What Are QIBs and Accredited Investors? What’s the Difference?

If you’re studying for securities licensing exams, such as the SIE or the Series 7, then you should understand the terms “accredited investor” and “QIB.” Continue reading

If you’ve been studying for the Series 7, 6, 14, 22, 24, 65, 79, or 82, or the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), then you’ve had to learn about Regulation D private placements and Rule 144A sales. Regulation D private placements are securities offerings that are exempt from the normal SEC registration process and in many cases are sold only to “accredited investors” or limit the involvement of investors who are not accredited. Rule 144A sales are sales of unregistered securities to large institutional investors known as “qualified institutional buyers” or QIBs for short. 
 
You may have wondered about the difference between accredited investors and QIBs. On the surface, these may seem similar. Each refers to a category of investor with resources and/or knowledge above and beyond the average retail investor. So why not just have one standard for buyers under both Rule 144A and Regulation D? After all, the purpose of both Regulation D and Rule 144A is the same: to allow wealthier and more sophisticated investors easier access to investments that may be too risky for the average investor.  
 
To begin to answer this question, we have to start with the fact that wealth and sophistication fall on a spectrum. Investors aren’t neatly divided between small retail investors and huge financial institutions that move millions around without blinking an eye. 

Accredited Investors

You could think of accredited investors as a middle ground between these two extremes. Accredited investors are investors whose financial status or investment knowledge may give them a greater ability to handle the risks inherent in a private placement. There are many ways to qualify as an accredited investor but they all have one thing in common, which is that the SEC believes they indicate an ability to take on risks that regulators believe are unsuitable for most retail investors.

Accredited investors are investors whose financial status or investment knowledge may give them a greater ability to handle the risks inherent in a private placement.

All of the following are considered accredited investors:
  • Banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, insurance companies, and investment companies
  • Corporations, trusts, partnerships, and LLCs with more than $5 million in assets
  • Most employee benefit plans with more than $5 million in assets
  • The issuer’s directors, executive officers, and general partners
  • If the issuer is a privately owned fund, (such as a hedge fund), a knowledgeable employee of the fund, which means an employee with at least 12 months’ experience working on the fund’s investment activities
  • Individuals with income of $200,000 in each of the last two years, or $300,000 in combination with a spouse or spousal equivalent such as a domestic partner
  • Individuals with a net worth more than $1 million, alone or with a spouse or spousal equivalent, not including primary residence
  • Individuals who hold any of these three designations in good standing:
    • Licensed General Securities Representative (Series 7)
    • Licensed Investment Adviser Representative (Series 65)
    • Licensed Private Securities Offerings Representative (Series 82)
  • Any firm where all owners are accredited investors (e.g., venture capital firms)
  • Any other entity with more than $5 million in investments that was not formed specifically to qualify as an accredited investor; the purpose of this category is to include entities that don’t neatly fit into any of the above categories, such as:
    • Native American tribes
    • Labor unions
    • Government bodies, including those of foreign governments
    • Investment funds created by government bodies
    • New types of business entities that may be introduced by new laws

An accredited investor that is not an individual—such as a business, governmental, or nonprofit entity—is sometimes called an institutional accredited investor (IAI).

Qualified Institutional Buyers

QIBs are a narrower group of large institutional investors. A QIB is a large institutional investor that owns at least $100 million worth of securities, not counting securities issued by its affiliates. For registered broker-dealers, the threshold is lower, just $10 million. A bank must also have a net worth of at least $25 million in order to be considered a QIB. 
 
If a firm has discretionary authority to invest securities owned by a QIB, those securities count toward whether the firm itself is considered a QIB. So if a broker-dealer has $9 million worth of securities in its own accounts, and holds $1 million worth of securities in a discretionary account belonging to a QIB, then the broker-dealer is itself a QIB.  

Common examples of QIBs include broker-dealers, insurance companies, investment companies, pension plans, and banks. However, any corporation, partnership, or LLC could qualify as a QIB. So can an IAI that owns at least $100 million in securities. Individuals can never be QIBs, regardless of their assets or financial sophistication.

Individuals can never be QIBs, regardless of their assets or financial sophistication.

Rule 144A allows QIBs to buy unregistered securities at any time, and freely trade these shares to other QIBs. In effect, QIBs can trade unregistered shares among themselves with almost the same ease as trading registered shares. Selling unregistered securities to anyone other than a QIB commonly requires a the seller to hold the securities for a period of up to 12 months. 

A QIB will virtually always meet the criteria to be an accredited investor, whereas an accredited investor may fall well short of QIB status.

Over time, other securities laws and regulations have made use of these two well-known categories. For example, in 2019 the SEC gave issuers more flexibility to test the waters with potential investors before deciding whether to go through with a public offering. When deciding which investors were sophisticated enough to receive test-the-waters communications, the SEC limited these communications to QIBs and institutional accredited investors. Additionally, references to institutional accredited investors have become more common, such as when the SEC revamped its rules around integration of offerings in March 2021.  
 
Know your QIBs from your accredited investors and be ready to pass your securities exam with Solomon Exam Prep.


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Solomon Pass Probability™ Now Available for the FINRA Series 82

Everyone would like to feel confident when they take their securities exam, but how do you know if you’re ready for test day? Solomon Exam Prep can help – with Pass Probability™. Continue reading

Everyone would like to feel confident when they take their securities exam, but how do you know if you’re ready for test day? Solomon Exam Prep can help! With Pass Probability™, now available for the FINRA Series 82 exam, Solomon takes the guesswork out of deciding when to sit for your exam.

Pass Probability™ is Solomon Exam Prep’s innovative technology that measures your readiness to pass your securities exam. Once you take five practice exams in the Solomon Exam Simulator, the Pass Probability™ tool calculates the probability that you will pass your test, with a percentage out of 100.

"A securities licensing exam is hard work and high stakes. Your enemy is uncertainty. Solomon's industry-leading Pass Probability™ feature is based on the results of thousands of Solomon securities students and uses a proprietary algorithm to reduce uncertainty. So you can enter the exam room with confidence."
Jeremy Solomon
Co-founder and President of Solomon Exam Prep

Remediation Reporting

But what should you do if you take five practice exams, and the Solomon algorithm determines that you are not ready to take your exam? This is where Solomon’s brand-new feature, the Remediation Report, comes in.

The Remediation Report is an individualized report outlining how to focus your efforts BEFORE taking your exam. It provides an added level of customized study support – sent right to your email.

The Remediation Report gives you:
  • Summary of current study progress 
  • Personalized recommendations on areas for growth 
  • Study tips for the homestretch 
  • Reminders about student support elements 

In addition to the Series 82, Solomon Pass Probability and Remediation Reports are currently available for the following exams: SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, Series 66, and Series 79. 

Solomon Exam Prep Offers Powerful New AI Feature: Remediation Reporting

Learn about the Solomon Remediation Report, a new analytical feature designed to help students pass their securities licensing exams the first time. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep is delighted to announce an advanced analytical feature called a Remediation Report. The Solomon system analyzes a student’s five most recent practice exams and determines whether a student is ready to take his or her exam. If Solomon AI determines that a student is not ready to sit for their exam, then it creates an individual report with personalized guidance on how to remediate and prepare to pass. This custom Remediation Report is sent to the Solomon student’s email inbox.

The Solomon Remediation Report is connected to the Solomon Pass Probability tool, the industry-leading measure of a security exam prep student’s readiness to pass an exam. Solomon Pass Probability is based on thousands of student data points. Once a Solomon student has taken at least five practice exams, the Solomon Pass Probability feature is activated, and the Pass Probability metric is available in the student’s dashboard. The Solomon Remediation Report provides an additional level of customized study support by helping students focus their efforts and remediate before they sit for their exam.

Solomon Pass Probability and Remediation Reports are currently available for the following exams: SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, Series 66, Series 79, and Series 82.

To learn about all the features of the Solomon Exam Prep learning system, watch the video overview.

What is a SPAC and should you care about it for the FINRA Series 79 exam?

SPACs have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and the growth is only accelerating. What will this mean for regulations and the Series 79 exam? Continue reading

It sounds like a securities-industry riddle: what do you call a blank check company with no hard assets that holds a multimillion dollar IPO? But the answer is very real: SPACs (special purposes acquisition companies) are an alternative to traditional IPOs that have exploded in popularity.

What’s a “blank check company?”  A blank check company is an exchange-listed shell company that, according to the SEC, has “no specific business plan or…its business plan is to engage in a merger or acquisition.”

The purpose of a SPAC is to raise money to acquire a privately held company. Think of it as crowdfunding on a massive scale. First, the SPAC sells shares of itself in an IPO. Then it uses the IPO proceeds to fund a merger between itself and a target company. When the merger is complete, the SPAC’s shareholders become shareholders in the target company. Investors buy SPAC shares based on their confidence that the SPAC’s management will complete the merger, and the anticipated value of the shares after the merger.

SPACs have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and the growth is only accelerating. The amount raised by SPAC IPOs in 2020 more than quadrupled the amount they raised in 2019. According to Reuters, the total value of SPAC mergers in 2021 has already exceeded the total size of SPAC mergers for all of 2020.

What does this mean for regulations?

As investor excitement around SPACs has heated up, there are indications that the SEC is beginning to take a closer look at this new kind of IPO. On March 10th, the SEC issued a warning against investing based on celebrity involvement with a SPAC. Celebrities with high-profile ties to SPACs include A-Rod, Shaquille O’Neal, Serena Williams, and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee recently warned of “more and more evidence on the risk side of the equation for SPACs as we see studies showing that their performance for most investors doesn’t match the hype.”

While none of this guarantees that new rules for SPACs are around the corner, it does make it more likely that FINRA’s Series 79 investment banking exam may begin to include mention of SPACs. They are a topic that investment bankers are increasingly likely to encounter in practice, and therefore are increasingly likely to be viewed as fair game for the exam.

Solomon Exam Prep is ahead of the curve with new material in our Series 79 Study Guide. Series 79 customers can find material on SPACs now included in the online edition of Solomon Study Guide.

Potentially testable points about SPACs include:
  • SPAC are formed by “sponsors,” commonly institutional investors or high net worth individuals, who are compensated with both a portion of the IPO proceeds, as well as an equity stake in the SPAC of up to 20%.
  • SPAC’s typically avoid committing to merge with a specific company, even if the SPAC was formed with the intention of targeting that company. The SPAC’s management may respond to changing market conditions by choosing a different target, subject to approval from the SPAC’s shareholders.
  • After a SPAC goes public, its shares trade freely on exchanges even before it completes a merger.
  • A SPAC must hold at least 85% of proceeds from its IPO in an escrow account.
  • The SPAC commits to return investor funds if it fails to complete a merger within a specified timeframe.
  • As a blank check company with no business operations of its own, a SPAC cannot take advantage of certain options available to more established securities issuers. For example, a SPAC is not permitted to make an electronic version of its road show presentation.

Solomon Exam Prep will continue to follow industry trends and how they affect your licensing exams.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands pass their securities licensing exams, including the SIE and the Series 3, 6, 7, 14, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 63, 65, 66, 79, 82 and 99.

March Study Question of the Month

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Continue reading

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

***Comment below or submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $20 Starbucks gift card.***

This question is relevant to the Series 14, 79, 82, and SIE exams.

Question:

A research analyst who works for an underwriter that participated in an IPO may not publicly discuss or write a research report about the company until __________________.

Answer Choices:

A. 30 days after the registration is filed 

B. 20 days after the securities are issued

C. 10 days after the date of the IPO

D. 30 days after the date of the IPO

Correct Answer: C – 10 days after the date of the IPO

Explanation: A research analyst who works for an underwriter of an IPO must not discuss or write a research report about the company for 10 days after the IPO.  This 10-day period of silence is called a ‘quiet period.’ There is no quiet period for EGCs (emerging growth companies). 


To explore free samples of Solomon Exam Prep’s industry-leading online exam simulators for the SIE, Series 14, Series 79, Series 82, and many more exams, visit the Solomon website here.

December Study Question of the Month

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Continue reading

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

***Comment below or submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $20 Starbucks gift card.***

This question is relevant to the Series 6, 7, 14 and 79 exams.

Question: 
 
Which of the following is not typically part of an underwriting agreement?
 
Answer Choices:
 
A. Description of the per-share underwriting spread
 
B. Description of a Greenshoe option
 
C. Terms between syndicate members and selling group dealers
 
D. Terms under which the underwriter can terminate the contract
 
 

Correct Answer: C

Explanation: The underwriting agreement, which is typically signed the evening before or the morning of the effective date of a securities issue typically includes the per-share underwriting spread, an over-allotment (Greenshoe) option if granted, and the underwriter’s termination rights. It also is the document that contains the public offering price or a formula to derive it.

 

SEC Announces Major Revisions to Registration Exemptions Aimed at “Harmonizing” Regulation A Offerings, Regulation D Private Placements, and Crowdfunding

On November 2, the SEC announced a collection of rule changes meant to, in the announcement’s words, “harmonize, simplify, and improve” its “overly complex exempt offering framework.” Continue reading

On November 2, the SEC announced a collection of rule changes meant to, in the announcement’s words, “harmonize, simplify, and improve” its “overly complex exempt offering framework.” The changes affect Regulation A, which governs small public offerings; Regulation D, which governs private placements; and Regulation CF, which governs crowdfunding. This system of exemptions allows various small offerings to avoid the normal registration process required by the Securities Act.  
 
The rule changes should provide a clearer choice as to which exemption is most appropriate to an issuer, based on how much the issuer needs to raise and other factors.
 
The changes also seek to clarify how issuers can avoid “integration” of exempt offerings. Integration is the risk that exempt offerings will be considered a single offering by the SEC, because the offerings are too similar.
 
Highlights of the changes include:
 
  • If two exempt offerings are conducted more than 30 days apart, they are almost always protected from integration.
  • An issuer can “test the waters” with potential investors before deciding which exemption it will use for an offering. Test-the-waters communications solicit interest in a potential offering before the issuer has filed anything with the SEC. Previously, an issuer could only test the waters after deciding that its potential offering would take place under Regulation A.
  • Caps on the amount that may be raised through these exemptions have been increased:
    • Crowdfunding: from $1.07 million to $5 million
    • Regulation A, Tier 2: from $50 million to $75 million 
    • Regulation D, Rule 504: from $5 million to $10 million
  • Make “bad actor” exclusions more consistent across different exemptions.
The rule changes will take effect early next year. Until the changes take effect, securities exam questions will continue to be based on the old rules. FINRA Exams affected by these rule changes include the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 14, Series 22, Series 24, Series 65, Series 66, Series 79, and Series 82.

Market Circuit Breakers — A Post-Brexit Reminder

With post-Brexit vote market turmoil, it’s good to remember that the Securities Exchange Commission requires trading halts across US markets in the event that stocks fall more than specified percentages in one day. Continue reading

stop-634941_1280With post-Brexit vote market turmoil, it’s good to remember that the Securities Exchange Commission requires trading halts across US markets in the event that stocks fall more than specified percentages in one day. This information is also important to know if you are studying for securities licensing exam such as the Series 7, Series 24, Series 26, Series 62, Series 79, and the Series 65.

A market-wide trading halt can be triggered at three thresholds. These thresholds are triggered by steep declines in the S&P 500 Index. They are calculated based on the prior day’s closing price of the Index.

• Level 1 Halt—a 7% drop in the S&P 500 prior to 3:25 p.m. ET will result in a 15-minute cross-market trading halt. There will be no halt if the drop occurs at or after 3:25 p.m. ET.

• Level 2 Halt—a 13% drop in the S&P 500 prior to 3:25 p.m. ET will result in a 15-minute cross-market trading halt. There will be no halt if the drop occurs at or after 3:25 p.m. ET.

• Level 3 Halt—a 20% drop in the S&P 500 at any time during the day will result in a cross-market trading halt for the remainder of the day.

These halts apply to securities and options trading on all the exchanges as well as the OTC market. Levels 1 and 2 trading halts are permitted just once a day.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands of financial professionals pass the Series 6, 7, 63, 65, 66, 24, 26, 27, 50, 51, 52, 53, 62, 79, 82 and 99 exams.

For more information call 503 601 0212 or visit http://www.solomonexamprep.com/

Study Question of the Month – November

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Relevant to the Series 6, 7, 62, 65 and 79. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 6Series 7Series 62Series 65 and Series 79): A few years back ABC Corporation issued callable bonds yielding 6%. The call price is 104, and the call protection period has ended. The bonds are trading at 105 today. Which of the following are true:

I. The current yield on these bonds is 6.3%

II. The current yield on these bonds is 5.7%

III. There is a good chance the bonds will be called

IV. There is a good chance the bonds will not be called

Answers: 

A. I and III

B. I and IV

C. II and III

D. II and IV

Correct Answer: C. II and III

Rationale: The formula for calculating current yield is the annual interest on the bond ($60) divided by the current price of the bond ($1050) which is equal to 5.7%. Because ABC can finance the debt at a lower interest rate than they are currently paying there is a good chance that they will call the bonds.

Congratulations Stephen Z., this month’s Study Question of the Month winner!

All study questions are from Solomon’s industry-leading Online Exam Simulator.

FINRA Institutes Rule 2241, Replacing NASD Rule 2711 and NYSE Rule 472

On September 25, 2015, FINRA implemented a new rule regarding the relationship between investment banking personnel and research analysts. FINRA rule 2241 replaces NASD Rule 2711 and NYSE Rule 472. NASD Rule 2711 was created to prevent investment bankers from pressuring research analysts at the investment bank to write favorable research reports about securities that the investment bank was distributing or planning to distribute. Continue reading

Exam AlertOn September 25, 2015, FINRA implemented a new rule regarding the relationship between investment banking personnel and research analysts. FINRA rule 2241  replaces NASD Rule 2711 and NYSE Rule 472. NASD Rule 2711 was created to prevent investment bankers from pressuring research analysts at the investment bank to write favorable research reports about securities that the investment bank was distributing or planning to distribute.

The new rule is similar to the rules it replaces with a series of changes that will be implemented to further promote objective and reliable research.

The new rule requires member firms to establish, maintain and enforce written procedures regarding conflicts of interest between research analysts and other people within the firm (e.g., personnel from investment banking, trading and sales). The written policies and procedures should allow analysts to produce objective and reliable research that reflects their true opinions about the securities they are evaluating. The policies and procedures should prevent firms from using research to manipulate or condition the market.

Rule 2241 prevents investment banking personnel from reviewing research reports for factual accuracy before publication. This practice was allowed in the previous rule. Also, firms must specify in their policies and procedures if and when non-research personnel would be allowed to review a research report before publication. If such prepublication review by non-research personnel is permitted then a firm’s written policies and procedures must specify under what circumstances that would be necessary and appropriate. Under the new rule, a FINRA member firm’s written policies and procedures must prohibit pre-publication review of research reports by a subject company (i.e., an issuer) for purposes other than fact-checking.

The new rule says that firms must establish information barriers to ensure that research analysts are insulated from the review, pressure or oversight of other personnel, such as investment banking, sales, and trading. The rule also extends the prohibition on retaliation, preventing employees from retaliating against a research analyst for writing an unfavorable report.

Interestingly, the rule 2241 reduces the quiet periods for IPOs to 10 days for all underwriters and dealers involved in the IPO (it was formerly 40 days for managers and co-managers and 25 days for underwriters and dealers). The quiet period has been reduced to three days for managers or co-managers on follow-on offerings. During a quiet period, firms may not publish or distribute research reports about the issuer, and research analysts may not make public appearances about the issuer.

The new rule continues to prevent investment-banking personnel from supervising research analysts or exerting any influence over analysts’ compensation. In addition, research analysts may not participate in the solicitation of investment banking business. Moreover, research analysts may not communicate with a customer or prospective customer about an investment banking transaction in the presence of the firm’s management or investment banking department personnel. Similarly, investment-banking personnel are forbidden from directing a research analyst either to participate in soliciting investment-banking business or to communicate with a customer or prospective customer about an investment banking transaction.

Note: In 2012, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act loosened constraints on research analysts for emerging growth companies (EGCs), defined as businesses with less than $1 billion in revenue. Specifically, the JOBS Act prohibits regulators from imposing a quiet period on EGCs. This means that research analysts from an underwriting firm that participated in an emerging growth company’s IPO may make both public appearances and distribute research reports during the quiet period. If the company is an emerging growth company, a research analyst may attend a pitch meeting, but not participate in soliciting investment-banking business.

Source: Regulatory Notice 15-30

This alert applies to the Series 7, Series 24, Series 79, and Series 82.