Crowdfunding: Who Will (and Who Won’t) Be Doing It

By Kevin M. LaCroix, Attorney and Executive Vice President, RT ProExec, a division of R-T Specialty, LLC

Among the features of the recently enacted JOBS Act that has attracted the most attention are the legislation’s provisions for “crowdfunding.” Under these provisions, a company is permitted to raise up to $1 million during any 12-month period through an SEC-registered crowdfunding portal. While these provisions have attracted a great deal of discussion and even controversy, a more basic question is – who will actually be taking advantage of this new fundraising procedure?

A common assumption about the new crowdfunding procedure is that it will be most beneficial to start-up companies. But at least according to a May 9, 2012, CFO.com article (here), due to the procedural burdens and costs associated with the JOBS Act’s crowdfunding provisions, crowdfunding is unlikely to be an attractive alternative for start-up companies.

According to the article, the crowdfunding provisions in the JOBS Act may be “too complex and onerous” and “not very cost-effective”  for an early-stage company. Among other things, entrepreneurs launching a new venture “may lack the financial acumen and robust business plans they’ll need to comply with the JOBS Act” and they also “may not have the cash to hire the accountants and lawyers they will need to navigate the law.”

Instead, the companies likeliest to be using crowdfunding will be “more mature firms” that “have the experience of searching for sources of capital” and that are “able to show, based on financial information, performance metrics, and forecasts, that they are heading in the right direction.”  Among other things, the crowdfunding process will require a certain amount of rigor, if for no other reason than the company using the process will have to provide financial statements.

The financial statement requirements will impose a cost-benefit analysis on companies considering a crowdfunding financing, due to the Act’s sliding scale requirements. Companies raising up to $100,000 need provide only a financial statement signed by the company’s directors. But companies raising between $100,000 and $500,000 must provide financials reviewed by a CPA. And for companies raising between $500,000 and $1 million, audited financials must be provided. Companies will have to decide whether their financing requirements justify the expense of having their financials reviewed or audited. In addition, the Internet platforms through the crowdfunding offerings will be conducted will also be charging fees, which will add to the cost.

As I have previously noted (refer here), the JOBS Act’s crowdfunding features also expressly include liability provisions. The potential liability exposures mean that issuers trying to raise money through a crowdfunding offering “will probably need to get a lawyer involved,” which, as a commentator quote in the article notes, is “not ever cheap.”

There is also the possibility that the SEC will add even greater burdens and expense when it releases its crowdfunding rules in January 2013. Among other things, the SEC could add additional burdens in the way that it regulates the funding portals. The SEC has also no secret of its concerns about the possibility of scam artists using crowdfunding to try to con investors, as a result of which, as a commentator quote in the article notes, the SEC might “layer on more regulation.” For example, the SEC might require disclosure after the crowdfunding offering, which “could make crowdfunding potentially cost prohibitive.”


Reproduced with permission from The D&O Diary

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