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Rule 144A

Category — Issue Parameters
By Konstantin Vasilev Member of the Board of Directors of Cbonds, Ph.D. in Economics
Updated October 11, 2023

What Is Rule 144A?

Rule 144A, often called the "Private Resales of Securities to Institutions," represents a crucial legal provision that modifies the trading landscape for private companies and privately placed securities. This regulatory safe harbor relaxes the stringent constraints originally outlined in Rule 144 under Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, which typically governs the sale and private placement of securities regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Introduced in 2012, Rule 144A ushered in a notable transformation by allowing these privately placed investments to change hands among qualified institutional buyers (QIBs). This amendment marked a significant departure from the prior regulatory framework and led to a substantial boost in the liquidity of the affected securities.

While the enhanced liquidity has been a boon for the financial markets, it has also raised concerns. Some worry that Rule 144A might inadvertently facilitate deceptive foreign offerings and potentially limit the diversity of securities accessible to the general public. This dual nature of the rule underscores its importance and complexity within the broader landscape of federal securities laws and market dynamics.

Rule 144A Explained

Rule 144A streamlines the buying and reselling of private securities among qualified institutional buyers (QIBs) by alleviating regulatory restrictions and exempting them from SEC interference. This regulatory framework has elicited divergent perspectives within the financial community.

One school of thought contends that this rule will foster increased foreign investment and stimulate economic growth. In their view, well-informed QIBs require less regulatory protection and information disclosure compared to individual or retail investors.

Conversely, some argue that while investments from foreign companies can benefit economic development, they warrant scrutiny by the SEC to prevent potential fraudulent activities stemming from reduced oversight. Additionally, there is a call for greater clarity and transparency in defining what qualifies as a QIB to prevent unethical or corrupt practices. Thus, there is a viewpoint advocating for enhanced restrictions within Rule 144A.

Rule 144A has notably reduced the holding period requirement, shortening it from the initial two-year window to a minimum of six months for reporting companies and one year for issuers. This holding period commences on the day of purchase, contingent on full payment for the securities acquired.

The resale of Rule 144A securities necessitates the involvement of a registered firm or brokerage adhering to affiliate sales rules. A nominal commission is typically assessed to sell securities, with both the seller and broker prohibited from manipulating post-sale prices.

As these trades are devoid of SEC oversight, market liquidity has increased, enhancing the efficiency of sales transactions. However, any sale exceeding 5,000 shares or a value of $50,000 within a quarter must be reported to the SEC via Form 144.

It’s worth noting that sales conducted through affiliated entities are exempt from SEC filing and reporting requirements.

How does Rule 144A Work?

Rule 144A operates within the framework of the Securities Act of 1933, a mandate that necessitates the registration of all securities issued by a company with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before any public offering or sale can occur. However, Rule 144A introduces a critical safe harbor exemption for sellers, facilitating the resale of securities to qualified buyers, specifically institutional entities, as opposed to individual investors.

This exemption effectively permits institutions to trade these securities amongst themselves, circumventing the traditional SEC registration process. The net result is a significant boost in the liquidity of restricted and control securities. This heightened liquidity arises from the newfound ability of large institutional investors to engage in more fluid trading of these securities, which were previously subject to more onerous regulatory constraints.

One essential requirement set forth by Rule 144A is the removal of restrictive legends from the securities’ certificates before resale. The rule outlines the specific procedures for removing these legends. Additionally, certain other conditions must be met to qualify for this exemption, ensuring that the exemption is utilized in accordance with regulatory standards.

Rule 144A vs. Reg S

Rule 144A

  • Basic Function. Rule 144A primarily caters to Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) within the United States. QIBs can trade Rule 144A bonds without extensive SEC registration and scrutiny. This rule effectively streamlines the trading of certain securities among qualified institutional entities, promoting liquidity.

  • Clearance Systems. Transactions under Rule 144A are typically cleared through the Depository Trust and Clearance Corporation (DTCC). The securities involved are identified by a Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures (CUSIP) number, often complemented by an International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) code for clearance.

Regulation S

  • Basic Function. In contrast, Regulation S is designed for a broader scope, allowing for offers and trades of bonds outside the United States, serving both U.S. and non-U.S. Qualified Institutional Buyers. It is especially useful for issuers seeking to tap into international capital markets without the complexities of SEC registration.

  • Clearance Systems. Regulation S transactions are typically cleared through international systems such as Euroclear and Clearstream. The International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) code is commonly accepted for clearance purposes in Regulation S transactions.


Rule 144A vs. Rule 144


  • SEC Rule 144 applies to the sale of restricted and controlled securities by both reporting and non-reporting companies.

  • In contrast, Rule 144A specifically pertains to the sale of certain securities by a reporting company.

Types of Securities.

  • Rule 144 encompasses the sale of all restricted and controlled securities.

  • On the other hand, Rule 144A applies exclusively to specific types of securities, including debt securities and preferred stock.

Type of Investors.

  • Rule 144 allows selling restricted and controlled securities to accredited and non-accredited investors.

  • Rule 144A is more restrictive, as it permits sales solely to Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) with at least $100 million in assets under management.

Holding Period.

  • Under Rule 144, there is a general holding period of six months for securities before they can be sold.

  • In contrast, Rule 144A does not impose any specific holding period requirement.

Resale Restrictions.

  • Rule 144 involves various resale restrictions for restricted securities, including volume limitations and other regulatory conditions.

  • Rule 144A imposes fewer restrictions on the resale of securities in comparison.

Information Requirements.

  • Holders of restricted securities subject to SEC Rule 144 must provide certain information to the SEC when reselling their securities.

  • Rule 144A does not entail such information requirements for resale.


Criticism of Rule 144A

Rule 144A, while hailed for its role in increasing non-SEC trading activity and liquidity in the securities market, has not been without its share of criticism. Here are some key concerns and criticisms associated with Rule 144A:

  1. Lack of Transparency. One of the primary criticisms of Rule 144A is the relative lack of transparency in trading securities under this rule. While beneficial for institutional investors, the increased trading activity can be largely invisible to individual investors and even some institutional players. This opacity has raised concerns about market fairness and accessibility.

  2. Regulatory Oversight. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) took steps to address transparency concerns by reporting Rule 144A trades in the corporate debt market starting in 2014. However, critics argue that this measure might not go far enough in ensuring adequate regulatory oversight, potentially leaving room for misconduct.

  3. Definition of Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs). In 2017, the SEC faced questions regarding the definition of QIBs eligible to participate in Rule 144A trades. There were concerns about how these investors calculate the requirement that they own and invest on a discretionary basis at least $100 million in securities of unaffiliated private issuers. Clarifications were sought to ensure that the rule’s benefits were directed toward genuinely qualified investors.

  4. Shadow Market and Regulatory Avoidance. Perhaps the most significant criticism revolves around the potential for Rule 144A to create a shadow market. Critics argue that this rule might allow unscrupulous overseas companies to evade the regulatory scrutiny of the SEC while offering investments in the U.S. market. This could open the door to fraudulent activities by foreign entities, posing risks to U.S. investors.



  • What is the qualified purchaser Rule 144A?

  • Who can buy Rule 144A securities?

  • What is the rule 145 of the SEC?

  • What are the restrictions for the 144A offering?

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