June 18, 2019 / 5:04 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. regulator considers boosting investor options to private offerings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Tuesday it is considering boosting the number of options in private stock sales by broadening access to more potential investors and revamping the capital-raising process of private companies.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The agency invited the public to comment on whether it should expand its private-offering framework.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said he considers public consultation a step toward addressing concerns over the large amount of capital raised in the private versus public markets, and the way it bars some investors from participating.

“We are taking a critical look at our exemptions from registration to ensure that our multifaceted private offering framework works for investors and entrepreneurs alike, no matter where they are located in the United States,” Clayton said.

He added that the goal is to expand investment opportunities while maintaining appropriate protections.

Tuesday’s request for comment seeks public feedback on whether the SEC should take steps to facilitate a company’s transition from one form of offering to another, and whether retail investors should be allowed greater exposure to companies through pooled investment, the agency said.

It will also consider the limitations on who, and in what amount, a person can invest in a private company stock sale.

The agency said it welcomes responses from startups, entrepreneurs and investors.

Some industry advocates welcome the SEC’s public consultation, arguing that both companies and investors stand to win if the agency moved to adopt a proposal that expanded investor access to private offerings.

“There is huge interest from retail investors in getting in on the ground floor of the next large successful company,” said Dina Ellis Rochkind, an attorney with the Paul Hastings law firm. There would be equally strong interest from startups to raise capital from retail investors, she added.

Democrat-appointed Commissioner Rob Jackson said he voted in favor of letting the public in to more private deals but was hesitant because of the potential for fraud to less-savvy investors.

“The questions in this release involve a fundamental tradeoff: the costs families suffer when investors are victims of fraud versus the benefits of broader access to capital,” Jackson said.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Susan Thomas and Bill Berkrot

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