One of the unresolved issues about equity crowdfunding, which has been rather overlooked in the recent discussions on its regulation, is a longstanding provision in the Companies Acts, still present in the current version (the Companies Act 2006). This provides that only public companies, not private companies, can offer shares to the public. I was reminded by a discussion with colleagues yesterday and then this article that this is a point that needs to be ironed out if there is to be clarity on the regulatory environment for crowdfunding. Public companies (even if not listed or publicly traded) are subject to much more regulation in the Companies Acts than private companies. In return they can do things that private companies are not allowed to, including offering shares to the public, because it is intended that with their increased obligations of disclosure, their financial situation is more transparent. Just because a private company that plans to raise equity funding from the "crowd" is compliant with the Financial Services regime in terms of the rules on promotion of investment opportunities, and the other rules governing investment business (such as on collective investment schemes), does not mean that that private company will be the right side of the Companies Act rules on offers to the public. The sensible solution to this would be to join up these rules in one coherent regime, amending the Companies Act as necessary. Perhaps something for after the election.
Is the phenomenon of "crowdfunding" – where entrepreneurs or more or less anyone asks the public to put cash into their proposed venture – getting out of control? Numerous websites have sprung up offering one version of crowdfunding or another. The websites allow those seeking finance to publish details of their project including how much cash they need, how they will use it and how investors stand to profit (if at all) in future. Some of the sites vet the fund-raisers – others don't. In most cases the investors are offered shares in the business. But the craze has grown so fast that one high-profile figure.......... now wants to set up a site of her own. Nicola Horlick...........announced plans to launch Money&Co, a crowdfunding website, early next year.