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May 15, 2015 – On April 13, 2015 Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado signed the Colorado Crowdfunding Act. The Crowdfunding Act becomes law on August 5, 2015, and on May 7, 2015 Colorado Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome said that he anticipates the regulations will be final by that date so that Colorado businesses will be able to raise money in a crowdfunded offering beginning August 5, 2015. Under the Crowdfunding Act, offers can be made solely in Colorado, under the federal intrastate offering exemption. This means that the offers may be made only to Colorado residents, and only Colorado residents may invest. In addition, the offering must comply with the federal intrastate exemption, which means, among other things, ownership of the stock must not leave Colorado for 9-months after it is purchased.

I discussed the requirements for crowdfund offerings in Part 1 of this article; this Part 2 discusses the role and requirements for “intermediaries” who provide the Internet website for offerings.

Before the JOBS Act was passed three years ago, “crowdfunding” in the U.S. comprised only donations, or pre-sale purchase of goods or services, through websites such as gofundme, KickStarter, and indiegogo, and not the sale of securities. The JOBS Act required the SEC to establish a procedure for small securities offerings to a large number of investors, and in 2013 the SEC published proposed “crowd funding” rules, but they have not yet been approved and adopted. As a result states have begun to adopt their own laws and regulations to enable businesses to raise money by offering securities to “the crowd,” and now Colorado has followed suit.

In a private placement, the issuer may, and often does, sell its securities directly to investors. However, the issuer cannot sell its securities directly to the public in a crowdfund offering, for example, through its own website. In Colorado securities can be sold in a crowdfund offering by a registered broker-dealer, a registered sales representative (stockbroker) or an online “intermediary.”

An online intermediary is a website that is not a broker-dealer or stockbroker, and does not offer securities except for crowdfund offerings. Before offering online intermediary services, the intermediary must:

  1. File a statement or form with the Colorado Division of Securities disclosing the following:
    • identity, address, contact information, and names of the officers, directors, managers, or other persons who control the company;
    • a consent to service of process; and
    • an undertaking to provide investors the offering information required by the Crowdfunding Act.
  2. Comply with reporting and filing rules of the Securities Division. The rules have not been published yet, but the Crowdfunding Act says the Securities Commissioner may require intermediaries to file financial information, make and retain specified records for 5 years, and establish written supervisory procedures to prevent and detect violations of the Crowdfunding Act and rules. I anticipate the rules will include all of these requirements
  3. Maintain records of all its offers, which must be available to the Securities Division on request and subject to division examination at any time.
  4. Not have any ownership or financial interest in, or be affiliated with, any issuer it conducts offerings for.

Intermediaries cannot charge commissions on securities sold. Under both federal and state securities laws, only registered and regulated persons such as broker-dealers and stockbrokers can be paid commissions. Since intermediaries are not registered, they cannot be paid based on the amount of securities sold. Intermediaries have two fee options, and they can use one or a combination. They may charge (1) a fixed fee for each offering, or (2) a variable amount based on the length of time the securities are offered. As a result, intermediaries will have several fee options. For example:

• a flat fee unless the offering is not sold within a number of weeks, and then an additional fee for every week the offering remains open;
• or a fee for every week the offering remains open, but not less than a fixed amount, which will guaranty the intermediary a minimum fee even for offerings that sell out very quickly.

No Advertising?

An intermediary cannot promote a crowdfund offering – the Act says: “An on-line intermediary shall not identify, promote, or otherwise refer to any individual security offering by it in any advertising for or on behalf of the on-line intermediary.”

An issuer cannot promote its crowd fund offering either, because issuers are restricted to distributing a notice that can only state the company is conducting an offering, the name of the intermediary, and a link to the intermediary’s website.

Non-securities crowdfunding offers, like the recently extremely successful effort by Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion to raise funding for the series Con Man on indiegogo, can use social media to publicize the opportunity. Tudyk and Fillion used their extensive Twitter and facebook followers to gain momentum and attention for the Con Man fund raise. Companies selling securities in a crowd funded offering through an intermediary will not be able to undertake any similar advertising, promotion, or sales campaigns, and will instead have to rely on investors who follow intermediaries looking for investment opportunities.

Although the Colorado Crowdfunding Act has several advantages over the proposed SEC rules, it is still a very expensive option when compared to a traditional private placement, and only time will tell if it presents a viable funding option for companies who cannot raise the needed funds through traditional private placements.

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Law Week Colorado, February 18, 2105

http://www.keepandshare.com/doc11/8647/lw-cannabisipos-pdf-3-2-meg?da=y

CannabisIPO1CannabisIPO2

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Denver CO, April 22, 2015 – In the last year I have seen proposals for clients to go public through a reverse merger with a public operating company that was really a shell or “blank-check” company. In both cases during the listing process the SEC commented that the registering company appeared not to have any real assets or operations, appeared to be a shell or blank-check company, and the SEC asked whether the company intended to do a reverse merger in the near future. The companies responded that they did too have a real business (they didn’t), and they had no intention of merging with any company in the future. Almost as soon as the company was registered they were trying to sell a reverse merger / back-door-listing to my client.

A “shell company” is prohibited from taking advantage of many favorable SEC rules for three years after it is no longer a shell, and has extensive 8-K filing requirements. In addition, “blank check” companies are subject to restrictive escrow and use of funds requirements, along with clear risk and disclosure obligations. I advised my client that it would likely bear substantial costs from the previous founders’ lies to the SEC, since the original promoters would be cashed-out and long gone when it came time to pay the piper. We walked away.

Last week the SEC charged 10 people with fraud for lying to the SEC about the shell or “blank-check” status of registered companies bound for reverse mergers.

The SEC announced the charges in a press release on April 16, 2015, stating it brought fraud charges “against 10 individuals involved in a scheme to offer and sell penny stock in undisclosed “blank check” companies bound for reverse mergers while misrepresenting to the public that they were promising startups with business plans. Blank check companies generally have no operations and no value other than their status as a registered entity, which makes them attractive targets for unscrupulous individuals seeking reverse mergers with clean shells ripe for pump-and-dump schemes.”

According to the SEC, the group created undisclosed blank check companies, installed figurehead officers, falsely claimed in registration statements and other SEC filings that the companies were pursuing real business ventures, and concealed from the public that the sole purpose of the companies was entering into reverse mergers so they could profit from the sales.

The SEC is seeking disgorgement of approximately $ 6 million in ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, financial penalties, and permanent injunctions as well as officer-and-director bars and penny stock bars.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has allowed a marijuana company to register its shares. Terra Tech Corp of Irvine, California is a Nevada corporation that primarily manufactures and sells hydroponic agriculture equipment and supplies. According to The Cannabist, hydroponics is booming: “Supplying the lighting, nutrient and water needs of … plants has resulted in huge growth in hydroponics stores and grow operation supply retailers. According to a market research report published by IBISWorld, the hydroponic equipment retail industry has grown by 7.2 percent per year nationwide since 2009, with California and Colorado growing at a whopping 32 percent.”

Terra Tech stock trades on the OTCBB under the symbol TRTC.

According to Terra Tech’s Prospectus and recently allowed Form S-1 Registration Statement,

“[Terra Tech] recently formed three majority-owned subsidiaries for the purposes of cultivation or production of medical marijuana and/or operation of dispensary facilities in various locations in Nevada upon obtaining the necessary government approvals and permits, as to which there can be no assurance. Each subsidiary was formed with different investors, thus necessitating the need for multiple entities with different strategic partners and advisory board members.  In addition, we anticipate each subsidiary will service a different geographical market in Nevada.  Effectuation of the proposed business of each of (i) MediFarm, LLC (a Nevada limited liability company (“MediFarm”), (ii) MediFarm I, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company (“MediFarm I”), and (iii) MediFarm II, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company (“MediFarm II”) is dependent upon the continued legislative authorization of medical marijuana at the state level. We expect to allocate future business opportunities among MediFarm, MediFarm I and MediFarm II based on the locations of such opportunities.”

Thus, Terra Tech is not yet in the marijuana cultivation and sales business, but will commence that business if and when it receives the necessary licenses in Nevada. This appears to be the first SEC allowance of registration of shares of a cannabis grower and seller, albeit one not yet in production.

In November 2014 Terra Tech filed a registration statement for the resale of stock owned by one of its investors. The Wall Street Journal LawBlog reports that the SEC recently allowed the registration statement to go effective without action, which means it becomes effective 20-days after the SEC approves the disclosures in the registration statement. Typically, an issuer will request, and the SEC will grant, acceleration of the effective date to allow the issuer to immediately sell its shares. The SEC refused to grant Terra Tech’s request for acceleration. The article at the WSJLawBlog includes a good discussion of the significance to issuers of not receiving accelerated effectiveness – it makes it difficult if not impossible to do an underwritten public offering. However, that was not an issue in this case because Terra Tech was registering for resale stock acquired earlier by an institutional investor, Dominion Capital LLC, who purchased convertible notes and warrants from Terra Tech. Under the terms of the notes and warrant, Dominion had a right to require that stock be registered for resale in the future (registration rights). Therefore, Terra Tech was not registering its own stock for sale, and will not directly receive any of the proceeds from the sale of the registered stock for use in the marijuana business. It will be interesting to see whether the SEC allows a registration statement for direct sale to the public by a marijuana company.

What About Colorado?

Terra Tech is a Nevada corporation that plans to conduct its marijuana business in Nevada through Nevada subsidiaries. Currently, Colorado law prohibits ownership or beneficial financial interest in a Colorado licensed cannabis business, by any person who is not a Colorado resident as defined under Colorado marijuana regulations. To qualify, the owners must submit exhaustive and detailed identification information, including fingerprints, to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, and be approved for ownership by the MED. Under current Colorado law, there would be no reason for a Colorado licensed marijuana company to register its shares with SEC, unless it can also control the sale of those shares solely to persons who qualify to own a financial interest in a licensed company. Failure to do so would cause the loss of its license. Colorado’s regulatory scheme precludes registration and public trading of shares in a marijuana company on any exchange or bulletin board, since it is not possible to limit ownership to qualified Colorado residents. Only time will tell if allowance and registration by the SEC of stock in marijuana companies will provide some incentive for Colorado regulators to loosen the ownership restrictions on licensed Colorado marijuana companies, long term.

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I will be presenting “Avoiding Land Mines on the Road to Success; Review of Federal & State Security Laws and legal aspects of Real Estate Investments” to the Denver Metro Commercial Association of REALTORS®. The talk will be from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at the DMCAR offices, 4300 E. Warren Ave., Denver, CO 80222. We will be discussing securities laws and private placement rules as they apply to real estate investment ventures, and I will be providing a review of some recent enforcement and fraud actions by the Colorado Securities Commissioner in real estate matters.

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