How Does Rule 144 Treat Stock Earned Under a Consulting Agreement?

Securities attorneys who have experience in drafting Rule 144 opinions often review Consulting Agreements under which services are performed in exchange for restricted stock in OTC Bulletin Board or OTC Markets public companies.

Consultants are Often Paid in Restricted Stock

Many OTC Bulletin Board or OTC Markets OTCQB, OTCQX or Pink Sheet Issuers use their restricted stock as a type of currency to hire professionals such as attorneys, accountants, and marketing or investor relations Consultants.  This makes sense from a balance sheet point of view, as it conserve cash and provides the Consultants with an incentive to help the Issuer, since if the stock price rises, in theory everyone benefits.

The Rule 144 Holding Period Begins When the Consultant’s Fee is Earned

Of the elements of Rule 144, the most important when dealing with a Consulting Agreement is determining the proper “holding period” for restricted stock paid to the Consultant.   Under SEC Rule 144, the holding period for restricted stock does not start until the securities have been fully paid for, or fully earned.

Rule 144 Holding Period for SEC Reporting Companies

SEC Reporting Companies such as OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB), OTC Markets OTCQB, OTCQX and microcap Issuers listed on the NASDAQ or the NYSE MKT exchanges have a holding period of six (6) months.

Rule 144 Holding Period for OTC Markets Pink Sheets

Non Reporting Companies like OTC Markets Pink Sheets generally have a one (1) year holding period for restricted stock, though some would argue that if the Issuer is Pink Current, that it can be said to be fully reporting under the Alternative Reporting Standard.  Different broker-dealers and clearing firms have varying opinions on this.

Calculating When the Consultants Rule 144 Holding Period Starts

This sounds simple enough–calculate the Consultant’s holding period under Rule 144 from the day the shares were earned.   However, often Consulting Agreements are vague, and provide for a block of shares to be earned in exchange for services provided over a set period of years.

But at what point are all of the shares (or a portion thereof) earned?  Is it upon signing the Consulting Agreement….or only at the end of the term? Do the shares get prorated if the Consultant stops performing work before the term ends?

When there is ambiguity, a Rule 144 securities attorney needs to request Board Resolutions, and correspondence between the Issuer and the Consultant so that it is clear when the shares were earned, and when the Rule 144 holding period starts.

Consultants and OTC Issuers can assist securities lawyers drafting Rule 144 opinions by clearly stating in the Consulting Agreement when the shares are fully earned.

A Securities Lawyer Can Draft Consulting Agreements to Comply with Rule 144

Consultants who provide services to microcap public companies in exchange for restricted stock may contact securities lawyer Matt Stout with questions concerning Rule 144 at (410) 429-7076 or find more information on how to structure Consulting Agreements to comply with SEC Rule 144 at OTCLawyers.com.