Far larger than the initial public offering (IPO) market, Regulation D is incredibly important within the private capital markets, facilitating over $1 trillion in capital every year. Now, the SEC is considering updates to the accredited investor definition, which would have a significant impact on Reg D offerings, the private market, and the economy as a whole.
Understanding Regulation D
To understand how an update to RegD could impact private markets, it is important to have a brief overview of the regulation. There are two types of Reg D – 506b and 506c. Both offer exemptions from Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration requirements for securities offerings and require investors to be accredited. An accredited investor is an individual who meets certain financial criteria, such as earning $200,000 or more a year or having a net worth of over $1 million. The main difference between 506b and 506c is that 506b does not allow the issuer to solicit generally or advertise the offering to potential investors.
Changes on the Horizon
The SEC is currently considering updates to RegD, including changes to the definition of an accredited investor. Some changes could include raising the income or net worth thresholds, although it is still somewhat unclear as to what the SEC envisions. Raising these thresholds would mean fewer individuals would qualify as accredited investors and therefore have access to private securities offerings. The impact of these changes could affect different types of investors differently. Still, they will likely have a significant impact on private capital formation and the ability of entrepreneurs to access funding.
The update could also impact companies that use Reg D offerings as part of their fundraising strategy. Currently, these companies can access a much larger pool of capital than they would through an IPO or traditional venture capital, as nearly 15 million Americans qualify under the current definition. But if the definition of an accredited investor is narrowed, this could limit access to capital for smaller or startup companies.
What Does This Mean for the Private Market?
Even though the SEC says that these changes are to protect investors, net worth and income are not the only way to determine whether an investor is accredited or not. The ability to make an educated investment decision also relies on the education and experience of the investors, which isn’t considered in the definition of an accredited investor. Some organizations, like the Investor Choice Advocate Network, believe that the definition should be updated to reflect non-financial measurements such as the professional certifications required for CPAs, registered investment advisors, financial planners, and other professionals.
Updates could also mean that fewer individuals from underrepresented groups may be able to participate in a Reg D offering. With these groups historically facing obstacles to participating in capital markets, these updates could dramatically reduce investment opportunities for some individuals as well as make it more difficult for companies who are looking to raise capital from underrepresented communities.
Of course, it is difficult to say exactly what the impact of updated Reg D would be on private markets when we still do not know what those updates will be. Hopefully, we will have more information soon.