Businesses and start ups are on their way to selling ownership stakes in their companies by soliciting investors over the Internet under a proposal advanced by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The plan would set rules for equity crowdfunding, which lawmakers said would spur growth by easing financing when they mandated it in the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. The rules, which the SEC voted 5-0 to release for public comment on Tuesday, may boost the crowdfunding movement and help the agency through its backlog of regulations required by the JOBS Act and Dodd-Frank.
Businesses and startups too small or risky to attract funding from banks or venture capitalists are expected to use equity crowdfunding. Regulators say they tried to address concerns that such fundraising will create a channel for fraud by allowing upstart companies to issue illiquid shares to retail investors.
A company using equity crowdfunding is limited to raising a maximum of $1 million per year. While companies raising smaller amounts would have to share financial statements and income-tax returns with investors, a business looking to raise more than $500,000 would have to provide audited financial statements.