When the economy (and financial markets) are at it’s extremes, either doing extremely well or extremely poorly, dangerous financial products and ideas become more prevalent. And right now we are seeing an increase in Offering Memorandum products.
Portus, Eron Mortgage Corp, Shire International Real Estate Investments, and Arbour Energy and just a few Canadian examples. The one common denominator they share, is they all are catagorized as Exempt Market Securities.
What are Exempt Market Securities?
…when companies (issuers) sell securities such as stocks, options, or bonds, they are generally required to file a prospectus. This document contains material facts about both the issuer and the security. However, in certain cases securities can be sold without a prospectus and these investments are called exempt securities; the sale is called an exempt distribution or a private placement.
What should I know about Exempt Market Securities?
These investments are not for everyone. A prospectus is meant to ensure an investor has key facts to be able to make an informed decision. Without it, you may be taking a greater risk with your money. Be aware that:
-If you buy an exempt security, you may not have the same legal rights as you do under a prospectus.
-Most exempt securities are subject to resale restrictions. This means you may not be able to sell them for a certain period of time.
-Even if no resale restrictions apply, there might not be a market for the securities you purchased, either because you would not be able to find any purchasers or they may not qualify to purchase the securities.
-Some exempt securities are not liquid. Liquidity means that you can sell an investment in a short period of time and turn it into cash. Some exempt securities, such as hedge funds, may require longer periods to redeem.
-Because these investments are bought without a prospectus, there may be very limited information available on which to base your investment decision.
-When an issuer sells its exempt securities, it may not use a registered dealer as an agent. This means, when you buy from an issuer, you may not get the same protection you would get when you buy from a registered dealer.
–from a release by the Nova Scotia Securities Commission and cirrulated by the other regulators. (footnote 1)
A disclosure document put out by the BCSC includes this simple explanation (footnote 2):
They are called exempt market securities because two parts of securities law do not apply to them. If an issuer wants to sell exempt market securities to you:
-The issuer does not have to give you a prospectus (a document that describes the investment in detail and gives you some legal protections), and
-The securities do not have to be sold by an investment dealer registered with a securities regulatory authority.
There are restrictions on your ability to resell exempt market securities.Exempt market securities are more risky than other securities.
Disclosure documents (be it a Prospectus, when regulated by the Securities Act, or a Policy Contract/Information Folder, when regulated by the Insurance Act), exist for a reason, To protect the investing public. There is no evidence proving the absentence of disclosure documents increases potential return, but it is well known to increase risk.
Policy Contracts and Prospectuses are the financial world’s equivalent to seat belts. Hopefully you won’t have to depend on them in a life or death situation. The best option for most regular folks is to just avoid these dangerous investments. Just like it always advisable to wear your seat belt.