The proposed amendments could significantly alter the landscape for extended settlement of securities offerings by expressly limiting the public offering exception for “when-issued” securities to equity IPOs.

By: Senet S. Bischoff, Gregory P. Rodgers, Stephen P. Wink, and Naim Culhaci

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has proposed amendments to its margin requirement rules, which protect member firms against customer credit risk by generally requiring firms to collect margin when they extend credit to their customers.

The proposed amendments would deem any transaction that is agreed to settle beyond T+2 an “extended settlement transaction” for which margin must be collected as if in a margin account, absent an applicable exception. The proposed amendments would also expressly limit the public offering exception for when-issued securities in cash accounts to equity IPOs. This change could significantly impact existing market practice for registered offerings of debt, as well as private offerings resold under Rule 144A. Furthermore, due to increased negative carry in debt refinancings, as well as delays in the launch of offerings that cause issuers to miss attractive market windows (as T+2 is insufficient to prepare the requisite closing documentation for many debt financings without a strong running start), the amendments could likely increase the cost of capital for issuers in the US capital markets. The authors of this Client Alert also believe the proposed amendments could cause member firms to be forced to take additional capital charges in order to allow transaction professionals (including the member firms themselves, as well as attorneys, auditors, trustees, and issuers) a sufficient amount of time to finalize the requisite closing documentation. The cost will either be borne by firms or passed through to issuers.

This Client Alert provides an overview of the key points and considerations for the proposed amendments.