506(b) vs. 506(c): What You Need to Know

Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933 provides various exemptions for companies from the requirement to register securities with the SEC when raising capital, with Rules 506(b) and 506(c) being two critical options. The distinctions between these two rules can have significant implications for how a private fund approaches fundraising. Rule 506(b) permits a company to raise an unlimited amount of capital from accredited investors and up to 35 non-accredited, sophisticated investors without general solicitation. On the other hand, Rule 506(c) allows for general advertising and solicitation but requires that all participating investors be accredited, and mandates that issuers take reasonable steps to verify this accredited status.

The choice between Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) affects a company's fundraising strategy—particularly its ability to publicly advertise the offering and its responsibility to verify investor qualifications. Rule 506(b) is traditionally seen as less burdensome due to its allowance of self-certified accreditation, though it comes with restrictions on advertising and limits on non-accredited investors. Rule 506(c), while more stringent in investor verification, removes the constraints on public solicitation, potentially broadening the investor base but increasing the issuer's due diligence requirements.

Key Takeaways

  • Rule 506(b) allows raising capital from both accredited and certain sophisticated investors without public solicitation.
  • Rule 506(c) permits general solicitation but requires all investors to be accredited with verification by the issuer.
  • The choice between the two rules impacts fundraising strategies and compliance obligations for companies.

Overview of 506(b) and 506(c)

The distinction between Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) under Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933 is pivotal for issuers who seek private placement exemptions from the registration requirement.

Definition of Rule 506(b)

Rule 506(b) permits issuers to raise an unlimited amount of capital. They can offer securities to an unlimited number of accredited investors and up to 35 non-accredited investors who meet certain sophistication standards. Importantly, the issuer is not allowed to use general solicitation or advertising to market the securities.

  • Accredited Investors: Unlimited
  • Non-Accredited Investors: Up to 35 (with sophistication)
  • General Solicitation: Not Permitted

Definition of Rule 506(c)

Conversely, Rule 506(c) allows issuers to publicly advertise their offering, aimed at easing the capital-raising process. However, all investors in a 506(c) offering must be accredited investors, and the issuer is responsible for taking reasonable steps to verify that accreditation status.

  • All Investors: Must be Accredited
  • Verification Required: Issuer must take reasonable steps
  • General Solicitation: Permitted

Eligibility and Investor Types

Rules 506(b) and 506(c) of Regulation D under the Securities Act of 1933 define distinct paths for investments in private placements. A crucial distinction lies in the types of investors eligible to participate and the processes for verifying their status.

Accredited Investors

Under both Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c), accredited investors are permitted to invest. These investors meet criteria such as a net worth exceeding $1 million (excluding the primary residence) or an annual income of more than $200,000 for the past two years ($300,000 together with a spouse).

Sophisticated Investors

Rule 506(b) offerings accommodate a limited number of sophisticated investors—those with sufficient knowledge and experience in financial matters to evaluate the investment risks. Unlike accredited investors, sophisticated investors don't need to meet the specific financial benchmarks, but rather a qualitative assessment of their capability to understand the investment.

Verification of Investor Status

506(b) requires neither verification of an investor's accredited status nor does it permit general solicitation. In contrast, issuers under 506(c) must take reasonable steps to verify each investor's accreditation. This could involve reviewing tax forms, bank statements, or employing third-party verification services. Verification protects both the issuer and the investor by ensuring compliance with the regulations.

Investment Advertising and Solicitation

In the domain of private securities offerings, the SEC's Regulation D provides distinct frameworks for marketing and solicitation activities under Rule 506(b) and 506(c), each with their own compliance requirements.

Rule 506(b) Marketing Restrictions

Under Rule 506(b), issuers are not permitted to use general advertising or solicitation when offering securities. They must have a preexisting relationship with potential investors, meaning that offers can only be made to investors with whom the issuer has previously established substantive connections. This limitation is crucial for issuers to adhere to if they choose to include both accredited and a limited number (up to 35) of unaccredited investors in their offerings.

Rule 506(c) General Solicitation

Conversely, Rule 506(c) allows issuers the freedom to engage in general solicitation and advertising. However, they must take reasonable steps to verify that all investors in the offering are accredited investors. This often involves a more thorough due diligence process such as reviewing financial statements or obtaining written confirmations from a lawyer or certified accountant. Despite the allowance for broader marketing, issuers must still abide by all other conditions set out in Regulation D.

Documentation and Compliance

In the realm of private securities offerings under Regulation D, documentation and compliance are critical factors. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandates different disclosure requirements for offerings conducted under Rule 506(b) compared to those under 506(c). Each pathway has distinct documentation obligations for issuers to adhere to in order to maintain exemptions from SEC registration.

Disclosure Requirements for 506(b)

Under Rule 506(b) of Regulation D, issuers are not permitted to use general solicitation or advertising to market their securities. They must provide non-accredited investors with disclosure documents that typically include:

  • A private placement memorandum (PPM) detailing the company's business, the terms of the offering, and the risks involved.
  • Financial statements, which may need to be audited if the issuer is presenting to non-accredited investors.

Issuers must also be in compliance with the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws and provide the same level of information that would be included in a Securities Act registration statement, thereby protecting both accredited and non-accredited investors.

Disclosure Requirements for 506(c)

For offerings pursuant to Rule 506(c), issuers are allowed to broadly solicit and advertise their offering. However, this exemption comes with increased responsibility:

  • Issuers must take reasonable steps to verify that all investors are accredited, which often involves reviewing financial statements, tax returns, or receiving confirmation from a lawyer or CPA.
  • Disclosure documents, while not mandated by the SEC, are often provided to establish a substantive relationship with investors and to mitigate the risk of potential liability under anti-fraud provisions.

Form D and SEC Filing

Regardless of whether an issuer is using Rule 506(b) or 506(c), they must file a "Form D" with the SEC after the first sale of securities. This form is a brief notice that includes the names and addresses of the company's executives and stock promoters, but it does not require disclosure of the business's financial details. The filing must be completed within 15 days of the first sale of securities in the offering. Filing Form D is a crucial step in complying with the federal securities laws and claiming the exemption provided by Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act.

Issuers must remember that individual states have their own securities regulations and may have further filing requirements or fees connected with these types of offerings. Compliance with both federal and state law is essential for the success of an offering under Rule 506(b) or 506(c).

Potential Risks and Protections

When discussing Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) offerings, investors and issuers must heed the associated risks and protective provisions. This section dissects the antifraud clauses, underscores the importance of robust due diligence, and describes the role of liability and broker-dealer considerations in the context of private securities.

Antifraud Provisions Under Regulation D

Regulation D imposes antifraud prohibitions that offer a safeguard for all participants, identifying misrepresentations and omissions of material facts as illegal. In both Rule 506(b) and 506(c) offerings, issuers should make the same kinds of disclosures as they would in registered offerings to avoid violating these antifraud rules. Accredited investors, while more experienced, remain entitled to truthful and complete information just as their non-accredited counterparts are in 506(b) offerings.

Due Diligence Process

Due diligence is a critical mechanism by which issuers verify the status of an investor, especially in 506(c) offerings. Here, issuers are obligated to take reasonable steps to ensure investors are indeed accredited, which can include:

  • Reviewing financial statements
  • Checking tax forms
  • Confirming with a broker-dealer or attorney

In contrast, 506(b) offerings permit issuers to accept an investor's assertion of being accredited without such stringent verification, potentially heightening risks.

Liability and Broker-Dealer Considerations

Liability may arise if an issuer fails to adhere to the conditions of Rule 506 or if the antifraud provisions are violated. An issuer can be subject to federal liability provisions for untruthful or incomplete disclosure, impacting both unaccredited and accredited investors. Additionally, broker-dealers involved in these transactions must conduct their own due diligence to ensure compliance and protect against liability, considering both their regulatory responsibilities and the potential financial and legal repercussions of oversights.

Capital Raising Strategies

In the realm of private securities, Regulation D provides two distinct frameworks under which companies can raise capital: Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c). These rules outline different strategies for fundraising, with specifics on investor qualifications and solicitation practices.

Private Securities and 506(b)

Rule 506(b) of Regulation D allows startups and private funds to raise an unlimited amount of capital predominantly from accredited investors. They can also accept up to 35 non-accredited investors provided they are deemed sophisticated, meaning they must have sufficient knowledge and experience in financial matters to evaluate the risks and merits of the investment. Crucial to note is that general solicitation or advertising to the public is not permitted under 506(b), thereby requiring a pre-existing relationship between the investors and the issuer.

For securities offered:

  • Common Stock: Often offered, providing voting rights and dividends.
  • Preferred Stock: Less common, provides preference in assets and dividends.
  • Convertible Notes: Debt that converts into equity under specific circumstances.
  • SAFEs (Simple Agreement for Future Equity): An agreement that can be converted into equity upon future financing.

Crowdfunding and 506(c)

Under Rule 506(c), companies are allowed to engage in general solicitation and advertising when raising funds. However, all investors must be accredited under this rule and issuers must take reasonable steps to verify the accredited status of their investors. This has opened avenues of capital raising akin to crowdfunding, where startups can publicly advertise their offerings, thus potentially reaching a wider audience.

Fundraising methods include:

  • Online platforms dedicated to investment opportunities.
  • Social media campaigns to generate interest and attract investors.

Alternative Capital Raising Methods

Apart from the traditional private securities offerings, there are alternative methods to raise capital. Startups may consider bootstrapping, where they rely on personal finances and operational cash flow. In addition, some utilize alternative investment vehicles or hybrid instruments like:

  • Convertible notes: Debt instruments that holders can convert into equity.
  • SAFEs: May offer a simpler, more cost-effective way to secure future equity.

These alternative methods can be pivotal for emerging companies that find Rule 506(b) or 506(c) limitations challenging or for those looking to complement their capital raising strategy under the JOBS Act. Each method has its own set of complexities and should be chosen based on the company’s specific needs, goals, and the regulatory requirements they are able to meet.

Implications for Companies and Startups

When faced with the options of Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) as part of Regulation D under the Securities Act, companies and startups must carefully consider their fundraising strategies. Each rule presents distinct implications for the approach to raising capital and the type of investors who can participate.

Choosing Between 506(b) and 506(c)

Rule 506(b) permits companies to raise an unlimited amount of capital without engaging in general solicitation or advertising. One of the main advantages here is that they can accept up to 35 non-accredited investors, although they predominantly cater to accredited ones. However, startups do not need to take additional steps to verify the accredited status of investors, relying instead on self-certification.

In contrast, Rule 506(c) allows companies to publicly advertise their offerings, thus potentially reaching a broader investor base. The trade-off is that all investors must be accredited, and the company must take reasonable steps to verify this status, such as reviewing tax forms or obtaining written confirmation from a lawyer or accountant.

Here's a comparison breakdown:

Aspect Rule 506(b) Rule 506(c)

Capital Raised Unlimited Unlimited

General Solicitation Not allowed Allowed

Investor Type Up to 35 non-accredited and unlimited accredited Accredited investors only

Verification Self-certification Proactive steps required

The choice between the two depends on a startup's access to accredited investors and its willingness to comply with verification procedures for 506(c) or to avoid general solicitation to meet 506(b)’s conditions.

Impact on Startup Funding

The impact on startup funding of choosing either Rule 506(b) or 506(c) is considerable. Startups raising under 506(b) may benefit from a potentially quicker and less costly investment process since they are not required to verify the accredited status of investors. This can be particularly advantageous for startups with an existing network of trusted investors.

However, for startups looking to cast a wider net and maximize exposure to prospective investors, 506(c) can be the more strategic option. Being able to engage in general solicitation makes it easier to reach venture capital firms and private equity investors, but this comes at the cost of a more stringent investor verification process.

Startups must balance the regulatory requirements with the operational needs of their business, all the while considering the implications for their relationships with current and future investors.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

The intricacies of Rules 506(b) and 506(c) under Regulation D are critical for issuers to comply with federal securities laws. A precise understanding of these regulations is necessary to ensure lawful private placement offerings.

Federal Securities Laws Compliance

Rule 506(b) allows issuers to raise an unlimited amount of capital from both accredited investors and up to 35 non-accredited, sophisticated investors. Importantly, the issuer must forego general solicitation and advertising, and provide non-accredited investors with disclosures akin to those in registered offerings.

  • Documentation: Issuers must file a Form D with the SEC.
  • Investor Requirements: Accredited investors do not need verification, but sophistication must be determined for non-accredited investors.
  • Disclosure Requirements: Non-accredited investors must receive extensive disclosure documents.

Rule 506(c), on the other hand, permits issuers to publicly advertise their offering and raise funds solely from accredited investors.

  • Investor Verification: Reasonable steps must be taken to verify the accredited status of investors.
  • Form D: A Form D filing is still required, noting the use of Rule 506(c).
  • Limitation on Investors: Only accredited investors can participate; no non-accredited investors allowed.

Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act Implications

The JOBS Act has a significant impact on private securities offerings, particularly with the introduction of Rule 506(c). It aimed to make it easier for smaller companies to raise capital by easing securities regulations.

  • General Solicitation: Rule 506(c) came into effect with the JOBS Act, allowing general solicitation for the first time, provided all investors are accredited.
  • Accredited Investor Verification: Issuers are obliged to take reasonable verification measures to confirm the accredited status of investors.

Both rules function within the constraints of the federal securities laws to provide a structure for raising capital that bypasses the traditional registration process, easing the burden on small businesses and startups while still providing significant protection for investors.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following FAQs provide clear and concise information on the key distinctions and regulations of Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) offerings.

What are the main differences between Rule 506(b) and Rule 506(c) offerings?

Rule 506(b) offerings allow companies to raise an unlimited amount of capital without having to register with the SEC, but they cannot use general solicitation or advertising to market their securities. They can include up to 35 non-accredited investors, but those investors must be sophisticated. Rule 506(c) offerings also permit companies to raise unlimited funds, but they can use general solicitation and must take reasonable steps to verify that all investors are accredited.

What are the regulations surrounding accredited investor verification under Rule 506(c)?

Under Rule 506(c), issuers are required to take reasonable steps to verify that investors are accredited. This means going beyond self-certification and can include reviewing IRS forms that report income, bank statements, brokerage statements, credit reports, or obtaining written confirmation from a CPA, attorney, or investment advisor.

How does the allowance of non-accredited investors differ between 506(b) and 506(c) offerings?

In a 506(b) offering, non-accredited investors who are sophisticated may participate, but the total number cannot exceed 35. In contrast, Rule 506(c) offerings are limited strictly to accredited investors, and verification of their status is mandatory.

Can an issuer conduct general solicitation under a 506(b) offering?

No, Rule 506(b) prohibits general solicitation or advertising of the offering. Companies must have a pre-existing relationship with potential investors and can only offer securities to those within their network who meet specific investor criteria.

Is it possible for a company to switch from a Rule 506(b) to a Rule 506(c) offering, and what are the implications?

A company cannot switch between offerings or run concurrent offerings under Rule 506(b) and 506(c) for the same deal. They must complete one offering before starting another under a different rule, adhering to the unique requirements of each exemption.

What are the requirements for establishing a pre-existing relationship with investors under Rule 506(b)?

The issuer should establish a substantive relationship with potential investors prior to the offering, which often includes an understanding of the investor's financial situation and investment goals. This relationship must exist before the offering and cannot be established through general solicitation or advertising.