Although EDGAR continues to accept filings, the government shutdown has now eclipsed its 28th day and the SEC continues to operate with limited staff which is having a crippling effect on the ability of many companies to raise money in the public markets. This is particularly due to the fact that the SEC is unable to perform many of the critical functions during the lapse in appropriations, including the review of new or pending registration statements and/or the declaration of effectiveness of any registration statements.
Although Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, creates an avenue whereby a registration statement will automatically become effective 20 calendar days after the filing of the latest pre-effective amendment that does not include “delaying amendment” language, many companies seeking to raise money in the public markets, including through an initial public offering, are reluctant to use this route for the following reasons. First, any pre-effective amendment which removes the “delaying amendment” language must include all information required by the form including pricing information relating to the securities being sold as Rule 430A is not available in the absence of a delaying amendment. This means that companies must commit to pricing terms at least 20 days in advance of the offering which may be difficult due to the volatility in the markets. In the event pricing terms change, companies must file another pre-effective amendment which restarts the 20-day waiting period. Second, companies run the risk that the SEC may, among other things, issue a stop order. Finally, companies may run into issues with FINRA, Nasdaq or the NYSE as these organizations may not agree to list securities on such exchanges without the SEC confirming that they have reviewed and cleared such filing and affirmatively declared the registration statement effective. These risks, among others, associated with using Section 8(a) as a means by which a registration statement can become effective after the 20-day waiting period, seem to outweigh the benefits of pursuing this alternative despite the fact that many companies with a December 31st year end will soon be required to file audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018 pursuant to Rule 3-12 of Regulation S-X which will further delay the process resulting in an increase in both cost and time related to the offering.
Although companies seeking to raise money in the public markets, including through initial public offerings or shelf registration statements, may be reluctant to rely upon Section 8(a), some companies have already chosen to remove the “delaying amendment” language. For example, some companies which appear to have cleared all comments from the SEC prior to the partial government shutdown have elected to remove the “delaying amendment” and proceed with their offerings after the 20-day waiting period. In addition, other companies conducting rights offerings, such as Trans-Lux Corporation and Roadrunner Transportation Systems, Inc., are also relying on Section 8(a) as a means of raising money. Finally, some special purpose acquisition companies (“SPACs”), including Andina Acquisition Corp. III, Gores Metropoulous, Inc., Pivotal Acquisition Corp. and Wealthbridge Acquisition Limited, are among the issuers that are using Section 8(a) as a way to procced with their offerings during this partial government shutdown since SPACs, in particular, are not sensitive to price volatility in the markets because they have no operations.
Companies and underwriters that may be considering filing a pre-effective amendment to a registration statement to take advantage of Section 8(a) of the Securities Act should discuss the effects of removing the “delaying amendment” language with securities counsel before proceeding down such path.