SEC’s Piwowar Renews Attack on ‘Accredited’ Investor Regime

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By Andrew Ramonas

Acting SEC Chairman Michael Piwowar repeated his call for an overhaul of monetary restrictions that keep some people from participating in private, unregistered offerings.

Speaking at a Feb. 24 conference in Washington, the Republican reiterated his concerns about the usefulness of the “accredited” investor regime, which uses income and net worth to determine whether individuals can invest in start-up companies, hedge funds and other high-risk investments.

An individual must have $200,000 in net income over the past two years or $1 million in net worth that excludes a primary residence. The income threshold is $300,000 for married couples.

“In my view, there is a glaring need to move beyond the artificial distinction between ‘accredited’ and ‘non-accredited’ investors,” he said at the Practising Law Institute’s annual “SEC Speaks” gathering. “I question the notion that non-accredited investors are truly protected by regulations that prevent them from investing in high-risk, high-return securities available only to the Davos jet-set.”

Then-SEC Chairman Mary Jo White in 2016 directed her staff to prepare recommendations on changing the accredited investor definition. At the time, Piwowar called accredited and non-accredited investors “arbitrary categories.”

White’s directive came after the commission’s Investor Advisory Committee recommended a sophistication test to determine whether someone is an accredited investor. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC is required to periodically review the definition.

It’s unclear whether Piwowar will take any action related to accredited investors as acting chairman. He quickly left the conference without taking questions from reporters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Ramonas in Washington at aramonas@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Phyllis Diamond at pdiamond@bna.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com

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