Why Everyone Benefits from the SEC’s New Crowdfunding Rules

To the delight of both issuers and investors, the SEC continues to make crowdfunding better as they have announced major changes to their crowdfunding rules. In this podcast, crowdfunding attorney Mark Roderick and Co-Founder of Lex Nova Law goes over what he believes are the most important and impactful changes including raising the limits for Regulation A and Regulation CF deals as well as the ability of “finders” to legally accept commissions for bringing deals to the table. And perhaps most importantly, the changes regarding accredited and non-accredited investors are a complete game changer! In this podcast, you’ll find out why that is.

Listen to “Why Everyone Benefits from the SEC's New Crowdfunding Rules” on Spreaker.

We can’t elect a President, but there’s certainly a preponderance of positive energy being circulated in the crowdfunding industry with respect to these rules revisions from the SEC! By increasing the raise limit of Reg.A and Reg.CF offerings, the entire process has become much more realistic in terms of making everything successful on just about every level and aspect of the industry. Now, accredited investors can have whatever stake of a project they want, and non-accredited investors can participate in ways unimaginable just a short time ago. And what’s an accredited investor? That rule has changed too!

One of the biggest changes the SEC has implemented is the legality of “finders” receiving commissions or payments for brokering deals and introducing investors to issuers, syndicators, developers, etc. Before this change, only broker-dealers were allowed to receive compensation for such deals. With the new changes, these finders can now legally receive these commissions and other transaction-based compensation from issuers. The ability to legally monetize your connections is something many have been waiting for for quite a long time!

There’s no question that crowdfunding still has its growing pains. However, one thing’s for sure: finders, investors, and issuers alike should all be jumping for joy after listening to the information Mr. Roderick goes over in this podcast. Broker-dealers, maybe not… But regardless, it’s a new world for crowdfunding and doors continue to open. The industry is definitely heading in the right direction.

SEC (Finally) Approves Crowdfunding Changes

With uncanny precision, I predicted the SEC would approve the Crowdfunding changes no later than August 31, 2020. I was right on target except for the month and year.

The SEC Commissions just voted 3-2 to adopt the changes effective 60 days after they’re published in the Federal Register.

It looks as if there were no significant changes to the proposals made on March 4th, but I’ll let you know shortly. You can read the full text and SEC explanations here.

Beneficiary Designations by Crowdfunding Issuers and Portals

Some Crowdfunding portals and issuers allow investors to designate a beneficiary, i.e., a person who will take ownership of the security (the LLC interest, debt instrument, whatever) should the investor die. Just be careful.

Most states (not Texas) allow the owners of securities, including privately-held securities, to designate a beneficiary outside the owner’s will, under a version of the Uniform TOD (Transfer on Death) Security Registration Act (the Delaware version is 12 DE Code §801 et seq). For the investor, the advantage of designating a beneficiary is that the security doesn’t go through the probate process but instead passes directly to the designated beneficiary.

For the Crowdfunding issuer or portal, there is a benefit to making life easier for investors. And it’s pretty straightforward to create a beneficiary designation form on your website.

Nevertheless, adding convenience for investors carries some risks. For example:

  • Suppose an investor wants to designate her cousin Jacob as the beneficiary of her LLC interest. She uses Jacob’s name on the beneficiary designation form but mistakenly uses her husband’s social security number, out of habit. What happens?
  • The investor correctly designates Jacob on the form but later changes her mind and designates her husband as the beneficiary of the LLC interest in her will. Unfortunately for her husband, the beneficiary designation made using your form cannot be undone by the will. Your form didn’t make that clear.
  • The investor property designates Jacob as the beneficiary of her LLC interest and doesn’t change her mind, but she lives in a community property state and your form didn’t tell her she needed her husband’s consent.
  • The investor property designates Jacob as the beneficiary of her LLC interest but he dies before she does, and she hasn’t designated a successor beneficiary.
  • Your site crashes and the investor’s beneficiary designation is lost.

What’s your budget for legal fees this year?

Designating a beneficiary on your site isn’t the investor’s only option. She can sign a simple will or codicil (if she already has a will) designating a beneficiary for her LLC interest and any other securities or other property, which probably makes more sense than designating beneficiaries security-by-security. And if her cousin and husband end up arguing over the codicil, you’re not involved.

If you’d like a sample of a Beneficiary Designation Form let me know.

SEC Announces Two Major Changes to Crowdfunding

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This special edition podcast covers two announcements from the SEC.

The first is that in due course, it will be permitted to pay commissions to someone who helps you find equity for your projects based on the amount of money that they raise for you. This is a seismic change.

The second is the addition of non-accredited investors to deals that would normally only be available to accredited investors. rules that the SEC issued to facilitate Title III crowdfunding during the coronavirus crisis.

Bumblebee and flowers

SEC PROPOSES LIMITED EXEMPTIONS FOR “FINDERS”

In theory, only broker-dealers registered under section 15 of the Exchange Act are allowed to receive compensation for connecting issuers with investors. In practice, the world of private securities includes lots of folks we refer to as “finders.” Like bumblebees, these folks should be unable to fly according to the laws of physics but many plants couldn’t survive without them.

Because of the disconnect between theory and reality, industry participants have been urging the SEC for years to develop exemptions for finders.

The SEC just proposed exemptions that would allow some finders to operate legally, i.e., to receive commissions and other transaction-based compensation from issuers.

The SEC proposes two tiers of Finders 

  • Tier 1 Finders would be limited to providing the contact information of potential investors to an issuer in one offering per 12 months. A Tier I Finder couldn’t even speak with potential investors about the issuer or the offering.
  • Tier II Finders could participate in an unlimited number of offerings and solicit investors on behalf of an issuer, but only to the extent of:
    • Identifying, screening, and contacting potential investors;
    • Distributing offering materials;
    • Discussing the information in the offering materials, as long as the Funder doesn’t provide investment advice or advice about the value of the investment; and
    • Arranging or participating in meetings with the issuer and investor.

A Tier II Finder would be required to disclose her compensation to prospective investors up front – before the solicitation – and obtain the investor’s written consent.

The Limits to the Proposed Finders

  • The Finder must be an individual, not an entity.
  • The Finder must have a written agreement with the issuer.
  • The proposed exemptions apply only to offerings by the issuer, not secondary sales.
  • Public companies (companies required to file reports under section 13 or section 15(d) of the Exchange Act) may not use Finders.
  • The offering must be exempt from registration.
  • The Finder may not engage in general solicitation.
  • All investors must be accredited.
  • The Finder may not be an “associated person” of a broker-dealer.
  • The Find may not be subject to statutory disqualification.

The SEC issued an excellent graphic summarizing the proposed exemptions

Because they are entities, the typical Crowdfunding portal can’t qualify as a Finder under the SEC’s proposals. And because the proposals don’t allow general solicitation, a Finder who is an individual can’t create a website posting individual deals.

But the no-action letters to Funders Club and AngelList that kick-started the Crowdfunding industry (no pun intended) will invite many Tier 2 Finders to take their businesses online. Under the proposals and the no-action letters, it seems that a Tier 2 Finder could legally create a website offering access to terrific-but-unnamed offerings, but give investors access to the offerings only after registering and going through a satisfactory KYC process per the CitizenVC no-action letter.

A Step Forward for Crowdfunding

Many finders and issuers will jump for joy at the new proposals, while others will be disappointed that the SEC drew the line at accredited investors. In a Regulation A offering or a Rule 506(b) offering open to non-accredited investors, the law requires very substantial disclosure, especially in Regulation A. The SEC must believe that non-accredited investors are especially vulnerable to the selling pressure that might be applied by a finder.

Nevertheless, like the SEC’s proposals to expand the definition of accredited investor, the proposals about finders are a step forward.

CAUTION:  As of today these proposals are just proposals, not the law.

TWO REASONS WHY EVERY TITLE II PORTAL SHOULD ADD A TITLE III PORTAL

If you operate a Title II Crowdfunding platform, whether Rule 506(c) or Rule 506(b), you should add the functionality for Title III. Two reasons:

  • It will be good for you, i.e., you will make more money.
  • It will be good for our country.

Adding Title III Will Be Good for You

Any day now the SEC will announce a bunch of changes to the Title III rules, including these: 

  • Sponsors will be able to raise $5M rather than $1.07M.
  • There will be no limit on the amount an accredited investor can invest.
  • The limits for non-accredited investors will be raised.

Most of the deals on your site are less than $5M. Even though the $5M limit under Title III is per-sponsor rather than per-deal, this means that if your Title III portal were up and running today you could expand your potential audience from about 10 million households to about 120 million households.

There are four benefits to making deals available to non-accredited investors.

The first, immediate benefit is that non-accredited investors do have money. By adding non-accredited investors you make it easier to fill deals.

The second, immediate benefit is that adding non-accredited investors allows you to market to affinity groups. If you’re selling a mixed-use project in Washington, D.C. you can market to the neighbors. If you’re selling a company developing a therapy for cystic fibrosis you can market to everyone whose family has been affected.

The third, immediate benefit is you can start taking commissions. If you’re like most Title II portals you spend time and effort to make sure you’re not a broker-dealer. If you were a Title III portal those issues would disappear.

The fourth benefit is not immediate but is much more important than the first three, in my opinion. It’s about building a brand and a funnel of investors.

If you operate a portal you are selling a product, no different than shoes or automobiles. Just as Mercedes offers the A-Class sedan to bring less-affluent customers into the showroom and the Mercedes family, adding Title III can vastly increase your audience and revenue as some non-accredited investors become accredited and the SEC further relaxes the rules for non-accredited investors.

Alternatively, they could start shopping in somebody else’s Title III showroom.

Adding Title III Will Be Good for the Country

Our country is suffering in many ways. Yes, we’re suffering politically, but in some ways the political suffering is just one manifestation of our deep and deepening income and wealth inequalities. You can find a hundred charts showing the same thing:  the very wealthy are becoming wealthier while everyone else, especially the lower 50%, becomes poorer and more desperate.

When I was a teenager I delivered newspapers in Arlington, Virginia. In my suburban territory I delivered papers to accredited investors, whose houses were a little bigger and drove Cadillacs and Town Cars, and to non-accredited investors, whose houses were a little smaller and drove Chevies and Toyotas. One of my customers was George Shulz, the Secretary of the Treasury, who came to the door in his bathrobe and tipped well.

Tax policies, trade policies, all the instrumentalities of government have been focused over the last 40 years to serve the interests of the well-off. Part of it was cynical politics, part too much faith (which I shared) in the power of markets to lift all boats. Most of the boats in our country remain moored at low tide. Steve Mnuchin and his wife wouldn’t dream of living in that neighborhood today while 98% of Americans couldn’t afford to.

Call me an idealist, but I believe Crowdfunding can at least claw back some of the inequality. The deals on your Title II portal should be available to ordinary Americans. They should participate in those returns. They should regain faith that the capitalist system can work for them. We should all hope that the phrase “institutional quality,” when applied to investments, will lose its meaning.

Crowdfunding isn’t the whole solution, but it’s part of the solution. And you can make it happen.

Crow of people wearing masks

PODCAST: Is Coronavirus Impacting Crowdfunding?

Coronavirus is the epitome of what a “risk factor” is in any crowdfunding or real estate deal. As such, whatever the deal, issuers are required to warn potential investors about the riskiness of such an investment. If they don’t, then these businesses can get into serious trouble. Coronavirus compounds that issue even more. In this podcast, attorney Mark Roderick of Lex Nova Law provides some real world examples of what Covid19 disclosures are required in crowdfunding offerings and goes over some of the emergency rules that the SEC issued to facilitate Title III crowdfunding during the coronavirus crisis.

How Coronavirus is Impacting Crowdfunding

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates exactly why a list of “risk factors” should be included in offering documents when companies issue and sell securities. As Mr. Roderick notes on the podcast, crowdfunding itself can be the catalyst of what may actually restart the economy, but the proper disclosures are a must!

For example, if a company issued stock before the pandemic began, its duty to tell investors about the pandemic would depend on which version of Crowdfunding it used.

Are you aware of these specifics? If not, listening to this podcast will get you up to speed on important items you may not know about, yet are crucial to your crowdfunding efforts (especially if something goes wrong). In addition, are you aware of the temporary rules that the SEC has adopted to make Title III crowdfunding a bit easier in the short term in four major ways? You’d be wise to get a pen and paper and take notes regarding the significant points Mr. Roderick explains in detail in this episode.

PODCAST: Title III Crowdfunding Changes with Mark Roderick

Crowdfunding continues to grow in popularity. It is a way to democratize the world of real estate investing, which historically has only been open to super-wealthy Americans. Its growth and positive outcomes have led to several changes being made in the space. Mark Roderick, our guest today, joins us to unpack these developments and the positive influence that they will have on real estate investing. In this episode, Mark presents an overview of the current crowdfunding space.

Title III Crowdfunding Changes with Mark Roderick

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Learn more about Mark and his expertise as a crowdfunding attorney
  • An overview of the crowdfunding basics and the difference between Title II, III, and IV.
  • Find out about some of the excellent changes the SEC has made related to crowdfunding.
  • How broker-dealers with a wide product mix make real estate accessible to more people.
  • ‘Title’ refers to the different types of crowdfunding as per the JOBS Act of 2012.
  • Why the Title III changes will make it easier to syndicate, even if you’re not a broker-dealer.
  • An explanation of what a funding portal is and the simple steps to set one up.
  • Learn about some of the drawbacks of establishing a funding portal.
  • Some of the changes Mark expects will happen with Title III advertising.
  • Other changes that the SEC has made around crowdfunding.
  • How Mark gives back and where you can get hold of him.

PODCAST: Is the SEC Democratizing Investment?

Democratizing investment. A huge step forward.

My guest today is Mark Roderick, founder of Lex Nova Law and one of the top online crowdfunding experts in the country. Mark and I discuss the very exciting changes proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulation crowdfunding, or Reg CF, the securities regulation that is really the first step taken by the S.E.C. towards democratizing investment. The additional changes proposed will give this regulation real legs.

Impact Real Estate Investing Podcast

Insights and Inspirations

  • Mark believes the latest round of changes to the crowdfunding rules will bring some fundamental changes to the industry including higher quality deals.
  • As the deals get better, so will the industry grow, and more investors join in.
  • He expects to see changes in the physical landscape in just 5 years as these rules begin to have a far-reaching effect.
WRITE YOUR REGULATION A OFFERING CIRCULAR WITH ADVERTISING IN MIND

WRITE YOUR REGULATION A OFFERING CIRCULAR WITH ADVERTISING IN MIND

Too many issuers think of the Regulation A Offering Circular as just a dry legal document between the SEC and the lawyers. It should be more than that.

As I’ve said once or twice before, Crowdfunding is a marketing business. Creating a great company with a great product isn’t enough. “Build it and they will come” worked for Kevin Costner but it doesn’t work for most companies trying to raise capital.

Here are some examples of things you’d like to say to attract investors:

  • We have a terrific track record in this industry going back 15 years.
  • Our performance during the last five years has doubled industry averages.
  • Our Founder has had successful exits from her last three companies.
  • Experts forecast that our market will triple over the next seven years.

Those can be very powerful messages for prospective investors. But here’s the thing:  you’re not allowed to say them in your Facebook ads unless you’ve already said them in your Offering Circular.

You spend all the time and money to have your Regulation A offering qualified by the SEC, only to learn that you’re not allowed to say what you’d like to say to attract investors. 

Write your Offering Circular with advertising in mind. Make your lawyer speak with your marketing team and vice versa, even though they speak different languages. Create your marketing materials — your website, your Facebook ads, your email campaigns — in conjunction with your Offering Circular, so all the pieces are working together rather than pulling in opposite directions.