Want to invest in a hot start-up company, join a market-beating private investment fund or back a potential blockbuster movie that could be your ticket to the Forbes Billionaire List? Chances are you can’t unless you’re already quite rich or significant investment expertise. But a recently passed House bill aims to change that by allowing individuals to take a test that could allow them to purchase such private securities.
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About the Proposed Legislation
Right now, anyone who wants to purchase an unregistered security, such as shares in a hedge fund or private equity fund, needs to show that they’re what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) considers an “accredited investor.” To qualify, you need a net worth of more than $1 million (not including your home), more than $200,000 a year in income ($300,000 if you’re married) or significant experience as an investment professional. Otherwise, your money is off-limits for private placements and other unregistered offerings.
The Equal Opportunity for All Investors Act of 2023 (H.R. 2797) would instruct the SEC to create an accredited investor certification exam that would allow investors to demonstrate they have the knowledge and understanding required to participate in the private market. The exam would be administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
“It is my firm belief that the accredited investor definition should not be tied exclusively to wealth,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mike Flood, R-Neb., said in a statement. “Instead, we should unlock opportunities for knowledgeable investors that may not come from means.”
These Other Bills Could Impact Accredited Investors
The House recently passed two additional bills that would expand the definition of an accredited investor. Here’s a breakdown of each:
- The Accredited Investor Definition Review Act (H.R. 1579) gives the SEC discretion to establish the necessary certifications, designations or credentials investors need to be accredited, and would require the commission to review those definitions every five years.
- The Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act (H.R. 835) would grant accredited investor status to individuals with certain licenses, or educational or professional backgrounds. “My legislation is about leveling the playing field,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., sponsor of the investor definition review act. “Whether it’s in Kalamazoo or Portage, Benton Harbor or St. Joe, or Battle Creek or Springfield, investors should be able to support small business startups in their local community across southwest Michigan and around the nation.”
Besides meeting the requirement for net worth, income or professional investing experience, individuals also can qualify as an accredited investor under existing law if they are directors, executive officers or general partners of the company selling the securities or the company that’s the subject of the offering. Clients of a family office that qualifies as an accredited investor may also be considered accredited. And in the case of a private investment fund, someone the SEC defines as a “knowledgeable employee” of the fund may qualify as an accredited investor.
The SEC restricts the sale of unregistered or private securities because those offerings typically don’t meet the commission’s standards for financial and regulatory disclosures. Instead, participation has been limited to financially sophisticated and wealthy investors with a reduced need for the protection provided by disclosure filings. New legislation that’s been approved in the House of Representatives would establish an exam that investors would need to pass before attaining “accredited” status. Meanwhile, other bills that are working their way through Congress would expand the definition of an accredited investor.
- While investing in unregulated securities can be complicated and risky, figuring out an investment strategy that relies on typical stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs can be confusing, too. A financial advisor can help. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Diversification is a key investment strategy to understand. Concentrating too much wealth in a few assets can leave your portfolio vulnerable and exposed to heightened volatility. SmartAsset’s asset allocation calculator can help you identify a mix of stocks, bonds and cash that’s suited to the level of risk that you’re willing to assume.
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