Subject to its limits, Rule 701 permits non-reporting companies to grant employees equity without registration under the Securities Act of 1933. One component of Rule 701 requires certain disclosure materials to be delivered to employees if the aggregate sales price or amount of securities sold during any consecutive 12-month period exceeds $5 million. Rule 701 provides that for options to purchase securities, the aggregate sales price is determined when an option grant is made (without regard to when the option becomes exercisable).
In a settled enforcement action, the SEC alleged Credit Karma, Inc., which the SEC describes as a “pre-IPO internet-based financial technology company headquartered in San Francisco, California”, blew through the $5 million disclosure limit. Specifically, the SEC alleged “From October 2014 to September 2015, Credit Karma issued approximately $13.8 million in stock options to its employees “ and “failed to comply with the disclosure requirements of Rule 701, even though senior executives were aware of Rule 701”.
Credit Karma agreed to pay a civil money penalty in the amount of $160,000. The SEC noted it considered remedial acts promptly undertaken by Credit Karma and cooperation afforded the Commission staff. Credit Karma did not admit or deny the SEC’s findings.