By Katanga Johnson
WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday said it would provide relief to smaller firms seeking to raise capital via online platforms to meet "urgent funding needs" due to the coronavirus-related disruption.
The SEC's measure seeks to temporarily amend existing crowdfunding requirements but only if a company meets "the enhanced eligibility requirements" while providing "clear, prominent disclosure to investors about its reliance on the relief," which will apply to offerings launched between the effective date of the temporary rules and Aug. 31, the agency said.
The regulator in March proposed allowing smaller, private companies to access more capital before they meet a requirement to register with the agency - a lengthy and costly process.
At that time, some investor advocates expressed worries that even the stricter rules now in effect were not enough to encourage robust disclosure.
The agency has previously issued relief to address concerns by public companies and investment firms.
Monday's measure exempts issuers who have offered between $107,000 and $250,000 in securities within a 12-month period from an independent auditor review requirement of financial statements, the agency said.
Issuers that have been organized and operated for at least six months prior to the commencement of the crowdfunding offering are also eligible for the agency's conditional relief. Firms must also have issued securities under the agency's current Regulation Crowdfunding offering rules in the past, the agency said.
Issuers may only initiate crowdfunding after filing offering statements, but the firms' financial statements may be initially omitted, the agency said.
"In the current environment, many established small businesses are facing challenges accessing urgently needed capital in a timely and cost-effective manner," SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement.
"Today's action responds to feedback we have received from our Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee and others about the difficulties these companies may face in conducting an offering within a time frame that meets pressing capital needs, while continuing to provide appropriate protections for investors." (Reporting by Katanga Johnson Editing by Paul Simao)