SEC Proposes Rules to Enhance Disclosure and Investor Protection Relating to Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, Shell Companies, and Projections

The Securities and Exchange Commission today proposed new rules and amendments to enhance disclosure and investor protection in initial public offerings by special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and in business combination transactions involving shell companies, such as SPACs, and private operating companies.

“Nearly 90 years ago, Congress addressed certain policy issues around companies raising money from the public with respect to information asymmetries, misleading information, and conflicts of interest,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “For traditional IPOs, Congress gave the SEC certain tools, which I generally see as falling into three buckets: disclosure; standards for marketing practices; and gatekeeper and issuer obligations. Today’s proposal would help ensure that these tools are applied to SPACs. Ultimately, I think it’s important to consider the economic drivers of SPACs. Functionally, the SPAC target IPO is being used as an alternative means to conduct an IPO. Thus, investors deserve the protections they receive from traditional IPOs, with respect to information asymmetries, fraud, and conflicts, and when it comes to disclosure, marketing practices, gatekeepers, and issuers.”

The proposed new rules and amendments would require, among other things, additional disclosures about SPAC sponsors, conflicts of interest, and sources of dilution. They also would require additional disclosures regarding business combination transactions between SPACs and private operating companies, including disclosures relating to the fairness of these transactions. Further, the new rules would address issues relating to projections made by SPACs and their target companies, including the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act safe harbor for forward-looking statements and the use of projections in Commission filings and in business combination transactions.

If adopted, the proposed rules would more closely align the required financial statements of private operating companies in transactions involving shell companies with those required in registration statements for an initial public offering.

The proposal also includes a new rule addressing the status of SPACs under the Investment Company Act of 1940, which is designed to increase attention among SPACs about this important assessment.  Under the proposed rule, SPACs that satisfy certain conditions that limit their duration, asset composition, business purpose, and activities would not be required to register under the Investment Company Act.

The public comment period will remain open for 60 days following publication of the proposing release on the SEC’s website or 30 days following publication of the proposing release in the Federal Register, whichever period is longer.

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