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Frequently Asked Questions
  Staff Interpretation Letter 2016-3
Identification Number 1145
This is in response to your correspondence regarding the applicability of the shareholder approval requirements of Listing Rules 5635(b) and 5635(d) (the “Rules”) to a proposed Transaction.
 
According to the information you provided, the Company will issue convertible notes (the “Notes”) to several investors in a private placement (the “Transaction”). Initially, the conversion price will be greater than market and book value, and the number of shares of common stock issuable upon conversion could exceed 20% of the pre-transaction total shares outstanding. The Notes contain anti-dilution provisions; however, the effect of any anti-dilution adjustments will be limited such that the conversion price could never be reduced to below the greater of market and book value as of the date of the agreement to issue the Notes.
 
You have represented that Shareholder A holds an approximately 15% interest in the Company and is currently the Company’s largest shareholder. However, you have represented that Shareholder A is a registered investment adviser, and holds its entire 15% interest in the Company in this capacity. In this role, Shareholder A has the power and discretion to buy and sell, but not vote, the securities held in the accounts it manages. Accordingly, you have represented that in regard to its entire 15% interest in the Company, Shareholder A has no sole voting power, no shared voting power and no sole dispositive power, and it is deemed to be a beneficial owner solely due to the shared dispositive power over the shares held in the managed accounts.
 
You have represented that Shareholder A is also a registered broker-dealer. In this role, Shareholder A acts as custodian for many individual investment accounts, with shares within such investment accounts held in “street” name. The holders of these accounts make their own decisions regarding voting and disposition of the securities in their accounts. Shareholder A may vote such shares in limited circumstances described in SEC Rule 13d-3(d)(2), but Shareholder A is not deemed to be a beneficial owner of such shares.
 
You have represented that the Company adopted a stockholder rights plan that, among other things, limits the ability of any person to acquire ownership of 15% or more of the shares of the common stock of the Company by triggering special rights for all other stockholders if this ownership threshold would otherwise be exceeded by such person (the “Plan”). The Plan’s definition of the acquiring person specifically excludes certain shares held by Shareholder A. This exclusion would not apply to any of the shares that might be acquired or held with a purpose or effect of changing or influencing control of the Company, or in connection with or as a participant in any transaction having that purpose or effect. Furthermore, this exclusion applies only to shares as to which Shareholder A has only shared dispositive power or limited voting power of the type described in SEC Rule 13d-3(d)(2), and in which it has no direct or indirect pecuniary interest. Any single account holder or retail customer of Shareholder A, and any single broker at Shareholder A with respect to such broker’s personal trading account, remains subject to the 15% limitation on beneficial ownership.
 
You have represented that none of the Shareholder A’s managed and custodial account holders is part of any arrangement or agreement constituting a “group” within the meaning of SEC Rule 13d, and that all of the shares of common stock for which it serves as investment adviser have been acquired in the ordinary course of business, were not acquired for the purpose of, and do not have the effect of, changing or influencing the control of the Company, and were not acquired in connection with or as a participant in any transaction having such purpose or effect.
 
Shareholder A has negotiated the terms of the Notes with the Company. Shareholder A’s managed and custodial accounts will be allowed to acquire at least one half of the total principal amount of the Notes sold by the Company. The note purchase agreement will provide that the Notes will not be convertible into shares of common stock to the extent that after conversion any managed or custodial account would beneficially own more than 9.9% of the outstanding shares of common stock. All purchasers of the Notes, including Shareholder A’s managed and custodial accounts, will sign the note purchase agreement.
 
Following our review of the information you provided, we have determined that the Transaction does not require shareholder approval under the Rules. Although the potential issuance under the Notes exceeds 20% of the pre-transaction outstanding shares, shareholder approval would not be required under Listing Rule 5635(d) because the conversion price could not be less than the greater of book or market value per share as of the date of the agreement to issue the Notes. Shareholder approval also is not required under Listing Rule 5635(b). We have reached this conclusion because no individual shareholder or a group will have a control position following the Transaction given that (i) none of the purchasers, other than Shareholder A, will beneficially own more than 9.9% of the outstanding shares of common stock due to a beneficial ownership limitation in the note purchase agreement; (ii) Shareholder A is deemed to be a beneficial owner solely due to the shared dispositive power over the shares it holds in its managed accounts as an investment advisor and all such shares have been acquired in the ordinary course of business, were not acquired for the purpose of, and do not have the effect of, changing or influencing the control of the Company, and were not acquired in connection with or as a participant in any transaction having such purpose or effect; and (iii) the Plan limits any person, including Shareholder A, from acquiring 15% or more of the Company’s outstanding shares, excluding the shares as to which Shareholder A has only shared dispositive power or limited voting power of the type described in SEC Rule 13d-3(d)(2), and in which it has no direct or indirect pecuniary interest.
 
Publication Date*: 5/11/2016 Mailto Link Identification Number: 1145
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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