从SEC处罚违规融资行为,看EB-5项目网站营销规则

2015年6月23日,SEC(美国证监会)处罚了两家公司,其非法向寻求美国居留权的外国人销售超过7,900万美金的投资。这是继SEC打击EB-5欺诈融资之后的,史上首次对于EB-5融资的非法中间人行为的处罚。该处罚针对的Ireeco公司,正是通过www.whicheb5.com网站来进行,EB-5融资的非法销售行为。

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今天,我们来看看这篇,AAEB5集团总裁Victor Shum和Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP的Catherine DeBono Holmes律师的文章,关于SEC对于EB-5融资的网络营销规定,供业内朋友们参考(这些SEC的合规要求,不但是对美国的项目方,而且针对海外的代理方,即包括移民中介机构的网站营销行为规范)。SEC的目的无他,就是保护投资者利益,免受网络的信息误导,做出冷静的投资决策。本文有业内朋友Dora义务翻译,特此感谢。

网站广告的基本规则

EB-5证券产品网站广告的基本规则

EB-5证券发行人、赞助商以及营销EB-5证券的人士,经常要使用网站,向潜在投资者提供关于他们过去和当前EB-5项目的信息。当使用这些网站时,重要的是,要理解适用于美国境内外的证券网络营销的美国证券法。本文的目的是提供对这些证券法律和考虑使用网站来甄别投资者或进行EB-5证券市场融资的一个简明解释。

- 除非网站只允许非美国人访问,否则使用网站来宣传EB-5产品被美国证券法认为是一种“大范围募资”。自1995年以来,SEC(证监会)的观点一直就是:在网站上提供材料,能够被任何观众访问到,这种情形都是大范围的广告或大范围募资,除非网站采取一些限制性措施实现只有被允许访问的人才能够访问网站。1998年,SEC起草了一份备忘录来解释如何在美国以外使用互联网网站提供或宣传证券,对具体措施提供指导,如何才能对美国之外的外国人保持Reg S(法规S)的豁免,并同时保留对在美国境内满足Reg D(法规D)的人提供产品的权利。本文中提供的指导方针部分来自SEC公告。

- 如果EB- 5证券发行人打算接受美国投资者,那么就必须满足Reg D的要求,包括限制网站宣传的使用。尽管EB-5证券发行通常是提供给美国以外的投资者,但是一些进行EB-5投资的投资者,他们收到EB-5募资相关信息时,或他们接收或签署EB-5募资文件时,可能会在美国境内。这样的投资者可能是美国大学的国际留学生或其他临时签证持有人。所有这些类型的人在Reg S中被认为是“美国人”,向这些“美国人”进行EB-5募资就不能满足Reg S的豁免要求。出于这个原因,大多数EB- 5产品对美国以外的投资者进行募资邀约,或者他们收到或签署私募文件时,都是遵从SEC的Reg S要求,或销售给美国人时遵从SEC的Reg D要求。当一个EB-5证券的发行人打算依靠Reg D来接受一些被认为是“美国人”的投资者时,发行人及其代理必须小心确保用来推广EB-5产品的所有网站——包括那些发行人和所有代理推广产品的网站——都将满足Reg D的要求。

- Reg D现在有两个选择:向所有满足“合格投资者”地位的美国人投资者进行大范围募资,或,对美国人投资者进行非大范围募资。2013年7月,SEC实施创业企业融资法案(JOBS法案)和修订条例506(c)下的法规D允许对美国人投资者进行大范围募资,如果发行人,通过要求投资者提交纳税申报表复印件,银行对账单或其他认可的验证手段,验证了每一个美国人投资者作为一个“合格投资者”(Accredited Investor)的资格。然而,只要不进行大范围募资,SEC还允许发行人按照在条例506(b)下的旧法规D的要求,不需要验证美国人投资者的“合格投资者”资格。这意味着如果一个EB-5证券发行者希望没有限制地进行大范围募资,包括对网站提供的证券没有限制的话,,只要它要求每一个美国人投资者提供的一个公认的方法验证他们的身份作为一个“合格投资者”,它就能做到这一点。

EB5Sir注,投资者如果符合下列定义,则被认定为合格投资者:

* 过往两年每年收入超过20万美元(或者同配偶一起超过30万美元),并且合理预期今年也将同样如此;

* 或者,净资产超过100万美元,独自或者同配偶一起(不包括主要的住宅价值或者任何由住宅所担保的贷款价值 - 以住宅价值为上限)。

-EB-5证券发行人,如果选择不需要验证合格投资者的状态,那么应该限制美国人可以获取现有EB-5产品信息的相关网站。如果EB-5证券发行人选择遵循法可以进行Reg D下的“非大范围募资”选项,那么就要遵从SEC在其备忘录中对使用网站进行境外发行建议的指南。在此说明中,发行人应使用合理的预防措施,旨在确保海外互联网发行并不是针对美国人,包括下列措施:

o 免责声明——网站应该包括突出的免责声明来明确:任何提供的证券只针对美国以外的国家,不提供给在美国的人或者美国人。如果EB-5发行人将接受美国人作为认可的投资者,那么也应该在免责声明中进行声明。

o 通过密码保护来限制只给非美国人提供文件——网站应提供访问权限限制,只给那些提供居留信息确认他们不是美国人的访问者提供资料。如果访问者提供了一个非美国的地址和电话号码,那么访问者可以获得一个密码,从而允许获得网站所提供的材料。SEC已经表示,从发行人的角度,这将被视为合理措施,即使访问者提供误导的地址或电话。(如果访问者后续采用美国地址或电话号码提交认购协议,发行人应拒绝认购,因为这时发行人将知道投资者是一个美国人,因此,投资者是没有资格接收在网站上提供的材料。)

o 对美国人的资格预审过程——如果网站访问者提供表明美国住址或电话号码,那么他或她不能立即收到密码去查看EB-5提供材料。然而,该网站可能给访问者回复消息建议,如果访问者提前提供信息来证明他或她是一个“合格投资者”,那么该网站提供者会给未来潜在投资者建议能提供的EB-5产品。访问者将会指示填写一份包括他或她的净资产和年收入的信息问卷,旨在确认访问者是一个认证的合格投资者,可以投资法规D产品。在过去的无异议函中,SEC已经允许这样一个过程,在一个适当的等待期后,来建立一个与一个潜在的美国投资者的关系,并且表明,这样一个程序,从法规的角度,不会被视为大范围募资。

o 同样限制适用于海外代理的网站——SEC建议,任何第三方网站,用于对EB-5证券发行进行募资,其中包括海外代理提供的网站,必须适用于那些与发行人本身相同的限制。

o对于现有EB-5项目,仅仅提供有限的信息——EB-5证券的发行人或区域中心可能需要告知目前正在运作EB-5项目的第三方,不能为这些项目提供太多具体信息。项目信息应只限于位置、项目的类型、开发商和EB-5投资者将会投资的项目的其他一般信息。网站应该引导想要得到更多项目信息的人,提供居住信息,来获取密码来访问这些信息,正如前面所描述的那样。

按照这些网站指南,是以符合美国证券法来进行EB-5融资,的重要步骤。此外,EB-5发行者、营销代理和其他从事EB-5产品证券发行的人,都应该阅读并遵循IIUSA在其网站IIUSA.org中建议的EB-5发行的最佳实践。

原文作者:AAEB5集团总裁Victor Shum和Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP的Catherine DeBono Holmes律师

原文来源:www.lexology.com。

The basic rules of website advertising for EB-5 securities offerings

Victor Shum, CEO of Advantage America EB-5 Group

Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP - Catherine DeBono Holmes

EB-5 securities issuers, sponsors and others who market EB-5 securities often want to use websites to provide information to potential investors regarding their past and current EB-5 projects. When using these websites, it is important to understand the U.S. securities laws that apply to internet marketing of securities within and outside the U.S. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief explanation of these securities laws and guidelines to consider when using websites to identify or market EB-5 securities offerings.

Using websites to advertise EB-5 offerings is considered a form of “general solicitation” under U.S. securities laws, unless guidelines to restrict access to non-U.S. persons are followed. Since 1995, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has held the position that posting offering materials on a website in a way that can be accessed by any viewer is a general advertisement or general solicitation, unless some restrictive access measures are implemented to allow access only to permitted persons. In 1998, the SEC issued an interpretation on the use of internet websites to offer or advertise securities outside the U.S., providing guidance on specific measures that can be taken to retain the Regulation S exemption for offerings made to non-U.S. persons outside the U.S., and concurrently retain the right to make an offering under Regulation D to persons located in the U.S. at the time of the offering. The guidelines provided in this article are derived in part from that SEC release.

If an EB-5 securities issuer intends to accept any U.S. investor, it is necessary to meet the requirements of Regulation D, including the restrictions on use of websites to advertise the offering. Although EB-5 securities offerings are generally offered to investors outside the United States, it is not unusual that some investors making an EB-5 investment will be located in the United States at the time they receive information about an EB-5 offering, or they receive or sign EB-5 offering documents. Such investors may be international students attending university in the U.S. or other temporary U.S. visa holders. All of those types of persons are considered “U.S. Persons” under Regulation S, and issuers are not qualified to rely on the Regulation S exemption with respect to EB-5 securities sold to those U.S. Persons. For that reason, most EB-5 offerings rely on SEC Regulation S for investors who are outside the U.S. when they are solicited, or they receive or sign offering documents, or on SEC Regulation D for sales to U.S. Persons. When an issuer of EB-5 securities intends to rely on Regulation D to accept some investors who are “U.S. Persons,” the issuer and its agents must take care to assure that all websites used to promote the EB-5 offering – including those of the issuer and those of all of the agents promoting the offering – will meet the requirements of Regulation D.

Regulation D now has two options: use general solicitation with verification of “accredited investor” status for all U.S. Person investors or use no general solicitation for U.S. Person investors. In July 2013, the SEC implemented aspects of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) and amended Regulation D under Rule 506(c) to allow the use of general solicitation for investors who are U.S. Persons, if the issuer requires verification of every U.S. Person investor’s status as an “accredited investor,” by requiring that investors submit copies of their tax returns, bank statements or other recognized means of verification. However, the SEC also allows issuers to follow the old Regulation D requirements under Rule 506(b), which do not require verification of accredited investor status from U.S. Person investors, as long as no general solicitation is used for the offering. This means that if an EB-5 securities issuer wants to use general solicitation with no restriction, including no restrictions on websites offering the securities, it can do that, as long as it required every U.S. Person investor to provide one of the recognized means of verification of their status as an “accredited investor.”

If an EB-5 securities issuer chooses not to require verification of accredited investor status, then restrictions should be placed on the availability of information concerning current EB-5 offerings on websites easily accessible to U.S. Persons. If the EB-5 securities issuer elects to follow the “no general solicitation” option under Regulation D, then the guidelines suggested by the SEC in its interpretation on the use of websites for offshore offerings should be followed. In that interpretation, issuers are advised to use precautionary measures that are reasonably designed to ensure that offshore internet offers are not targeted to U.S Persons, including the following measures:

Disclaimers – A website should include a prominent disclaimer making it clear that any offering of securities is directed only to countries other than the U.S., and is not being offered in the U.S. or to U.S. Persons. If the EB-5 issuer will accept U.S. Persons who are accredited investors, that statement should also be made in the disclaimer.

Password Protection to Restrict Access to Offering Documents to Non-U.S Persons Only – A website that offers access to offering materials should limit access to those materials to those viewers who first provide their residence information to confirm that they are not U.S. Persons. If the viewer provides a non-U.S. address and telephone number, the viewer could be provided with a password that allows access to the offering materials. The SEC has stated that this will be considered reasonable measures on the part of the issuer, even if the viewer misrepresents his or her address or telephone. (If the viewer later submits a subscription agreement with a U.S. address or telephone number, the issuer would have to reject the subscription because at that time the issuer would know that the investor is a U.S. Person and therefore was not eligible to receive the offering materials on the website.)

Pre-Qualification Procedure for U.S. Persons – Website viewers who indicate a U.S. residence or telephone number should not receive an immediate password to view EB-5 Offering materials. However, the website could respond with a message to the viewer advising that, if the viewer provides information to show in advance that he or she is an accredited investor, the website provider will advise the prospective investor in the future of available EB-5 offerings. The viewer would be directed to fill out a questionnaire including information on his or her net worth and annual income, designed to confirm that the viewer is an accredited investor qualified to invest in Regulation D offerings. The SEC has, in past no-action letters, allowed such a procedure to establish a relationship with a potential U.S. investor after an appropriate waiting period, and stated that such a procedure would not be deemed general solicitation for Regulation purposes.

Same Restrictions for Websites of Offshore Agents – The SEC advises that any third party website that is used to generate interest in an EB-5 securities offering, including a website provided by an offshore agent, is subject to the same restrictions as those that apply to the issuer itself.

Limited Project Only Information for Current EB-5 Offerings – An issuer of EB-5 securities or a regional center may want to inform third parties of what EB-5 projects it is currently working on, without providing offering information for those projects. Project information should be limited to the location, type of project, developer and other general information regarding the project in which an EB-5 investment will be made. The website should direct persons who desire to receive more information about that project to provide the residency information and obtain the password to access that information, as previously indicated.

Following these website guidelines is an important step in conducting EB-5 securities offerings in a manner that complies with U.S. securities laws. In addition, EB-5 issuers, marketing agents and others engaged in EB-5 securities offerings should read and follow the Best Practices for EB-5 Offerings suggested by the IIUSA appearing on its website at IIUSA.org.

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