It’s 1-SA filing season again for Regulation A filers, and time to make some observations about the consequences of not filing.
We have encountered more than three companies in the last three months that have not filed all (or in one case, any) of their ongoing filings, and yet have requalified their offerings or qualified new offerings. This is a problem.
Let’s start with the ongoing reporting requirements. Assuming a Reg A filer has a December year-end, under Rule 257 it has to file its annual Form 1-K by April 30 and its semi-annual 1-SA by September 28 (subject to adjustments for leap years and weekends). It may also need to file “current” reports on Form 1-U. We’ve posted previously about what to do if you miss these deadlines.*
Rule 251 says the exemption for offers and sales under Regulation A is available for companies that have made all the filings required under Rule 257 for the last two years.
If an issuer makes offers and sales supposedly under Regulation A while it is not in compliance with Rule 257, those offers and sales are not made in compliance with Regulation A and unless the issuer can fit them into another exemption from registration (unlikely), the issuer has made unregistered sales of securities in violation of Section 5 of the Securities Act and those sales are subject to rescission (having to buy the securities back).
“Hold on a minute,” our non-compliant companies might say, “we might have missed making these filings, but we filed a new Regulation A offering on Form 1-A or a PQA and the SEC qualified us, so they must reckon our filings are in order, yes?”
Older securities lawyers among us (maybe it’s just me these days) will remember the “Tandy” language that we used to have to put in effectiveness or qualification requests. That says, in effect, that just because the SEC says you are ok to proceed with your offering, it doesn’t mean it can’t come after you later for some issue with your filing. While we don’t have to put that language in qualification requests anymore, that is still the SEC’s position, and they remind us that the issuer is responsible for the adequacy of its filings “notwithstanding any review, comments, action or absence of action by the staff”. Moreover, on any Reg A filing, right there on the cover, we have the mandated statement:
THESE SECURITIES ARE OFFERED PURSUANT TO AN EXEMPTION FROM REGISTRATION WITH THE COMMISSION; HOWEVER THE COMMISSION HAS NOT MADE AN INDEPENDENT DETERMINATION THAT THE SECURITIES OFFERED ARE EXEMPT FROM REGISTRATION.
So no, the SEC qualifying your offering does not mean that anyone has signed off on the adequacy of your filing history. (I wish they would, but that’s not what that “QUALIF” posted on EDGAR means).
Issuers, before filing PQAs or new 1-As, check that you are up to date with your ongoing reporting. Brokers and lawyers, you are gatekeepers, so I don’t know how you think you are meeting your professional responsibilities if you don’t check an issuer’s filing history before making those filings. That should be at the top of your due diligence list.
*If an offering is open for over a year, the issuer also has to file post-qualification amendments (“PQAs”) to its filing to add its ongoing disclosure to the offering circular, but that’s a topic for a future blog post.