The UK Treasury has recently published its Regulatory Innovation Plan in relation to FinTech. The plan overviews the current work and future projects of the four UK financial services regulators: Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the wider Bank of England (BoE). It examines how the regulators are adapting to and encouraging disruptive business models and also utilising new technologies to reduce regulatory burdens on business. Highlights include:
Crowd-sourced funding (CSF) is a developing alternative to traditional capital funding methods, allowing eligible early stage / start-up companies to raise funds from a larger pool of investors without the need for costly disclosure documents such as a prospectus.
CSF took significant steps forward with the Corporations Amendment (Crowd Sourced Funding) 2016 (Cth) (Act) that establishes a regulatory framework to facilitate CSF by small, unlisted public companies in Australia receiving assent and coming into operation. The CSF regime takes effect from 28 September 2017.
The Act allows eligible unlisted public companies with an annual turnover or gross assets of up to $25 million to advertise their business plans on a licensed online crowd funding platform to raise up to $5 million in 12 month rolling periods. Investors receive a share of the company in return for their investment.
While the CSF regime removes some of the existing regulatory barriers to capital raising, there are a number of other key considerations for eligible companies intending to utilise the CSF regime. Below are just a few:
- CSF intermediary platform requirements: Offers for a company’s securities must be made through an authorised CSF intermediary. At this point in time and apart from service fees, it is unclear whether a CSF intermediary will impose any other obligations on the company to be admitted onto their platform (e.g. due diligence, verification and CSF offer document sign off obligations).
- Disclosure requirements: The CSF offer document must contain certain information required by the regulations which are yet to be released.
- Liability: The Company and its individual directors and officers may be held liable for loss or damage suffered by a person due to a defective CSF offer document. Accordingly, it is important that you have a reasonable objective basis for the contents of the CSF offer document. In particular, you will need to be careful when providing financial forecasts and statements regarding future events.
- Restrictions on advertising: There will be restrictions on advertising for the CSF offer.
- How do you value your business: In practice, you will need to determine a pre-money valuation for your company to set an appropriate offer issue price.
- Setting a minimum size for investment: While there is a maximum investment cap of $10,000 per investor per offer, to avoid having many shareholders with small parcels and the associated administrative burden, you may want to consider setting a minimum subscription amount.
- Share buy-back mechanisms: Where certain requirements are met, companies utilising the CSF regime will be exempt from meeting higher corporate governance and reporting requirements applicable to public companies for a period of 5 years (e.g. annual audit and filing of financial statements). At the expiry of the 5 year period, the company may want to ensure that it has in place effective mechanisms to allow it to convert back to a proprietary company should the need arise (e.g. consider including share buy-back, share valuation mechanisms in the company’s constitutional documents).
Central to the new CSF regime is the inclusion of the AFS licence holder who acts as the intermediary (i.e. the gatekeeper). The intermediary must hold an AFSL with the correct authorisations in order to carry out this role. After 28 September 2017, ASIC will be able to accept AFS licence applications from entities wanting to provide CSF services.
Considering acting as a CSF intermediary? There are a number of things you may wish to consider, including: