The Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) recently adopted amendments to the definition of “accredited investor,” which will permit a wider range of investors to participate in certain private offerings.  The amended definition includes several new categories of natural persons and entities who qualify as accredited investors for purposes of Rule 501(a) of Regulation D under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”).  The amendments also expand the definition of “qualified institutional buyer” under Rule 144A under the Securities Act.
Continue Reading SEC Adopts Amendments to “Accredited Investor” Definition

On December 18, 2019, the SEC proposed to amend its definition of “Accredited Investor” with hopes to expand access to private capital markets to a wider range of investors.[1] The proposed changes create two new categories of natural persons who may be considered “accredited investors” and add to the categories of institutional investors who qualify. According to the SEC’s press release regarding the proposed changes, the purpose of the changes is to more effectively identify investors that have the “knowledge and expertise” to safely invest in private markets without the additional investor protections created by the filing requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”).[2]

Continue Reading SEC Proposes to Update “Accredited Investor” Definition

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) recently published its Risk Monitoring and Examination Priorities Letter (the “Letter”) for 2019 and signaled its intent to expand the scope of its priorities and exam program. Unlike previous years, FINRA’s 2019 Letter took a “somewhat new approach” by identifying materially new areas of emphasis.[1] Admittedly, FINRA will continue to examine longstanding priorities detailed in prior letters,[2] but in adding “Risk Monitoring” to the title to the Letter, FINRA notified the industry it planned to broaden its exam program into three materially new priorities: (1) online distribution platforms, (2) fixed income mark-up disclosure, and (3) regulatory technology.[3] 
Continue Reading What You Should Know About FINRA’s Exam Priorities for 2019

The Financial Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently announced an initiative it presents as an effort to promote member firms’ compliance with rules applicable to the recommendation of 529 plans. FINRA’s initiative is designed, first and foremost, to encourage firms to engage in a self-assessment specific to their 529 plan sales as well as the supervision of such sales.  But, as with similar regulatory initiatives, this program only affords firms a degree of protection as to any issues identified by the firm if the firm self-reports to FINRA and takes corrective measures.  The decision to self-report always requires a considered approach guided by experienced securities regulatory counsel.  Of course, that calculus is dramatically impacted by the announcement of such an initiative. Thus, to avoid (or least minimize) problems with FINRA, member firms are encouraged to review their practices as well as supervisory procedures and controls with an eye on the key areas of regulatory concern.
Continue Reading 529 Problems, but FINRA Ain’t One

A former broker at a national brokerage firm was recently sanctioned by FINRA after accepting instructions to transfer assets out of a client account. The problem? The instructions were actually sent by an imposter who had obtained access to the client’s account, presumably through some form of cyber-crime.  Unfortunately, the broker unwittingly contributed to the imposter’s malfeasance by not only accepting the instructions but by also taking pro-active steps to circumvent his brokerage firm’s controls.
Continue Reading Cybersecurity: Don’t Become a Different Kind of Victim