The Regulation A+ industry was buzzing this week – not with excitement, but with a healthy dose of trepidation. One of the first, high (no pun intended) profile Regulation A+ offerings, launched in November 2015, after a seemingly successful “Testing the Waters” campaign, was for a company called Med-X, a startup formed to participate in the newly burgeoning marijuana industry – the so called “Green Rush.”
But this month’s headline for Med-X was a bit more sanguine, enough to counteract even the most potent dosage of THC: “REGULATION A EXEMPTION OF MED-X, INC. TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED.” The story that followed was not the kind of publicity any company is looking for – especially when it is in the throes of raising money under Reg A+. Actually, it was not a story. Rather, it was an Administrative Order issued by the SEC on September 16, 2016, temporarily suspending the exemption of Med-X under Regulation A+. Why?
Well, it seems that this company failed to notice, or at least heed, the requirement that Reg A+ issuers file periodic informational reports as a condition of maintaining their status as Reg A+ issuers. The basic requirement calls for a company, at the least, to file a semi-annual and annual report with the SEC following the “qualification” of the offering. Seems that Med-X failed to file its annual report, which would include audited financial statements, when due back in the Spring of 2016.
Some have speculated that the SEC was targeting a disfavored industry – marijuana. I doubt it. The SEC has approved the registered sale of other companies in this industry long before Regulation A+ was adopted.
Others have speculated that this action reflects an uneven hand towards Regulation A+ issuers. After all, this type of swift action is rare for fully reporting companies which are delinquent in their filings. One more time: I think not.
The Staff at the SEC has been remarkably supportive of the rollout of Regulation A+, as measured anecdotally in terms of the efficiency in which it has been processing the review of Regulation A+ offerings.
Rather, I think back to one of the more notable sound bytes I coined in a Webinar back in April 2015: “Regulation A+ is not your daughter’s Kickstarter campaign.” Raising capital from outside investors is serious, heavily regulated business. And as indicated by some of the early Regulation A+ participants, the level of sophistication of the management of some of these issuers has hardly met the bar required to file and prosecute a Regulation A+ offering.
Yes, Regulation A+ is a little more complex than the pipedream: filling out a form, waiting for SEC approval, and then crowdfunding your way to $50 million. Apart from detailed disclosure rules, including audited financial statements, and the always difficult task of raising capital – especially for early stage companies – there is an ongoing SEC reporting requirement. Yes, the requirement is lighter than a fully reporting public company, to be sure, but enough to quickly overload an early stage company, with limited financial and human resources.
So if nothing else, this is one SEC enforcement action can be expected to inject a dose of reality into the Regulation A+ capital raising process. As our President might say, “A Teachable Moment.”