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Crowdfunding Leaders Meet with FINRA and the SEC
editorial

Crowdfunding Leaders Meet with FINRA and the SEC

Editor's Note: For more information on the discussions with regulators, be sure to attend our weekly crowdfunding live chats that take place at noon eastern daylight time (that's the American east coast time zone) each Monday at crowdsourcing.org/chat.

While President Obama's signature has made the JOBS Act and the equity crowdfunding provisions within it the law of the land, there's still lots of work to do before any new crowdfunding platforms can legally open their digital doors. The Securities and Exchange Commission is right now in the midst of a rule-making process that will last roughly to the end of the year. Until then, soliciting investments in exchange for a stake in a startup from the unaccredited crowd of potential investors is a big no-no.

(There's some changes coming up this summer with regards to accredited investors that you can read about in this previous post, but for now we're going to focus on the brand new framework for crowdfunding that's driving much of the discussion.)

Discussions between the nascent crowdfunding industry and regulators began in earnest Friday with meetings between the SEC and representatives of the Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Association (CFIRA) and several department heads at the SEC, as well as a separate meeting between CFIRA and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the largest independent regulator of securities in the United States. 

I spoke with one of the CFIRA representatives that attended the SEC meeting and looked over some notes from the meetings as well and can share a little bit of what was discussed:

    • Both the industry reps and regulators talked about working towards common goals of transparency and protections for both issuers and investors. 
    • The SEC is looking at possible requirements to use 3rd-party escrow rather than allowing platforms to hold cash as some do now under the donor model.
    • The issue of what will be considered "investment advice" when it comes to screening and other measures taken by platforms, a topic that's come up frequently in our crowdfunding live chats, was also a topic of interest. What the SEC decides with regard to this topic will impact what services platforms will be allowed to provide and/or charge fees for.
    • There was discussion of how and when a 21-day "cooling off" period between intitial offerings and the beginning of actual sales will take place.
    • It seems likely that platforms will need to register with both FINRA and the SEC.
    • The SEC made clear that it is interested in means of verifying and vetting not only platforms, but individual investors as well. The possibility of a "do not invest list" was also mentioned.
    • FINRA is currently considering whether it sees itself as a potential regulatory body for crowdfunding.
    • There was also discussion at the FINRA meeting of whether or not it will be possible for credit cards to be used on crowdfunding platforms.

Finally, the SEC says it would like to see more written comments from the public. Lots more written comments. You can find a link to the online form and a great example of a submitted comment in this previous post.

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