I. INTRODUCTION

简介

On August 26, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) issued a final rule (the “Final Rule”), amending the definition of “accredited investor” in Rule 501(a) of Regulation D and the definition of “qualified institutional buyer” in Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) as part of the ongoing effort to “modernize” the U.S. securities law. In SEC’s own words, the amendments adopted in the Final Rule are intended to “identify more effectively institutional and individual investors that have sufficient knowledge and expertise to participate in investment opportunities that do not have the rigorous disclosure and procedural requirements, and related investor protections, provided by registration under the Securities Act.” [1] The result of these amendments is to enlarge the pool of potential investors that are permitted to participate in private placement offerings, and consequently allow private issuers greater access to capital.

2020年八月二十六日,美国证券交易委员会(“证交会”)发布了一项《最终规则》(“《最终规则》”),此规定修改了1933年证券法(“《证券法》”)中Regulation D条例第501(a)条里对“资信投资人”的定义,同时修改了《证券法》第144A条里对“合格机构购买人”的定义。此次修订是证交会为使美国证券法更加“现代化”所实施的改革措施的一部分。用证交会自己的话来说,《最终规则》里所采纳的修改内容是为了“更有效地识别那些拥有足够知识和专业度的机构与个人投资人以使他们有资格参与不受《证券法》里那些严格的披露和程序要求、及相关投资者保护规定限制的投资机会。”这些修订将会带来的改变是扩大能够参与证券私募发行投资的投资人群体,同时也使私募发行人拥有更多资金来源。

The amendments will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

相关修订将于《最终规则》在联邦公报发布六十天后生效。

II. AMENDMENTS TO “ACCREDITED INVESTOR” DEFINITION

关于“资信投资人”定义的修改

1. Background

背景

Under Section 5 of the Securities Act, an issuer of securities is required to comply with the registration requirements under the Securities Act in the offer and sale of its securities unless it qualifies for an exemption from registration. The safe-harbor exemptions available under Regulation D, in particular those under Rule 506 of Regulation D, are commonly relied on by issuers offering securities in the United States or to U.S. investors through private placements, such as private investment funds. “Accredited investor” is a central concept to Regulation D private placement offerings in reliance on Rule 506, where such status is generally required in order to participate in most Rule 506 offerings, even though the Rule 506(b) exemption permits a limited number of investors that don’t qualify for the “accredited investor” status.

《证券法》第五节规定,证券发行人在发行和出售其证券时须遵守《证券法》下的登记要求,除非发行人能符合免于登记的条件。发行人在美国发售证券或向美国投资人进行私募发行时(如发行私募基金股份时)通常依赖于Regulation D条例里的“安全港”豁免规则,尤其是Regulation D条例里第506条规则。对于使用Regulation D条例中第506条的私募发行而言,“资信投资人”是一个核心概念,因为大多数依赖于第506条豁免的证券发行都必须确保投资人符合“资信投资人”的定义,尽管规则506(b)允许一定数量的非资信投资人参与私募发行。

“Accredited investor” is defined in Rule 501(a), and is intended to capture those persons that, because of their financial sophistication and ability to sustain investment loss, don’t need the protection of the registration process. Prior to the amendments contained in the Final Rule, the definition has primarily used wealth as a proxy for financial sophistication. The amendments create new categories of individuals and entities that qualify as accredited investors irrespective of their wealth, on the basis that such investors have demonstrated the requisite ability to assess an investment opportunity.

“资信投资人”的定义在《证券法》第501(a)条中。该定义旨在锁定那些具有较高金融投资知识和阅历、能承担投资损失并因此不需要证券登记程序保护的投资人。在《最终规则》对资信投资人定义进行修改前,原定义主要以财富作为金融投资知识和阅历的替代标准。而此次的修订,在考虑投资人财富外,还将资信投资人的定义延展至包括几个新的个人与机构投资者类别,因为这些投资人在现实中证明具备评估投资机会的能力。

2. New Categories of Natural Persons as Accredited Investors

个人资信投资人新类别

a. Natural Persons Holding Professional Certifications and Designations or Other Credentials

拥有专业证书和资质或其他专业资格的个人投资人

Under the Final Rule, the SEC may from time to time designate by order professional certifications, designations, and other credentials qualifying an individual for the accredited investor status. The SEC will consider a nonexclusive list of attributes in determining which professional certifications and designations or other credentials qualify a person for the accredited investor status, including:

《最终规则》规定,证交会有权随时指定能满足资信投资人资格的专业证书、资质及其他专业资格。在确定哪些专业证书、资质或专业资格能确保持有人具有资信投资人能力时,证交会将考虑以下因素:

(i) the certification, designation, or credential arises out of an examination or series of examinations administered by a self-regulatory organization or other industry body or is issued by an accredited educational institution;

该专业证书、资质或其他专业资格为相关自律组织或其他行业协会在举行考试或系列考试后颁发的,或者是由被正式认可的教育机构颁发的;

(ii) the examination or series of examinations is designed to reliably and validly demonstrate an individual’s comprehension and sophistication in the areas of securities and investing;

相关考试或系列考试能够可靠有效地检测考生对于证券与投资的理解与精通;

(iii) persons obtaining such certification, designation, or credential can reasonably be expected to have sufficient knowledge and experience in financial and business matters to evaluate the merits and risks of a prospective investment; and

取得该专业证书、资质或其他专业资格的个人能合理使用其金融经济方面的知识与经验来评估一项潜在投资机会的价值与风险;以及

(iv) an indication that an individual holds the certification or designation is either made publicly available by the relevant self-regulatory organization or other industry body or is otherwise independently verifiable.

获得该专业证书、资质或其他专业资格的个人名单将会被相关自律组织或其他行业协会公布或能通过其他方式验证该专业证书、资质或专业资格的取得。

In the Final Rule, the SEC decides to designate the General Securities Representative license (Series 7), the Private Securities Offerings Representative license (Series 82), and the Licensed Investment Adviser Representative (Series 65) as the initial qualifying certifications, designation or credentials that qualify their holders for the accredited investor status. These licenses are granted to securities professionals having taken and passed the relevant exams developed and administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), a U.S. securities industry self-regulatory organization. The Series 7 license qualifies a candidate “for the solicitation, purchase, and/or sale of all securities products, including corporate securities, municipal securities, municipal fund securities, options, direct participation programs, investment company products, and variable contracts.” The Series 65 exam is designed to qualify candidates as investment adviser representatives and covers topics necessary for adviser representatives to understand to provide investment advice to retail advisory clients. And the Series 82 license qualifies candidates seeking to effect the sales of private securities offerings[2].

在《最终规则》中,证交会决定指定综合证券注册代理牌照(Series 7)、私募证券发行代理牌照(Series 82)以及注册投资顾问代理牌照(Series 65)作为最初批准的专业资质证明证书,拥有以上牌照的个人将满足资信投资人的要求。这些牌照是颁发给参加并通过了由美国金融业监管局(“FINRA”,一个美国证券行业自律组织)主办的相关考试的个人的。Series 7牌照允许持照人从事所有证券产品发行的兜售、购买与销售,包括公司证券、地方政府证券、地方政府基金证券、期货、投资合同、投资公司产品与可变更收益投资合同等。通过Series 65考试的个人可成为投资顾问代理;此考试涵盖了投资顾问日后为零散投资客户提供投资建议必须理解掌握的内容。Series 82牌照允许持证人参与私募证券发行销售。

b. Knowledgeable Employees of Private Funds

私募基金的知识型员工

Another category of natural-person accredited investors added by the Final Rule are “knowledgeable employees” of a private fund with respect to investments in the fund. “Knowledgeable employee” is defined in Rule 3c-5(a)(4) under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “’40 Act”). It includes, with respect to a private fund, any person that is (i) an executive officer, director, trustee, general partner, advisory board member, or person serving in a similar capacity of the private fund, or (ii) an employee of the private fund or the fund’s manager that participates in investment activities as part of his or her regular functions or duties for at least 12 months. A private fund under the Final Rule is a fund that is excluded from the definition of “investment company” under Section 3(a)(1) of the ’40 Act by Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) thereof. Section 3(c)(1) and Section 3(c)(7) of the ’40 Act are two of the most commonly used exemptions by private investment funds, such as private equity funds, hedge funds and venture capital funds, to avoid registration as an investment company under the ’40 Act.

《最终规则》还添加了另一类符合资信投资人定义的自然人,即私募基金投资中,投资其受雇基金的“知识型员工”。1940年投资公司法(“《40年法案》”)对“知识型员工”的定义包括:私募基金的(1)执行高管、董事、受托人、普通合伙人、顾问委员会成员、或在私募基金中具有相同职能的人,(2)在至少十二个月的时间里,其通常职务会涉及到参与投资活动的私募基金或其管理公司的员工。《最终规则》下的私募基金是指依照《40年法案》第3(c)(1)条或第3(c)(7)条,可豁免注册成“投资公司”的基金。《40年法案》的第3(c)(1)条和第3(c)(7)条是私募投资基金(如私募股权基金、对冲基金以及风险投资基金)通常使用以避免注册成投资公司的豁免条款。

3. New Category of Entities as Accredited Investors

机构资信投资人新种类

a. Registered Investment Advisers and Exempt Reporting Advisers

注册投资顾问与备案投资顾问

Among the new categories of entities added to the definition of accredited investor are (i) registered investment advisers, including those registered with the SEC under Section 203 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the “Advisers Act”), or with any state securities regulator, and (ii) exempt reporting advisers that are venture capital fund advisers or private fund advisers exempted from registration with the SEC under Section 203(l) and (m), respectively, of the Advisers Act. Under Section 203(m) of the Advisers Act, investment advisers solely advising private funds and with a total amount of regulatory assets under management less than $150 million are exempted from registration with the SEC. Section 203(l) of the Advisers Act provides a similar exemption from registration for investment advisers solely advising qualifying venture capital funds.

资信投资人定义中新加入的机构类投资人首先包括(1)注册投资顾问,包括在1940年投资顾问法(“《投资顾问法》”)第203条下须向证交会登记注册的投资顾问或是须向各州证券管理部门登记注册的投资顾问;和(2)在投资顾问法第203(l)与203(m)下免于注册、专职服务风险投资基金或私募基金的备案投资顾问。在《投资顾问法》第203(m)条下,若投资顾问管理的私募基金持有的投资资产不超过一亿五千万美元,那么该投资顾问则不用向证交会登记注册。《投资顾问法》第203(l)条则为风险投资基金的投资顾问提供了一条类似的免于登记注册的豁免规定。

b. Rural Business Investment Companies

农村经济投资公司

The Final Rule also makes rural business investment companies (a “RBIC”), defined in Section 384A of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, a new category of accredited investors. RBICs are investment vehicles created to promote economic development and the creation of wealth and job opportunities in rural areas, and intended to increase access to capital for growth stage businesses in such areas.

《最终规则》也将农村经济投资公司(“RBIC”,定义见《农业和农村发展法》第384A条)列为新增的机构资信投资人。RBIC是为了促进农村经济发展,创造收入与就业机会,为所在农村地区成长期公司发展提供更多资金来源的投资机构。

c. Limited Liability Companies

有限责任公司

While limited liability companies (“LLCs”) are a popular business entity form among market participants in the alternative investments space, which comprises a significant portion of private placement issuances, LLCs are not among the types of entities included in Rule 501(a)(3) that are eligible to qualify for the accredited investor status. Notwithstanding that, the SEC has long taken the position that LLCs that satisfy the requirements of Rule 501(a)(3), including the $5 million assets test, are eligible to qualify as accredited investors under Rule 501(a)(3). The Final Rule makes that position official, and adds LLCs to Rule 501(a)(3) as a category of business entities that are eligible for the accredited investor status.

尽管有限责任公司(“LLC”)在替代类投资领域(包括私募投资基金等)是一种非常常见的企业组织形式且在私募证券发行市场占据了极大的比重,有限责任公司在《证券法》原第501(a)(3)中并没有被列为符合资信投资人资格的企业组织形式。尽管如此,证交会长久以来的态度是满足第501(a)(3)条规定(包括公司所有资产不少于五百万美元的规定)的有限责任公司都有资格获得资信投资人身份。而《最终规则》则最终明确定了这一规定,将有限责任公司列为符合资信投资人资格的企业组织形式之一。

d. Certain Family Offices and Family Clients

某些家族办公室与家族客户

A “family office” is an investment adviser that provides investment advisory and management services solely to clients that are either related to each other as family members or certain employees or former employees of the family office, as provided in the definition of “family client” in Rule 202(a)(11)(G)-1(d)(4) under the Advisers Act. A family office that satisfies certain regulatory requirements set forth in the rule promulgated under the Advisers Act[3] is excluded from the definition of investment adviser and therefore not subject to the registration requirements thereunder. The Final Rule adds family offices that satisfy the following conditions, and family clients of such family offices, as two new categories of accredited investors: (i) having at least $5 million in assets under management, (ii) not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, and (iii) the prospective investment is directed by a person having such knowledge and experience in financial and business matters that such family office is capable of evaluating the merits and risks of the prospective investment.

在《投资顾问法》第202(a)(11)(G)-1(d)(4)下,“家族办公室”是指仅为有亲属关系的家庭成员或某些家族办公室员工或前员工提供投资顾问和管理服务的投资顾问。满足《投资顾问法》的某些规定的家族办公室不被认定为投资顾问,因此不用遵守《投资顾问法》中关于投资顾问登记注册的要求。《最终规则》将符合以下要求的家族办公室与该类家族办公室的家族客户新列入为资信投资人:(1)管理的投资资产不少于五百万美元,(2)该家族办公室的设立不仅以投资获取发行的证券为目的,且(3)家族办公室的潜在投资是由拥有相关知识与经验的个人主导因此家族办公室能评估潜在投资的价值与风险。

e. Other Entities Meeting an Investments-Owned Test

其他满足投资资产要求的机构

Finally, the Final Rule also adds, as a catch-all category of accredited investors, any entity (including entities organized under the laws of a foreign country) (i) not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities being offered, and (ii) owning “investments” (as defined in Rule 2a51-1(b) under the ’40 Act) in excess of $5 million. Investments, as defined in Rule 2a51-1(b), include securities, real estate, commodity interests, physical commodities, and non-security financial contracts, in each case held or entered into for investment purposes, and cash and cash equivalents.

最后,《最终规则》还添加了一条包罗条款,将任何(1)不仅以投资获取发行的证券为目的,且(2)持有“投资”(定义见《40年法案》第2a51-1(b))超过五百万美元的机构都列为机构资信投资人。在《40年法案》第2a51-1(b)条下,投资包括以投资为目的持有的证券、房地产、大宗商品权益、实物大宗商品、和非证券类的金融合同,以及现金与现金等价物。

4. Spousal Equivalents as Accredited Investors

配偶等同身份者的资信投资人资格

The current Rule 501(a)(5) and (6) designate as qualifying for the accredited investor status any natural person whose joint net worth or joint income with that person’s spouse exceeds certain thresholds. As part of the amendments to the accredited investor definition, the Final Rule adds “spousal equivalent” to each reference to spouse in Rule 501(a)(5) and (6). The Final Rule adopts the definition of “spousal equivalent” included in the family office rules under the Advisers Act, which defines such a person as a cohabitant occupying a relationship generally equivalent to that of a spouse. In connection with this amendment, the SEC clarifies that the securities being purchased by an investor in reliance on the joint net worth test of Rule 501(a)(5) need not be purchased jointly with the investor’s spouse or spouse equivalent.

当前《证券法》第501(a)(5)与(a)(6)条规定任何个人或与其配偶共同资产净值超过一定数额的自然人具有资信投资人资格。而此次的修订中,第501(a)(5)与(a)(6)条中的配偶将包括“配偶等同身份者”。《最终规则》对“配偶等同身份者”的定义参考了《投资顾问法》中家族办公室的相关规定,将其定义为居住在一起并拥有与配偶关系相等同关系的个人。与此修改相关的是,证交会澄清了利用第501(a)(5)条配偶双方共同资产净值规定获得资信投资人资格的投资人,其投资不要求是与其配偶或配偶等同身份者的共同投资。

III. AMENDMENTS TO THE “QUALIFIED INSTITUTIONAL BUYER” DEFINITION

关于“合格机构购买人”定义的修改

Rule 144A under the Securities Act provides another commonly used safe-harbor exemption from the registration requirements of Section 5 of the Securities Act. In a Rule 144A offering, an issuer would first sell the offered securities to financial intermediaries (commonly known as the “initial purchasers”) in a transaction exempt from registration under the Securities Act, followed by the immediate resale of the securities by the initial purchasers to qualified institutional buyers in reliance on Rule 144A.

《证券法》第144A条规定为证券私募发行提供了另一经常使用的“安全港”豁免规定。在依据第144A条豁免规定的证券发行中,发行人将通过证券法下其他免于登记的交易方式首先将发行的证券出售给金融中介(通常称为“最初购买人”),然后最初购买人将通过第144A条豁免规定将这些证券再次出售给合格机构购买人。

Rule 144A(a)(1) specifies the types of institutions that are eligible for the qualified institutional buyer status. For those that are not banks or SEC-registered dealers, a qualifying institution is required to, acting for its own account or the accounts of other qualified institutional buyers, own and invest on a discretionary basis in the aggregate at least $100 million in securities of non-affiliated issuers.

第144A(a)(1) 条列出了满足合格机构购买人资格的机构类型。对于非银行或非证交会注册交易商的机构来说,必须满足如下要求: 即自己自有账户投资和代投的其他合格机构购买人的账户投资总额不低于一亿美元,且投资为非关联公司发行人所发行的证券。

In conformity with the amendments made to the “accredited investor” definition, the Final Rule adds RBICs, LLCs, and institutional accredited investors, as defined in Rule 501(a), of a type not currently listed in Rule 144A(a)(1)(i) through (vi) as new categories of institutions eligible to qualify for the qualified institutional buyer status. There is one difference though. While Rule 501(a) generally requires an entity accredited investor not to be formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, the SEC clarifies in a new note added under Rule 144A that the new category of institutional accredited investors eligible for the qualified institutional buyer status may be formed for the purpose of acquiring the Rule 144A securities being offered.

与“资信投资人”修订相呼应,《最终规则》将RBIC、LLC以及符合第501(a)条定义的机构资信投资人加入到合格机构购买人的定义中。这些机构在修订之前都不在原144A(a)(1)(i)至(vi)条中列举出的符合合格机构购买人资格的机构之列。有一样不同点是,尽管第501(a)条规定机构资信投资人不得仅以投资获取发行证券为目的而设立,证交会在第144A条的附注中明确,在决定符合机构资信投资人的机构是否具有合格机构购买人资格时,机构资信投资人可以仅以投资获取发行的144A证券为目的而设立。

IV. FINAL TAKEAWAYS

结语

As is SEC’s stated goal, the amendments in the Final Rule are intended to modernize the two definitions central to two safe-harbor exemptions commonly relied on by participants in the private placement markets. The SEC believes that the categories of persons and institutions added to the two definitions are investors that possess the requisite knowledge and sophistication to make informed and sound investment decisions, and therefore don’t need the protection of the registration requirements for public securities offerings. As a result, they should not be denied investment opportunities available only in the private placement markets. While the SEC does not believe the addition of the new categories would significantly alter the mix of accredited investors or qualified institutional buyers, it is nonetheless of the view that these changes would open up additional capital source and help private issuers in their capital raising efforts. Given that many of the new categories of qualified investors are the types of persons or institutions already involved in the private investment fund space, private investment funds and their fund managers should be among the ones that will benefit primarily from these rule changes.

就如证交会所说,《最终规则》的修订目的是更新私募证券市场参与者最常依赖的两条“安全港”豁免条款,以使其更符合当今的市场状况。证交会相信此次修订所加入的个人与机构都具有在充分考量相关信息的基础上做出明智合理的投资决策的知识、经验与能力,因此他们不需要公募发行证券的各类注册和披露要求所提供的保护。因此,这些投资者应该享有参与私募证券发行市场投资机会的权利。尽管证交会不认为这些修订会很大程度改变现有的资信投资人和合格机构购买人的构成,但承认修订的结果包括释放更多的资金来源,并有助于私募证券发行人筹措资金。鉴于新增的资质投资人类型中很多已经参与了私募基金市场的投资,此次修订最主要的受益人之一应该就是私募基金与基金管理公司。