12 CFR 220.131 - Application of the arranging section to broker-dealer activities under SEC Rule 144A.
(a) The Board has been asked whether the purchase by a broker-dealer of debt securities for resale in reliance on Rule 144A of the Securities and Exchange Commission (17 CFR 230.144A) 1 may be considered an arranging of credit permitted as an “investment banking service” under § 220.13(a) of Regulation T.
(b) SEC Rule 144A provides a safe harbor exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 for resales of restricted securities to qualified institutional buyers, as defined in the rule. In general, a qualified institutional buyer is an institutional investor that in the aggregate owns and invests on a discretionary basis at least $100 million in securities of issuers that are not affiliated with the buyer. Registered broker-dealers need only own and invest on a discretionary basis at least $10 million of securities in order to purchase as principal under the rule. Section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933 provides an exemption from the registration requirements for “transactions by an issuer not involving any public offering.” Securities acquired in a transaction under section 4(2) cannot be resold without registration under the Act or an exemption therefrom. Rule 144A provides a safe harbor exemption for resales of such securities. Accordingly, broker-dealers that previously acted only as agents in intermediating between issuers and purchasers of privately-placed securities, due to the lack of such a safe harbor, now may purchase privately-placed securities from issuers as principal and resell such securities to “qualified institutional buyers” under Rule 144A.
(c) The Board has consistently treated the purchase of a privately-placed debt security as an extension of credit subject to the margin regulations. If the issuer uses the proceeds to buy securities, the purchase of the privately-placed debt security by a creditor represents an extension of “purpose credit” to the issuer. Section 7(c) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 prohibits the extension of purpose credit by a creditor if the credit is unsecured, secured by collateral other than securities, or secured by any security (other than an exempted security) in contravention of Federal Reserve regulations. If a debt security sold pursuant to Rule 144A represents purpose credit and is not properly collateralized by securities, the statute and Regulation T can be viewed as preventing the broker-dealer from taking the security into inventory in spite of the fact that the broker-dealer intends to immediately resell the debt security.
(d) Under § 220.13 of Regulation T, a creditor may arrange credit it cannot itself extend if the arrangement is an “investment banking service” and the credit does not violate Regulations G and U. Investment banking services are defined to include, but not be limited to, “underwritings, private placements, and advice and other services in connection with exchange offers, mergers, or acquisitions, except for underwritings that involve the public distribution of an equity security with installment or other deferred-payment provisions.” To comply with Regulations G and U where the proceeds of debt securities sold under Rule 144A may be used to purchase or carry margin stock and the debt securities are secured in whole or in part, directly or indirectly by margin stock (see 12 CFR 207.2(f), 207.112, and 221.2(g)), the margin requirements of the regulations must be met.
(e) The SEC's objective in adopting Rule 144A is to achieve “a more liquid and efficient institutional resale market for unregistered securities.” To further this objective, the Board believes it is appropriate for Regulation T purposes to characterize the participation of broker-dealers in this unique and limited market as an “investment banking service.” The Board is therefore of the view that the purchase by a creditor of debt securities for resale pursuant to SEC Rule 144A may be considered an investment banking service under the arranging section of Regulation T. The market-making activities of broker-dealers who hold themselves out to other institutions as willing to buy and sell Rule 144A securities on a regular and continuous basis may also be considered an arranging of credit permissible under § 220.13(a) of Regulation T.