What’s a “Tombstone”Ad?

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Tombstone Advertising and the Securities Prospectus

DEM tie

By Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA CMP™

Despite certain SEC restriction, some idea of potential demand for a new securities issue can be gauged and have a bearing on pricing decisions.

For example, as CEO of a medical instrument company, or interested investor, would you rather see a great deal of interest in a potential new issue or not very much interest?



There is however, one kind of advertisement that the underwriter can publish during the cooling off period. It’s known as a tombstone ad. The ad makes it clear that it is only an announcement and does not constitute an offer to sell or solicit the issue, and that such an offering can only be made by prospectus.  SEC Rule 134 of the 1933 Act itself, refers to a tombstone ad as “communication not deemed a prospectus” because it makes reference to the prospectus in the ad. Tombstones have received their name because of the sparse nature of details found in them. However, the most popular use of the tombstone ad is to announce the effectiveness of a new issue, after it has been successfully issued. This promotes the success of both the underwriter, as well as the company.



Since distributing securities involves potential liability to the investment bank, it will do everything possible to protect itself. So, near the end of the cooling off period, a meeting is held between the underwriter and the corporation. It is known as a due diligence meeting. At this meeting they both discuss amendments that are going to be necessary to make the registration statement complete and accurate. The corporate officers and the underwriters sign the final registration statement. They have civil liability for damages that result from omissions of material facts or misstatements of fact. They also have criminal liability if the distribution is done by use of fraudulent, manipulative, or deceptive means. Due diligence takes on a whole new meaning when incarceration from a half-hearted underwriting effort; can occur. The investment bank strives to ensure that there have been no material changes to the issuer or the terms of the issue since the registration statement was filed.

Again, as a physician, how would you feel if you were an investment banker raising capital for a new pharmaceutical company that had developed a drug product that was highly marketable. But, on the day after the issue was effective, there was a major news story indicating that the company was being sued for patent infringement? What effect do you think that would have on the market price of this new issue? It would probably plunge. How could this situation have been prevented? The due diligence meeting is more than a cocktail party or a gathering in a smoke filled room. Otherwise, the company would require specially trained people, to do a patent search lessening the likelihood of this scenario. At the due diligence meeting, work is done on the preparation of the final prospectus, but the investment bank does not set the public offering price or the effective date at this meeting. The SEC will eventually set the effective date for the registration and it is on that date that the final offering price will be determined.

Once the SEC sets the effective date, sales may be executed and money can be accepted by the investment bank. It is at this time that the final prospectus, similar to the red herring but without the red ink and with the missing numbers, is issued. A prospectus is an abbreviated form of the registration statement, distributed to purchasers, on and after the effective date of the registration. It is not the same as the registration statement. A typical registration statement consists of papers that stand more than a foot high; rarely does a prospectus go beyond 40 or 50 pages. All purchasers will receive a final prospectus and then it becomes permissible for the underwriter to provide sales literature.

Two Requirements

In addition to the requirement that a prospectus must be delivered to a purchaser of new issues no later than with confirmation of the trade, there are two other requirements which physicians, medical professionals and healthcare executive investors should know.

90-day: When an issuer has an initial public offering (IPO), there is generally a lack of publicly available material relating to the operations of that issuer.  Because of this, the SEC requires that all members of the underwriting group make available a prospectus on an IPO for a period of 90 days after the effective date. 

40-day: Once an issuer has gone public, there are a number of routine filings that must be made with the SEC so there is publicly available information regarding the financial condition of that issuer. Since additional information is now available, the SEC requires that, on all issues other than IPOs, any member of the underwriting group must make available a prospectus for a period of 40 days after the effective date.


In the event that the investment bankers misgauged the marketplace, and the issue moves quite slowly, it is possible that information contained in the prospectus would be rendered obsolete by the SEC. Specifically, the SEC requires that any prospectus used more than 9 months after the effective date, may not have any financial information more than 16 months old. It can however, be amended or stickered, with updated information, as needed. 


Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com


Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™



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