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Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2017-1
Identification Number 1351

This is in response to your correspondence asking whether Listing Rule 5605(a)(2) (the “Rule”) specifically prohibits the Company from deeming the Directors independent.

The Listing Rules specifically prohibit a finding of independence in certain circumstances, as set forth in the Rule. If any of the circumstances enumerated in the Rule are present with respect to a director, then that director cannot be deemed independent, and the board is not permitted to conclude otherwise. On the other hand, if the enumerated circumstances are not present, then the board must, under the Rule and IM-5605, affirmatively determine that no relationship exists that would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment in carrying out the director’s responsibilities.

We discuss below whether the Rule specifically prohibits a finding of independence with respect to the Directors, given payments the Company has made, and will continue to make, to the Lessor, which is partially owned by the Directors. We do not address the broader question of whether the relationships described among the Directors, the Lessor, and the Company would interfere with the exercise of the Directors’ independent judgment and express no opinion as to the whether such a determination by the Company’s board that they do not interfere would be appropriate in this instance.

According to the information you provided, the Company has a lease agreement for its main office with the Lessor. You also indicated that the annual lease payments made by the Company to the Lessor in the current fiscal year are in excess of $200,000 and 5% of the Lessor’s consolidated gross revenues for the year (the “Payments”).

You explained that the Lessor is organized as Limited Liability Company and that it currently has less than 10 members, each holding a membership interest between 5% and 22.5%. You also stated that one of these members, the only managing member of the Lessor, holds a 20.0% membership interest. Under the Lessor’s operating agreement, the managing member makes all of the control decisions for the Lessor. The operating agreement also provides that all material items require approval of 65% of the membership and routine items require the approval of 51% of the membership. Each of the Directors indirectly owns membership interests in the Lessor of between 17% and 20%.

You also stated that the Directors do not perform any policy making function for the Lessor and do not have a family member who is a partner in, or controlling Shareholder, or an Executive Officer of the Lessor. You further stated that under the Lessor’s operating agreement, you believe the non-managing members’ interest in the Lessor is similar to the interest of a limited partner in a partnership.

Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the Company’s board of directors is not precluded by Rule 5605(a)(2)(D) from finding that the Directors are independent, notwithstanding the Payments. We have reached this conclusion because none of the Directors is (i) a partner in; (ii) a controlling Shareholder of; or (iii) an Executive Officer of the Lessor.

Although the Directors are members of the Lessor, and the Lessor is a limited liability company, you suggested that the Company’s structure could more appropriately be viewed as similar to that of a limited partnership. To the extent that we accept that view, the Directors’ membership interests would be analogous to limited partnership interests and, as noted in IM-5605, the reference to “partner” in Listing Rule 5605(a)(2)(D) is not intended to include limited partners. On the other hand, to the extent the Company’s structure is treated like a corporation, the Directors would be shareholders and none of the Directors would be a controlling Shareholder of the Lessor because under the current ownership and operational structure of the Lessor, as governed by the operating agreement, neither of the Directors has the ability individually to exercise either significant influence over the Lessor’s operations or the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the Lessor. This determination is made based on the specific facts and circumstances you described, including the small number of members of the Lessor, the Directors’ inability (based on their membership interests) to determine the vote on either routine or material items; and the fact that there is a member -- the only managing member -- who makes all the control decisions for the Lessor and has an ownership position that is no less than each of the Directors’. Finally, none of the Directors is an Executive Officer of the Lessor under the Listing Rules because they are not the managing member of the Lessor and do not perform any policy making function for the Lessor. In addition, and as explained in IM-5605Rule 5605(a)(2)(B) is generally intended to capture situations where compensation is made directly to (or for the benefit of) a director. Nonetheless we note that to the extent we were to look through the Lessor and treat the Payments as compensation made directly to the Lessor’s members, the portion of the payments attributable to each Director would be less than $120,000 in the current fiscal year and the Payments would therefore not prevent the Directors from being considered independent by Rule 5605(a)(2)(B).

Notwithstanding this determination, the Company remains subject, on an ongoing basis, to Rule 5605(a)(2) and IM-5605, which require the Company’s board to make an affirmative determination that no relationship exists between the Company and the Directors that would interfere with their exercise of independent judgment in carrying out their responsibilities as directors. As noted above, we are not expressing any opinion as to the whether the Board could reasonably make such a determination.

Publication Date*: 4/11/2017 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1351
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2009-21
Identification Number 739
This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of NASDAQ’s shareholder approval requirements of Listing Rules 5635(b) and 5635(d) (the “Rules”) to a proposed issuance of securities (the “Proposed Transaction”).
 
According to the information you provided, in the Proposed Transaction the company would issue warrants (the “Warrants”) to a current shareholder (the “Shareholder”) in connection with the Shareholder’s providing a credit facility (the “Credit Facility”). The Warrants would be exercisable for less than the book value per share. The aggregate number of shares of common stock that could be issued upon the exercise of the Warrants would be limited to 19.99% of the pre-transaction outstanding shares of common stock subject to proportional adjustment for stock splits and similar events (the “Aggregate Limit”). In addition, a holder of the Warrants, whether the Shareholder or a subsequent transferee, could not exercise the Warrants if the result would be the holder’s owning more than 19.99% of the company’s outstanding shares of common stock or voting power after giving effect to the shares issued as a result of such exercise (the “Ownership Limit”). The Credit Facility is not convertible into common stock.
 
Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the Proposed Transaction, structured as you described, would not require shareholder approval under the Rules. Given the Ownership Limit, shareholder approval is not required under Listing Rule 5635(b) because the issuance could not result in a change control.  Given the Aggregate Limit, shareholder approval is not required under Listing Rule 5635(d) because the number of shares that could be issued is less than 20% of the pre-transaction outstanding shares.
 
 
Publication Date*: 7/31/2012 Mailto Link Identification Number: 739
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2013-6
Identification Number 1093

This is in response to your interpretive request asking whether a proposed Transaction by the company requires shareholder approval under Listing Rule 5635 (the "Rule").

According to the information you provided, the company, the company's majority shareholder and a new investor are considering entering into a two part agreement, which would result in the reduction of the majority shareholder's ownership from more than 50% to less than 15%, and the new investor obtaining approximately 25% of the company's total shares and voting power outstanding on a post-transaction basis (the "Transaction"). The new investor is a limited partnership in which two executive officers of the company (the "Insiders") would own a minority interest. The general partner of the new investor would also be owned by the Insiders. The Transaction would be structured in two interdependent parts and the closing of each would be conditioned upon the other.

In the Transaction, the company would first repurchase shares of its common stock owned by the majority shareholder (the "Repurchase Transaction"). The Repurchase Transaction would be structured such that the company acquires a wholly owned subsidiary of the majority shareholder (the "Subsidiary"), holding only shares of the company's common stock and net operating losses, in exchange for cash and a fewer number of newly issued shares of common stock. You stated that the shares purchased by the company in the Repurchase Transaction would be at a discount to the market value of those shares and that the newly issued shares would be in exchange for the same number of shares held by the Subsidiary. Following the Repurchase Transaction, the company would own 100% of the Subsidiary and company shares held by the Subsidiary would be considered treasury shares, which have no voting rights and would not be taken into account when calculating the company's earnings per share. You stated that these treasury shares would be entitled to receive dividends, if any, paid by the company, but that such amounts would remain within the company's consolidated financial statements.

Immediately following the Repurchase Transaction, the majority shareholder would sell shares of the company's common stock to the new investor at the same price per share agreed to in the Repurchase Transaction (the "Private Sale").

Currently, the company is a Controlled Company under the Listing Rules and does not have a majority independent board, nominating committee or compensation committee. Following the Transaction, the company will cease to be a Controlled Company and neither the majority shareholder nor the new investor would have any board designation rights. The Insiders currently sit on the company's board and would retain their board seats following the Transaction.

You stated that the company could complete the Transaction without issuing new shares in exchange for the same number of currently outstanding shares in the Repurchase Transaction. However, by structuring the Transaction in the manner described, the company believes that it could achieve a significant economic benefit for its remaining shareholders, including the existing public shareholders.

Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the Transaction does not require shareholder approval under the Rule. Listing Rule 5635(a) requires shareholder approval in certain circumstances "prior to the issuance of securities in connection with the acquisition of the stock or assets of another company"; Listing Rule 5635(b) requires shareholder approval "prior to the issuance of securities when the issuance or potential issuance would result in a change of control of the company"; Listing Rule 5635(c) requires shareholder approval "prior to the issuance of securities when a stock option or purchase plan is to be established or materially amended or other equity compensation arrangement made or materially amended, pursuant to which stock may be acquired by officers, directors, employees, or consultants"; and Listing Rule 5635(d) requires shareholder approval "prior to the issuance of securities" in connection with certain transactions at a price below the greater of book or market value. Each of these rules predicates the need for shareholder approval on an issuance of securities by the company. In the Repurchase Transaction, while the company is providing new shares in exchange for currently outstanding shares, there would be no increase in the number of shares outstanding and, in fact, the number of shares outstanding would decrease. As such, the Repurchase Transaction would not be considered an issuance of the company's securities for purposes of the Listing Rules. In the Private Sale, the majority shareholder is selling shares to the Insiders, and no shares are being issued by the company.

In addition, with respect to Listing Rule 5635(c), we note that shareholder approval is also required in connection with other equity compensation arrangements. Because the company is not issuing shares to any officer, director, employee or consultant at a discount to market value, and because the company would not be required to account for any part of the Transaction as equity compensation under GAAP, we would not consider the Transaction to be an equity compensation arrangement and shareholder approval therefore is not required under Listing Rule 5635(c).

Publication Date*: 10/23/2013 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1093
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2007-23
Identification Number 799
This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of NASDAQ’s shareholder approval and voting rights requirements to the company’s proposed issuance of securities (the “Transaction”).  Specifically, you asked about the potential applicability of Marketplace Rules 4350(i)(1)(B), 4350(i)(1)(D), 4351 and IM-4350-2 (the “Rules”).
 
According to the information you provided, in the Transaction the company would issue shares of non-voting exchangeable preferred stock (the “Preferred Stock”) to the Investor in a private placement.  Although the final terms have not been reached, the number of common shares that could be issued in the event of an exchange could exceed 20% of the pre-transaction total shares outstanding at a price that is less than market value.  The Preferred Stock would be exchangeable for common stock only if shareholder approval is first obtained.  The holder of the Preferred Stock would have no voting rights other than the right to consent to any amendment of the terms or to the creation or issuance of any capital stock or debt securities that rank senior to or equal with the Preferred Stock, or as otherwise required by applicable state law.
 
The Investor would have the right to designate one member of the company’s seven-member board of directors for so long as it owns at least 50% of the Preferred Stock, or in the event of an exchange for common, for so long as it owns at least: (i) 10% of the company’s total stock outstanding or (ii) 50% of the common stock acquired pursuant to the Exchange.  If shareholder approval is not received within one year of closing, the Preferred Stock would be entitled to receive cumulative cash dividends at an annual rate of 10%.  If still outstanding after four years, the Preferred Stock would become redeemable for cash at the option of either the company or the holder.  The holder may require the company to redeem the Preferred Stock for cash upon the occurrence of certain events, such as liquidation or a change of control.
 
Following our review of the information you provided, we have concluded that the Transaction, structured as you described, would comply with the Rules because no common shares or voting power (except limited voting power as describe above) could be issued until after shareholder approval is obtained.  Specifically, the Transaction would comply with: (i) Listing Rule 4350(i)(1)(B) because a change in control could not occur without shareholder approval, and (ii) Listing Rule 4350(i)(1)(D) because the issuance could not reach 20% of the pre-transaction outstanding shares or voting power without shareholder approval.  Further, IM-4350-2 is not implicated because no shares of common stock could be issued prior to the shareholder vote.  In addition, the right to designate one director would be consistent with the voting rights provisions of Listing Rule 4351 because the percentage of the board of directors that may be appointed by the Investor would not exceed its percentage economic contribution to the company.  Please be advised that you have not asked us to reach, and we have not reached, a conclusion as to whether any director designated by the Investor would be eligible to be an independent director or to
Publication Date*: 7/31/2012 Mailto Link Identification Number: 799
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2014-3
Identification Number 1129
This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of the shareholder approval requirements of Listing Rule 5635(d)(2) (the “Rule”) to a proposed transaction that would be agreed to immediately before the Company’s listing but completed following the listing.
 
According to the information you provided, the Company is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of a public company (the “Parent”). The Parent intends to separate the Company by distributing the Company’s common stock to the holders of the Parent’s common stock (the “Spinoff”). In the Spinoff, each holder of the Parent’s common stock would be entitled to receive a set number of shares of the Company’s common stock for each share of the Parent’s common stock held by such holder on the record date. Shares of the Company’s common stock are expected to begin trading on Nasdaq on a “when issued” basis on or shortly before the record date and “regular way” on the day the Company’s shares are distributed to the Parent’s shareholders. Parent will remain a separately traded public company.
 
The Company may pursue a private placement of shares of the Company’s common stock or securities convertible into or exercisable for the Company’s common stock (the “Transaction”). The definitive agreement for the purchase and sale of such securities would be executed prior to the distribution date of the Spinoff. At the time such definitive agreement is executed, the Parent, as the sole shareholder of the Company, would approve the terms of the Transaction. However, the Transaction would not be consummated, and the securities would not be issued, until after the distribution date of the Spinoff. The Transaction may result in the issuance of more than 20% of the Company’s common stock or voting power outstanding before the issuance. The issuance may be for less than the greater of book or market value of the shares of the Company’s common stock.
 
Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that if the Transaction results in the potential issuance, at a price less than the greater of book or market value, of shares equal to 20% or more of the common stock or voting power outstanding before the issuance, then the Rule would require shareholder approval of the Transaction because the Company will be listed on Nasdaq at the time of the issuance. However, approval of the Transaction by the Parent prior to the distribution date of the Spinoff, as the sole shareholder of the Company, would satisfy this requirement.
 
Publication Date*: 10/7/2014 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1129
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2012-7
Identification Number 1068

This is in response to your correspondence regarding whether certain proposed transactions (the “Proposed Transactions”), which would be undertaken in connection with an acquisition, would require the approval of the Partnership’s unitholders or the Corporation’s shareholders. The Partnership and Corporation are each listed on NASDAQ. The Corporation’s assets consist almost entirely of interests in the Partnership, including approximately 25% of its units and a 100% interest in its general partner.

The Proposed Transactions are designed to allow the Partnership to acquire a privately-held company (the “Target”) in exchange for a combination of Partnership units, cash (the “Cash Consideration”), and shares of the Corporation’s common or non-voting preferred stock (the “Shares”) (collectively, the “Acquisition Consideration”). Three members of the Corporation’s board, one of whom is also on the Partnership’s board (the “Partnership Director”), have an indirect economic interest in the Target, representing an aggregate indirect ownership of approximately 10% of the Target. The Acquisition Consideration would be paid to the owners of the Target. To the extent the Target’s owners are entities, rather than individuals, each such entity would individually determine whether, and to what extent, to distribute its share of the Acquisition Consideration to its owners.

To raise funds that would be used as a part of the Cash Consideration, the Partnership is considering a private placement of its common units (or units that would be convertible into its common units) to several institutional investors at a discount to market value (the “Partnership Private Placement”). A member of the Partnership’s board is a senior managing director (the “Board Member”) of one of the potential investors (the “Investor”). The Board Member has not participated, and would not participate, in the discussions and board meetings with respect to the Partnership Private Placement and would resign from the Partnership’s board prior to the execution of any definitive agreement with respect to the Partnership Private Placement. You asked whether the Partnership Private Placement would be considered equity compensation, requiring approval by the Partnership’s unitholders under Listing Rule 5615(a)(4)(H).

The Partnership may raise additional cash to be used as part of the Cash Consideration by selling common units to the Corporation at a price not less than their market value. The Corporation would raise the funds for this purchase through the issuance of non-voting preferred stock to one or more investors, including the Investor (the “Corporation Private Placement”). No shares of common stock would be issuable in the Corporation Private Placement until the Corporation’s shareholders approve the transaction, at which time the preferred shares would automatically convert into common shares at a discount to their market value at the time of the issuance of the preferred shares. The preferred stock would receive a quarterly cash dividend, which, if the preferred stock remains outstanding one year after issuance, could be adjusted up to 115% of the per share dividend paid on the Corporation’s common stock. You stated that these terms are based on, and are consistent with, similar transactions of other companies in the same industry. An investor in the Corporation Private Placement would be allowed to designate one member of the Corporation’s board of directors (the “New Director”). You asked: (i) whether the adjustment in the dividend rate would be an “alternative outcome” under IM-5635-2; and (ii) whether the Corporation Private Placement would be considered equity compensation with respect to the New Director, requiring shareholder approval under Rule 5635(c).

In order for the Partnership to obtain the Shares that would be used as part of the Acquisition Consideration, it would issue common units in exchange for shares of non-voting preferred stock of the Corporation (the “Preferred Exchange Shares”). The Preferred Exchange Shares would be convertible into shares of the Corporation’s common stock only after shareholder approval is obtained (the “Share Exchange”). The Share Exchange would be at prices not less than the respective market values of the common units and the common stock. The Preferred Exchange Shares would not be entitled to cash distributions for six quarters but would receive distributions in-kind, which also would be convertible into common stock only after shareholder approval is obtained. Dividends on the Preferred Exchange Shares would be subject to adjustment after six quarters. You stated that these terms are based on, and are consistent with, similar transactions of other companies in the same industry.

Although several directors and officers of the Corporation own common units of the Partnership, the ownership of each is less than 5% and in the aggregate is less than 10%. Currently, no substantial shareholder of the Corporation has a 5% or greater interest in the Partnership. The Investor, however, currently owns a 5% interest in the Partnership and is considering purchasing shares of common stock of the Corporation currently held by another party. Upon the completion of that purchase, which could occur prior to the closing of the Proposed Transactions, the Investor would be a substantial shareholder in the Corporation. You asked whether the proposed structure of the Share Exchange would satisfy the shareholder approval requirements.

Finally, in connection with the acquisition, the Corporation contemplates that it may amend its agreement with the Partnership, which sets forth the amount of quarterly cash distributions the Corporation is entitled to receive from the Partnership. Under the revised agreement, the amount of the distributions would be reduced for a specified period of time to allocate the accretion of the acquisition between the Corporation and the Partnership. You stated that this revision is unrelated to the financing transactions described above and would be contemplated with respect to the acquisition irrespective of such financing transactions.

Following our review of the information that you provided, we have reached the following conclusions. The Partnership Private Placement would not be considered equity compensation under Rule 5615(a)(4)(H) with respect to the Board Member because the Board Member would resign from the Partnership’s board prior to the execution of an agreement and would not participate in the discussions and board meetings with respect to the Proposed Transactions. In addition, the provisions of Rule 5635, which may require shareholder approval for certain below market issuances and in connection with certain acquisitions, do not apply to limited partnerships. As such, consummating the Partnership Private Placement as described would not require approval of the Partnership’s unitholders under NASDAQ’s rules.

The proposed Corporation Private Placement also satisfies the shareholder approval requirements. While we would aggregate the Corporation Private Placement with the shares to be issued in the Share Exchange, the Corporation would obtain shareholder approval prior to issuing any common stock in the Corporation Private Placement, and we would not consider the proposed adjustment in the dividend rate to be an “alternative outcome” under IM-5635-2. We have reached this determination because (i) the adjustment is not a function of the outcome of a shareholder vote; and (ii) you represented that the adjusted rate is consistent with similar transactions by other companies in the industry. The Corporation Private Placement also would not require shareholder approval as equity compensation because the New Director would not join the Corporation’s board until after the transaction is consummated.

We would consider the shares issued by the Corporation in the Share Exchange to be issued in connection with the acquisition of the Partnership’s units. Structured as you described, however, the Share Exchange satisfies the shareholder approval requirement of Rule 5635(a) because no shares of the Corporation’s common stock could be issued unless shareholder approval is first obtained. We would not consider the adjustment in the dividend of the Preferred Exchange Shares to be an “alternative outcome” under IM-5635-2 because (i) the adjustment is not a function of the outcome of a shareholder vote; and (ii) you represented that the adjusted rate is consistent with similar transactions by other companies in the industry. In addition, because the Share Exchange would be done at the respective market values of the Corporation’s common stock and the Partnership’s common units, shareholder approval would not be required by the Corporation or Partnership under Rules 5635(c) or 5615(a)(4)(H), respectively.

Rule 5635(a) is not applicable to a limited partnership. As such, the issuance of units by the Partnership in the Share Exchange does not require approval under that rule. Similarly, the issuance of units to the owners of the Target by the Partnership as Acquisition Consideration also would not require shareholder approval. The issuance of Partnership units as part of the consideration for the Target also would not require shareholder approval as equity compensation with respect to the Partnership Director. The Partnership would not be issuing units to the Partnership Director, and any units ultimately distributed to him would be solely in consideration of his ownership interest in the Target. As a result, shareholder approval would not be required under Rule 5615(a)(4)(H) by the Partnership for the issuance of Partnership units to the Target.

Finally, the contemplated amendment to the agreement between the Partnership and Corporation does not impact any aspect of the above analysis because it would not result in the issuance of any securities by either the Corporation or the Partnership and it would not affect the pricing analysis in determining whether any issuance is at or above market value.

Publication Date*: 1/17/2013 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1068
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2009-15
Identification Number 733
This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of NASDAQ’s shareholder approval requirements of Listing Rules 5635(b), 5635(d), and IM-5635-2 (the “Rules”) to a proposed issuance of securities (the “Proposed Transaction”).  In addition, you asked about the applicability of the voting rights requirements of Listing Rule 5640 and IM-5640 (the “Voting Rights Requirements”) to rights that the Investor in the Proposed Transaction would receive allowing it to designate members to serve on the company’s board of directors and to have non-member board observers (the “Designation Rights”).
 
The company has two classes of common stock, Class A, which is listed on NASDAQ, and Class B, which is not publicly traded (collectively, the “Common Stock”). The Class A has one vote per share, and the Class B has ten votes per share. The number of shares of Class A outstanding equals approximately 97% of the shares of Common Stock outstanding, and the number of shares of Class B outstanding equals approximately 3% of the shares of Common Stock outstanding. The aggregate voting power of the Class A is approximately 79% of the company’s total outstanding voting power, and the Class B, approximately 21%. The company’s chief executive officer owns all of the Class B shares.  No other shareholder owns as much as 10% of the company’s outstanding voting power or outstanding shares of Common Stock.
 
According to the information you provided, in the Proposed Transaction the company would issue to the Investor: (i) non-convertible senior secured notes with an aggregate principal amount equal to approximately three times the current aggregate market value of the company’s outstanding shares of Common Stock; and (ii) warrants to purchase shares of Class A equal in number to approximately 55% of the pre-transaction outstanding shares of Common Stock, subject to the restrictions described below (the “Warrants”). On a post-transaction basis, the potential issuance would equal approximately 36% of the then outstanding shares of Common Stock and approximately 31% of the company’s then outstanding voting power.
 
Pursuant to the Designation Rights, upon the closing of the Proposed Transaction one designee of the Investor would be added to the company’s board of directors (the “Board”), representing not more than 11% of the total number of members of the Board.  Following shareholder approval of the Proposed Transaction, the Investor would be entitled to a second designee on the Board, with the two designees representing not more than 20% of the total number of members of the Board. In addition, the Investor would be entitled to have one or two non-voting observers attend meetings of the Board. At any given time, the number of designees together with the number of observers would not exceed two. The audit, nomination, and compensation committees could exclude the observers from the proceedings at the discretion of the respective committee. The Designation Rights would include step-downs for reduced Board representation if the size of the Investor’s stake in the company were to decrease.
 
Absent shareholder approval, the exercise price of the Warrants would not be less than the greater of book or market value prior to entering into the binding agreement (the “Exercise Price Restriction”). In addition, absent shareholder approval, a holder of the Warrants would not be entitled to exercise Warrants if immediately following such exercise: (i) the aggregate voting power of such holder (or any group including such holder) would exceed 19.9% of the aggregate voting power of the company; or (ii) the aggregate shares of the class of common stock underlying the Warrants owned by such holder (or any group including such holder) would exceed 19.9% of the company’s aggregate outstanding common shares (the “Ownership Limitation”).
 
The Exercise Price Restriction and the Ownership Limitation would apply until such time as shareholder approval is obtained.  The Warrants would not be exercisable to any extent until the earlier of: (i) shareholder approval; (ii) the holding of a specified maximum number of meetings of the company’s shareholders at which shareholder approval would be sought; and (iii) a specified maximum period of time after the closing of the Proposed Transaction during which the company would be permitted to seek shareholder approval pursuant to the agreement relating to the Proposed Transaction. The interest rate on the notes would increase over time unless shareholder approval has been obtained.
 
Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the Proposed Transaction, structured as you described and as summarized above, would satisfy the requirements of the Rules. Given the Ownership Limitation, the Proposed Transaction could result in a change of control only after shareholder approval is obtained, thereby satisfying Rule 5635(b). Given the Exercise Price Restriction, the exercise price could be less than the greater of book or market value only after shareholder approval is obtained, thereby satisfying Rule 5635(d). With respect to IM-5635-2, no shares of common stock could be issued in the Proposed Transaction (i.e., the Warrants would not be exercisable to any extent), unless either: (i) shareholder approval has been obtained, or (ii) shareholder approval could no longer be sought pursuant to the terms of the agreement. As such, absent shareholder approval, the Warrant would be exercisable only if there would not be a subsequent shareholder vote to approve the Proposed Transaction, and then only to the extent permissible under the Exercise Price Restriction and the Ownership Limitation. Accordingly, the Proposed Transaction complies with IM-5635-2. In addition, the Designation Rights satisfy the Voting Rights Requirements given the economics of the Proposed Transaction relative to the company’s aggregate market value and because such rights would decline if the size of the Investor’s stake in the company were to decrease.
 
Publication Date*: 7/31/2012 Mailto Link Identification Number: 733
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2007-25
Identification Number 801
This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of NASDAQ’s shareholder approval requirements to proposed issuances of securities by the company (the “Transaction”) to the New Investor and the Prior Investor as described below.  Specifically, you asked about the potential applicability of Marketplace Rules 4350(i)(1)(A),  4350(i)(1)(B), and 4350(i)(1)(D) (the “Rules”).  In addition, you asked whether the company would be required to provide notice of the Transaction to NASDAQ pursuant to Listing Rule 4310(c)(17).
 
According to the information you submitted, approximately two weeks ago the company entered into an agreement with the New Investor pursuant to which the New Investor will purchase newly issued shares of the company’s common stock in up to three separate closings.  As a result of a prior transaction with the Prior Investor, the Prior Investor has the right (the “Purchase Right”), but not the obligation, to purchase a portion of any new equity securities issued by the company to maintain its ownership position.  The Purchase Right would be triggered by each issuance to the New Investor.  The aggregate number of shares that could be issued to the New Investor in the three closings would equal approximately 5% of the pre-transaction total shares outstanding.  If the Prior Investor were to exercise the Purchase Right in full, an additional approximately 3% of the pre-transaction total shares outstanding would be issued to the Prior Investor, resulting in a total issuance equal to approximately 8% of the pre-transaction shares outstanding.
 
Two members of the company’s board of directors are executive officers of the Prior Investor.  The Prior Investor is currently the largest owner of the company’s outstanding common stock and will remain such following the issuances, with an ownership position of approximately 25% of the outstanding shares both before and after the Transaction.
 
Following our review of the information you provided, we have reached the following conclusions.  The issuances to the Prior Investor are subject to the provisions of Listing Rule 4350(i)(1)(A) because directors of the company are officers of the Prior Investor.  As such, for the Transaction to comply with Listing Rule 4350(i)(1)(A), the issuances to the Prior Investor cannot be at a discount to the market value of the common stock, unless shareholder approval is obtained.  That is, such issuances cannot be at a price less than the closing bid price immediately preceding the time the Prior Investor exercises the Purchase Right with respect to any investment by the New Investor.  Rule 4350(i)(1)(B) will not require shareholder approval because, given the ownership positions, the Transaction will not result in a change of control.  Rule 4350(i)(1)(D) is not applicable because the aggregate potential issuance is less than 20% of the pre-transaction outstanding shares.  With respect to Listing Rule 4310(c)(17), because the aggregate issuance in the Transaction will equal  less than 10% of the outstanding shares, notification to NASDAQ would not be required provided that: (i) the issuances to the Prior Investor are not at a price less than market value or (ii) the issuances to the Prior Investor, if at a discount to the market value, are approved by the company’s shareholders.
 
 
Publication Date*: 7/31/2012 Mailto Link Identification Number: 801
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2012-5
Identification Number 1063

This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of the shareholder approval requirements of Listing Rule 5635 (the “Rule”) to a proposed rights offering.

Through the rights offering, the Company expects to raise between $50 and $100 million of equity capital to enhance its financial position and to fund a strategic business transformation. The rights offering will afford all of the Company’s shareholders the right to purchase, at the same price and on identical terms, shares of common stock in proportion to their ownership position as of the record date.  A special committee of the Company’s Board of Directors (the “Special Committee”), consisting of independent directors, will determine the terms of the rights offering, including the subscription price.  The subscription price may be at discount or at a premium to the market price.

The Company is currently considering two alternative backstop agreements, under which certain investors may agree to purchase all unsubscribed shares (the “backstop agreement”).  Any shares issued pursuant to the backstop agreement will be issued in a private placement transaction, exempt from the registration requirements, at the same price as the subscription price in the rights offering.  Under either alternative, the backstop agreement will provide for no fee or any other consideration payable to the backstop investor, although the Company will reimburse certain reasonable legal and out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with the backstop agreement.

Under the first alternative, the Company and Investor A would enter into an exchange transaction (the “Exchange”) concurrently with the backstop agreement.  According to the Company’s most recent beneficial ownership table, Investor A currently holds a 25% interest in the Company, as a consequence of prior purchases of the Company’s equity and convertible debt securities, and is currently the Company’s largest shareholder.  One of the members of the Company’s Board of Directors is affiliated with Investor A.  In the Exchange, the Company would transfer certain of its assets to Investor A in exchange for warrants, preferred stock, and notes of the Company held by Investor A.  The Special Committee will obtain a fairness opinion from its financial advisor prior to signing the Exchange agreement.  If the Company executes the backstop agreement with Investor A, and no other shareholder participates in the rights offering, Investor A would own approximately 35% of the post-transaction shares outstanding.

Under the second alternative, the Company would pursue only the rights offering and Investor B would sign a backstop agreement.  Investor B beneficially owns approximately 14% of the Company’s common stock.  One of the members of the Company’s Board of Directors is affiliated with Investor B. If the Company executes the backstop agreement with Investor B, and no other shareholder participates in the rights offering, Investor B would own approximately 35% of the post-transaction shares outstanding.

Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the rights offering would be considered a “public offering” under the Rule and IM-5635-3.  We have reached this conclusion because the rights will be distributed generally to all shareholders of the Company pro ratably and all shareholders are entitled to participate on the same terms.  Further, the backstop agreements contemplated by the Company do not alter this determination because any purchases by the backstop provider will be made on the same terms available to all the Company’s shareholders and made only after those shareholders decline to participate.  In that regard, we note that the backstop investor will not be paid a fee to provide the backstop service. As a result, the rights offering, as described, would not require shareholder approval under the Rule.

Publication Date*: 11/30/2012 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1063
Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2014-2
Identification Number 1114

This is in response to your correspondence asking whether the issuance of preferred shares in a proposed acquisition (the “Acquisition”) would comply with the shareholder approval requirements in Listing Rule 5635(a) and IM-5635-2 (together, the “Rules”).

In the Acquisition the Company will purchase a privately-held target (the “Target”) for a combination of cash and securities. The amount of stock issued in the Acquisition will depend on the amount of cash consideration paid at closing. No director, officer, or Substantial Shareholder of the Company has a direct or indirect interest in the Target. In order to reduce the amount of securities to be issued in the Acquisition, the Company plans to complete a public offering consummated in accordance with IM-5635-3.

If the stock consideration to be issued in the Acquisition exceeds 20% of the Company’s voting power or total shares outstanding prior to the issuance, all of the stock consideration issued by the Company would be non-voting Preferred Stock (the “Convertible Preferred Stock”). The Convertible Preferred Stock would pay an annual cash dividend and the Convertible Preferred Stock holders would have approval rights with respect to certain corporate actions impacting the rights of the preferred shareholders.

Following consummation of the Acquisition, the Company would seek shareholder approval to convert the Convertible Preferred Stock into shares of the Company’s common stock. If shareholder approval is not obtained, the Company may call additional shareholder meetings to obtain approval of the conversion of the Convertible Preferred Stock into the shares of the Company’s common stock. Alternatively, the Convertible Preferred Stock may be converted, without shareholder approval, into a combination of shares of the Company’s common stock equal to 19.99% of the Company’s outstanding common stock prior to the issuance and shares of a different series of non-voting, non-convertible Preferred Stock (the “Non-Convertible Preferred Stock”). The Non-Convertible Preferred Stock would pay an annual cash dividend and the holders of the Non-Convertible Preferred Stock would have approval rights with respect to certain corporate actions impacting the preferred stock holders. You stated that following the conversion of the Convertible Preferred Stock into shares of common stock and Non-Convertible Preferred Stock, the Company will not seek shareholder approval for the conversion of the Non-Convertible Preferred Stock into shares of the Company’s common stock.

Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the structure of the securities issued in connection with the Acquisition comply with the Rules. Our conclusion is based on certain facts, including but not limited to the following: (i) no director, officer or Substantial Shareholder has a direct or indirect interest in the Target; (ii) the Convertible Preferred Stock and Non-Convertible Preferred Stock are non-voting; (iii) the Convertible Preferred Stock cannot be converted into greater than 19.99% of the voting power or total shares outstanding prior to the issuance unless shareholder approval is obtained; (iv) if shareholder approval is not obtained and the Company determines not to seek shareholder approval at subsequent meetings, the Convertible Preferred Stock will convert into a combination of the Non-Convertible Preferred Stock and an amount of common stock not greater than 19.99% of the voting power or total shares outstanding prior to the issuance; and (v) the Company will not seek shareholder approval to convert the Non-Convertible Preferred Stock into common stock. You did not ask and we have made no determination as to whether or not the proposed equity offering is a public offering in accordance with IM-5635-3.

Publication Date*: 8/4/2014 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1114
material_search_footer*The Publication Date reflects the date of first inclusion in the Reference Library, which was launched on July 31, 2012, or a subsequent update to the material. Material may have been previously available on a different Nasdaq web site.
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