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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change by National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. Relating to the Definition of “Public Offering” for Purposes of Nasdaq's Shareholder Approval Rules

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Start Preamble October 6, 2000.

Pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”),[1] notice is hereby given that on August 11, 2000, The National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (“NASD” or “Association”), through its wholly owned subsidiary, The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc. (“Nasdaq”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) the proposed rule change as described in Items I, II, and III below, which Items have been prepared by the NASD.[2] On October 4, 2000, the Nasdaq filed Amendment No. 1 to the proposed rule change.[3] The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change from interested persons.

I. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Terms of Substance of the Proposed Rule Change

Nasdaq is filing with the Commission a proposed rule change regarding the adoption of interpretive material defining “Public Offering” for purposes of Nasdaq's shareholder approval rules. Below is the text of the proposed rule change. All text is being added.

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IM-4310-2. Definition of a Public Offering

Marketplace Rules 4310(c)(25)(G)(i)(d), 4320(e)(21)(G)(i)(d), and 4460(i)(1)(D) provide that shareholder approval is required for the issuance of common stock (or securities convertible into or exercisable for common stock) equal to 20 percent or more of the common stock or 20 percent or more of the voting power outstanding before the issuance for less than the greater of book or market value of the stock. Under these rules, however, shareholder approval is not required for a “public offering.”

Issuers are encouraged to consult with Nasdaq staff in order to determine if a particular offering is a “public offering” for purposes of the shareholder approval rules. Generally, a firm commitment underwritten securities offering registered with the Commission will be considered a public offering for these purposes. Likewise, any other securities offering which is registered with the Commission and which is publicly disclosed and distributed in the same general manner and extent as a firm commitment underwritten securities offering will be considered a public offering for purposes of the shareholder approval rules. However, Nasdaq staff will not treat an offering as a “public offering” for purposes of the shareholder approval rules merely because they are registered with the Commission prior to the closing of the transaction.

When determining whether an offering is a “public offering” for purposes of these rules, Nasdaq staff will consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to:

(i) the type of offering (including whether the offering is conducted by an underwriter on a firm commitment basis, or an underwriter or placement agent on a best-efforts basis, or whether the offering is self-directed by the issuer);

(ii) the manner in which the offering is marketed (including the number of investors offered securities, how those inventors were chosen, and the breadth of the marketing effort);

(iii) the extent of the offering's distribution (including the number and identity of the investors who participate in the offering and whether any prior relationship existed between the issuer and those investors);

(iv) the offering price (including the extent of any discount to the market price of the securities offered); and

(v) the extent to which the issuer controls the offering and its distribution.

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II. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

In its filing with the Commission, the NASD included statements concerning the purpose of and basis for the proposed rule change and discussed any comments it received on the proposed rule change. The text of these statement may be examined at the places specified in Item IV below. The NASD has prepared summaries, set forth in Sections (A), (B), and (C) below, of the most significant aspects of such statements.

(A) Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

(a) Purpose

Nasdaq rules require shareholder approval for stock issuances of 20 percent or more of an issuer's total shares outstanding, offered at less than the greater of book or market value. The applicable rules further provide, however, that shareholder approval is not required for a “public offering,” although that term is not defined in the rules. Recently, a number of issuers have inquired as to whether certain large, below-market offerings were “public offerings” because the transactions, which were initiated pursuant to exceptions to the registration requirements, were registered with the Commission prior to closing the transactions.[4] Historically, for purposes of assessing the applicability of the shareholder approval rules, Nasdaq staff has interpreted “public offering” as a broadly distributed, registered offering based on a firm commitment underwriting. Conversely, staff does not consider a transaction to be a “public offering” for these purposes when the transaction is of limited distribution and/or is not based on a firm commitment underwriting, even if the offering was registered. Because the offerings described had limited distributions and, in some cases, the offerees were pre-determined by the issuer, Nasdaq believed that these transactions were not “public offerings” for purposes of the shareholder approval rules.

In order to ensure that all issuers understand how Nasdaq will determine whether a transaction is a “public offering” for purposes of the shareholder approval rules, Nasdaq has prepared the proposed Interpretative Material. Determinations as to whether a transaction is a “public offering” for purposes of these rules will be made based on the facts and circumstances surrounding each particular transaction. Start Printed Page 61012The proposed Interpretative Material identifies a number of factors that will be considered when determining whether an offering is a “public offering,” including: the type of offering; the marketing of the offering; the extent of the offering's distribution; the offering price; and the extent to which the issuer controls the offering and its distribution.

(b) Statutory Basis

The NASD believes that the proposed rule change is consistent with the provisions of Section 15A(b)(6) [5] of the Act, which requires, among other things, that the Association's rules be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest. The Interpretative Material is designed to educate issuers and other interested parties as to how Nasdaq defines a “public offering” in order to ensure that issuers are aware as to which transactions require shareholder approval under the NASD's rules, thus promoting just and equitable principles of trade and protecting investors and the public interest.

(B) Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Burden on Competition

The NASD does not believe that the proposed rule change will result in any burden on competition that is not necessary or appropriate in furtherance of the purposes of the Act.

(C) Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Comments on the Proposed Rule Change Received From Members, Participants, or Others

Written comments were neither solicited nor received.

III. Date of Effectiveness of the Proposed Rule Change and Timing for Commission Action

Within 35 days of the date of publication of this notice in the Federal Register or within such longer period (i) as the Commission may designate up to 90 days of such date if it finds such longer period to be appropriate and publishes its reasons for so finding or (ii) as to which the NASD consents, the Commission will:

A. by order approve such proposed rule change, or

B. institute proceedings to determine whether the proposed rule change should be disapproved.

IV. Solicitation of Comments

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views, and arguments concerning the foregoing. Persons making written submissions should file six copies thereof with the Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington DC 20549-0609. Copies of the submission, all subsequent amendments, all written statements with respect to the proposed rule change that are filed with the Commission, and all written communications relating to the proposed rule change between the Commission and any person, other than those that may be withheld from the public in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552, will be available for inspection and copying in the Commission's Public Reference Room. Copies of such filing will also be available for inspection and copying at the principal office of the NASD. All submissions should refer to File No. SR-NASD-00-50 and should be submitted by November 3, 2000.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[6]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

2.  The American Stock Exchange, Inc. has filed a similar proposed rule change SR-Amex-00-46. See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 43419 (Oct. 6, 2000).

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3.  Amendment No. 1 changes the section under which the proposed rule change was filed from Section 19(b)(3) to Section 19(b)(2) of the Act and made other technical changes. See Letter from Edward Knight, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Nasdaq, to Katherine A. England, Assistant Director, SEC (Oct. 2, 2000).

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4.  Nasdaq understands that the Commission believes that this activity is not appropriate under Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933. See 15 U.S.C. 77e.

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[FR Doc. 00-26381 Filed 10-12-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-M