interest in investing in your company. If you plan to change your marketing around the time of your offering (or if you are launching your company at the same time as your RegCF offering, which often happens), it would be prudent to discuss this with your counsel so that you can confirm that your advertising is consistent with the SEC’s rules. 

Genuine conversations with friends or family about what you are planning to do and getting their help and input on your offering and how to structure it, are ok, even if those people invest later. You can’t be pitching to them as investors, though, except in compliance with the TTW rules. 

What you can say after you launch 

After you launch your offering by filing your Form C with the SEC, communications outside the platform fall into two categories: 

  • Communications that don’t mention the “terms of the offering”; and 1 We are talking here about Crowdfunding Regulation Rule 206. There is another new rule that permits testing the waters before deciding which type of exempt offering (eg, Regulation CF or Regulation A) to make, which does not preempt state regulation; using that rule may be complicated and require extensive legal advice. 2 We advise including the entirety of this wording as a legend or disclaimer in the communication in question. The convention in Regulation A is that “it it fits, the legend must be included” and if the legend doesn’t fit (eg, Twitter) the communication must include an active hyperlink to it. 3 
  • Communications that just contain “tombstone” information. 

Communications that don’t mention the terms of the offering 

We are calling these “non-terms” communications in this memo, although you can also think of them as “soft” communications. “Terms” in this context are the following: 

  • The amount of securities offered; 
  • The nature of the securities (i.e., whether they are debt or equity, common or preferred, etc.); 
  • The price of the securities; 
  • The closing date of the offering period; 
  • The use of proceeds; and 
  • The issuer’s progress towards meeting its funding target. 

There are two types of communication that fall into the non-terms category. 

First, regular communications and advertising. You can still continue to run your business as normal and there is nothing wrong with creating press releases, advertisements, newsletters and other publicity to help grow your business. If those communications don’t mention any of the terms of the offering, they are permitted. Once you’ve filed your Form C, you don’t need to worry about “conditioning the market.” You can ramp up your advertising and communications program as much as you like so long as they are genuine business advertising (e.g., typical business advertising would not mention financial performance). 

Second, and more interestingly, offering-related communications that don’t mention the terms of the offering. You can talk about the offering as long as you don’t mention the TERMS of the offering. Yes, we realize that sounds weird but it’s the way the statute (the JOBS Act) was drafted. Rather than restricting the discussion of the “offering,” which is what traditional securities lawyers would have expected, the statute restricts discussion of “terms,” and the SEC defined “terms” to mean only those six things discussed above. This means you can make any kind of communication or advertising in which you say you are doing an offering (although not WHAT you are offering; that would be a “term”) and include all sort of soft information about the company’s mission statement and how the CEO’s grandma’s work ethic inspired her drive and ambition. 

You can link to the platform’s website from such communications. But be careful about linking to any other site that contains the terms of the offering. A link (in the mind of the SEC) is an indirect communication of the terms. So linking to something that contains terms could mean that a non-terms communication becomes a tombstone communication (see below) that doesn’t comply with the tombstone rules. This applies to third-party created content as well. If a third-party journalist has written an article about how great your company is and includes terms of the offering, linking to that article is an implicit endorsement of the article and could become a statement of the company that doesn’t comply with the Tombstone rules. 

Whether you are identifying a “term” of the offering can be pretty subtle. While “We are making an offering so that all our fans can be co-owners,” might indirectly include a term because it’s hinting that you are offering equity, it’s probably ok. Try to avoid hints as to what you are offering, and just drive investors to the intermediary’s site to find out more. 

Even though non-terms communications can effectively include any information (other than terms) that you like, bear in mind that they are subject, like all communications, to the securities antifraud rules. So even though you are technically permitted to say that you anticipate launching your “Uber for Ferrets” in 4 November in a non-terms communication, if you don’t have a reasonable basis for saying that, you are in trouble for making a misleading statement. 

Tombstone communications 

A tombstone is what it sounds like — just the facts — and a very limited set of facts at that. Think of these communications as “hard” factual information. 

The specific rules under Regulation CF (RegCF) allow for “notices” limited to the following, which can be written or oral: 

  • A statement that the issuer is conducting an offering pursuant to Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act; 
  • The name of the intermediary through which the offering is being conducted and (in written communications) a link directing the potential investor to the intermediary’s platform; 
  • The terms of the offering (the amount of securities offered, the nature of the securities, the price of the securities, the closing date of the offering period, the intended use of proceeds, and progress made so far); and 
  • Factual information about the legal identity and business location of the issuer, limited to the name of the issuer of the security, the address, phone number, and website of the issuer, the e-mail address of a representative of the issuer and a brief description of the business of the issuer. 

These are the outer limits of what you can say. You don’t have to include all or any of the terms. You could just say “Company X has an equity crowdfunding campaign on SuperPortal — Go to www.SuperPortal.com/CompanyX to find out more.” The platform’s address is compulsory.

“Brief description of the business of the issuer” does mean brief. The rule that applies when companies are doing Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), which is the only guidance we have in this area, lets those companies describe their general business, principal products or services, and the industry segment (e.g.,for manufacturing companies, the general type of manufacturing, the principal products or classes of products and the segments in which the company conducts business). The brief description does not allow for inclusion of details about how the product works or the overall addressable market for it, and certainly not any customer endorsements. 

“Limited time and availability”-type statements may be acceptable as part of the “terms of the offering.” For example, the company might state that the offering is “only” open until the termination date, or explain that the amount of securities available is limited to the oversubscription amount. 

A few “context” or filler words might be acceptable in a tombstone notice, depending on that context. For example, the company might state that it is “pleased” to be making an offering under the newly- adopted Regulation Crowdfunding, or even refer to the fact that this is a “historic” event. Such additional wording will generally be a matter of judgement. “Check out our offering on [link]” or “Check out progress of our offering on [link]” are OK. “Our offering is making great progress on [link]” is not. Words that imply growth, success or progress (whether referring to the company or the offering) are always problematic. If you want to use a lot of additional context information, that information can be put in a “non-terms” communication that goes out at the same time and through the same means as a tombstone communication. 

The only links that can be included on a tombstone communication are links to the platform. No links to 5 reviews of the offering on Kingscrowd. No links to any press stories on Crowdfund Insider or CrowdFundBeat. No links to the company’s website. The implicit endorsement principle applies here just as with non-terms communications, meaning that anything you link to becomes a communication by the company. 

An important point with respect to tombstone notices is that while content is severely limited, medium is not. Thus, notices containing tombstone information can be posted on social media, published in newspapers, broadcast on TV, slotted into Google Ads, etc. Craft breweries might wish to publish notices on their beer coasters, and donut shops might wish to have specially printed napkins. 

What constitutes a “notice” 

It is important to note that (until we hear otherwise from the SEC) the “notice” is supposed to be a standalone communication. It can’t be attached to or embedded in other communications. That means you cannot include it on your website (as all the information on your website will probably be deemed to be part of the “notice” and it will likely fail the tombstone rule) and you cannot include it in announcements about new products — again, it will fail the tombstone rule. 

We have listed some examples of permissible communications in Exhibit A. 

Websites 

It’s a bad idea to include ANY information about the terms of the offering on your website. However, some issuers have found a clever solution: you can create a landing page that sits in front of your regular website. The landing page can include the tombstone information and two options: either investors can continue to your company’s regular webpage OR they can go to the platform to find out more about the offering on the platform. We have attached sample text for landing pages on Exhibit A. 

“Invest now” buttons 

Under the SEC’s current interpretations as we understand them, having an “invest now” button on your website with a link to the platform hosting your offering is fine although you should not mention any terms of the offering on your website unless your ENTIRE website complies with the tombstone rule. Most of them don’t. 

Social Media 

As we mention above, the medium of communication is not limited at all, even for tombstone communications. Companies can use social media to draw attention to their offerings as soon as they have filed their Form C with the SEC. Social media are subject to the same restrictions as any other communications: either don’t mention the offering terms at all or limit content to the tombstone information. 

Emails 

“Blast” emails that go out to everyone on your mailing list are subject to the same rules as social media: either don’t mention the offering terms at all or limit content to the tombstone information. Personalized emails to people you know will probably not be deemed to be advertising the terms of the offering, so you can send them, but be careful you don’t give your friends any more information than is on the platform — remember the rule about giving everyone access to the same information. 

Images 

Images are permitted in tombstone communications. However, these images also have to fit within the “tombstone” parameters. So brevity is required. Publishing a few pictures that show what the company does and how it does it is fine. An online coffee table book with hundreds of moodily-lit photos, not so much. Also, a picture tells a thousand words and those words better not be misleading. So use images only of real products actually currently produced by the company (or in planning, so long as you clearly indicate that), actual employees hard at work, genuine workspace, etc. No cash registers, or images of dollar bills or graphics showing (or implying) increase in revenues or stock price. And don’t use images you don’t have the right to use! (Also, we never thought we’d need to say this, but don’t use the SEC’s logo anywhere on your notice, or anywhere else.) 

While the “brevity” requirement doesn’t apply to non-terms communications, the rules about images not being misleading do. 

Videos 

Videos are permitted. You could have the CEO saying the tombstone information, together with video images of the company’s operations, but as with images in general, the video must comport with the tombstone rules. So “Gone with the Wind” length opuses will not work under the tombstone rule, although they are fine with non-terms communications. 

Updates and communications to alert investors that important information is available on the platform 

Updates can and should be found on the crowdfunding platform. You can use communications that don’t mention the terms of the offering, to drive readers to the platform’s site to learn about updates and things like webinars hosted on the platform. They may include links to the platform. 

Press releases 

Yes, they are permitted, but they can’t contain very much. Press releases are also laden with potential pitfalls, as we discuss below. Press releases that mention the offering terms are limited to the same “tombstone” content restrictions that apply to all notices. Companies may say that they are pleased (or even thrilled) to announce that they are making a crowdfunding offering but the usual quotes from company officers can’t be included (unless those quotes are along the lines of “ I am thrilled that Company will be making a crowdfunding offering,” or “Company is a software-as-a-service provider with offices in six states”). The “about the company” section in press releases is subject to the same restrictions and if the press release is put together by a PR outfit, watch out for any non-permitted language in the “about the PR outfit” section of the press release (nothing like “Publicity Hound Agency is happy to help companies seeking crowdfunding from everyday investors who now have the opportunity to invest in the next Facebook”). 

You could also issue non-terms press releases that state you are doing an offering (and you can identify or link to the platform) but don’t include terms and still include all the soft info, including quotes, mission statements and deep backgrounds. It’s likely, though, that journalists would call asking “So what are you offering, then?” and if you answer, you are going to make your non-terms communication into communication that fails the tombstone rule. 

Press interviews and articles 

Interviews with the media can be thorny because participation with a journalist makes the resulting 7 article a communication of the company. In fact, the SEC Staff have stated that they don’t see how interviews can easily be conducted, because even if the company personnel stick to the tombstone information (which would make for a pretty weird interview), the journalist could add non-tombstone information later, which would result in the article being a notice that didn’t comply with the tombstone rule. 

The same thing could happen with interviews where the company tries to keep the interview on a nonterms basis. The company personnel could refrain from mentioning any terms (again, it’s going to be pretty odd saying, “Yes, we are making an offering of securities but I can’t say what we are offering”), but the first thing the journalist is going to do is get the detailed terms from the company’s campaign page on the platform’s site, and again the result is that the article becomes a non-complying notice. 

These rules apply to all articles that the company “participates in.” This means that if you (or your publicists) tell the press, “Hey, take a look at the Company X crowdfunding campaign” any resulting article is probably going to result in a violation of the rules. By you. 

Links to press articles are subject to all the same rules discussed in this memo. If you link to an article, you are adopting and incorporating all the information in that article. If the article mentions the terms of the offering then you can’t link to it from a non-terms communication (such as your website) and if it includes soft non-terms information, then you can’t link to it from a tombstone communication. And if it includes misleading statements, you are now making those statements. 

Remember that prior to the launch of the offering you should not be talking about your campaign with the press (or publicly with anyone else). If you are asked about whether you are doing a campaign priorto launch you should respond with either a “no comment” or “you know companies aren’t allowed to discuss these matters.” No winking (either real or emoji-style.) 

Press articles that the company did not participate in 

In general, if you (or your publicists) didn’t participate in or suggest to a journalist that he or she write an article, it’s not your problem. You aren’t required to monitor the media or correct mistakes. However, if you were to circulate an article (or place it or a link to it on your website), then that would be subject to the rules we discuss in this memo. You can’t do indirectly what you can’t do directly. 

Also, if you add (or link to) press coverage to your campaign page on the platform’s site, you are now adopting that content, so it had better not be misleading. 

Demo Days 

Demo days and industry conferences are subject to many of the same constraints that apply to press interviews. In theory, you could limit your remarks to a statement that you are raising funds through crowdfunding, but in reality people are going to ask what you are selling. You could say “I can’t talk about that; go to SuperPortal.com,” but that would lead to more follow-up questions. And following the tombstone rules means you can’t say too much about your product, which rather undermines the whole purpose of a demo day. 

Demo days might be easier to manage when you are still in the testing-the-waters phase. 

“Ask Me Anythings” 

The only place you can do an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) that references the terms of the offering is on the 8 platform where your offering is hosted. You can’t do AMAs on Reddit. Unless you limit the AMA to nonterms communications or tombstone information. In which case, people aren’t going to be able to ask you “anything.” 

Product and service advertising 

As we mentioned above, once you’ve filed your Form C, ordinary advertising or other communications (such as putting out an informational newsletter) can continue and can even be ramped up. Most advertising by its nature would constitute non-terms communication, so it couldn’t include references to the terms of the offering. So don’t include information about your offering in your supermarket mailer coupons. 

What about side by side communications? 

You are doubtless wondering whether you could do a non-terms Tweet and follow it immediately with a tombstone Tweet. It appears, at least for the moment, that this works. There is the possibility that if you tried to put a non-terms advertisement right next to a tombstone advertisement in print media or online, the SEC might view them collectively as one single (non-complying) “notice”. It is unclear how much time or space would need to separate communications to avoid this problem, or even whether it is a problem. 

“Can I still talk to my friends?”

Yes, you can still talk to your friends face to face at the pub (we are talking real friends, not Facebook friends, here) and even tell them that you are doing a crowdfunding offering, even before you file with the SEC. You aren’t limited to the tombstone information (man, would that be a weird conversation). After you’ve launched the offering, you can ask your friends to help spread the word (that’s the point of social media) but please do not pay them, even in beer or donuts, because that would make them paid “stock touts.” Don’t ask them to make favorable comments on the platform’s chat board either, unless they say on the chat board that they are doing so because you asked them to. If they are journalists, don’t ask them to write a favorable piece about your offering. 

“What if people email me personally with questions?” 

Best practice would be to respond “That’s a great question, Freddie. I’ve answered it here on the SuperPortal chat site [link]”. Remember the Congressional intent of having all investors have access tothe same information. 

Links 

As we’ve seen from the discussion above, you can’t link from a communication that does comply with the rule you are trying to comply with to something that doesn’t. So for example, you can’t link from a Tweet that doesn’t mention the offering terms to something that does and you can’t link from a tombstone communication to anything other than the platform’s website. 

Emoji 

Emoji are subject to antifraud provisions in exactly the same way as text or images are. The current limited range of emoji and their inability to do nuance means that the chance of emoji being misleading is heightened. Seriously people, you need to use your words. 

 

After the offering 

These limitations only last until the offering is closed. Once that happens you are free to speak freely again, so long as you don’t make any misleading statements. 

And what about platforms? 

The rules for publicity by platforms are different, and also depend on whether the platform is a broker or a portal. We have published a separate memo for them. CrowdCheck is not a law firm, the foregoing is not legal advice, and even more than usual, it is subject to change as regulatory positions evolve and the SEC Staff provide guidance in newly-adopted rules. Please contact your lawyer with respect to any of the matters discussed here. 

 

Exhibit A Sample Tombstones

  • Company X, Inc. 

[Company Logo] 

 

Company X is a large widget company based in Anywhere, U.S.A. and incorporated on July 4, 1776. We make widgets and they come in red, white, and blue. Our widgets are designed to spread patriotic cheer. 

 

We are selling common shares in our company at $17.76 a share. The minimum amount is $13,000 and the maximum amount is $50,000. The offering will remain open until July 4, 2021. 

 

This offering is being made pursuant to Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act. 

For additional information please visit: https://www.SuperPortal.com/companyx or Invest Button URL Link direct

  • Freddy’s Ferret Food Company is making a Regulation CF Offering of Preferred Shares on FundCrowdFund.com. Freddy’s Ferret Food Company was incorporated in Delaware in 2006 and has its principal office in Los Angeles, California. Freddy’s Ferret Food Company makes ferret food out of its four manufacturing plants located in Trenton, New Jersey. Freddy’s Ferret Food is offering up to 500,000 shares of Preferred Stock at $2 a share and the offering will remain open until February 2, 2021. For more information on the offering please go to www.fundcrowdfund.com/freddysferretfoodcompany. 

 

Sample “non-terms” communications 

  • We are doing a crowdfunding offering! We planning to Make America Great Again by selling a million extra large red hats and extra small red gloves with logos on them, and to bring jobs back to Big Bug Creek, Arizona. The more stuff we make, the greater our profits will be. We think we are poised for significant growth. Already we’ve received orders from 100,000 people in Cleveland. Invest in us TODAY, while you still can and Make Capitalism Great Again! [LINK TO PLATFORM]. 
  • Feel the “Burn”! We are making a crowdfunding offering on SuperPortal.com to raise funds to expand our hot sauce factory. Be a part of history. Small investors have been screwed for years.This is your chance to Stick it to the Man and buy securities in a business that has grown consistently for the last five years. 

 

Sample Communications on Social Media:
Note all these communications will have a link to the platform. 

 

  • Company Y has launched its crowdfunding campaign; click here to find out more. 

 

  • Interested in investing in Company Y? Click here. 

 

Sample Landing Page: 

Thanks to Regulation CF, now everyone can own shares in our company. 

 

[Button] Invest in our Company 

[Button] Continue to our Website

 

CrowdCheck is not a law firm, the foregoing is not legal advice, and even more than usual, it is subject to change as regulatory positions evolve and the SEC Staff provide guidance in newly-adopted rules. Please contact your lawyer with respect to any of the matters discussed here.

End to End for RegCF

When the JOBS Act was signed into law in 2012, it brought about many changes in the private capital markets, namely, the dramatic increase in the availability of capital from more expansive pools of investors. Later on, 2016 saw Regulation Crowdfunding, also known as Title III or RegCF, go live. At that point, US-based issuers could raise up to $1.07 million from both accredited and nonaccredited investors. Additionally, companies in the startup stage through to full operating companies across all industries can take advantage of this exemption to raise capital. 

 

However, due to the comparatively low limit of RegCF in the early days when the regulation was introduced RegCF was largely overlooked by many companies seeking to raise capital. Now, it continues to gain momentum due to the limit of RegCF increasing to $5 million in March of 2021. Since then, RegCF has reached a significant milestone. In October 2021, companies surpassed a cumulative total of $1 billion raised under the regulation. Now that the limit has increased nearly five times from where it started, we expect the adoption of Reg CF to continue to grow much faster than the half-decade it took to reach $1B.

 

Getting Started with RegCF

 

For issuers looking to use Regulation CF for their offering, it is relatively straightforward for those looking to raise up to $1.07 million. For raises of this size, the issuer is not required to submit audited financial statements to the SEC. They must retain a securities lawyer to complete their Form C and obtain a CrowdCheck Due Diligence report. Next, the issuer must find an SEC-registered transfer agent to manage corporate books and cap tables, a requirement under the regulation. Additionally, the issuer must also select a FINRA-registered broker-dealer to raise capital directly from the issuer’s website. 

 

The process for raising up to $5 million is pretty similar. However, the main difference is that issuers require an audit. With this being the only difference, there is not much in terms of the change to the regulatory and compliance requirements.

 

What do RegCF Broker-Dealers Need?

 

For broker-dealers working on RegCF raises, it is something different than anything else they’ve done; they need to be prepared to handle things they may not have needed to consider in other types of capital raising activities. These things include:

  • Investment Landing Page: Once the landing page is created and ready to go live (a step sometimes done by investor acquisition firms), the broker-dealer must manage it. This includes taking over or registering the domain name. This ensures the broker-dealer is in total control, with the ability to shut it down or change/amend things as needed. 
  • Back Office: After an issuer signs up with a broker-dealer, the broker-dealer provides them with the escrow and payment rails. For the escrow account, the broker-dealer is on title as a broker-dealer so that they handle all payment components like credit cards, ACH, wire, cryptocurrency, and IRA. Typically, the bank or trust providing the escrow account will also offer wire and ACH. Since broker-dealers currently cannot hold any crypto, crypto payment options allow issuers to submit crypto that gets exchanged into fiat USD. 
  • Due Diligence: The broker-dealer will be able to rely on the CrowdCheck report, an industry standard. 
  • Registration: The broker-dealer must be registered in all 50 states to be able to provide the best help to an issuer.

 

What Compliance is Needed?

 

The compliance officer also has responsibilities they need to meet for a successful RegCF raise. This included performing ID, AML, KYC, and suitability on each investor who is investing in the offering. Plus, while accredited investors aren’t restricted to the amount of money they can invest through RegCF, the compliance officer can request an individual to go through verification, but it is not necessary. The compliance officer must also manage the KYC process through the entire offering until the money is released to the issuer. Another new change to RegCF is that companies can have rolling closes, which means that they can start closing each time they hit their minimum. When it comes to closing, the broker-dealer must ensure that the company has filed its Form C amendment.

 

What Does an Issuer Do to Prepare?

 

While the broker-dealer fills their component of the RegCF raise, an issuer will typically work closely with an investor acquisition firm to bring the eyeballs to the website. The issuer is responsible for meeting their regulatory requirements, like preparing their audit if raising over $1.07 million. Even if an issuer does not have their audit ready, they can still start their raise up to the $1.07 million amount. Once the audit is done, the offering can be amended to go to $5 million instead. Since securities are being sold directly on the issuer’s website, the traffic they’re driving there is only for them. Previously, when RegCF offerings could only be done on a registered funding portal, traffic would be directed to a site with many other offerings as well. 

 

This is not to say that funding portals don’t serve a purpose; instead, some issuers (especially those who have grown out of the startup phase) prefer more direct traffic. Currently, there are over 70 funding portals (and more on the way). Each option has pros and cons depending on the issuer and the raise that must be considered when launching RegCF. Additionally, some investor acquisition firms prefer an individualized landing page because it directs traffic and attention solely to the issuer.

 

Investment Process for RegCF

 

When the investor (or potential investor) goes to the landing page and begins the investment process, the first thing collected is their email address. This allows the investor acquisition firm to remarket to the individual if they left the page before completing an investment. Every day, a report of drop-offs will be provided that details which stage of the investment process the investor left. Plus, data is provided as to where each investor is coming from.

 

 After the initial stage of the process, the investor will proceed to enter their information, like how much they want to invest, their income, how they want to invest, and other data necessary to complete the investment. Once all of the information is entered, the investor will review and sign the subscription agreement before submitting their investment. 

 

Once the subscription agreement has been submitted, the investor receives an email allowing them to register their account with the issuer’s private label page to manage the investment they’ve made. Even though the broker-dealer manages the website, the investors’ experience end-to-end is with the issuer. Once the investment is completed, the investor will be able to find it in their portfolio. Through the portfolio, the SEC-registered transfer agent and the company manage the cap table and provide individual investors access to their investments.  For each investment, the investor can view all of its details rather than keeping that information in paper documents. They can see what rights they have for each security, how much they invested, how they paid, etc. 

 

Through the entire investment process, not only is the investor involved but there are many other parties involved. Beyond helping the company set up the investment, the broker-dealer also helps to ensure that the issuer has everything ready in their platform. The broker-dealer is then responsible for ensuring that the offering and investors are vetted into the platform as well. Additionally, the compliance officer will also have to verify the investors through the platform’s compliance management system. Once the investor is approved, their funds are sent to escrow, which the broker-dealer monitors to make sure they’ve all arrived. When the minimum is met, the broker-dealer closes, allowing the company to receive their funds and the cap table to be updated. 

 

For 2022, we anticipate that RegCF will be a game-changer. The amount of capital raised under the regulation makes it a perfect fit for seed and Series A companies that may have otherwise used RegD. Like RegD, issuers can target accredited investors, but they can also target nonaccredited as well. This significantly increases the potential pool of investors and opportunities available to raise capital. While there are an estimated 8.5 million accredited investors, only 110,000 have been verified. When considering nonaccredited as well, this number grows substantially to 233 million individuals. 

What are the Benefits of Digital Securities for Issuers and Investors?

With the emergence and development of blockchain technology, digital securities have seen wider adoption by investors and investment firms. Arising from the need for protection against fraud and as a way for investors to ensure asset ownership, digital securities are a digital representation of traditional securities and follow the same regulatory rules. Since their first appearance, digital securities have come to represent any debt, equity, or asset that is registered and transferred electronically using blockchain technology. 

 

Digital securities are made possible by blockchain, also known as “distributed ledger technology”. Distributed ledger technology is a database where transactions are continually appended and verified across by multiple participants, ensuring that each transaction has a “witness” to validate its legitimacy. By the nature of the system, it is more difficult for hackers to manipulate, as copies of the ledger are decentralized or located across multiple different locations. Changes to one copy would be impossible, as the others would recognize it as invalid.

 

Distributed ledger technology allows digital securities to be incredibly secure. Ownership is easily recorded and verified through the distributed ledger, a huge benefit over traditional securities. Any transfer of digital securities is also recorded and with each copy of the transaction stored separately, multiple witnesses of the transaction exist to corroborate it. 

 

With traditional securities, investors can lose their certificate of ownership or companies can delete key files detailing who their investors are. Without a certificate, proving how many shares an investor owns would be incredibly challenging. In contrast, digital security ownership is immutable. Investors are protected by always being able to prove their ownership since the record cannot be deleted or altered by anyone. Additionally, investors can view all information that is related to the shares they’ve purchased, such as their voting rights and their ability to share and manage their portfolios with both accuracy and confidence. 

 

Since the record is unchangeable, it also serves as a risk management mechanism for companies, as the risk of a faulty or fraudulent transaction occurring is removed. Digital securities are also greatly beneficial to the company when preparing for any capital activity since the company’s records are transparent and readily available. With traditional securities, the company would typically hire an advisor to review all company documents. If the company has issued digital securities, this cost is eliminated, as it is already in an immutable form.  

 

Also making digital securities possible are smart contracts that eliminate manual paperwork, creating an automated system on which digital securities can be managed. Integrated into the securities is the smart contract, which has preprogrammed protocols for the exchange of digital securities. Without the time-consuming paper process, companies can utilize digital securities to raise funds from a larger pool of investors, such as the case with crowdfunding. Rather than keeping manual records of each transaction, the smart contract automatically tracks and calculates funds and distributes securities to investors. 

 

Companies that are looking to provide their investors with the ability to trade digital securities must be aware that they are required to follow the same rules set by the SEC for the sale and exchange of traditional securities such as registering the offering with the SEC. This ensures that potential investors are provided with information compliant with securities regulation worldwide. According to the SEC, investors must receive ongoing disclosures from the issuer so they can make informed decisions regarding ownership of their securities. Companies that are not compliant with the SEC can face severe penalties and may be required to reimburse investors who purchased the unregistered offerings. 

 

Besides the companies offering securities, broker-dealers must also register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Similarly, platforms on which digital securities can be traded must register as an Alternative Trading System operator with the SEC. Both broker-dealers and ATS operators can face severe penalties if not properly registered. 

 

Possibly the greatest benefit of digital securities is that it allows for smoother secondary market transactions. With records of ownership clear and unchangeable, an investor can easily bring their shares to a secondary market. Transactions are more efficient and parties have easy access to all necessary information regarding the securities being traded, removing the friction that is typically seen with traditional securities. 

 

At KoreConX, the KoreChain platform is a fully permissioned blockchain, allowing for companies to issue fully compliant digital securities. Records are updated in real-time as transactions occur, eliminating errors that would occur when transferring information from another source. The platform securely manages transactions, providing investors with support and portfolio management capabilities. Additionally, the KoreChain is not tied to cryptocurrencies, so it is a less attractive target for potential crypto thieves. KoreChain allows companies to manage their offerings and company data with the highest level of accuracy and transparency.

 

Since digital securities face the same regulatory rules as traditional ones, investors are protected by the SEC against fraudulent offerings. This, together with the security and transparency that blockchain technology allows, creates a form of investment that is better for investors and issuers alike. Since the process is simplified and errors are decreased without redundant paperwork, issuers have the potential to raise capital more efficiently. They will also be better prepared for future capital activity. For investors, a more secure form of security protects them from potential fraud and losses on their investments. With digital securities still in their infancy, it will be exciting to see how this method of investment changes the industry. 

Why do I need a FINRA Broker-Dealer?

Broker-dealers are an essential part of the fundraising process. These entities can be small, independent firms or part of a large investment bank. However, regardless of a broker-dealer’s size, they are in the business of buying or selling securities. In this sense, whenever a broker-dealer executes orders for clients, they act as a broker, while trading for its own account means they are acting as a dealer. 

 

In the United States, Congress has granted the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) authorization to protect American investors by ensuring that brokers operate fairly and honestly. The organization is non-governmental and non-profit, acting independently to ensure that the rules governing brokers are adhered to. The organization states: “Every investor in America relies on one thing: fair financial markets.” FINRA oversees over 624,000 brokers across the country, ensuring that their activities adhere to all necessary rules. 

 

As a company engaged in capital market activities, choosing a broker-dealer to work with is critical to your success. For example, under Regulation A+, some states require issuers to work with a broker-dealer to offer securities in that jurisdiction. This allows issuers to maintain compliance with the SEC and other regulatory entities. Additionally, working with a FINRA-registered broker-dealer will give potential investors more confidence in the compliance of your operations. FINRA registration ensures that your broker-dealer partner has:

 

  • Been tested, qualified, and licensed;
  • Every securities product is listed truthfully;
  • Securities are suitable for an investor;
  • And investors receive complete disclosure.

 

This information ensures that broker-dealers are operating in the best interests of the investors, ensuring that the issuer provides all necessary and required information to make good investment decisions. In addition, investors (and issuers) can verify a broker-dealer’s status through BrokerCheck, a service provided by FINRA. BrokerCheck gives information on a broker-dealer’s licensing status, whether they are registered to give investment advice or registered to sell securities. Additionally, the service allows people to see regulatory actions against brokers, complaints, and employment history. Through this information, investors can validate the status of a broker to ensure they are dealing with legitimate firms. 

 

As an issuer, a FINRA broker-dealer improves compliance measures. The broker-dealer will be required to perform regulatory checks on investors such as KYC, AML, and investor suitability to ensure investors are appropriate for the company. Additionally, they will perform due diligence on you so that they can be assured that your company is operating in a manner compliant with securities laws so that they do not present false information to investors. Failing to meet compliance standards can result in the issuer being left responsible for severe penalties, such as returning all money raised to investors. 

 

Working with a FINRA-registered broker-dealer ensures that, as a company, you are meeting all legal requirements when offering securities for sales. FINRA makes sure that broker-dealers, and the issuers they work with, act transparently and honestly to keep the private capital market fair for investors.

 

How to Select a Crowdfunding Platform for Your Capital Raise

One of the significant advancements brought to the financial sector in recent years was the enaction of the JOBS Act signed into law by President Obama on April 5th of 2012. Within that legislation contained a form of raising capital for private companies available to any American, whether they were accredited investors or not. This was Regulation CF or regulated crowdfunding.

When Reg CF was implemented, it limited the amount an unaccredited investor could invest and how much a private company could raise. In March 2021, the limit a company can raise increased to a maximum of $5 million within 12 months. Previously, before the introduction of Reg CF, it was challenging for the average investor to invest in a private company, as they did not have the capital to do so. This is now possible through Reg CF, which uses equity crowdfunding platforms to connect investors and private companies. 

Funding portals are regulated by FINRA, which imposes compliance on the organizations that provide the service and includes regulatory oversight and reporting requirements. FINRA has a list of funding portals registered and regulated by FINRA, which is the first thing to check when considering a funding portal. 

Part of the value of crowdfunding platforms for private companies is establishing demand and a proof of concept. If people are willing to invest in a Reg CF offering, it shows that people want a product or service to succeed. So, choosing the correct equity crowdfunding portal for you depends on the user base of that platform. For example, let’s look at three portals to see the differences of who is investing on those platforms. 

FanVestor is a platform predominantly for celebrities looking to raise money for a product or a charity. If, as a private company, you are among this group of people, this would be an effective platform, as investors would look here for you. In contrast, if you are a startup, you would be looking at portals like Republic or WeFunder. These two portals focus on startups, with Republic focused on real estate, video games, and crypto, and WeFunder, focused on giving small businesses and startups an alternative to venture capital and banks; their focus is “fixing capitalism.”

Look at where the investors are and what they are excited about, and then match that with your goals and vision. This is the best way to choose the right funding portal. It puts your company in the best place to raise the most capital and take your vision from dream to reality, with the backing of investors that believe in you. 

Beyond that, look to see which platform is the most beneficial for your situation. Consider how much they will charge and help you with the campaign. The purpose of working with a funding portal is to put your company, product, or service in the best possible position for success. The right crowdfunding platform will balance your weaknesses with their strength. 

What is KYP?

Previously, we have talked about KYC or Know Your Client. KYC is a rule from the non-profit Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), created in the United States in 2007, in response to the growing fears of economic collapse that could come from underregulated securities firms. One part of the FINRA rule set created in 2012 is KYC (Rule 2090). Another is Rule 2111 (Suitability). It is important to mention both of these rules, as the topic for today, KYP, or Know Your Product, directly relates to them in their effort to protect investors. 

 

The KYC rule dictates that in the event of opening or maintaining an account for an investor, a broker-dealer is required to verify the investor’s identity by matching the provided material from the investor to government records. This aids the government in fighting money laundering and other financial crimes, as a broker-dealer must also review their finances for evidence of these types of crime. It also allows potential customers to evaluate broker-dealers as FINRA tracks the brokers in good standing with their organization. Finally, with suitability, a broker-dealer must use reasonable effort to understand the risk tolerance and facts about a potential customer’s financial position. This means understanding the types of products and plans an investor is comfortable making, as people of different ages and levels of wealth have different plans for their money. For instance, younger adults typically have a higher risk tolerance as they have a longer-term time horizon to work with their money. On the other end, older adults have lower risk tolerance. There is no one type of investing that works for every person, as each person has a different set of circumstances dependent on their life experiences. 

 

Where KYP comes in is a further step past just KYC and suitability. You may know the client their investment preferences, but if you do not understand the product you are investing in for your client, that information is essentially useless. Under KYP, a broker-dealer, “must understand the structure and features of each investment product they recommend. This includes costs, risks, and eligibility requirements. The KYP requirement applies to both the firm and the individual.

 

KYP expands on the suitability requirement from FINRA by requiring a full understanding of each investment so that it fits an investor and their specific risk tolerance more effectively. This involves:

 

  • The risk level of the investment, meaning its liquidity, “price volatility, default risk, and exposure to counterparty risk” 
  • Any costs associated with fees or embedded costs
  • The financial history and reputation of the issuer or parties involved
  • Any legal and regulatory framework that applies

 

Just as it is important to know your client and understand what types of investments are suitable for regulatory and business purposes, it is important to understand the products you recommend. 

What is the Difference Between Fiduciary Responsibility and Regulatory Requirement?

By definition, a fiduciary is a person or an organization who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with another person or organization. Typically, this has to do with the responsibility or duty in a financial sense. As an adjective, it gets defined by the Oxford dictionary as “involving trust, especially with regard to the relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary.” The word gets most commonly used when stating that a company has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders. In practice, this means that the company has an ethical and legal responsibility to act in the best interest of its investors. For example, the company and its executives need to protect a shareholder’s financial investment in that company and is an example of a duty of loyalty. Included also is a duty of care, which indicates that a fiduciary will not back away from their responsibility.

 

Fiduciary duties do not just relate to the financial sector. For example, a lawyer has a fiduciary duty to their client to act in their best interest, but we will focus on the financial sector. Fiduciary responsibility in finance is a relationship between two non-governmental entities. In contrast, a regulatory requirement is a rule that a government or government-related organization imposes and enforces onto an organization.

 

Many governmental organizations impose regulations on the financial sector, like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or the Federal Reserve Board. The governmental-related organizations are the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We have previously discussed the regulations passed by both FINRA and the SEC in preceding blogs, which detail those processes well.

 

Both fiduciary responsibility and regulatory requirements can result in legal action if there is a breach in conduct, but the actors and stage are different. With fiduciary responsibility, the beneficiary of the fiduciary duty would file suit against the trustee in civil court who knowingly or unknowingly failed in their duty. This is a relationship between non-governmental actors, so in this case, a person litigating against an organization or vice versa.

 

On the other side, regulatory requirement gets dictated by a government entity like the SEC or OCC suing a company or individual for failing to comply with the law. This suit would land in criminal court, with punitive fines, damage to their reputation, and sanctioning. For example, in California, you need to be a registered broker-dealer for a Regulation A+ offering. If you decide as a company to ignore this law, the state regulator can, and will, require you to return all money raised, and you can get barred from raising money in the state. You will get labeled as a bad actor, which will damage the reputation of your business.

 

While fiduciary duty and regulatory requirements are different in terms of the responsibilities, actors, and negative consequences involved when failing to comply, they are critical to follow and maintain.

Why are Background Checks Important?

Money laundering is a global issue, with the United Nations estimating that between $800 billion and $2 Trillion are laundered each year, with 90% of this estimation remaining undetected. Money laundering is the act of taking money obtained through illegal activities and then introducing it into the system to legitimize or clean it and then make use of it. Originally, and most often, this was applied to the actions of organized crime but has expanded to included tax evasion or false accounting. 

 

The United States has multiple laws to prevent this type of activity and reclaim the illegitimate assets from criminals aiming to circumvent the system. Many of these laws directly affect the financial institutions of the nation. American banking and investment businesses need to follow compliance regulations that help in the effort to combat money laundering, including FINRA’s (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Rule 2090 (KYC or Know Your Client). The Know Your Client rule was introduced by FINRA to require broker-dealers to use reasonable effort to verify the identity of customers (or any other account owners) and assess their risk level. Part of this goal is to add transparency to the financial institutions in America, especially following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and incorporate Anti-Money Laundering (or AML) compliance into the structure of our institutions.

 

AML and KYC are extensions of the Bank Secrecy Act and the CDD (Customer Due Diligence) Rule. The act, created in 1970, aims, as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network states, “to improve financial transparency and prevent criminals and terrorists from misusing companies to disguise their illicit activities and launder their ill-gotten gains.” So, through the Know Your Client rule, broker-dealers must evaluate the information provided by a potential customer and verify their identity against government documents and assess the risk level they pose towards financial crime. 

 

This activity is a check for any indication of money laundering or terrorism financing. Part of this is a background check or a customer screening, checks beyond their identity. Using the customer’s identity, financial institutes check against various lists, like sanction lists, watch lists, and PEP lists to evaluate if the customer may be engaging in illegal activities. 

 

Background checks get followed by continuous monitoring, allowing broker-dealers to better spot irregularities in the transactions. For instance, in the event of large cash transactions, those typically over $10,000. Amount exceeding this amount must be reported and monitored. All to say that many governments and non-government institutions require compliance to defend against this issue that gets taken very seriously. Throughout 2020, there were several institutions fined for violating AML related compliance. Kyckr compiled these together and found that: 

 

  • Twenty-eight financial institutions were issued fines for AML-related violations.
  • Regulators from 14 countries issued AML-related fines.
  • Fines totaled roughly $3.2 billion USD.

 

Failing to follow the laws and maintain compliance can have serious consequences for financial institutions. Ensuring that you do the proper level of due diligence, follow the Know Your Client rule, and perform a background check can protect your business. 

 

What is KYC?

In 2007, the SEC approved the founding of the non-profit Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA was created in the wake of a failing economy to consolidate the regulation of securities firms operating in the United States. The authority’s responsibilities include “rule writing, firm examination, enforcement, arbitration, and mediation functions, plus all functions previously overseen solely by NASD, including market regulation under contract for NASDAQ, the American Stock Exchange, the International Securities Exchange, and the Chicago Climate Exchange.”

The mission is to safeguard the investing public against fraud and bad practices. To fulfill this mission, FINRA added two rules in 2012: Rule 2090 (KYC or Know Your Client) and Rule 2111 (Suitability). 

KYC works in conjunction with suitability to protect both the client and the broker-dealer and help maintain fair dealings between the parties. The Know Your Client rule is a regulatory requirement for those responsible for opening and maintaining new accounts. This rule requires broker-dealers to access the client’s finances, verify their identity, and use reasonable effort to understand the risk tolerance and facts about their financial position. 

KYC is an important rule as it governs the relationship between customer and broker-dealer and safeguards the proceedings. At the heart of this rule is the process that verifies the customer’s identity (or any other account owners) and assesses their risk level. Part of FINRA’s goal is to eliminate financial crime, which means that when a broker is accessing a potential customer, they are looking for evidence of money laundering or similar crimes. This process goes both ways as FINRA allows a customer to verify the identity of brokers in good standing with the organization.

KYC also goes hand-in-hand with the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rule, which seeks to identify suspicious behavior, outlined under FINRA rule 3310. Crimes such as terrorist financing, market manipulation, and securities fraud are illegal acts that KYC, AML, and other rules aim to prevent.

Another part of the Know Your Client rule is the requirement of a broker-dealer to use reasonable effort to understand a client’s risk tolerance, investment knowledge, and financial position. For example, accredited investors can make Regulation CF and A+ investments without facing restrictions, while the everyday investor is limited based on their net worth and income. 

When making recommendations for a client, a broker-dealer must comply with Rule 2111, the suitability rule, which means that they must have reasonable grounds for this suggestion based on a review of the client’s financial situation.

Compliance with these rules is maintained by following policies and best practices that govern risk management, customer acceptance, and transaction monitoring. Due diligence is done to know a client needs to be recorded, retained, and maintained so that broker-dealers can continuously monitor for suspicious or illegal activity. In 2020, FINRA processed 79.7 billion market events every day and imposed $57 million in fines. 

KorePartner Spotlight: Etan Butler, Chair of Dalmore Group

With the recent launch of the KoreConX all-in-one RegA+ platform, KoreConX is happy to feature the KorePartners that contribute to its ecosystem. 

 

Etan Butler is Chairman of Dalmore Group, a FINRA registered national Broker-Dealer, founded in 2005. Dalmore provides a full range of investment banking services and specializes in assisting companies that seek to raise investment capital online through the SEC’s Regulation D, Regulation A+, and Regulation CF.  Etan is recognized as a pioneer in the Regulation A+ industry and is an active participant in industry summits, panels, interviews, and publications. 

 

Dalmore is among the most active Broker-Dealers for Reg A+ offerings, having been involved in more than 85 such offerings in 2020 – including some of the most successful listed and private Reg A+ offerings in history. A number of Dalmore’s Reg A+ clients have met their offering goals and have pursued follow on Reg A+ offerings to raise even more.  Some of Dalmore’s clients have gone on to be listed on Canadian and US public exchanges.

 

“From our wide and varied experience as the broker-dealer on these offerings, we share what we have seen work well (and not so well) with our new issuer clients.  This experience is particularly valuable to the entrepreneur who is approaching a Reg A+ capital raise for the first time, and who can tap into our network of quality service providers, including legal, marketing, and syndication specialists.  We also offer our clients potential alternative trading solutions, and otherwise provide our issuers with the tools they require to enter the field equipped to have the greatest chance of success.”

 

Dalmore Group also provides business planning, development, and capital introduction services to public and private companies in a range of industries, and has participated in various capacities in significant investment, development, and other structured transactions. Over the course of their 15 years of investment banking activity, Etan and his team have been involved in the development of cutting edge, regulatory compliant approaches for the management of business development – including the raising of funds — and the oversight of complex due diligence activities in the heavily regulated area of U.S. and multinational transactions. 

 

“What drew me to investment banking and the buildout of the Reg A+ division at Dalmore was the excitement of working with other entrepreneurs in cutting edge industries, and assisting them in the pursuit of their dreams.  The recent launch of Dalmore’s DirectCF platform, which offers Reg CF issuers a direct, cost-effective, and open access solution for their Reg CF offering – untethered to a marketplace that lists other, competing offerings — reflects Dalmore’s obsession with giving issuers full control of their capital raising activities.” 

 

Etan is also President of EMB Capital, LLC, which invests in early-stage ventures with a focus on real estate acquisition and financial services.

Why is a Broker-Dealer Important for Private Company Offerings?

If you’re looking to raise money for your private company, chances are that you’ve at least heard the term “broker-dealer.” However, if you’re new to the process, you might not be too familiar with what they do and why they are a key component of the fundraising process. 

 

Simply put, a broker-dealer is an agent that assists you in raising capital for your private company.  Broker-dealers can be small, independently working firms or ones that operate as part of large banks and investment firms. Both are subject to registration with the SEC and must join a “self-regulatory organization” such as FINRA. If a broker-dealer is not registered they can face penalties enforced by the SEC.  You can check a broker-dealer’s registration here: https://brokercheck.finra.org/

 

For private companies looking to raise money, working with a broker-dealer will be a key part of their capital raising activities. Certain states require issuers to work with a broker-dealer to offer securities, so working with a broker-dealer allows issuers to maintain compliance with the SEC and other regulatory entities. Ensuring that issuers are compliant with all regulations is essential to a successful round of capital raising and good business practices. If issuers are not compliant, they can face penalties from the SEC including returning the money raised.

 

Broker-dealers are intermediaries in a fundraise transaction between the private company and the investors.  As such, they are mandated to perform a variety of compliance activities.  If you retain a broker-dealer, they will first be responsible for performing due diligence on your private company. This is important so that there are no false representations to investors.  Investor protection is one of the main responsibilities of the SEC, so the broker-dealers must ensure they are performing appropriate steps to ensure the information presented to investors is accurate, appropriate, and not misleading.

 

Once the broker-dealer has completed the due diligence, they work with private companies to prepare appropriate information to share with investors and set timelines.  This can involve liaising with your legal counsel to ensure the offering documents are complete and to ensure what type of investors they can approach with your offering.  Each country has its own regulations around how you can approach investors, which is why it is important to have a good broker-dealer and legal counsel in each region you intend to offer your securities. 

 

There are different types of investors that can be approached depending on jurisdiction and securities regulations. They include Venture Capital, Private Equity firms, Institutional investors, or individuals. While most of these are professional investors, the individual investor group is further broken down into accredited/sophisticated investors and the general public.  Accredited investors have to meet income or wealth criteria to invest in accredited investor offerings (Regulation D type of offerings in the USA).  The popular mechanisms in the USA to present your offering to the non-accredited or general population (over 18 years) are Regulation CF and Regulation A+.

 

As the broker-dealers reach out to investors and find interested participants, there are steps that they have to perform to ensure that the investor is appropriate for the company.  Typical checks that broker-dealers have to conduct on investors can include performing identification verification, anti-money laundering checks, assessing the suitability of the investment to the investor, and doing accreditation checks. 

 

With the help of a broker-dealer, companies can raise the funding their company needs while being confident that they are maintaining compliance with the regulations that are in place. With over 3,700 registered broker-dealers in the United States alone, every issuer looking to raise capital can be confident of finding at least one well-suited broker-dealer that meets their needs.

The SEC proposes expanding the “accredited investor” definition

The SEC has proposed amending the definition of “accredited investors.” Accredited investors are currently defined as (huge generalization here) people who have net worth of $1 million (excluding principal residence) or income of $200,000 ($300,000 with spouse) or entities that have assets of $5 million. Here’s the full definition.

The whole point of the accreditation definition was that it was it was supposed to be a way to determine whether someone was able to “fend for themself” in making investment decisions, such that they didn’t need the protection that SEC registration provides. Those people may invest in private placements. The thinking at the time the definition was adopted was that a financial standard served as a proxy for determining whether an investor could hire a professional adviser. Financial standards have never been a particularly good proxy for investment sophistication, though, and some people who are clearly sophisticated but not rich yet have been excluded from being able to invest in the private markets.

The proposal would:

  • Extend the definition of accredited investor to natural persons (humans) who hold certain certifications or licenses, such as the FINRA Series 7 or 65 or who are “knowledgeable employees” of hedge funds;
  • Extend the definition of accredited investors to entities that are registered investment advisers, rural business investment companies, LLCs (who honestly we all assumed were already included), family offices, and other entities meeting an investments-owned test;
  • Do some “housekeeping” to allow “spousal equivalents” to be treated as spouses and tweak some other definitions; and
  • Create a process whereby other people or entities could be added to the definition by means of a clear process without additional rulemaking.

We are generally in favor of these proposals. However, we worry that the more attractive the SEC makes the private markets, the more that people of modest means will be excluded from the wealth engine that is the American economy. We also believe that the concerns raised about the integrity of the private markets by the two dissenting Commissioners, here and here, should be taken seriously. The real solution to all of this is to make the SEC registration process more attractive, and better-scaled to early-stage companies.

In the meantime, read the proposals and the comments, and make up your own minds. The comment period ends 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which hasn’t happened yet.

Equity Crowdfunding Platforms (RegCF)

As of 02 JUNE 2020, there are 51 active RegCF Equity Crowdfunding Platforms helping companies raise up to $1.0M USD.

We are all anticipating that RegCF is going to be potentially increased to a $5 million funding cap.   The SEC has proposed this increase, along with some other changes, and many observers expect the Commission to move forward with a higher funding cap.    

We recently did a Q&A with  Wefunder on what RegCF companies require.

We have compiled the list of 51 Active Equity Crowdfunding Platforms along with the sectors they serve.

Company Name URL City State Sector
Bioverge Portal, LLC https://www.bioverge.com/ San Francisco CA Healthcare
Buy the Block https://buytheblock.com/ Denver CO Community
CollectiveSun, LLC http://collectivesun.market/ San Diego CA Social Ventures
Crowd Ignition https://crowdignition.com/ New York NY General
CrowdsourcedFunded https://crowdsourcefunded.com/ Chicago IL General
EnergyFunders Marketplace http://www.energyfunders.com/ Houston TX Energy
EnrichHER Funding, LLC https://ienrichher.com/ Atlanta GA Loans
Equifund Crowd Funding Portal Inc. www.equifundcfp.com Kanata ON General
EquityDoor, LLC https://equitydoor.com/ Austin TX Real Estate
Flair Portal ( Flair Exchange) https://www.flairexchange.com/ Vancouver BC Gaming
Flashfunders Funding Portal www.flashfunders.co Sherman Oaks CA General
Funders USA https://www.fundersusa.com/ Newport Beach CA Technology
Fundit http://fundit.com/ Fairfield NJ General
Fundme.com, Inc. www.fundme.com Murray UT Technology
Fundopolis Portal LLC https://www.fundopolis.com Boston MA General
GrowthFountain Capital www.growthfountain.com New York NY General
Honeycomb Portal www.honeycombcredit.com Pittsburgh PA General
Hycrowd https://www.hycrowd.com/ Jersey City NJ General
Indie Crowd Funder www.indiecrowdfunder.com Los Angeles CA Film
Infrashares Inc. https://infrashares.com San Francisco CA Infrastructure
IPO Wallet LLC https://ipowallet.com/ https://invest.ipowallet.com/ Sachese TX General
Jumpstart Micro www.jumpstartmicro.com Bedford MA General
Ksdaq https://www.mrcrowd.com Monterey Park CA General
MainVest, Inc. https://mainvest.com/ Newburyport MA General
Merging Traffic Portal llc www.mergingtrafficportal.com Orlando FL General
MinnowCFunding www.minnowcfunding.com Pasadena CA Real Estate
MiTec, PBC (Crowdfund Main Street) https://www.crowdfundmainstreet.com/ Fremont CA Impact
NetCapital Funding Portal www.netcapital.com Lewes DE General
NSSC Funding Portal (SmallChange) www.smallchange.com Pittsburgh PA Real Estate
OpenDeal (Republic) www.republic.co New York NY General
Pitch Venture Group LLC https://letslaunch.com/ Houston TX General
         
Raise Green, Inc. http://www.raisegreen.com Somerville MA Impact
Razitall www.razitall.com Basking Ridge NJ General
SeriesOne https://seriesone.com/ Miami FL General
SI Portal (SeedInvest) www.seedinvest.com New York NY General
Silicon Prairie Holdings, Inc. https://sppx.io/ St. Paul MN General
         
SMBX https://www.thesmbx.com/ San Francisco CA Bonds
Sprowtt Crowdfunding, Inc. https://www.sprowttcf.com/ Tampa FL General
         
StartEngine Capital www.startengine.com Los Angeles LA General
STL Critical Technologies JV I, LLC (nvested) www.nvstedwithus.com St. Louis MO General
         
Title3Funds www.title3funds.com Laguna Beach CA General
Trucrowd www.us.trucrowd.com https://fundanna.com
https://cryptolaunch.us
https://musicfy.us
Chicago IL General
VedasLabs Inc. https://vedaslabs.io/ New York City NY General
Vid Angel Studios (VAS Portal LLC) https://studios.vidangel.com/ Provo UT Film
Wefunder Portal https://www.wefunder.com San Francisco CA General
Wunderfund www.wunderfund.co Cincinnati OH General
WWF Funding Portal LLC https://www.waterworksfund.com/ Detroit MI Water

If you have any questions about how we can help you with your RegCF contact us

lily@koreconx.io

FINRA BD Requirements for RegA+ & Digital Securities

FINRA BD Requirements for RegA+ & Digital Securities

The private markets are receiving a much updated revamp by the SEC which is having a major impact on registered FINRA Broker-dealer firms.  Here are two (2) of the most common activities for which FINRA Broker-dealers (BD) are approached by companies.  Most BD’s are not aware that in order to help companies raise capital utilizing these regulations, there is a registration they must first do with FINRA.

We went to the source that has been helping many FINRA Broker-dealers and put the responses in a simple way.  Ken Norensberg, Managing Director, Luxor Financial provides the answers to which all BDs need to pay extra attention to make sure you are fully compliant.

RegA+ (Regulation A)

Broker-dealers today have the ability to help companies that are using either Regulation D (RegD) or regulation A(RegA+).  Now what they are not aware of is that in order to allow them to help companies with RegA+ they do need to be registered with FINRA. If that registration isn’t done, they are not allowed to proceed in offering those services. This process can take anywhere from 60 to 90 days or it could happen sooner.  Most firms are not aware that when they take on a RegA+ client, they must apply to FINRA to represent them in the offering. This is done at the same time the company is filing their Form 1A with the SEC for their RegA+ offering.

Digital Securities

Digital Securities are now becoming main street language and most Broker-dealers want to offer this to investors. Unfortunately, if they do not have FINRA approval for digital securities, it’s not a product they can represent or offer to investors.  Digital Securities require registration. The process is like putting a full new member application, and it will take anywhere up to four (4) months.  Your firm must file with FINRA for each of the exemptions you want to use for Digital Securities (RegD and or RegA+.  Here is what your firm will be required to answer to FINRA in its application.

  • You will need a detail business plan
  • What entities are the holders of the “private keys” in the DLT network that would be required to gain access to the digital securities, cash-backed digital securities holdings or digital currency? 
  • Are multiple keys needed to gain access or is a single key sufficient?
  • Who controls or has access to the DLT network where the assets are held?
  • What happens in the event of a loss or destruction of assets (either due to fraud or technological malfunction) on the network?
  • If the broker-dealer was to fail and is liquidated in a proceeding under the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, as amended, how would customers’ securities and funds be treated, and how would customers access their assets?
  • In instances where firms have established partnerships with other firms to serve as their back-ups and to carry out critical functions in the event of emergencies, what type of access would those back-up firms have to the private keys?
  • How will customers or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) trustee access the customers’ assets in the event of a defaulted broker-dealer? What parties will be involved, and what are their roles and responsibilities?
  • How does the use or application of the DLT network affect the market risk, liquidity or other characteristics of the asset?
  • What information is maintained using the DLT network?
  • What will be deemed as the physical location of the firm’s records maintained on a node of a DLT network that may extend over multiple countries?
  • What parties have control or access to the firm’s records? What are their rights, obligations and responsibilities related to those records, and how are they governed?
  • What is the firm’s (and other participants’) level of access to the data, and in what format would it be able to view the data?
  • How does the DLT network interact with the firm’s own systems for recordkeeping purposes?
  • How would the records be made available to regulators?
  • How will the firm’s traditional exception reporting, used to supervise transactions, be generated from a DLT network?
  • How will the firm protect any required records from tampering, loss or damage?
  • Clearance & Settlement?
  • Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Procedures & Know Your Customer (KYC) Rules?
  • Customer Data and Privacy?
  • Trade & Order Reporting Requirements?
  • Supervision & Surveillance of Transactions?
  • Fees & Commissions?
  • Customer Confirmations & Account Statements?
  • Anticipated Customer Base?
  • Facilities, Hosting?
  • Licensed & Qualified Staff

As the market is evolving to provide more alternatives to companies and investors, FINRA Broker-dealers need to also make sure their licenses are up to date to be able to offer these updated alternatives.  It’s not enough that you are registered with FINRA.

Thank you to Ken Norensberg, Managing Director of Luxor Financial, who provided this valuable information to assist Broker-dealers to stay compliant.  Ken has been helping FINRA Broker-dealers manage these new registration requirements. 

About Ken Norensberg & Luxor

Luxor Financial Group, Inc. a NY based Broker-Dealer Consulting Firm that specializes in setting up Independent Broker-Dealers. We are experts in New Member Applications, Continuing Membership Applications, Expansion Filings, FINRA and SEC Audits, Anti Money Laundering Reviews, Business Development and general compliance and business development services. www.luxorbd.com

Ken is a former Member of the FINRA Board of Governors. FINRA oversees the regulatory activities and business practices of over 4,500 Broker-Dealers, 163,000 Branch offices, 630,000 registered representatives and 3,500 employees and consultants with annualized revenues and a budget of approximately $800,000,000 (Eight hundred million dollars.)

The Board contends with many complex issues that affect large organizations from generating revenues, managing expenses, personnel, legal, regulatory, political and operational issues.

Additionally, Ken was a Member of the following committees and subcommittees:

  • Regulatory Policy Committee
  • Emerging Regulatory Issues (Subcommittee)
  • Financial, Operations & Technology Committee
  • Pricing (Subcommittee)
  • Ex-Officio of the Small Firms Advisory Board (SFAB)

What is Reg A plus versus Reg A?

The simple answer is that today, Regulation A (Reg A) and Regulation A+ (Reg A+) are the exact same law. There is no difference, and the two terms may be used interchangeably.

Some confusion stems from the two similar terms, and there is much misleading information about this online. I’ve even spoken at events where I’ve heard other lawyers claim the two laws are different. They are not.

Historically, there was no Reg A+, there was only Reg A. Regulation A was an infrequently used law that allowed a company to raise up to $5,000,000 from the general public, but with the company still having to go state-by-state to get Blue Sky law approval for their offering.  This expensive and time-consuming process of dealing with review of an offering by 50+ state regulators made Regulation A far too expensive and time-consuming for most issuers to only be allowed to raise $5,000.000. 

 In 2012, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) became law, and Title IV of that act amended Regulation A in many ways, most notably (a) doing away with the state by state blue sky law requirement and (b) raising the limit from $5,000,000 to $20,000,000 or $50,000,000, depending on which “tier” of the law is used. Congress took a virtually worthless law, and turned it into an excellent and company friendly law that has allowed many companies since to raise millions.

Interestingly, since in 2012 when the law went into effect, and even since 2015 when the SEC passed its rules allowing the law to actually be used, the law is still officially called Regulation A. But, both the SEC, and commentators also started simultaneously calling the law “Regulation A+” or “Reg A+” to note that it was a supercharged version of the old Regulation A law.

Finally, to get super-lawyer-nerdy here, the official name of the law is Regulation A – Conditional Small Issues Exemption, and is part of the Securities Act of 1933, found at 17 CFR §§ 230.251 – 230.300-230.346.

What are investor limits on investment size of both?

As noted in my other blog article, these is no difference between Regulation A (Reg A) and Regulation A+ (Reg A+). They are the exact same law.  The two terms may be used interchangeably. Therefore, investor limits on investment size are the same for either term.

However, there are investor limits on how much an investor may invest in Regulation A. These limits depend on which “tier” of the law is being used.

Tier 1 of Regulation A allows a company to raise up to $20,000,000, but the company must go through Blue Sky law compliance in every state in which it plans to offer its securities. There are no limitations on whether someone can invest, or how much someone can invest, in a Tier 1 offering. 

As a side note, Tier 1 offerings tend to be limited to one state, or a small number of states, because of the added cost of Blue Sky compliance. The SEC does not limit the amount of investment, but states may have limitations in their securities laws, so an analysis of each state’s securities laws is necessary if doing a Tier 1 offering.

Tier 2 of Regulation A allows a company to raise up to $50,000,000, and the company does not have to go through Blue Sky law compliance in any state in which it plans to offer its securities. However, there are limitations on how much someone can invest, in a Tier 2 offering if the offering is not going to be listed on a national securities exchange when it is qualified by the SEC.  If the Tier 2 offering is going to be listed on such an exchange, there are no investor limitations.

For a Tier 2 offering that is not going to be listed on a national exchange, individual investors are limited in how much they can invest to no more than 10% of the greater of the person’s (alone or together with a spouse) annual income or net worth (excluding the value of the person’s primary residence and any loans secured by the residence (up to the value of the residence).

There are no limitations on how much an accredited investor can invest in either a Tier 1 or a Tier 2 Regulation A offering.

SEC changes to RegA+ and RegCF

On 04 March 2020, the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has laid out the proposed changes that are going to have a major impact on the private capital markets.  This is very positive for the market. These changes have been in the works for a number of years and many in the industry have advocated for these changes that are now materializing.

The Commission proposed revisions to the current offering and investment limits for certain exemptions. 

Regulation Crowdfunding (RegCF): 

  • raise the offering limit in Regulation Crowdfunding from $1.07 million to $5 million;

This is going to benefit the 44+ online RegCF platforms such as;  Republic, Wefunder, StartEngine, Flashfunders, EquityFund, NextSeed.   These online platforms have paved the way and now more US-based companies will be able to capitalize on this expanded RegCF limit.  

Regulation A (RegA+) 

  • raise the maximum offering amount under Tier 2 of Regulation A from $50 million to $75 million; and
  • raise the maximum offering amount for secondary sales under Tier 2 of Regulation A from $15 million to $22.5 million.

As you saw in our recent announcement of our RegA+ all-in-one investment platform, we expect more companies to now start using RegA+ for their offerings and they need a partner that can deliver an end-to-end solution.   www.koreconx.io/RegA

These two changes are momentous and will have far-reaching consequences in democratizing capital and make it very efficient for companies to raise capital. This also increases the shareholder base, which makes it even more important for companies to have a cost-effective end-to-end solution that can manage the complete lifecycle of their securities.

If you want to learn more please visit:

www.KoreConX.io/RegA

Here is the complete news release by the SEC

https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2020-55?utm_source=CCA+Master+List&utm_campaign=40105b558a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_01_02_09_01_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3d336fbcf-40105b558a-357209445

Understanding Digital Assets

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about crypto, tokens, blockchain, ICOs, STOs, Digital Securities, etc.  What does it all mean and why should you care?  In order to navigate the new financial digital world, it is important to first understand the terminology.  Below, I have broken down the typical terms being used in this current digital environment.   In certain sections, I have provided the example of the USA, and its primary regulator, but this is globally applicable.

Distinguishing the types of secondary markets or exchanges where you can trade digital or traditional assets also seems to be confusing.  I have created the following chart to try to distinguish these.

Now, why should you care?  What does this mean to you?  Despite what some people say in the press, blockchain is here to stay.  So understanding the types of digital assets that it hosts is going to be important in making business and investment decisions.

As a co-founder of a company that is focused on revolutionizing the private capital markets, I am not going to get into cryptocurrencies as this is not my area of expertise.  This is for currency experts to discuss.  Similarly, while I know the public listed markets well and how they operate, there are plenty of people who know these markets far better than I.

My background is geared towards the issues faced by private companies. Thus, I will elaborate on the fragmented ecosystem of the private capital markets that sorely need solutions.

Since the SEC and other government regulators around the world started stepping in to ban ICO’s, other alternatives have evolved.  The security token offering or STO is one such term that got some wings in 2018. However, the institutional and traditional investment communities were still leary of the idea of a token or blockchain solution being provided by people without an appropriate understanding of the entire market they are trying to disrupt. Many people from the ICO space were just changing the name and using STO as a new hype to sell the same ideas.

Many of the players (intentional choice of word) in the ICO space were trying to circumvent securities regulations saying they know better how the ecosystem should work.  After decades of scams, the securities regulators know that the current system has built-in checks and balances for a reason.  We all understand there are issues and inefficiencies in the private capital markets, but in order to change securities rules you better have a big budget and strong case for it. As an example, the JOBS Act took well over five and likely closer to ten years to come into place.  The use of blockchain has valuable applications that can certainly provide more efficient and cost-effective solutions to current private capital markets, as long as you work within the existing securities regulations.

There is a lot of exciting stuff being built with blockchain technology. I believe that if you are looking at this as a solution to the private capital markets, you need to consider a few things if you are looking at public chains as a potential solution:

  1. Use of private wallets for sole custody of financial instruments will not work. Securities law requires the use of transfer agents in many situations and transfer agents need to have custody of assets in order to manage them. If the digital securities are being held by individuals in their own wallet, there is no way the transfer agents can have custody of them. Think of public markets: you do not hold the securities (share certificates) yourself, they are digitally represented in your brokerage account and held by transfer agents.
  2. Mining of securities: It is generally not acceptable for unknown miners to verify transactions; even known miners must be eligible to perform business validation of a transaction either because they are parties to the transaction, have fiduciary responsibility, or certified subject matter credentials or otherwise registered and regulated entities.

Gas prices are not acceptable when it comes to securities.  In order for a token to move on some blockchains, a gas price needs to be paid to miners. Transaction fees must be contractually fixed in advance and cannot be uncertain or subject to an auction style of payment (which leads to a form of ad-hoc discrimination). For individual investors, transaction prices need to be certain  and follow execution guarantees.

Facebook’s Libra Reboots the Crypto World

Facebook Libra Project set’s to rebook the crypto world.

Since the announcement by Facebook of their Libra Project, everyone in the world came out with their take on what Facebook was up to. Thousands of articles and interviews with everyone jumping in. 

It’s safe to say that what Facebook has done, no other company has been able to do on a global scale and receive such global exposure. Today, the only places where crypto is discussed is Medium, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the crypto rags. But now, we are talking about major global media exposure like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC, etc.

Facebook today has 2.4 Billion (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) users that is 31% of the world’s population.

In one announcement, Facebook woke up every central bank, bank regulator, government, and various officials in the world. Now they can’t pretend they don’t know what crypto is and how it would impact them, a huge achievement by one of the most mistrusted companies in the world.  In one announcement, Facebook created fear most never thought possible in crypto sector. Facebook can overnight be the world’s largest central bank. Think about it.

The World’s Largest Central Bank!

The current turf wars that President Donald Trump is having with China, Canada, Russia, Mexico, France, and Denmark, just to name a few, would be put to a complete halt by one company, Facebook.  That is power!

The crypto sector’s hardcore evangelists see this as validation and are rooting for the rise in the price of bitcoin and other cryptos that nobody on earth knows what they are and have no value in the real world today.

Facebook Libra would bring it to real-world and make it usable instantly to 2.4 billion users globally. No other bank or country can pull off such a stunt.

Are you awake now!

What is the impact of LIBRA by Facebook.

Some are excited its validation. Some see it as a competitor.

Here is what’s going to happen whether Facebook launches LIBRA or not. 

Facebook can and will kill over 98-99% of the crypto companies around the world that have coins which are trading but have no real value.

This will be done in two ways:

  1. Facebook decides to abandon the LIBRA project for lack of regulatory support. This will create global uncertainty that start-up projects will face the same demise as Facebook.  Investors will be asking themselves if Facebook can’t pull it off, how is this new start-up going to accomplish it?
  2. Facebook is denied by regulators to proceed. This is the worst one of all.  Today, countries like Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and more are shutting down companies in light of what Facebook has launched.  Facebook is a threat to central banks, governments, regional banks, and many others who will not allow them to proceed, forcing even those who are supportive of crypto to side with regulations to shut them down.  This is the killer if Facebook goes all the way only to be shut down.  

Either way, this is going to hurt a majority of the crypto players.

As I mentioned, Facebook did what no other crypto company has been able to accomplish:  woke up everyone and bring instant global awareness.

Even the hard supporters of crypto are now wondering, wait a minute, what would happen?

Facebook made the whole crypto business real overnight and now we have a really serious discussion. We got our wish: global awareness. Sometimes, you have to be careful what you ask for!

Yes, we all agree it would have been better if it was not Facebook, as the company faces fines globally for how they manage data, and featured in the latest 2019 documentary, The Great Hack, and how its platform was used to change the outcome of many governments, not just the United States.

Every government around the world is going after this company for its untrustworthy business practice, and then the company adds crypto to the mix just to complicate matters. There is a danger that Facebook could become a Fakebook.

They are the supervillain du jour of business.

Because of their size, they got instant global exposure and has put this at the highest ever scrutiny. So, the reality of crypto becoming what everyone hopes could finally come to a very hard stop.

Politically speaking, what is happening around the world is that every country is protecting its borders and citizens. Even crypto supporters in governments, regulatory agencies, and banks will take a step back.

What Facebook has now shown them is that any of these crypto players can become bigger than any one nation or any one bank.  So best to put the brakes now before it gets carried away.

So get ready for the Great Crypto Reboot.  And it will not look like what you thought!

Minimizing Failure Vector Surfaces for Digital Securities

Modern capitalists and ancient Chinese may disagree on many things, but the one thing they do seem to agree on relates to security of the realm. George Washington, back in 1799, said, “…offensive operations, often times, is the surest, if not the only (in some cases) means of defence.” A similar sentiment can be seen in Sun Tzu’s writings. It is now a common saying in football: The best defense is a good offense.

If digital securities are to play an innovative and differentiating role in modern capital markets, the one thing they have to support is the trend towards democratization of capital. Ironically, Main Street retail investors have been sidelined in the ‘public’ markets that ostensibly were designed with the general public in mind. 90% of households are generally unaffected by the gyrations of the stock market.

Decentralization of capital brings with it several risks. Inefficiencies aside, some of the financial risks are poor governance, insecure transactions, hacking, and architectural instabilities in the financial platforms. The general public will never be able to store their own private keys safely. Public blockchains are still too new and fragile to support widespread adoption by the vast majority.

The most important lens through which we need to look at this is that of the lay investor, whose primary need is safety. They may not say it, but they definitely think it. For financial systems and in particular digital securities, we need to minimize the number of ways in which the security of digital securities is compromised. Security experts have a fancy term for this, ‘attack surface’, which is the entire set of vulnerabilities possible through all the ‘attack vectors’, each of which is one method of attacking applications or networks.

Unlike the usual attack vectors such as phishing, email, pop-ups, attachments, chats, etc., digital securities can be compromised by non-traditional vectors such as forking, hacking, and adverse selection by miners’ activities, and commingling of cryptocurrencies and digital securities. Adverse selection, in particular, is not criminal activity, but the net effect is that retail investors suffer the consequences since concentration of mining power centralizes points of failure or throttles securities transactions.

All of the ways in which digital securities can fail are the ‘failure vectors’. The collective magnitude of these failure vectors defines a failure vector surface. The surface area, in some intuitive sense, captures the magnitude of potential failures. The larger the surface area, the higher the risk. (Move your mouse onto the various surfaces for color highlights.)

The spider chart above shows various failure vectors, some of which are outright attack vectors, while others represent potential failures not from attacks but due to the inherent nature of the underlying blockchain. Such a visualization is useful only when comparing two or more subjects of evaluation and that too in a relative way and by ignoring the actual values.

One caution: Do not conclude from this chart that public blockchains are necessarily bad. This chart is not an evaluation of the technology or the competence of the developers. It just speaks to the potential problems that developers and users must keep in mind when using it for this particular use case, that of digital securities.

Can public blockchains systematically reduce the magnitude of all these failure vectors? There is certainly awareness of these failure vectors. However, all current reengineering in public blockchains, such as the ERC20-based protocols, is a defensive strategy.

Keeping to the wisdom of the ages about offense being the best defense, another approach is to start with a blockchain that has been engineered from the ground up to specifically minimize the failure vector surface as much as possible.

For this reason, we chose Hyperledger Fabric as the base blockchain on which we built the digital securities platform. The risk of failure is mitigated because some of these failure vectors either don’t apply or they are considerably minimized due to the nature of the Fabric blockchain. We prefer to let Fabric deal with a number of these failure vectors, while we focus only on those failure vectors that are specific to KoreChain, the digital securities blockchain application.