In June of 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a draft working paper in which they solicited feedback on a possible change to the definition of an accredited investor. The idea was to increase the number of investors who would be eligible for making main street investments. Over the span of several months, the SEC collected input from the investment community. Thousands of people send comments on the proposal, including yours truly.
Yesterday, the SEC announced the new definitions.
I’m going to quote directly from their press release. You can read the full press release here.
“The Securities and Exchange Commission today adopted amendments to the “accredited investor” definition, one of the principal tests for determining who is eligible to participate in our private capital markets. Historically, individual investors who do not meet specific income or net worth tests, regardless of their financial sophistication, have been denied the opportunity to invest in our multifaceted and vast private markets. The amendments update and improve the definition to more effectively identify institutional and individual investors that have the knowledge and expertise to participate in those markets.”
The details of the new definitions are contained in the accredited investor definition in Rule 501(a):
- add a new category to the definition that permits natural persons to qualify as accredited investors based on certain professional certifications, designations or credentials or other credentials issued by an accredited educational institution, which the Commission may designate from time to time by order. In conjunction with the adoption of the amendments, the Commission designated by order holders in good standing of the Series 7, Series 65, and Series 82 licenses as qualifying natural persons. This approach provides the Commission with flexibility to reevaluate or add certifications, designations, or credentials in the future. Members of the public may wish to propose for the Commission’s consideration additional certifications, designations or credentials that satisfy the attributes set out in the new rule;
- include as accredited investors, with respect to investments in a private fund, natural persons who are “knowledgeable employees” of the fund;
- clarify that limited liability companies with $5 million in assets may be accredited investors and add SEC- and state-registered investment advisers, exempt reporting advisers, and rural business investment companies (RBICs) to the list of entities that may qualify;
- add a new category for any entity, including Indian tribes, governmental bodies, funds, and entities organized under the laws of foreign countries, that own “investments,” as defined in Rule 2a51-1(b) under the Investment Company Act, in excess of $5 million and that was not formed for the specific purpose of investing in the securities offered;
- add “family offices” with at least $5 million in assets under management and their “family clients,” as each term is defined under the Investment Advisers Act; and
- add the term “spousal equivalent” to the accredited investor definition, so that spousal equivalents may pool their finances for the purpose of qualifying as accredited investors.
So what does this mean for syndicators? It’s too early to say exactly. We are waiting on guidance from our own securities lawyers on how to interpret the new changes. We’ll do another episode in the near future once we have some legal opinions to share on the topic.
From my perspective, this is a welcome change that will become effective 60 days from now.