Accredited Investors and the JOBS Act

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act repeals the SEC’s ban on general solicitation and advertising under Rule 506. That is the exemption from registration used by most private fund managers. Is this a good thing?

I didn’t like the ban, mostly because it was so broad. The SEC gave little guidance as to what was advertising in support of the company and what was advertisement in support of the sales of securities. I would have welcomed better guidance. Now it looks like private fund managers will be free to have late-night television ads, email campaigns, twitter accounts, and Facebook fan pages.

Section 201(a) gives the SEC 90 days to

“revise its rules issued in section 230.506 of title 17, Code of Federal Regulations, to provide that the prohibition against general solicitation or general advertising contained in section 230.502(c) of such title shall not apply to offers and sales of securities made pursuant to section 230.506, provided that all purchasers of the securities are accredited investors.”

At first, I thought the last proviso was extraneous. Rule 506 allows unlimited fundraising as long, but it’s limited to accredited investors. But that’s not right. Rule 506 allows up to 35 investors that are not accredited, as long as they are “sophisticated” – have sufficient “knowledge and experience in financial and business matters” to make them “capable of evaluating the merits and risks of the prospective investment”.

If a manager is going to advertise that it is fundraising, then it needs to ban those previously allowed 35, even if they are sophisticated. Money rules. You need $ 1 million, excluding your primary residence, or $200,000 in income, $300,000 income with your spouse. It doesn’t matter if you are sophisticated. Even though the Crowdfunding section of the JOBS Act is supposed to allow a broader range of capital sources, this part of the law cuts off access to non-accredited investors.

That means fund managers may have to cutoff  “friends and family” investors from the fund, unless they are accredited investors.

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