Regulation D 506(c) Exemption
General Solicitation Allowed for Private Fund Managers Under 506(c)
Regulation D (“Reg. D”) offers issuers exemptions from registration of their securities under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). Most managers rely on Rule 506(b) which allows sale of securities to an unlimited number of accredited investors and up to 35 non-accredited investors, so long as there is no general solicitation. Rule 506(c) was enacted as part of the JOBS Act to permit general solicitation, so long as certain steps are followed. While originally many private fund managers eschewed the exemption because of the additional requirements, the exemption has gained popularity with private fund managers in the digital asset space. The main reason is that such managers can more broadly and generally solicit their fund – something that private fund managers in the traditional securities space would not do.
Under Rule 506(c) of Reg. D, general solicitation is permitted without having to register the issuer’s securities under the Securities Act, so long as (1) all investors are accredited (as defined under Reg. D); (2) reasonable steps have been taken to verify that all investors are accredited, so long as the issuer does not have prior knowledge that the investor is non-accredited; and (3) certain integration, resale restrictions of securities, and bad actor disqualification rules are followed. If these requirements are met, an issuer can broadly solicit and advertise the offering of its securities and still be in compliance with Reg. D.
The second requirement above imposes an obligation for an issuer to proactively take steps in order to verify that an investor is in fact accredited. The list of verification methods recommended in the statute is non-exhaustive but a common method of verification includes, if confirming on the basis of income, reviewing W-2s or other similar tax forms for the previous two years, and obtaining a written representation from the investor that the investor has a reasonable expectation of qualifying as an accredited investor during the current year. Another method often used is having an investor engage certain parties such as a registered CPA or a licensed attorney to represent that the investor is an accredited investor.
A private fund relying on 506(c) must still follow all other applicable securities regulations, such as the 2,000 investor limit pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (unless the investor is relying on a different exemption that limits investor count in the private fund). Additionally, the private fund must file a Form D electronically with the SEC, and reflect its 506(c) reliance in the fund offering documents. Each state also has specific securities requirements which typically are met by making a “blue sky filing” (i.e. filing a copy of the Form D) in the applicable state that the private fund is soliciting in.
Rule 506(c) offers managers avenues that were previously prohibited under Rule 506(b). This expands investor base and provides for a less restrictive discussion of the fund’s strategy and terms. Further, there is no limit on dollars that can be raised and no limit on dollars from particular investors.
Converting from 506(b) to 506(c)
Many investment managers in the digital asset space are seeking to convert their offering from 506(b) to 506(c). In order to convert a previous offering to a 506(c) offering, the private fund needs to (1) file a new Form D with the SEC, indicating its reliance on 506(c); (2) amend the private fund’s offering documents; and (3) follow the verification methods described above for all subsequent investors in the private fund. We confirmed the foregoing procedures with the SEC. The SEC further indicated in a Q&A that if a private fund that previously relied on Rule 506(b) followed all applicable requirements of Rule 506(b), the private fund would only need to take reasonable steps to verify the accredited investor status of subsequent investors, not existing investors. If existing investors make an additional investment in the fund, the verification methods will need to be taken. Thus, it is recommended as a best practice to verify that all existing investors in the fund are accredited.
We anticipate that many investment managers in the digital asset space will begin to increasingly rely on this exemption. Although general solicitation is permitted under this exemption, all applicable securities regulations still need to be followed (i.e. the anti-fraud provisions under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended). Counsel should be contacted to further discuss the applicable requirements if you are considering conducting an offering pursuant to Rule 506 (c).
Bart Mallon is a founding partner of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP. Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP has been instrumental in structuring the launches of some of the first digital currency-focused hedge funds and works routinely on matters affecting the digital asset industry. Bart can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.