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This post discusses five key securities-related issues for merger and acquisition transactions.

In business acquisitions, and especially in business acquisitions structured as stock purchases, there are a number of securities issues you’ll want to be on the lookout for. For the purposes of this post, you can think of a security as the stock or other equity interest in a company like an option or warrant. (You can check out this post for a more detailed discussion of what a security is.) Below I’ve listed 5 key securities-related due diligence issues for you to consider when purchasing a business.

We’ll start with the two key issues that are important for acquisitions of both stock and assets; we’ll finish with three key issues that primarily affect stock acquisitions:

Issues for acquisitions of either stock or assets

Two issues are of…

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M&A Securities Issues

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In this blog post we take a look at pending legislation that would create a new statutory securities exemption for the resale of private stock.

The US House of Representatives approved a bill, which if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, could make it easier for people to resell private stock. If you’re lucky enough to be an investor in Airbnb, Uber, or some other startup that took off but hasn’t yet gone through an IPO, how do you turn your private stock into cash? It can be tougher than you might think. As a general rule, every offer and sale of a security must be registered or exempt from state and federal securities registration requirements. This includes the resale of private securities, meaning if you have shares of Airbnb or Uber, you have to make sure you’re not violating state or…

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Public Companies Chart

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Regulation A+ is a new way for companies to raise money from investors. In this post we discuss Reg A+ and compare it to other options for raising capital.

Regulation A+ is a new way for companies to raise money from investors. In this post we discuss Reg A+ and compare it to other options for raising capital….

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Offering Comparison Chart

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In this blog post we look at when loans may be subject to securities regulations and why business owners should care.

Background

What is a security?
Securities are contracts for an interest in a company, sometimes called an “investment contract.” A typical example of a security transaction is the sale of company stock in exchange for cash. The SEC’s definition of “security” includes a 30-item list that stocks, notes, bonds, and investment contracts, among others. We recently discussed the Howey case, which provides the test courts use when determining whether something is an investment contract. Today’s post looks into the circumstances under which a note or loan would fall within the SEC’s definition of a security.

To start: Why does it matter if something’s a security?
Securities are extensively regulated because of the real risk that individuals and the companies they control could swindle unwitting…

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SEC Logo

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In this news roundup we discuss the FCC's "broadband" definition update (more interesting than it sounds), startup fundraising, securities laws, and more...

FCC Updates Broadband Definition

The FCC voted to raise the minimum thresholds needed to meet the definition of broadband. Internet service providers now must provide download speeds of at least 25Mbs and upload speeds of at least 3Mbps to call their services “broadband.” The previous standard was 4Mbps for download speed and 1Mbps for upload speed.

While this sounds pretty innocuous, the new definition may have some interesting consequences.

A little background: In 1996 Congress mandated that the FCC report on whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and Congress defined broadband as high-quality capability that allows users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video.

The first and most obvious consequence of the…

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Internet

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In this news roundup we look at startups' fundraising, mergers and acquisitions, a commercial lease horror story, ride sharing regulations, and more

Here’s a collection of the most interesting legal and business news we found this week:

Ride Sharing

One of the big issues facing Uber has to do with the fact that auto insurance policies for individual drivers generally don’t cover damages from commercial activity, including ride-sharing through applications like Uber and Lyft. In Colorado, USAA and Farmers are now offering ridesharing insurance. Colorado is a natural testing ground for these new types of policies, as Colorado became one of the first states to explicitly authorize ridesharing services in 2014.

Startups & Funding

The big news of the day is Box’s IPO. After a shaky ride through the IPO process, Box’s IPO appears to be an initial success. It is a home run for its…

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Google Loon

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In this blog post we discuss what you need to know about reselling stock of private companies under Rule 144.

If you purchased stock from a startup in a “friends and family” round, can you sell it to someone else without violating securities laws? The answer to that question probably depends on whether you’re in compliance with Rule 144, which provides requirements that if satisfied, allow people to re-sell privately issued stock.

Background

There’s a general rule in the Securities Act of 1933 that if you sell a non-exempt security to another person, the sale must be registered unless an exemption from registration applies.

There’s a few things to unpack here. First, what is a non-exempt security? Second, what does it mean for the sale to be registered? Third what are the exemptions from registering the sale?

Exempt Securities
Section 3 of the Securities Act…

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Stock Certificate

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In this blog post we discuss the basics of Regulation S, which provides an exemption allowing U.S. companies to raise capital from foreign investors.

If you’re a founder of a U.S. company thinking about raising capital from foreign investors, chances are good that you’ll want to utilize Regulation S.

There’s a general rule in the United States that if you want to sell stock in your business, you have to register the stock offering with the SEC. The registration process is cost-prohibitive for startups. Luckily, there are a number of commonly used exemptions. If you’re offering stock to US residents, you’ll likely be relying on a Regulation D exemption like Rule 506. Regulation S is a commonly used exemption for US companies that want to sell their stock to foreign investors.

There are two key parts to the Regulation S exemption:

The sale of securities must be an offshore transaction.
There…

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Foreign Currency

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A blog post discussing how businesses in Seattle and around the state of Washington can now use crowdfunding to raise capital for their startups.

As of this month, you can officially utilize crowdfunding to raise money in Washington for your startup. This new opportunity allows companies to advertise their securities offering and raise money from all investors. Traditional securities offerings restrict advertising and limit offerings to those who satisfy the income and net worth standards to qualify as an accredited investor. This new opportunity is different from platforms like Kickstarter, because with Kickstarter campaigns you can’t offer stock in exchange for the donations; instead the donations are usually straight gifts or made in exchange for a product or promotional item. Crowdfunding is not yet available on a national scale despite a section in the JOBS Act directing the SEC to enact crowdfunding rules (Congress…

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Seattle Skyline from Queen Anne

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In this post we use the recent news about a loophole in GoPro's lockup provision to discuss the importance of an often overlooked portion of the term sheet.

Here’s an example of a commonly overlooked provision in a term sheet coming into play. Recently, news broke that there was a “loophole” in GoPro’s lockup provision, and the company’s shares subsequently tumbled almost 13%.

What is a lockup provision?
A lockup provision is an agreement that the shareholders will not sell their shares for a specified period of time—often 180 days—following a company’s initial public offering. The point of the lockup provision is to keep existing shareholders from flooding the market and depressing prices in the company’s offering. There are two primary types of lockup agreements. The first is an agreement between the investors and the company during a private offering.

A standard industry term sheet has the following lockup provision:

Investors shall…

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