Restricted Stock Lock Up and Leak Out Periods

Shareholders receiving restricted stock in OTC Markets companies sometimes find out later that their documents contain Lock Up or Leak Out provisions designed to limit the Shareholder’s ability to clear and sell stock.

What is a Lock Up Period?

A Lock Up Period is a time frame in which a Shareholder is prohibited from selling restricted stock.  One reason behind a typical Lock Up Agreement would be that the company is planning an IPO, or initial public offering and its Underwriter insists that existing shares be subject to a “lock up” during that time period.  Another common reason is when employees or consultants receive shares and their work is not yet completed.  A Lock Up Period in that event serves as a way for their shares to “vest over time.”

What is a Leak Out Period?

A Leak Out Period is the time frame in which a Shareholder has volume trading limitations placed on selling restricted stock.  Shareholders are often limited to selling a percentage of the daily trading volume, for instance.

An Experienced Securities Lawyer Can Spot Lock Up and Leak out Restrictions

An experienced securities lawyer can easily locate these clauses within a Shareholder’s Subscription Agreement, Employment Agreement, or Consulting Agreement and inform Shareholders of their rights and restrictions on selling restricted stock under Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1).

Rule 144 and Section 4(a)(1) Opinions Can Be Issued Despite Lock Up and Leak Out Agreements

Simply having a Lock Up or Leak Out provision in your documents does not automatically mean that an experienced Rule 144 lawyer cannot issue a legal opinion.

On the contrary, with a careful reading of the documents and knowledge of the Rule 144 or Section 4(a)(1), OTC securities lawyer like Matt Stout can issue legal opinions for clearing restricted stock which fully explains to the Broker and Transfer Agent, the scope of the Lock Up or Leak Out language, and clarifies exactly what can be sold and when.

Shareholders with restricted stock can contact Rule 144 lawyer Matt Stout for a no cost review of certs and documents at (410) 429-7076 or mstout@otclawyers.com

Difference in Rule 144 Holding Periods for SEC Filers and Pink Sheets

Shareholders in OTC Markets public companies with audited financials listed on the OTCQB are often surprised to learn that they cannot sell shares even after their six (6) month holding period.  Why?  The answer is usually because the company is a “voluntary filer.”

Only Mandatory SEC Filers Can Use a 6 Month Holding Period Under Rule 144

The Rule 144 holding period of six months only applies to mandatory SEC Reporting Companies.   These are otherwise known as “SEC Filers” or “mandatory filers.”  The technical reason is that under Rule 144, the SEC only considers a “fully reporting company” to be an SEC filer with audited financials that is subject to the reporting requirements of Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Voluntary SEC Filers Are Not Subject to Section 12 of the Exchange Act

That means that shareholders of public companies which went public by filing an S-1 Registration Statement under the Securities Act of 1933 may not actually qualify for the Rule 144 six month holding period unless they also filed a form 8A-12g or a Form 10, which are both 34 Act filings.

Voluntary Filers Have a 12 Month Holding Period Like a Pink Sheet

If not, they are subject to a twelve month holding period just like a non reporting Pink Sheet.

Prior to issuing a legal opinion for restricted stock, an experienced securities attorney can review an issuer’s filings to quickly determine your holding period at no cost.

Is there a limit to the number of shares I can sell under Rule 144?

For non affiliates, there is no limit.  If you are an affiliate of an Issuer, you are subject to the volume trading limitations under Rule 144.

In a three (3) month period, an affiliate can sell only

  1. a maximum of one percent (1%) of the number of issued and outstanding shares for an OTC Markets Pink Sheet or Bulletin Board stock; or
  2. if the stock is traded on NASDAQ or an exchange like the NYSE, the average weekly trading volume for the full four (4) week period preceding the date you file your Form 144 with the SEC, if it is higher than the one percent (1%) limitation.

Affiliate shareholders seeking to sell stock under the Rule 144 volume trading limit can contact Matt Stout, securities lawyer at (410) 429-7076 for a review of their documents at no cost.