Rule 505 of Regulation D allows some companies offering their securities to have those securities exempted from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws. To qualify for this exemption, a company:
Can only offer and sell up to $5 million of its securities in any 12-month period;
May sell to an unlimited number of "accredited investors" and up to 35 other persons who do not need to satisfy the sophistication or wealth standards associated with other exemptions;
Must inform purchasers that they receive "restricted" securities, meaning that the securities cannot be sold for at least a year without registering them; and
Cannot use general solicitation or advertising to sell the securities.
Rule 505 allows companies to decide what information to give to accredited investors, so long as it does not violate the antifraud prohibitions of the federal securities laws. But companies must give non-accredited investors disclosure documents that generally are the same as those used in registered offerings. If a company provides information to accredited investors, it must make this information available to non-accredited investors as well. The company must also be available to answer questions by prospective purchasers.
Here are some specifics about the financial statement requirements applicable to this type of offering:
Financial statements need to be certified by an independent public accountant;
If a company other than a limited partnership cannot obtain audited financial statements without unreasonable effort or expense, only the company's balance sheet (to be dated within 120 days of the start of the offering) must be audited; and
Limited partnerships unable to obtain required financial statements without unreasonable effort or expense may furnish audited financial statements prepared under the federal income tax laws.
While companies using the Rule 505 exemption do not have to register their securities and usually do not have to file reports with the SEC, they must file what is known as a "Form D" after they first sell their securities. Form D is a brief notice that includes the names and addresses of the company’s owners and stock promoters, but contains little other information about the company.
If you are thinking about investing in a company making a Rule 505 offering, you should call the SEC’s Public Reference Branch at (202) 551-8090 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out whether a Form D has been filed or to obtain a copy. If the company has not filed a Form D, this should alert you that the company may not be in compliance with the federal securities laws.
You should always check with your state securities regulator to see if it has more information about the company and the people behind it. Be sure to ask whether your state regulator has cleared the offering for sale in your state. You can get the address and telephone number for your state securities regulator by calling the North American Securities Administrators Association at (202) 737-0900 or by visiting its website. You’ll also find this information in the state government section of your local phone book.