About Tombstone Securities Advertising and the “New Issue” Propsectus

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A Primer for Physician Investors and Medical Professionals

By: Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™


[PART 2 OF 8]

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NOTE: This is an eight part ME-P series based on a weekend lecture I gave more than a decade ago to an interested group of graduate, business and medical school students. The material is a bit dated and some facts and specifics may have changed since then. But, the overall thought-leadership information of the essay remains interesting and informative. We trust you will enjoy it.


Despite the SEC restrictions, noted in Part I of this series, some idea of potential demand for a new security 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 he 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

Mis-statements 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 effort underwriting efforts 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.

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 that healthcare executives 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.

4O-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.


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Syndication Among Underwriters

Because the investment banking firm may be underwriting (distributing) a rather large dollar amount of securities, to spread its risk exposure, it may form a group made up of other investment bankers or underwriters, known as a syndicate. The syndicate is headed by a syndicate manager, or lead underwriter, and it is his job to decide whether to participate in the offering. If so, the managing underwriter will sign a non-binding agreement called a letter of intent. .

If all has gone well and the market place is sufficiently interested in the security, and the SEC has been satisfied with respect to the registration statement, it is time for all parties to the offering to formalize their relationships with a contract including the basic understandings reflected in the letter of intent. Three principal underwriting contracts are involved in the usual public offering, each serving a distinct purpose. These are the: Agreement among Underwriters, Underwriting Agreement, and the Dealer Agreement.

In the Agreement Among Underwriters (AAU), the underwriters committing to a portion of the issue, enter into an agreement establishing the nature and terms of their relationship with each other. It designates the syndicate manager to act on their behalf, particularly to enter into an Underwriting Agreement with the issuer, and to conduct the offering on behalf of each  of them. The AAU will designate the managing underwriter’s compensation (management fee) for managing the offering.

The authority to manage the offering includes the authority to: agree with the issuer as to the public offering price; decide when to commence the offering; modify the offering price and selling commission; control all advertising; and, control the timing and effectiveness of the registration statement by quickly responding to deficiency letters. Each underwriter agrees to purchase a portion of the underwritten securities, which is known as each under-writer’s allotment (allocation).  It is normally signed severally, but not jointly, meaning each underwriter is obligated to sell his allocation but bears no financial obligation for any unsold allotment of another underwriter. This is referred to as a divided account or a Western account. Much less frequently, an undivided or Eastern account, will be used. Each underwriter is responsible for unsold allotments of others, based upon a  proportionate share of the offering.

The above comments referred to firm commitment underwriting. Another type of underwriting commitment  however, is known as best efforts underwriting. Under the terms of  best efforts underwriting, the underwriters make no commitment to buy or sell the issue, they simply do the best they can, acting as an agent for the issuer, and having no liability to the issuer if none of the securities are sold. There is no syndicate formed with a best efforts underwriting. The investment bankers form a selling group, with each member doing his best to sell his allotment. Two variations of a best efforts underwriting are: the all-or-none, and the mini-max (part-or-none) underwriting. Under the provisions of an all-or-none offering, unless all of the shares can be distributed within a specified period of time, the offering will terminate and no subscriptions or orders will be accepted or filled. Under mini-max, unless a set minimum amount is sold, the offering will be terminated.

SEC Rule 15c2-4 requires the underwriter to set up an escrow account for any money received before the closing date, in the event that it is necessary to return the money to prospective purchasers. If the “minimum”, or the “all” contingencies are met, the monies in escrow go to the issuer with the underwriters retaining their appropriate compensation. In order to make sure that investors are properly protected, the escrow account must be maintained at a bank for the benefit of the investors until every appropriate event or contingency has occurred. Then, the funds are properly returned to the investors. If the money is to be placed into an interest bearing account, it must have a maturity date no later than the closing date of the offering, or the account must be redeemable at face with no prepayment penalty as regards principal.

Underwriter Compensation Hierarchy

As we have seen, in a firm commitment the underwriter buys the entire issue from the issuer and then attempts to resell it to the public. The price at which the syndicate offers the securities to the public is known as the public offering price. It is the price printed on the front page of the prospectus.

However, the managing underwriter pays the issuer a lower price than this for the securities. The difference between that lower price and the public offering price is known as the spread or underwriting discount. Everyone involved in the sale of a new issue is compensated by receiving part of the spread. The amount of the spread is the subject of negotiations between the issuer and the managing underwriter, but usually is within a range established by similar transactions between comparable issuers and underwriters. The spread is also subject to NASD [now FINRA] review and approval before sales may commence. The spread is broken down by the underwriters so that a portion of it is paid to the managing underwriter for finding and packaging the issue and managing the offering (usually called the manager’s fee); and a portion is retained by each underwriter (called the underwriting or syndicate allowance) to compensate the syndicate members for their expenses, use of money, and assuming the risk of the underwriting. The remaining portion is allocated to the selling group and is called selling concession. It is often useful to remember the compensation hierarchy pecking order in the following way:

  • Spread (syndicate manager).
  • Underwriters allowance (syndicate members)
  • Selling concession (selling group members)
  • Re-allowance (any other firm)

While the above deal with corporate equity, the only other significant item with respect to corporate debt is the Trust Indenture Act of 1939. This Federal law applies to public issues of debt securities in excess of $5,000,000. The thrust of this act is to require an indenture with an independent trustee (usually a bank or trust company) who will report to the holders of the debt securities on a regular basis.

Successful marketing of a new issue is a marriage between somewhat alien factors: compliance and numerous Federal, state, and self-regulatory rules and statutes; along with finely honed and profit-motivated sales techniques. It’s not too hard to see that there could be a real, or apparent, conflict of interest here. Most successful investment bankers have built their excellent reputations upon their ability to properly balance these two objectives consistently, year after year.


Understanding investment banking rules, securities markets, brokerage accounts, margin and debt

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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


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