On Aug. 26, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted
amendments to the definition of “accredited investor” under Rule 501 of
Regulation D and the definition of “qualified institutional buyer” under
Rule 144A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.
The final rules
are largely consistent with the definitions in the
SEC’s proposed rules released in December 2019, and will become effective 60 days after their publication in the Federal
Register. These amendments are part of the SEC’s ongoing effort to
simplify, harmonize and improve the exempt offering framework.
Expansion of the Definition of Accredited Investor
The amendments expanded the definition of “accredited investor” in Rule
501(a) of Regulation D to now include the following:
Certain Designated Professionals. Natural persons holding in good standing one or more professional
certifications, designations or credentials from an accredited
educational institution designated by the SEC from time to time.
In determining whether to designate a professional certification,
designation or credential from an accredited educational institution, the
SEC will consider, among other things: (i) the certification, designation
or credential arises out of an examination or series of examinations
administered by a self-regulatory organization or other industry body or is
issued by an accredited educational institution; (ii) the examination or
series of examinations is designed to reliably and validly demonstrate an
individual’s comprehension and sophistication in the areas of securities
and investing; (iii) persons obtaining such certification, designation or
credential can reasonably be expected to have sufficient knowledge and
experience in financial and business matters to evaluate the merits and
risks of a prospective investment; and (iv) an indication that an
individual holds the certification or designation either is made publicly
available by the relevant self-regulatory organization or other industry
body, or is otherwise independently verifiable.
The SEC issued an initial order
designating as accredited investors natural persons holding, in good
standing, the Series 7, Series 65 and Series 82 licenses. The SEC may, by
order, add other certifications, designations or credentials in the future,
after notice and an opportunity for public comment. The current list of
recognized designations will be posted on the SEC’s website.
Knowledgeable Employees. Natural persons who are “knowledgeable employees,” as defined in Rule
3c-5(a)(4) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 as amended, of an
issuer that is a private fund relying on the exclusion from the
definition of “investment company” under Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of
the Investment Company Act.
This includes, among other persons, executive officers, directors, general
partners, trustees and advisory board members, or persons serving in a
similar capacity, of a Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) fund or an affiliated
person of the fund that oversees the fund’s investments, as well as
employees of the private fund or the affiliated person of the fund (other
than employees performing solely clerical, secretarial or administrative
functions) who, in connection with the employees’ regular functions or
duties, have participated in the investment activities of such private fund
for at least 12 months.
A knowledgeable employee’s accredited investor status will be attributed to
his or her spouse with respect to joint investments made by the
knowledgeable employee and his or her spouse in a private fund.
Investment Advisers. SEC-registered and state-registered investment advisers, and exempt
reporting advisers under Section 203(m) or Section 203(l) of the
Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended.
RBICs. Rural business investment companies (RBICs) as defined in Section
384A of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act.
Family Offices and Family Clients.
“Family offices” (as defined under the Investment Advisers Act) with at
least $5 million in assets under management, that are not formed for
the specific purpose of investing in the securities being offered, and
whose prospective investment is directed by a person who has such
knowledge and experience in financial and business matters that such
family office is capable of evaluating the merits and risks of the
prospective investment. This also includes any “family client” of a
family office meeting the standards above.
Other Entities Meeting $5 Million Investment Threshold. Entities (including Indian tribes, governmental bodies, funds and
entities organized under the laws of foreign countries) not covered by
other categories of the accredited investor definition that own
“investments,” as defined in Rule 2a51-1(b) under the Investment
Company Act, in excess of $5 million and that are not formed for the
specific purpose of investing in the securities offered.
The amendments also made the following changes:
- Codified the SEC’s existing guidance that limited liability companies
meeting the $5 million asset test and other conditions of Rule 501(a)(3)
are accredited investors. In the final rule release, the SEC staff also
expressed its belief that managers of limited liability companies are
included in the definition of “executive officer” (as performing a “policy
making function”) with no necessity to amend Rule 501(a)(4) or Rule 501(f)
to specifically include managers of companies.
- Added the term “spousal equivalent,” defined as a cohabitant occupying a
relationship generally equivalent to that of a spouse, to the accredited
investor definition, so spousal equivalents may pool their finances for the
purpose of qualifying as accredited investors under the joint income and
net worth tests for individual accredited investors.
- Clarified that, in determining accredited investor status under Rule
501(a)(8) (for an entity in which all equity owners are accredited
investors), one may look through various forms of equity ownership to
Expansion of the Definition of Qualified Institutional Buyer
The amendments to the definition of “qualified institutional buyer” in Rule
144A made the following changes:
- Added limited liability companies and RBICs to the list of entities that
will qualify as qualified institutional buyers if they own and invest at
least $100 million in securities of non-affiliated issuers.
- Added a catch-all for any institutional investors included in the
“accredited investor” definition that are not otherwise enumerated in the
definition of “qualified institutional buyer” to qualify as qualified
institutional buyers, provided that they satisfy the $100 million
No Adjustments to Existing Dollar Thresholds
The amendments did not increase the existing income, net worth or asset
thresholds under the previous accredited investor definition. Accordingly,
persons qualifying as “accredited investors” prior to the rule amendments
will remain accredited investors as long as they continue to meet those
Review of Accredited Investor Definition Every 4 Years
Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the
SEC is required to review the definition of accredited investor at least
every four years, with the next review anticipated in 2023.
The amendments will expand the pool of potential accredited investors and
qualified institutional buyers, which should increase the potential capital
available in private and Rule 144A offerings, and make it easier for
issuers to find and attract investors in these offerings. Issuers should be
mindful of the effective date of these amendments and update their
subscription/purchase agreements, investor questionnaires and other
offering documents accordingly.
For additional guidance on the information in this alert, please contact
any of the authors below, any member of McGuireWoods’
securities compliance or
securities enforcement teams or your primary McGuireWoods contact.
securities and compliance team assists private and public companies in capital raising efforts through
private and public offerings, and also assists public companies with their
reporting obligations under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including
forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K, Section 16 reports and DEF 14A (proxy
statements), as well as with Regulation FD and Regulation G compliance. We
prepare insider trading policies, develop training programs and assist with
other aspects of securities transactions engaged in by company officers,
directors and significant security holders, including 10b5-1 plans and Rule
McGuireWoods is a national leader in securities enforcement defense. The
securities enforcement and litigation team is part of an elite
Government Investigations and White Collar Litigation Department that has been twice recognized as a Law360 Practice Group of the
Year. We are comprised of former senior SEC enforcement attorneys and
litigators, as well as high-level federal prosecutors, and are experienced
at managing every stage of complex securities investigations. Our team
builds upon decades of experience of practicing before government agencies
and regularly represents audit committees, public companies and their
members, professionals and executives in internal and government criminal
and civil investigations involving financial reporting, disclosures and