What is a Securities Manual?

For companies to raise capital under the exemptions allowed by the JOBS Act, there are different requirements to maintain compliance with state and federal securities laws. For example, a company looking to raise capital through Regulation A+ must adhere to Blue Sky Laws in each state they are conducting the offering. 


Similarly, for a company to allow its shareholders to transact on a secondary market, Blue Sky Laws also must be met. Since each state may have very different compliance requirements, an issuer can file what is referred to as a manual exemption. With the manual exemption, the issuer is required to be listed in a nationally recognized securities manual. 


Securities manuals are publications that include specific information and financial statements of an issuer. Examples of securities manuals include Mergent’s and Standard & Poor’s. Listing in these manuals allows issuers to sell securities in a particular state without registration as long as the manual is recognized by the state. The issuer must include:


  • The names of issuers, directors, and officers
  • The balance sheet
  • A profit and loss statement from the most recent fiscal year


As such, a securities manual is a collection of this data from many companies. For example, Mergent’s has a database of over 25,000 active and inactive companies. By being listed in a similar, nationally recognized manual, an issuer can be a step closer to maintaining compliance for their offering.

Why do I need Blue Sky registration for Secondary Trading?

Through the Regulation A+ exemption, securities issuers can raise up to $75 million as of March 2021. This creates a significant opportunity for the everyday investor to make investments in private companies and for the companies to benefit from the large number of investors that exist within this space. Unlike securities purchased on a national securities exchange, like the NASDAQ or New York Stock Exchange, investors in private companies have been somewhat limited in their options for liquidity.


This created the need for a secondary market on which investors could sell shares to other interested buyers, rather than waiting for the company to go public through an IPO to sell their shares. However, when it comes to enabling investors to be able to access secondary market platforms for their shares, there are a few things issuers need to consider.


First, just as the original offering has to comply with the Blue Sky laws in the states they choose to do business in, secondary market trading falls under the same requirements. For offerings that fall under the Tier 1 Reg A+, offerings are required to meet the blue sky requirements in each state and must be reviewed and registered by the state and the SEC. For Tier 2 offerings, the offering preempts Blue Sky laws and does not require review and registration. Some states also require issuers to work with a broker-dealer for the offering, so issuers should pay careful attention to that requirement when preparing their offering.


Similarly to complying with the laws governing raising capital, issuers must also comply with the laws that govern secondary trading markets in the states they are looking to make secondary trading available in. Since Blue Sky laws vary between jurisdictions, it can be difficult for issuers to maintain compliance with the laws in each state. In this case, issuers can file for “manual exemption” of the Blue Sky laws, accepted in numerous states. This means that issuers can qualify for secondary trading as long as they meet disclosure requirements, like meeting financial standards and ensuring that key company information is listed in a national securities manual.


While meeting compliance requirements to offer secondary trading to investors may seem like a challenging task, working with a broker-dealer can ensure you are meeting all requirements. As an issuer, once you can offer secondary trading, your investors will benefit from liquidity options for their shares.

What is the Role of a Corporate Secretary?

A Corporate Secretary is a required position set forth by state corporation laws and is part of the ‘check and balance’ on board members and offers the board advice and support. While providing the company with advice on the state laws, they are also tasked with ensuring that board members maintain their fiduciary duties to shareholders. 


One way they do this is by accurately recording and maintaining the minutes for the board meetings they usually set up. Corporate secretaries are responsible for ensuring that an adequate number of board meetings are held and that scheduling coincides with the availability of board members. They are required to comply with meeting notices and often are responsible for other logistical arrangements. This is just one of the basic tenets of the position and typically remains a constant between companies. 


Corporate secretaries are essentially a compliance officer for board members, serving as a liaison between the board, officers, and shareholders while maintaining documents that are required to keep the board and company in compliance with regulations. They also direct the activities related to the annual meeting of shareholders and share transfers. As a note, while the corporate secretary does not need to be a lawyer, they need to have sufficient knowledge of corporate and securities law to ensure compliance, so a background in law can be helpful. They should also be as well-versed in the company’s business, understanding it thoroughly to be an effective corporate secretary.


Even though the role of the corporate secretary is dynamic and complex, varying slightly between companies, the basic function of the position can be boiled down to being responsible for providing support to the board, officers, and shareholders on business matters and the laws that apply to them. Whether it is setting up, facilitating, or creating the agenda of a board or annual shareholders meeting, a corporate secretary is an essential and mandatory part of a company’s structure in the modern world of business. 

How a Member of the Crowd Made Crowdfunding Easier

A while back, one of our favorite start-up clients called me and asked me to speak to a potential investor. Paul Efron, a resident of Arizona, wanted to invest in the company’s Regulation A offering. However, when he went onto the company’s website to invest, his subscription was rejected. The company was accepting subscriptions from investors in every state but Arizona and Nebraska.

Why Arizona and Nebraska, asked Paul?

The reason was that while federal law and most states’ laws say that a company selling its own securities is exempt from broker-dealer registration, that’s not the case in a handful of states. These states say that if a company isn’t using a registered broker-dealer to sell in their state, the company has to register itself as an “issuer-dealer.” Depending on the state, that can involve letters to the regulators showing that the company and its officers are familiar with securities regulations, fingerprints, and, in the case of Arizona, a requirement that the company comply with “net capital” requirements as if they were an actual broker. Start-ups, of course, very rarely have any excess capital sitting around. So our client decided just not to sell in Arizona. (There were similar issues in Nebraska, which has since changed its rules.)

Paul could have done several things at this point. He could have pretended he lived somewhere else. He could have given up and invested in something else. But, being an entrepreneur himself, he decided the law needed to be changed, and set about changing it.

He reviewed the Arizona legislature website and saw that every legislator gets an email address on the website.  The way the website email system is setup, doing a mass email campaign with individual emails was possible.  Paul sent out an email to every one of the 30 Senators and 60 Representatives which took about an hour of click, click, cut and paste.  He found the autofill function very helpful.  Republican Senator Tyler Pace and Democratic Representative Aaron Lieberman replied to the email.  Having a member of both parties from both houses was perfect for this nonpartisan bill.  He brought me in to explain the issue to the legislators, their staff and the relevant committee staff. They listened, understood, and drafted. The first attempt at getting the legislation through was derailed because of COVID.  Paul contacted the legislators again.  The bill was reintroduced, passed this session, and the Governor signed it into law last week.

Start-ups (and Arizona investors) owe Paul. Not just for getting this roadblock removed, but for setting an example of what can happen when a citizen looks at a regulation and says “Well that doesn’t make any sense; how do I fix that?”