Most small businesses will work with banks at some point in their existence, often for loans but also for initial public offerings or other large transactions. If you want your business to sell stocks, it’s important to become familiar with federal and state securities laws. Securities laws provide a strict set of rules and procedures related to selling shares of stock to the public, and require strict compliance.
What Is Insider Trading?
Insider trading is a type of securities fraud, which is a white collar crime. Basically, insider trading occurs when an “insider” uses confidential information (that is not yet available to the public) to make decisions about buying or selling stocks. An insider refers to anyone who has confidential information about the finances of a corporation. Examples of insiders include high-level employees, such as a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or a member of the board of directors, and people employed in a corporation’s finance department. Even a family member of an employee with confidential financial information can be considered an insider.
If a person is an insider, it’s important that he or she avoids certain actions and exercises caution when buying or selling stocks. Anyone with inside information should never trade securities based on that information, nor should they share that information with anyone. A person with inside information should keep up to date with all trading laws and the corporation’s policies that apply to a person in his or her position. Finally, if you have doubts or questions about whether your actions could be considered insider trading, you should consult with the corporation’s attorney.
What Are Blue Sky Laws?
Blue sky laws refer to the securities laws that are enacted by each state, which are intended to protect society from fraud. These laws work in conjunction with federal securities laws, and cover at least merit review and disclosure. A merit review is a way to regulate disclosure and the fairness of the securities offering to investors. Disclosure laws typically require corporations to fairly and fully disclose all material facts related to an offering. It’s important to note that while securities statutes and regulations may be identical in many states, the interpretation may differ from state to state.
This is the Process of Going Public
The process of taking a company public presents unique challenges best faced with the assistance of an experienced team. A crucial member of that team is an experienced securities lawyer. Each member of the team has key responsibilities to fulfill in guiding the company through the following process.
The Securities Law Process
- Board approval. The initial public offering (IPO) process begins with a proposal to the company’s board of directors by management of the company. Management presents and discusses in detail the company’s past performance, objectives, business plan, and financial projections. Management then proposes that the company enter the public market. After carefully considering the benefits and detriments of going public, the board of directors makes a decision as to whether the IPO should go forward.
- Assembling the team. Upon board approval, management of the company should begin the process of assembling the IPO team. In particular, a securities lawyer and an accounting firm should be retained as soon as possible.
- Reviewing and restating the financials. If the board of directors approves the proposal to go public, the company’s financial statements for the preceding five years should be carefully reviewed and, if necessary, restated to comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Certain transactions that are ethical and legally permissible for private companies, such as certain sale-leaseback arrangements, must be eliminated and the financial statements appropriately adjusted. The accounting firm normally assists with the review of the financial statements and the making of appropriate adjustments.
- Letter of intent with investment bank. The company should at this point select an investment bank and formalize its arrangement with the investment bank pursuant to a “letter of intent” outlining the investment bank’s fees, the size of the offering, the price ranges and other parameters.
- Drafting the prospectus. After the letter of intent is signed, the securities lawyers and accountants begin the process of preparing the prospectus. A prospectus is a written document prepared for presentation to investors as both a selling document and as a legal disclosure document. The prospectus is required to contain the following information:
- A description of the business;
- A description of the management structure;
- Disclosure of management compensation;
- Disclosure of transactions between the company and management;
- Names and shareholdings of principal shareholders;
- Audited financial statements;
- A discussion of the company’s operations and financial condition;
- Information on the intended use of the proceeds of the offering;
- A discussion of the effect of dilution on existing shares;
- A description of the company’s dividend policy;
- A description of the company’s capitalization;
- A description of the underwriting agreement.
Usually the lawyers draft the narrative part of the prospectus and the accountants prepare financial statements.
- Due diligence. The company’s investment bank and accountants will perform a detailed “due diligence investigation” of the company. They will examine the company’s management, operations, financial condition, competitive position, performance, and business objectives and plan. Information regarding the company’s labor force, suppliers, customers, and industry will also be reviewed. It is likely that information discovered in the due diligence investigation will result in changes being made to the prospectus.
- Presenting the preliminary prospectus to the SEC. The preliminary prospectus must be presented to the SEC and the relevant stock market regulators. Approval of state securities commissions may also be required. The SEC usually provides its comments regarding the prospectus, normally in the form of requirements for additional disclosure or explanation, in one to four weeks.
- Syndication. After the preliminary prospectus has been prepared and filed with the SEC, the investment bank should assemble a “syndicate” consisting of other investment banks who will attempt to sell portions of the offering to investors. The assembly of the syndicate often generates useful information as to the market for the shares and helps to narrow the share price range.
- Road show. Company management and the investment banker often perform a series of meetings with potential investors and analysts. The road show is a formal presentation by management of the company’s financial condition, operations, performance, markets, and products or services. The potential investors and analysts are then permitted to “kick the tires” by asking questions about the company.
- Finalizing the prospectus. The prospectus must be revised in accordance with the comments of the SEC and the relevant stock market. When the SEC declares the registration effective, the company can “go to print” with the prospectus.
- Pricing the offering and determining the offering size. On the day before the registration becomes effective and sale commences the offering is priced. The investment banker should recommend a price for the company’s approval, taking into account the company’s performance, the stock price of competitive companies, the success of the road show, and general market and industry conditions. The investment banker will also consult with the company regarding the size of the offering, considering such factors as the amount of capital required, investor demand, and the desired retention of control over the corporation.
- Printing. The company should have earlier selected an experienced financial printer who has adequate printing capacity and is familiar with the SEC’s regulations regarding the use of graphics. The final prospectus is sent to the printer for printing on an expedited basis.
Free Initial Consultation with a Securities Lawyer
When you need SEC or securities law help, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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