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Accredited Investors and Crowdfunding

Posted in General Business News, JOBS Act

In February the SEC issued a Small Entity Compliance Guide that provides a summary of the relatively new net worth standard in the definition of “accredited investor” under the Securities Act, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act.  Section 413(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act requires that the value of a person’s primary residence be excluded when determining whether the person has net worth in excess of $1 million in order to qualify as an “accredited investor.”

The Dodd-Frank Act has made it a bit harder to be an accredited investor, and yet the Senate is currently considering a version of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act or JOBS Act passed by the House earlier this month that would make it easier for non-accredited investors to participate in “crowdfunding.”  The JOBS Act would create a new registration exemption that issuers could rely on to sell up to $1-2 million worth of securities to non-accredited investors as long as no individual investor invests more than the lesser of $10,000 or 10% of the investor’s annual income in any 12-month period.  And, these “crowdfunders” would not count toward the 500 shareholders of record threshold that triggers Exchange Act registration under Section 12(g).

Furthermore, for those issuers that want to continue to sell to accredited investors, the JOBS Act would require the SEC to amend Regulation D to permit general solicitation and advertising in Rule 506 offerings sold only to accredited investors.

Both provisions blur the line between public and private offerings and potentially pit the goal of job creation against the goal of investor protection.