The Securities and Exchange Commission today adopted amendments to the “accredited investor” definition, one of the principal tests for determining who is eligible to participate in our private capital markets. Historically, individual investors who do not meet specific income or net worth tests, regardless of their financial sophistication, have been denied the opportunity to invest in our multifaceted and vast private markets. The amendments update and improve the definition to more effectively identify institutional and individual investors that have the knowledge and expertise to participate in those markets.
“Today’s amendments are the product of years of effort by the Commission and its staff to consider and analyze approaches to revising the accredited investor definition,” said Chairman Jay Clayton. “For the first time, individuals will be permitted to participate in our private capital markets not only based on their income or net worth, but also based on established, clear measures of financial sophistication. I am also pleased that we have expanded and updated the list of entities, including tribal governments and other organizations, that may qualify to participate in certain private offerings.”
The amendments allow investors to qualify as accredited investors based on defined measures of professional knowledge, experience or certifications in addition to the existing tests for income or net worth. The amendments also expand the list of entities that may qualify as accredited investors, including by allowing any entity that meets an investments test to qualify.
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Updating the Accredited Investor Definitions
Aug. 26, 2020
The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted amendments to update and improve the definition of “accredited investor” in the Commission’s rules and the definition of “qualified institutional buyer” in Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933. The amendments to the accredited investor definition add new categories of qualifying natural persons and entities and make certain other modifications to the existing definition. The amendments to the qualified institutional buyer definition similarly expand the list of eligible entities under that definition.
These amendments are part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to simplify, harmonize, and improve the exempt offering framework, thereby expanding investment opportunities while maintaining appropriate investor protections and promoting capital formation.
In June 2019, the Commission requested public comment on its Concept Release on Harmonization of Securities Offering Exemptions. In the Concept Release, the Commission requested comments on possible approaches to amending the accredited investor definition, which is a central component of several exemptions from registration, including Rules 506(b) and 506(c) of Regulation D, and plays an important role in other federal and state securities law contexts. The Concept Release was preceded by a Commission staff report issued in December 2015 on the accredited investor definition, which examined the background and history of the definition and considered comments and recommendations on amending the definition.
After taking into account the views expressed by members of the public and recommendations over the years from various Commission advisory committees and the annual SEC Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation, the Commission proposed in December 2019 to amend the accredited investor definition. In March 2020, the Commission continued the harmonization effort by proposing amendments to the exempt offering framework.
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