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Who Can Invest Once the Solicitation Ban is Lifted

Who Can Invest Once the Solicitation Ban is Lifted?

 

Who can invest in start-ups once the general solicitation ban is lifted? That’s the 64,000 dollar question – or to be more “inflationary precise”, the 540,963.63 dollar question.

 

I’d gladly relinquish the half million+ dollars for a different answer. Because even though the removal of the restrictive solicitation ban helps smaller issuers raise capital, it does absolutely nothing to benefit smaller investors. Once the new law is implemented, private companies will be permitted to advertise to the general population so long as they only accept money from accredited investors.  Soon, non-accredited investors will be able to view a television commercial for a hot private growth stock. Too bad they won’t have the capability of investing in it until after it goes public at an over-inflated valuation. This is about as cruel as forcing diabetics to watch Hostess Twinkie ads.

 

While the unions are helping to ensure that Hostess won’t be around to tease any more diabetics, who’s looking out for America’s retail investor?  Frankly, no one is. That’s why it is up to “We the People” to make sure that the investing public receives its fair share of growth opportunities. It is more than our responsibility, it is our right as U.S. citizens to voice our discontent and help effect legislative change. The accredited investor rule is not only unjust; it is exacerbating America’s wealth divide and impeding economic growth. Thus, it needs to be repealed immediately. Below is an excerpt from a recent article I published on the subject. The complete piece which be found at http://nowstreetjournal.com/2012/11/26/todays-america-nothing-ventured-everything-gained-at-least-for-some/

 

While America has made great progress eradicating religious, gender and racial persecution, it continues to allow discrimination based on net worth and income levels. Presently, only “accredited investors” – those persons possessing a net worth of at least $1M excluding the value of one’s primary residence or have annual income of at least $200,000 (or $300,000 together with his or her spouse) – are legally permitted to invest in private companies. Unaccredited investors are forced to wait until companies register with the SEC and begin trading on public stock exchanges.

 

20 years ago when companies went public as young emerging businesses, smaller investors weren’t put at a disadvantage by having to wait for an IPO in order to invest. In fact, 99% of Microsoft’s stock appreciation was realized after it had gone public. Conversely, by the time most of today’s companies go public, the bulk of their growth is long behind them. Case in point, 100% of Facebook’s stock appreciation was realized in the private markets prior to its IPO where only accredited investors were afforded the opportunity to partake in its dramatic climb.

 

Because new issue upside has been dramatically curtailed, today’s average public market investor is left assuming more capital appreciation risk than ever before. It sickens me to think about all of the middle class wealth that might have been created from September 2004 to May 2012 when Facebook grew from a mere $5M in market capitalization to its IPO valuation of $104B.

 

America desperately needs to reopen its financial markets and allow capital to flow back to its smaller investors and issuers. This is precisely what the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”) was designed to accomplish. Even though it is one of the most economic restorative pieces of legislation in modern history, if you’re not reading political or financial trade publications, you’ve probably never even heard of it. And because it passed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority; the JOBS Act received limited main street media coverage. It is utterly shameful that the policies which divide us get more attention than the legislation that unites us.

 

The JOBS Act helps emerging businesses access capital by improving the “on-ramp” and making it easier for smaller companies to go public. And since, according to Forbes, small businesses generated over 65% of new jobs during the past 17 years, it is imperative that America’s capital markets serve as a conduit to small-cap funding, not as a barrier.

 

Unfortunately, facilitating the IPO entrance is simply not enough. The truth is, it is far less challenging for companies to become public than it is for them to stay public, particularly in a marketplace dominated by high frequency traders and inadequate aftermarket support. According to research conducted by David Weild IV, Head of Capital Markets at Grant Thornton and CEO of Capital Markets Advisory Partners, U.S. stock markets have lost 43.5% of all listed companies since 1997.

 

Without re-establishing an ecosystem to support companies being public at smaller valuations by enthusiastic investors as opposed to detached traders, the demand will never be strong enough to meet the supply in the marketplace. Hence, unless the “highway” is completely renovated, the public markets will remain dysfunctional.

 

The “Crowdfunding” component of the JOBS Act provides the most viable and democratic solution. Its community-style, social investing methodologies furnish built-in aftermarket support. “Crowdfund Investing” not only grants the 99% with the same investing freedoms as the 1%, it fortifies the relationship between investor and investment, encourages longer term investing principles and ultimately helps restore appropriate risk/reward ratios.

 

Although it was signed into law on April 5th, “Crowdfund investing” won’t be officially legal until the SEC implements the new rules (currently in the 270 day rulemaking period). Given its history of failing to meet deadlines, it is most likely that the SEC will far exceed its Government mandated January 1, 2013 deadline. We simply cannot allow this to happen, for as long as one class of citizens continues to receive superior investment opportunities and better investing odds, there will never be true equality in the United States.

 

Our nation will never collectively prosper if our capital markets remain prejudiced. I urge you to write your local legislators and insist that they hold the SEC accountable for implementing the overwhelmingly bipartisan JOBS Act in a timely fashion. Demand that legislation be introduced to remove the unconstitutional Accredited Investor Rule 501(a) of Regulation D under the Securities Act of 1933. The future of America is at stake. Don’t let it go down with the Twinkie.

 

Together we can bring equality to the capital markets and return them to the lifeblood of our economy: America’s small businesses and retail investors.

 

Dara Albright

Founder, Now Street Journal