On October 7, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to provide much needed clarity to the regulatory status of so-called “finders” who assist small businesses in raising capital. In a 3-to-2 vote, the SEC proposed a Finder exemption to the broker-dealer registration requirements of Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to allow unregistered natural persons, referred to as finders, to engage in certain limited activities to assist issuers in raising capital from accredited investors.
SEC rules governing accredited investors are designed to protect individual investors from risks that could result from the lack of regulatory oversight associated with unregistered private securities offerings. By expanding the definition of “accredited investor,” the SEC has provided more investors with the opportunity to access alternative investments and given companies, private-equity firms, and hedge funds access to a larger pool of investors.
On June 22, 2020, in Liu v. SEC, the Supreme Court affirmed in an 8-1 ruling that the Securities and Exchange Commission may continue to pursue disgorgement awards under the federal securities law provided that the award is capped at the defendant’s net profits, and further, provided that the award is made for the benefit of wronged investors. In so holding, the Court struck a middle ground by narrowly preserving one of the most powerful enforcement mechanisms available to the agency but limiting the awards more closely than the awards the SEC has sought over the years.