Grassroots Securities Deregulation

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In July, I blogged here about the "crowdfunding exemption" petition, File No. 4-605, which the SEC had just posted to their website. The petition seeks to allow people to solicit investment of up to $100,000 in amounts capped at $100 without having to register with either the SEC or their state's department of corporations (a process which can cost $50,000 and up). Many people, myself included, believe that this simple exemption, which the SEC has the authority to allow, presents minimal risk to investors and would have many positive effects on innovation, culture, opportunity, the economy, etc.

The fun news is, the proposal seems to be gaining traction! It turns out that others have been advocating similar exemptions, including Michael Shuman, author of Going Local and The Small-Mart Revolution. And now, the American Sustainable Business Council, a lobbying and advocacy group with many right-on members, has decided to support SEC rulemaking petition 4-605 as part of a new "Sustainable Economic Development" campaign, which will also encourage the SBA (Small Business Administration) to promote "TBL" accounting (Triple Bottom Line: financial, labor, and environmental). But note that the ASBC's new campaign will be on their back burner (and won't appear on their website) until January or so, because they're currently focused on other efforts, which require the current Congress during its remaining time in session.

Meanwhile, Jenny Kassan of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), who authored 4-605, did a great radio interview about the petition on Oct 29 on "U Need 2 Know" with Frank Knapp (tagline: Talk Radio for the Brain), on WOIC 1230 AM, Columbia, SC. Knapp starts out by saying he's "fascinated" by our proposal. The interview is about 12 minutes long-- check it out!

Members of the public are invited to comment on the proposal by emailing rule-comments@sec.gov with "File No. 4-605" in the Subject line. All comments are posted to the SEC's website here, and a nice variety of people have sent in original and thoughtful comments, including Michael Sauvante, Mark White, James J. Angel, Danae Ringelmann, Eric Saint-Andre, Andres La Saga, Peter J. Chepucavage, and myself.

Also, CREDO Action member Mimi Plevin-Foust has posted a petition on Change.org that does a terrific job of summarizing the issue and lets you submit a comment to the SEC by clicking a "Sign" button. Mimi's original goal of 100 signers was quickly met, so she raised it to 200, and then 500. Note that the letters generated by the CREDO/Change.org petition are sent to the office of SEC Chair Mary Schapiro, not rule-comments@sec.gov, so they will not appear on the SEC's website. (Even if they did, they would not be listed individually; the SEC handles robo-letters by tallying them anonymously as "Letter Type A", as you can see in the comments submitted for this previous petition: 2195 unnamed / undated robo-signatures tallied at the top of the page, and about 25 original letters listed by date and author.)

Someone from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the same office that likes Maker Faire, MAKE, and Mythbusters, contacted me to recommend that I attend the SEC Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation (a.k.a. Small Business Forum) next Thursday, November 18th. He said that OSTP is looking at crowdfunding as a possible way of promoting entrepreneurship and high-growth startups. Great! This was very encouraging, and others who also know Washington have made the same suggestion. So I'm going, along with representatives from the SELC, who drafted File No. 4-605, the ASBC, and many others. Almost every day over the past week, I've learned about someone else from some other interesting-sounding organization or company who will be joining our crew at the all-day forum. It's open to the public, so come on down! You can register to attend in person or remotely.

A bunch of us are also gathering the night before the forum, Nov 17th, at CommonWealth Gastropub starting at around 7:30, to meet in person, hang out, and scheme. All are welcome-- it should be interesting and fun!

As for the SEC Forum itself, the stated purpose of which is for the SEC to listen to the needs of small business, the official agenda indicates that it's all presentations and discussion by the SEC and their invited panelists until 2pm, at which point we reassemble into breakout groups to develop recommendations (we'll all be in Room 6000). The agenda does not make it clear how the resulting recommendations make it back to the SEC, and also indicates that that neither SEC Commissioners nor SEC staff are expected to be present at these discussions. So I guess we'll be left alone to play paper football and trash the place.

For more info on this campaign and to sign up for updates visit crowdfundinglaw.com.

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