Crowdfunding and Internet Offers
The 2012 JOBS Act makes significant changes to the methods startup businesses and entrepreneurs may employ to bring their ventures to the investing market, and investors must be wary of the attendant risks. Also, many more rules and mechanisms must be put into place for those changes to actually take effect. For example, the relaxed rules governing registration of relatively small securities deals, public solicitation for private funds, and disclosure of information to investors over the Internet are not yet written. So the JOBS Act provisions related to crowdfunding, a much-publicized method for startups seeking capital, are not yet available – and will not be until sometime in 2013 – to legitimate businesses. Even when the relaxed rules and registration exemptions are effective, they will not make investments in small businesses less risky – just more prevalent. And the JOBS Act provisions do not eliminate fraud, an unfortunate common feature of Internet securities activity.
Many states report a recent increase in active investigations or recent enforcement actions involving Internet fraud, and JOBS Act-triggered activity is likely to elongate this trend. Investors must remember that small startups are among the riskiest of investment categories even under legitimate circumstances. The crowdfunding and Internet investing marketplaces in North America will develop and undergo major changes in the next year, and investors should monitor this emerging capital formation community with heightened scrutiny.