Caveat Investor

Amateur Hour: New Crowdinvesting Rules Mean Everyone Can Play Venture Capitalist

(Photo: James Cridland via Flickr)

It was glaringly sunny in Washington, D.C., on April 5, the day President Barack Obama signed the JOBS Act, and there was some confusion as to the location of the afterparty. One faction of Rose Garden attendees gathered on the roof of the W Hotel and wondered where everyone was. The rest assembled at Off The Record, a dimly lit bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel, and kicked things off with an icebreaker.

About 30 smartly dressed men and women, still sweating out the adrenaline of being three rows away from the president, stood in a circle. Many had worked with each other but never met. Each stated their names, the role they played in the bill, and perhaps a few words about the brave new world of so-called equity-based crowdfunding, which had just been legalized by one of the six constituent laws that make up the JOBS Act. The new rule will allow “ordinary Americans,” in the president’s words, to invest in a nonpublic company in exchange for shares for the first time since the enactment of the securities regulation that followed the 1929 stock market crash.

The mood was triumphant and boozy. Tim Rowe, a Cambridge-based venture capitalist, raised a glass and offered a toast to working together in the future. “The Marine Corps was founded in a bar in Philadelphia,” he said. “Big things can happen starting in a bar.” Attendees signed up to join a trade organization for the newly minted market. “There was the sense of elation that we had cracked the monopoly of Wall Street,” one attendee recalled. Read More

Secondary Markets

SEC’s Yearlong Secondary Markets Investigation Reportedly Yields Charges Against SharesPost and Felix Investments [UPDATED]

Frank Mazzola

It looks like the Securities and Exchange Commission’s yearlong investigation into trading private shares on the secondary market may finally be coming to a close.

Yesterday afternoon, Bloomberg first reported that the SEC is preparing to bring civil charges against Felix Investments, a Wall Street broker-dealer perhaps best-known for its twin funds Facie Libre 1 and Facie Libre II–meaning face book in Latin. “The firm is expected to be accused of violating securities laws related to soliciting investors,” DealBook wrote in a follow-up, adding that Felix “aggressively accumulated” and actively promoted shares of companies like Facebook and Twitter, going as far as to cold-call Facebook employees to try to get them to sell.

The SEC is also reportedly “nearing a settlement” with SharesPost, an online platform for selling private shares.  “Regulators had expressed concern that SharesPost was not registered as a broker-dealer when it began facilitating trades in private company shares in 2009,” noted DealBook.  SecondMarket, a SharesPost competitor which registered as a broker-dealer early in its history, however, “is not the subject of an SEC inquiry,” spokesman Mark Murphy told Betabeat. Read More