Under the U.S. securities laws, it is important for private investment funds to avoid engaging in a “general solicitation” or “general advertising” prior to and during fund raising. The key to private investment funds and the private offering of interests in the funds is that they are “private.”
Assuring the private nature of an offering means that not only the issuer, but any party acting on its behalf, must refrain from generally soliciting potential purchaser. This means that a fund and its agents (which includes all management, personnel, placement agents,attorneys, accountants and other representatives) must be careful during the fund raising period not to make statements to the general public with regard to an investment in a fund.
Rule 502(c) of Regulation D states the limitation as “neither the issuer nor any person acting on its behalf shall offer or sell the securities by any form of general solicitation or general advertising, including, but not limited to, the following:
1. Any advertisement, article, notice or other communication published in any newspaper, magazine, or similar media or broadcast over television or radio; and
2. Any seminar or meeting whose attendees have been invited by any general solicitation or general advertising. . . “
If a fund or its agents make statements that could be viewed as a “general advertising” or “general solicitation”, the SEC could impose a “cooling-off period.” This would typically mean a cessation of all fundraising and a moratorium on fund closings for a period of several months. A “general solicitation” could also trigger registration of the fund sponsor or the fund under the Advisers Act or the Investment Company Act.
The SEC has indicated that it believes that the following actions violate Rule 502(c):
1. Mass mailings
2. Speaking to the media about a solicitation when funding or investment matters are discussed, whether such speech is directed at current fundraising efforts or deemed to be an attempt to “condition the market” by making reference to the success or attractive return of previous investments.
3. Print, radio and television advertisements or solicitations regarding funding or investment matters
4. Tombstone advertising (an ad which does no more than give the barest of information) is held by SEC staff to “condition the market” for the securities and therefore constituted an offer even though the tombstone did not specifically mention the transaction in question.
Rule 502(c) prohibits general solicitation or general advertisement that occurs in connection with a Regulation D securities offering. This is to separate typical company advertising if a company advertises with no intention to “offer or sell the securities of the issuer” then such advertising should not violate rule 502(c).
The image is a 1903 stock certificate of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the public domain and available on Wikimedia Commons.