Emory Law Journal

The Anti–Crowd Pleaser: Fixing the Crowdfund Act’s Hidden Risks and Inadequate Remedies
David Mashburn I am enormously grateful to my advisor, Professor Anne M. Rector, for her guidance, unflagging support, and willingness to closely review innumerable drafts of this Comment. This piece also benefitted immensely from the insightful comments of Professor William J. Carney and the several people interviewed for this work. Any errors that remain are my responsibility alone. Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to write in a nascent subject area but one that already boasts superb writing by numerous professors and practicing attorneys from whom I learned a great deal.

Abstract

A new form of startup financing is poised to turn the world of early-stage financing on its head. The Crowdfund Act—part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012—will permit middle-class citizens to invest online in startups for the first time. After the SEC finishes its rulemaking, equity crowdfunding—modeled on the success of rewards-based crowdfunding websites, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo—will allow startups and eligible small businesses to raise up to $1 million over a twelve-month period by issuing equity shares to mom-and-pop retail investors through online “funding portals.”

A swelling tide of scholarship, media reports, and security industry publications warns about the risk of fraud inherent in the online selling of equity shares in startups to unsophisticated investors. However, this literature largely omits discussion of the problems with the new civil liability provision included in the Crowdfund Act—an express private action provision that will raise the transaction costs of crowdfunding and ensnare unwary issuers in its liability trap. In an attempt to address the fraud concern, Congress drafted this new civil liability provision as well as a detailed and extensive set of disclosure requirements for issuers to navigate. The new liability provision, which broadens the language of Section 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, imposes liability on the issuer and its officers and directors for false or misleading statements or omissions in any written or oral communication. A plaintiff need only prove that an untrue statement or misleading omission occurred and that the defendant did not exercise reasonable care, even if loss causation, reliance, and scienter are not shown.

This Comment analyzes the hidden transaction costs in the Crowdfund Act, particularly the severe liability cost this provision imposes on issuers. Crowdfunded offerings present a new environment in which innocent but inexperienced entrepreneurs face increased risk of making a misstatement or misleading omission. Crowdfunded offerings confront a number of issues not faced by mature companies making public offerings, including the high failure rate of startups, the difficulty of working with emerging technology, the entrepreneurial psychological predisposition to risk, a lack of sophisticated disclosure assistance, and a dearth of due diligence.

This Comment argues that the new liability provision not only will sweep too broadly—indiscriminately catching negligent entrepreneurs and fraudsters in its swath—but will also fail to provide an effective remedy for defrauded investors. Given the relatively small amount of money in play in a crowdfunded offering and the expense and difficulty of bringing a class action securities lawsuit, plaintiffs’ attorneys are unlikely to pursue cases involving fraudulent behavior. This Comment concludes that the best solution to both issues is to impose scienter as an element of the civil liability provision while also awarding attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs’ attorneys successful on the merits at trial. This solution will decrease the up-front and hidden transaction costs for issuers and will incentivize plaintiffs’ attorneys to pursue issuers committing fraud. Finally, this solution continues the SEC’s goal of balancing securities regulations to protect investors and the integrity of the market, while keeping transaction costs low enough to maintain the utility of the market as this revolutionary experiment in startup financing takes root.

Introduction

When startup Pebble Technology founder Eric Migicovsky needed additional funding to take his invention, a “smartwatch” that pairs with smartphones and runs apps, from prototype to production, he started off on the traditional roadhe pitched his idea to the established venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. 1See Joanna Stern, Pebble Watch: Behind the Smartwatch Sensation, ABC News (July 11, 2012), http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/pebble-watch-smartwatch-iphone-android/story?id=16750944#.UGYH4WBt_80. But, as is frequently the case, the traditional venture capital firms turned Migicovsky down. 2See id. Migicovsky’s startup then took a new, but increasingly common, approach: it turned to “the crowd” for funding. In April 2012, Pebble Technology posted a funding pitch on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, estimating delivery of a Pebble Watch by September to each person who contributed $115 or more to the venture. 3See Pebble Tech., Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android?ref=live (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). Pebble Technology set its funding goal at $100,000. 4See id. Within about twenty-eight hours, Pebble Technology had raised $1 million. 5Pebble Tech., $1mm in 28 Hours, Update to Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android, Kickstarter (Apr. 12, 2012), http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts?page=9. Within thirty-seven days, Pebble Technology had raised $10,266,845—more than 102 times its goal—without ceding any ownership in the company to investors. 6See Pebble Tech., supra note 3.

The biggest problem for crowdfunded ventures, such as Pebble Technology? Living up to their own promises. Pebble Technology shipped the first of its black smartwatches in late January 2013, missing its estimated delivery date by four months. 7See ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival), Get Pebble, http://help.getpebble.com/customer/portal/articles/1020569-eta-estimated-time-of-arrival (last updated July 9, 2013). Most of Pebble Technology’s color smartwatches shipped during spring 2013, although supporters that ordered white smartwatches were still awaiting delivery in July 2013 8Id. Even with this delay of more than ten months for certain smartwatch backers, Pebble Technology actually came closer to meeting its estimated delivery date than many large crowdfunded projects on Kickstarter. 9See Matt Krantz, Crowd Funding’s Dark Side; Sometimes Investments Just Swirl Down the Drain, USA Today, Aug. 15, 2012, at 1B. This problem—failing to achieve production timetables and delivery promises—is endemic among technology startups on Kickstarter and exemplifies the risks and obstacles startups face. 10See infra notes 230–34 and accompanying text.

Despite these issues, crowdfunding possesses enormous potential for revolutionizing startup financing and jumpstarting the lagging U.S. economy. 11See John S. (Jack) Wroldsen, The Social Network and the Crowdfund Act: Zuckerberg, Saverin, and Venture Capitalists’ Dilution of the Crowd, 15 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 583, 594 (2013) (describing the “revolutionary power of Internet crowdfunding”). Kickstarter is an example of a reward crowdfunding site where donors receive rewards, such as products or small perks, in exchange for donations as seen in the Pebble Watch story. Now, a new type of crowdfunding is in the works—equity crowdfunding. In the spring of 2012, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (JOBS Act). 12See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, President Obama to Sign Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act (Apr. 5, 2012), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/05/president-obama-sign-jumpstart-our-business-startups-jobs-act. A central provision in the JOBS Act, Title III: Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure Act of 2012 (Crowdfund Act), mandates that the Securities and Exchange Commission promulgate rules creating a registration exemption to the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) for crowdfunded offerings sold to retail investors, meaning individual, small investors, via registered online funding portals or brokers. 13Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302, 126 Stat. 306, 315–21 (2012). In equity crowdfunding, the investor receives equity, meaning a share of the company, instead of simply a reward or product. 14See Wroldsen, supra note 11, at 588–89. Unless otherwise noted, all further references to “crowdfunding” are to equity crowdfunding, which is the primary concern of this Comment. Until the SEC promulgates these rules—most likely in early 2014—equity crowdfunding will remain illegal. 15See Robb Mandelbaum, ‘Crowdfunding’ Rules Are Unlikely to Meet Deadline, N.Y. Times, Dec. 27, 2012, at B1. All securities, including shares of a company using equity crowdfunding, must be registered with the SEC or satisfy a registration exemption before they can be sold. See id. Registering securities under Section 5 of the Securities Act is prohibitively expensive for startups, and none of the other registration exemptions fits equity crowdfunding. See infra Part I.B.

Securities regulations do not apply to reward crowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter, which allows them to operate sans SEC oversight. 16See infra Part I.A–B for an explanation of rewards crowdfunding and the inapplicability of current securities regulations. But what if a Pebble Watch scenario occurred in the forthcoming SEC-regulated equity crowdfunding? Thanks to the new civil liability provision in the JOBS Act, Eric Migicovsky and Pebble Technology would be on the hook for all the money raised, plus interest, if Migicovsky or any Pebble Technology officer, director, or partner made a material misstatement or omission in a written or oral communication to the SEC or to Pebble Technology’s investors. 17See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). This liability applies even if the misrepresentation was “merely negligent, not intentional,” 18See C. Steven Bradford, The New Federal Crowdfunding Exemption: Promise Unfulfilled, 40 Sec. Reg. L. J. 195, 217 (2012), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2066088. such as setting the September 2012 shipping date, for example. This Comment will closely examine the new civil liability provision in the JOBS Act.

The JOBS Act is, as its name suggests, intended to jumpstart economic development and job creation by easing restrictions on startups seeking to raise capital. 19See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, supra note 12. Based on the obvious and inevitable risk of fraud inherent in an online funding system involving unsophisticated investors, 20See Thomas Lee Hazen, Crowdfunding or Fraudfunding? Social Networks and the Securities Laws—Why the Specially Tailored Exemption Must Be Conditioned on Meaningful Disclosure, 90 N.C. L. Rev. 1735, 1767–69 (2012); Lyndon M. Tretter, Crowdfunding: Small-business Incubator or Securities Fraud Accelerator? 18 WL J. Sec. Litig. & Reg., no. 8, Aug. 21, 2012 at 1, 1, available at 2012 WL 3580266; Skip Kaltenheuser, Legislating to Create the Next Enron, IBA Net, http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=1542A41C-C561-474A-B057-18696C22BDE0 (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). Congress drafted detailed, extensive, and complicated disclosure requirements for issuers using crowdfunding. 21See Stuart R. Cohn, The New Crowdfunding Registration Exemption: Good Idea, Bad Execution, 64 Fla. L. Rev. 1433, 1438–40 (2012). These hurdles will increase the transaction costs associated with raising a relatively small sum of money through crowdfunding. 22See infra Part II. Along with the substantive disclosure requirements, Congress also drafted a new liability provision—referred to as Section 4A(c) throughout this Comment—that borrows almost verbatim from the language of Section 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act. 23See Bradford, supra note 18, at 210–11. Section 12(a)(2), at least in theory, imposes civil liability on issuers for false or misleading statements or omissions in an oral statement or in a prospectus for a public offering. 24Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012). Although crowdfunding does not permit trading on the public markets, a crowdfunded offering shares several characteristics with an initial public offering (IPO). See Antone Johnson, The Great Crowdfunding Train Wreck of 2013, Gust Blog (Mar. 19, 2012), http://gust.com/angel-investing/startup-blogs/2012/03/19/crowdfunding-train-wreck/. Crowdfunding, likewise, makes equity shares in a business available in relatively small dollar amounts to a large number of retail investors. See id. (explaining that crowdfunding “sounds virtually identical” to an IPO). This Comment argues that Section 4A(c) sweeps too broadly, raises further the already high transaction costs in crowdfunding, provides an ineffective remedy for investors, and needs a rewrite to properly fit the new crowdfunding model for startup financing.

Although it is easy to point a finger at Congress for poor or rushed drafting, 25See infra Part I.C. the roots of the problems with Section 4A(c) run much deeper. Crowdfunding inverts the traditional finance system for non-registered offerings. 26See Letter from William Francis Galvin, Sec’y of the Commonwealth, Commonwealth of Mass., to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Sec’y, SEC (Aug. 8, 2012), available at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/sct/sctpdf/Jobs_ Act0001.pdf (“Crowdfunding represents a significant departure from long-established rules for public offerings of securities.”). Instead of raising a large sum of money from a small number of institutional investors or accredited investors 27An “accredited investor” is, inter alia, “a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years.” Accredited Investors, SEC.gov, http://www.sec.gov/answers/accred.htm (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). in a private placement offering, 28Private placements are securities offerings sold outside of the normal public securities markets. See Jennifer J. Johnson, Fleecing Grandma: A Regulatory Ponzi Scheme, 16 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 993, 995 (2012). Although Rules 505 and 506 of Regulation D allow selling securities to thirty-five non-accredited investors in a private placement, most issuers do not do so to avoid triggering extensive disclosure requirements. See infra note 107 and accompanying text; see also Johnson, supra note 24. Moreover, although Rule 504 of Regulation D does not limit the number of non-accredited investors, it also does not preempt state law registration requirements, which may in turn impose strict limitations on the number of non-accredited investors permitted. See infra note 108 and accompanying text; see also Alexander J. Davie, Can a Friends and Family Round Include Non-Accredited Investors? Should It? Strictly Bus. L. Blog (Aug. 15, 2011), http://www.strictlybusinesslawblog.com/2011/08/15/can-a-friends-and-family-round-include-non-accredited-investors-should-it/. crowdfunding raises this sum from a large number of unsophisticated retail investors. 29See Paul Belleflamme et al., Crowdfunding: Tapping the Right Crowd 2 (Ctr. for Operations Research & Econometrics, Discussion Paper No. 2011/32, 2012), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1578175. Currently, several platforms, including AngelList, FundersClub, and MicroVentures, are using crowdfunding to raise money from accredited angel investors. See Sarah E. Needleman & Lora Kolodny, Site Unseen: More ‘Angels’ Invest via InternetRisks Abound, but Investors Search for Promising Startups, Wall St. J., Jan. 24, 2013, at B1. Although this variation on equity crowdfunding shows great promise for untethering angel investors from traditional finance hotspots, such as New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, these platforms essentially just move traditional angel investor financing into online communities. See id.; see also infra note 79. This Comment is primarily concerned with equity crowdfunding involving retail investors, not angels. The Crowdfund Act’s rehashing of Section 12(a)(2)’s “express private cause of action” 30Jennifer J. Johnson, Secondary Liability for Securities Fraud: Gatekeepers in State Court, 36 Del. J. Corp. L. 463, 472 (2011). into Section 4A(c) simply does not fit the crowdfunding environment, especially given crowdfunding’s heightened risk of material misstatements and already steep transaction costs. As the proverb goes, you can’t put new wine into an old wineskin.

If the Crowdfund Act is to achieve its acronymistic goal of “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-disclosure,” 31See supra note 13 and accompanying text. Congress must revisit and rewrite Section 4A(c). As currently written, Section 4A(c) creates liability for the issuer if a plaintiff can prove the issuer made a verbal or written material misstatement or omission of a fact that makes other facts misleading and can show any investment loss, so long as that plaintiff did not know of the untruth or omission. 32See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 319 (2012). Section 4A(c) does not require the plaintiff to prove scienter, loss causation, or reliance, and provides only two weak affirmative defenses for the issuer. 33See id.; see also infra notes 205–10 and accompanying text.

As this Comment shows, crowdfunding’s circumstances will create a perfect liability trap for “innocent but unsophisticated entrepreneurs” 34Bradford, supra note 18, at 198. and will also drive up the transaction costs for entrepreneurs aware of the severe liability risk associated with what they write and say. To avoid both punishing uninformed entrepreneurs and ratcheting crowdfunding’s transaction costs even higher, Congress should rewrite Section 4A(c) to require the plaintiff to prove scienter—either intentionality or recklessness—before liability will attach. But, in order to better encourage civil fraud policing, Section 4A(c) also should be revised to allow attorney fee-shifting for plaintiffs’ attorneys, which will help justify the costs of pursuing litigation over the relatively small sums of money involved in crowdfunding. 35The Crowdfund Act places strict investment caps on individual investors. See infra note 279 and accompanying text. Since the maximum amount that an issuer can raise under the Crowdfund Act during any twelve-month period is $1 million, 36Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(a). the financial incentive to pursue class action litigation on a contingent fee basis is minimal, which puts investors at risk of having a right without a remedy. Of course, Rule 10b-5—the most famous anti-fraud civil liability provision—will apply to crowdfunded offerings. 37See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1757. However, the barriers to bringing a claim under Rule 10b-5, including clearing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s heightened specificity standards and proving scienter, reliance, and loss causation, will largely negate the effectiveness of this liability provision, especially given the small sum of money in play. 38See id. at 1757–58.

This Comment’s prescriptive solution borrows the scienter element of Rule 10b-5 and integrates it into Section 4A(c), creating a hybrid provision that protects issuers from liability for beginner’s mistakes but holds fraudulent issuers accountable via Section 4A(c)’s express cause of action, coupled with attorney fee-shifting. This recommendation establishes a better balance between issuer liability risk and investor protection from fraud—a perennial seesaw that is currently off-balance for both issuers and investors in crowdfunded offerings. Since fraud will almost inevitably occur, 39For example, the North American Securities Administrators Association has already identified about 200 crowdfunding website names that appear suspicious and state regulators are taking or considering taking enforcement action against “a handful of companies for allegedly exploiting online fundraising to commit fraud.” See Jean Eaglesham, Crowdfunding Efforts Draw Suspicion, Wall St. J., Jan. 18, 2013, at C1. This concern emphasizes the need for a strong liability provision, such as the one proposed, but not a provision that unduly exposes honest but inexperienced issuers to stark liability. a strong liability provision is needed. However, the right balance must take into account the steep transaction costs and heightened liability risk for inadvertent mistakes by issuers while still protecting investors from fraud. This Comment’s solution attempts to strike that balance.

Although a few scholars have written about drafting errors and other shortcomings of the Crowdfund Act, 40See generally Bradford, supra note 18 (analyzing the requirements of the Crowdfund Act and discussing its flaws); Cohn, supra note 21 (comparing the new crowdfunding exemption to other exemptions and criticizing its complexity). no one has written in more than passing detail about the problems with Section 4A(c), especially in regards to the provision’s effects on transaction costs, heavy-handedness toward inadvertent mistakes by entrepreneurs, and potential ineffectiveness as a remedy. This Comment seeks to fill that void and provide a prescriptive solution to these problems.

Part I of this Comment provides an overview of crowdfunding’s development. Section A focuses on the evolution of crowdfunding, including the different crowdfunding models, the success and proliferation of rewards-based crowdfunding websites, and crowdfunding’s avoidance of securities regulations under the Howey test. Section B explores the significant funding gap startups face due to banks’ reluctance to extend credit and the selectivity of angel investors and venture capital firms. Section B also discusses the inapplicability of other SEC registration exemptions to crowdfunding. Section C tracks the legislative history of the Crowdfund Act and highlights how additional disclosure requirements and Section 4A(c) were layered onto the Crowdfund Act in the name of protecting investors from fraud.

Next, Part II outlines the requirements imposed on issuers trying to raise funds through the Crowdfund Act. It also explains how the up-front transaction costs of crowdfunding, including accountant, attorney, and funding portal fees, coupled with crowdfunding’s hidden costs, may outweigh its benefits as a form of financing for early-stage companies.

In Part III, this Comment contrasts liability provision Section 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act with Section 4A(c) of the Crowdfund Act in detail. Section A examines the past application of Section 12(a)(2) in securities litigation and looks at the causes of its diminishing role. Section B explores how Congress tweaked the language of Section 12(a)(2) to drastically expand Section 4A(c)’s reach in the Crowdfund Act. In addition, section B.1 discusses the myriad reasons startups confront significantly higher liability risk in the crowdfunding environment under Section 4A(c) than more mature corporations confront when selling securities on the capital markets under Sections 11 and 12(a)(2). Section B.2 then addresses the concern that plaintiffs’ attorneys will be deterred from litigating crowdfunding suits because of the relatively minor sums of money at stake and the expense and difficulty of litigating securities class action lawsuits unless brought in anticipation of a quick settlement.

Finally, Part IV presents recommendations for rewriting Section 4A(c). Part IV first explains the need to add scienter as an element to avoid catching innocent but unsophisticated entrepreneurs in a liability trap and to prevent further escalation of the transaction costs in crowdfunding. Part IV then discusses the benefits of adding a fee-shifting provision to Section 4A(c), which would incentivize plaintiffs’ attorneys to pursue litigation on behalf of defrauded investors, thereby ensuring that the most culpable issuers can be held accountable and, hopefully, deterred from initially committing fraud. This crowdfunding-specific liability provision will balance investor protection against the equally urgent need to reduce the hidden transaction costs associated with this groundbreaking form of startup financing.

I. The Background of Crowdfunding

To understand the problems with Crowdfund Act Section 4A(c), it is first necessary to briefly consider the background of crowdfunding, including the evolution of crowdfunding, its ability to plug the startup capital funding gap, and the legislative history of the Crowdfund Act.

A. The Evolution of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding occurs when someone raises small amounts of money from a large group of people, facilitated via the Internet and, particularly, through social media platforms. 41See Bradford, supra note 18, at 196. Internet-based crowdfunding is still in its infancy; 42See Edan Burkett, A Crowdfunding Exemption? Online Investment Crowdfunding and U.S. Securities Regulation, 13 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 63, 71 (2011). the term “crowdfunding” does not even appear in the print version of the Oxford English Dictionary. 43Julia Groves, A $2.8bn Global Concept That’s Not yet in the Dictionary, Pioneers Post (Sept. 4, 2013), http://www.pioneerspost.com/news/20130409/28bn-global-concept-thats-not-yet-the-dictionary. To be fair, “crowdfunding” is in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. Crowdfunding, Oxford Dictionaries, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/crowdfunding (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). Crowdfunding has its roots in “crowdsourcing,” which refers more broadly to the efforts of the general public, i.e., “the crowd,” to solve a problem or address an issue, 44See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1736. such as designing T-shirts, fixing bugs in software, or developing a new algorithm for Netflix recommendations. 45See Nikki D. Pope, Crowdfunding Microstartups: It’s Time for the Securities and Exchange Commission to Approve a Small Offering Exemption, 13 U. Pa. J. Bus. L. 973, 976–77 (2011).

The primary problem solved by the crowd in crowdfunding is a lack of capital, a frequent and serious concern for startups. 46See infra Part I.B. Crowdfunding models usually take three forms: (1) donation or rewards crowdfunding, 47This category can be broken down into three related subcategories, depending on what the funder receives in return for his or her contribution: (1) a strictly donation-based model where, for example, the funder of a band making an album does not receive anything; (2) a nominal rewards model where, for example, the funder receives a thank-you in the album’s liner notes or a poster of the band’s album cover; and (3) a pre-purchase model where, for example, the funder receives a copy of the album once it is released. See D. Scott Freed, Crowdfunding as a Platform for Raising Small Business Capital, Md. B.J. July/August 2012, at 13. (2) crowdfunding loans, 48Although a great deal could be written about crowdfunding loans or the related topic of microlending, that subject lies outside the scope of this Comment. For more information, see generally Andrew Verstein, The Misregulation of Person-to-Person Lending, 45 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 445, 445 (2011), offering a proposal of a regulatory scheme aimed to preserve the “innovative mix of social finance, microlending, and disintermediation” involved in person-to-person lending. and (3) equity or revenue sharing crowdfunding. 49See Crowdfunding, Crowdsourcing.org, http://www.crowdsourcing.org/community/crowdfunding/7 (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). Early adopters of crowdfunding, including musicians, filmmakers, citizen journalists, and political candidates, relied on their popularity to directly solicit funds from followers via their own websites or through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, without using dedicated intermediary websites. 50See Burkett, supra note 42, at 71; see also Yoichiro Taku, Crowdfunding: Its Practical Effect May Be Unclear Until SEC Rulemaking Is Complete, Bus. L. Today (May 2012), http://apps.americanbar.org/buslaw/blt/content/2012/05/article-03-taku.pdf.

The appearance of intermediary websites, such as Indiegogo in early 2008 and Kickstarter in 2009, catalyzed the popularity of rewards crowdfunding by helping people without a built-in following access the crowd. 51See Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Buddy, Can You Spare a C-Note? A Field Guide to Crowdfunding, Inc., Nov. 2011, at 114. These intermediary websites essentially act as matchmakers between people seeking funding and people interested in donating funds. 52See Burkett, supra note 42, at 68, 71. Within the last six years, more than 350 new rewards crowdfunding platforms have appeared, 53See The New Thundering Herd, Economist, June 16, 2012, at 71. including niche platforms for teenagers, 54See CrowdfundingKids.com Launches Crowdfunding Site for U.S. Teens, SF Gate (Sept. 26, 2012, 7:01 AM), http://www.sfgate.com/business/prweb/article/CrowdfundingKids-com-Launches-Crowdfunding-Site-3895135.php. gamers, 55See Dean Takahashi, Gambitious Launches Crowdfunding Platform for Video Games Only, Venture Beat (Sept. 24, 2012, 11:00 PM), http://venturebeat.com/2012/09/24/gambitious-launches-crowdfunding-platform-for-video-games-only/. and even those in the “funeral profession.” 56See SoFund.Us: The World’s First Crowdfunding Platform Dedicated to the Funeral Profession, You Tube (Sept. 16, 2012), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9BYrhQOcb0.

Why all the interest in crowdfunding? Enormous sums of money are in play. As of August 2013, Kickstarter alone had successfully raised more than $744 million for companies and individuals. 57See Kickstarter Stats, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). In 2012, crowdfunding platforms in the aggregate reportedly raised approximately $2.8 billion worldwide. 58See Kurt Wagner, Waiting to Sow the Seed Funding, CNN Money (Dec. 28, 2012, 5:00 AM), http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/12/28/crowdfunding-jobs-act/?iid=SF_F_River. The sum is likely to grow once the SEC issues its regulations and equity crowdfunding legally commences. Senator Jeff Merkley, the sponsor of an influential crowdfunding bill, 59See infra notes 122–24 and accompanying text. speculated that if Americans move just 1% of their retirement savings to crowdfunding, “[t]he result would be $170 billion of investment in our startups and small businesses,” which would be “extraordinarily powerful.” 60158 Cong. Rec. S1829 (daily ed. Mar. 20, 2012) (statement of Sen. Jeff Merkley). Similarly, the CEO of EarlyShares.com, Maurice Lopes, relies on Amy Cortese, the author of Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit from It, who, according to Lopes, explains that “if Americans shift just 1 percent of their $30 trillion in long-term investments to small businesses, it would equal more than 10 times the venture capital invested in all of 2011.” See Lou Carlozo, With Crowdfunding, Experts Urge Caution Before Businesses Raise Funds, Reuters (Aug. 1, 2012), http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-jobs-crowdfunding-idUSBRE87014U20120801.

Current crowdfunding websites, including Indiegogo and Kickstarter, maintain a strictly rewards-based model—donation, nominal reward, or pre-purchase—to avoid running afoul of the Securities Act. 61See Pope, supra note 45, at 978. See supra note 47 for a description of the three rewards-based model subcategories. Section 5 of the Securities Act requires either the registration of securities or an applicable exemption from registration before any securities are sold to investors. 62See Bradford, supra note 18, at 196; see also Securities Act of 1933 § 5(a)(1), 15 U.S.C. § 77e(a)(1) (2012). Rather than defining “security” outright, the Securities Act lists a variety of financial instruments that qualify as a security, including an “investment contract,” 6315 U.S.C. § 77b(a)(1). which is the historically broad “catch-all category.” 64C. Steven Bradford, Crowdfunding and the Federal Securities Laws, 2012 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 1, 30 (2012). Thus, whether a crowdfunding venture is subject to securities regulation hinges on whether the financial instrument in question is an investment contract. 65See Joan MacLeod Heminway & Shelden Ryan Hoffman, Proceed at Your Peril: Crowdfunding and the Securities Act of 1933, 78 Tenn. L. Rev. 879, 886 (2011).

Because the Securities Act fails to define “investment contract,” courts have long looked to the Supreme Court’s seminal Howey test for guidance. 66See id. The Howey test defines an investment contract as “a contract, transaction or scheme whereby a person invests his money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits solely from the efforts of the promoter or a third party.” 67SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., 328 U.S. 293, 298–99 (1946). Under the Howey test, reward crowdfunding, including the pre-purchase model, does not create an investment contract because the person donating does not “expect profits.” 68See Burkett, supra note 42, at 80. Because reward crowdfunding involves no anticipation of a return on investment, U.S. securities laws are not implicated and neither registration nor exemption requirements must be satisfied. 69See id.

Current crowdfunding platforms in the United States are rewards-based, and there is no doubt that sponsors of the equity crowdfunding legislation modeled several provisions of the Crowdfund Act off Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the leading reward crowdfunding platforms. 70See 158 Cong. Rec. S1828 (daily ed. Mar. 20, 2012) (statement of Sen. Jeff Merkley); see also The New Thundering Herd, supra note 53. The SEC also requested data from Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and RocketHub to help the SEC with drafting regulations. See Mandelbaum, supra note 15. For example, Kickstarter releases collected funds to the campaign creator only if a preset funding target is reached. 71Kickstarter Basics: Kickstarter 101, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). If the target is not reached, the money is refunded. 72Id. The Crowdfund Act specifically requires the use of either registered brokers or website intermediaries—referred to as “funding portals”—and, likewise, permits the release of funds only “when the aggregate capital raised from all investors is equal to or greater than a target offering amount.” 73See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315–16 (2012). Indiegogo, on the other hand, allows users to pay a higher fee but collect raised funds even if the target goal is not reached. See How Pricing Works on Indiegogo, Indiegogo, http://www.indiegogo.com/how-pricing-works-on-indiegogo (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). However, the Crowdfund Act caps the aggregate amount that any issuer can raise at $1 million per twelve-month period, whereas Kickstarter and Indiegogo do not impose a cap. 74Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(a); see Learn How to Raise Money for an Idea, Indiegogo, http://www.indiegogo.com/learn-how-to-raise-money-for-a-campaign (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). As of this writing, 42 projects have raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter. See Kickstarter Stats, supra note 57.

B. The Startup Capital Funding Gap

Crowdfunding presents at least four potential advantages for startups over traditional early-stage financing methods. For starters, crowdfunding helps the young company create a prelaunch community around its product. 75See Belleflamme et al., supra note 29, at 5. People who provide financing, especially as an investment, are more likely to promote and support the company and its product because they stand to benefit from the company’s success. 76See id. at 28. Second, crowdfunding is a way to test the market’s appetite for a product at an early stage in the commercialization process. 77See Pope, supra note 45, at 1002. Third, crowdfunding facilitates raising capital from any location in the country, rather than tying entrepreneurs to traditional “angel investor” 78Angel investors are wealthy individuals, typically with an entrepreneurial background. See Johnson, supra note 28, at 998. and venture capital hotspots, such as Northern California, New York City, and Boston. 79See Ryan Tate, Feds to Break Up Tech’s Investor Party, Wired (Aug. 21, 2012, 2:16 PM), http://www.wired.com/business/2012/08/SEC-tech-investors/. Fourth and most critically, as this section discusses, crowdfunding provides an alternative source of financing that could help plug the capital gap facing startups.

It is no secret that small businesses often face a difficult time raising money through traditional financing sources, such as bank loans, angel investors, and venture capital firms. 80See Bradford, supra note 64, at 100–01; see also Burkett, supra note 42, at 63. Estimates suggest that the financial markets fall $60 billion short of the demand for early-stage private equity financing each year. 81Bradford, supra note 64, at 100 (quoting William K. Sjostrom, Jr., Relaxing the Ban: It’s Time to Allow General Solicitation and Advertising in Exempt Offerings, 32 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 1, 3 (2004)). This capital funding gap is particularly pronounced for startup companies. 82See id. Startups rarely have sufficient cash flow or collateral to qualify for bank loans, 83See id. at 102. especially given the tightened underwriting standards imposed by banks following the 2007 financial crisis. 84See Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, 2012 Survey of Credit Underwriting Practices 7–8 (2012). As of May 2012, only 10.2% of small businesses that applied for bank loans received them. See Carlozo, supra note 60. Venture capital firms are highly selective and provide only limited assistance to startups, investing on average less than a quarter of their total investments in early-stage companies, for two main reasons. 85See Bradford, supra note 64, at 102. Venture capitalists turn down 99% of applicants. See id. at 103. First, venture capital firms primarily look to invest larger sums—on average between $2 million and $10 million—than startup companies are seeking. 86Id. at 102. Second, venture capital firms prefer investing in slightly less risky companies—those that have survived the initial startup phase and have proven track records and clearer exit opportunities. 87See Pope, supra note 45, at 973–74.

Data also show that angel investors, the traditional source of capital for startup companies, are investing in companies closer to commercialization than in the past. 88See id. at 994 (noting that “angel investment in startups has declined steadily since 2007”). In 2008, 2009, and 2010, angels reduced their investment in the “seed stage” of companies. 89See id. at 994–95. Jeffrey Sohl, Director of the University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Research, stated, “This decrease in seed/start-up stage and first sequence investing is of concern.” Press Release, The Univ. of N.H., Angel Investor Market Rebounds in 2010, UNH Center for Venture Research Finds Total Investment Increases 14 Percent from 2000 (Apr. 12, 2011), available at http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2011/apr/lw12funds.cfm. Seed and startup capital investment improved slightly in 2011, although it decreased again to about 2010 levels in 2012. See Jeffrey Sohl, The Angel Investor Market in 2012: A Moderating Recovery Continues, Ctr. for Venture Research, Apr. 25, 2013, available at http://paulcollege.unh.edu/sites/default/files/2012_analysis_report.pdf. Brian Batchelor, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, who formerly worked with the Atlanta Technology Angels, says, “Since 2008, what a venture capitalist or angel is looking at is going further down the road in terms of ideas and development.” 90Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, Associate Attorney, formerly with Atlanta Technology Angels (Sept. 28, 2012). The Center for Venture Research’s 2012 angel investor market report concluded, “This decrease in [investments in the] seed/start-up stage is of concern since that is the stage of need for our nation’s entrepreneurs.” 91Sohl, supra note 89. In addition, scholars and attorneys in the field estimate that only 1%–3% of funding applicants actually receive funds from angel investors. 92See Pope, supra note 45, at 995 (“Less than three percent of the thousands of entrepreneurs seeking funding from angel investors actually get funding . . . .”); Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, supra note 90 (explaining that around 1–3% of applicants to Atlanta Technology Angels receive funding); Probability of Success in Raising Angel Capital, Bill Payne (June 7, 2011), http://billpayne.com/2011/06/07/probability-of-success-in-raising-angel-capital.html (concluding that “probably about 2% of entrepreneurs seeking funding from angels are successful”).

Even before progressing to the angel pitching stage, many entrepreneurs are forced to personally finance or bootstrap their startups by using their own fund reserves, taking out additional mortgages, or maxing out their credit cards. 93See Bradford, supra note 64, at 101. Most entrepreneurs also turn to family and friends for financing in the early stages, 94See id. Reliance on personal funds or family and friends effectively precludes a significant portion of the U.S. population without such resources from pursuing a startup idea. See Deborah L. Cohen, Fund for All: ‘Crowdfunding’ Supporters Look to Congress to Lighten Regulatory Load, 98 A.B.A. J. 11 (2012). Similarly, SEC regulatory requirements also “favor those with connections to high-net-worth individuals, wealthy friends and family members.” Id. which can create problems down the road when securities are prepared for registration. 95Friends and family financing frequently violates Section 5’s registration requirements and is often discovered only when a company is preparing for its initial public offering. See Sara Hanks, JOBS Act Crowdfunding Provisions Await Clarification by SEC, in 44 Sec. Reg. & L. Rep. (BNA) 1710, 1710 (Sept. 17, 2012).

U.S. capital markets also fail to provide any relief for startups seeking to raise capital. The burdens of registering securities are “legendary.” 96Burkett, supra note 42, at 82. The registration statement filed with the SEC requires the assistance of attorneys, accountants, and underwriters, and the registration price tag can exceed a few hundred thousand dollars. 97See Bradford, supra note 64, at 42; Burkett, supra note 42, at 82. These costs make registration impractical for startups seeking relatively small amounts of capital, especially since startups would have to bear these costs before any capital is raised. 98See Bradford, supra note 64, at 42.

Additionally, none of the traditional securities registration exemptions fit the equity crowdfunding model. For example, while Regulation A exempts offerings of less than $5 million in a twelve-month period, 9917 C.F.R. § 230.251(b) (2012). it requires filing an offering statement with the SEC and delivering a final offering circular to purchasers. 100Id. § 230.251(d). For most startups, these filing costs alone are prohibitive. 101See Bradford, supra note 64, at 48. Regulation A offerings typically cost upwards of $40,000. See id. But Regulation A also fails to preempt state registration requirements—meaning issuers have to comply with varying state registration or exemption requirements in each state where a security is sold. 102See Burkett, supra note 42, at 88. In a crowdfunding model, securities would likely be sold in dozens of states and to hundreds of people, which effectively precludes the use of Regulation A. 103See id.

Additional exemptions under Regulation D—Rules 504 and 505—extend to offerings of no more than $1 million and $5 million, respectively, in a twelve-month period. 10417 C.F.R. §§ 230.504(b)(2), 505(b)(2)(i) (2012). Regulation D Rule 506—a “safe harbor” for the private offering exemption of Section 4(2)—does not limit the aggregate offering size. 105See Heminway & Hoffman, supra note 65, at 917–18. Prior to the passage of the JOBS Act, Regulation D prohibited general solicitation and advertising under Rules 505 and 506, and Regulation D still only permits solicitation and advertising that complies with applicable state laws for Rule 504. 10617 C.F.R. §§ 230.502(c), 505(b)(1), 506(b)(1), 504(b)(1) (2012). Following passage of the JOBS Act, the SEC promulgated Rule 506(c), which permits an issuer the option to engage in general solicitation and advertising under Rule 506 as long as all purchasers of the securities are accredited investors and the issuer “take[s] reasonable steps” to verify that purchasers of the securities are accredited investors. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 201(a)(1), 126 Stat. 306, 313 (2012); 17 C.F.R. § 230.506(c) (2013). Additionally, Rules 505 and 506 do not permit selling to more than thirty-five non-accredited investors, 10717 C.F.R. §§ 230.505(b)(2)(ii), 506(b)(2)(i). and Rule 504 does not preempt state registration requirements, thus posing the same problem as Regulation A. 108See id. § 230.504(b)(1). These limitations effectively nullify the value of these exemptions for typical crowdfunded ventures. 109See Heminway & Hoffman, supra note 65, at 920. But see generally Jason W. Parsont, Crowdfunding: The Real and the Illusory Exemption, 4 Harv. Bus. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2014) (arguing that “accredited crowdfunding” under the new Rule 506(c) will likely dominate retail equity crowdfunding).

Given the surge in popularity of crowdfunding, its potential to address the funding gap, and the inapplicability of current registration exemptions, it became apparent that a new crowdfunding-specific registration exemption was needed.

C. The Legislative History of the Crowdfund Act

If both sides of the congressional aisle agree upon anything, it is that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. 110See President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President After Roundtable with Local Business Leaders in Seattle, Washington (Aug. 17, 2010) (transcript available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/17/remarks-president-after-roundtable-with-local-business-leaders-seattle-w) (“America’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy . . . .”); Restoring the American Dream: Economy & Jobs, GOP.com, http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform_restoring/ (last visited Aug. 13, 2013) (“America’s small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy . . . .”). From the late Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, the entrepreneur behind the high-growth startup is America’s darling. 111President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President at JOBS Act Bill Signing (Apr. 5, 2012) (transcript available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/05/remarks-president-jobs-act-bill-signing) (stating “maybe . . . one of the folks in the audience here today will be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg”). During the recession of 2007–2009, when larger corporations shed jobs and froze hiring, politicians and the public looked to small businesses and startups as job creators and engines of economic growth. 112See Gene B. Sperling & Karen G Mills, Introduction to Nat’l Econ. Council, The Small Business Agenda: Growing America’s Small Businesses to Win the Future (2011) (“With regards to job creation, however, we know that America’s small businesses pack the biggest punch, creating two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.”). However, without capital to grow, entrepreneurs cannot keep themselves employed, much less create jobs for others. 113See Obama, supra note 111. For example, angel investments in early-stage companies generated 370,000 new jobs in 2010. Jeffrey Sohl, The Angel Investor Market in 2010: A Market on the Rebound, Ctr. for Venture Research, Apr. 12, 2011, available at http://paulcollege.unh.edu/sites/default/files/2010_analysis_report.pdf. Perhaps it should not have been a surprise, then, that crowdfunding sailed through the legislative process, even in the most polarized Congress since Reconstruction. 114See Frank James, Political Scientist: Republicans Most Conservative They’ve Been in 100 Years, NPR (Apr. 13, 2012, 2:24 PM), http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/04/10/150349438/gops-rightward-shift-higher-polarization-fills-political-scientist-with-dread.

As early as July 2010, the SEC received and largely ignored one of the first of a number of petitions to create a crowdfunding exemption. 115See Burkett, supra note 42, at 93, 102–03, 105 (discussing the petition and the unlikeliness of SEC action). Then, in September 2011, President Obama endorsed crowdfunding in his proposed American Jobs Act as a way to stimulate the sluggish economy. 116See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act (Sept. 8, 2011), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/08/fact-sheet-american-jobs-act; Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, supra note 12. Within two months, on November 3, 2011, crowdfunding House Bill 2930, sponsored by Representative Patrick McHenry, passed the House 407–17. 117See Press Release, Congressman Patrick McHenry, House Passes McHenry Crowdfunding Bill (Nov. 3, 2011), available at http://mchenry.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=267628. The McHenry bill, which was very simple and “broadly consistent with the President’s proposal,” 118See Office of Mgmt. & Budget, Exec. Office of the President, Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2930—Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act, (Nov. 2, 2011), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr2930r_20111102.pdf. called for a crowdfunding exemption allowing firms to raise up to $1 million with individual investments capped at the lesser of $10,000 or 10% of an investor’s annual income. 119H.R. 2930, 112th Cong. § 2 (2011). Firms could raise up to $2 million if they provided audited financial statements to potential investors. Id.

While McHenry’s bill swept through the House, Senator Scott Brown proposed a different crowdfunding bill, Senate Bill 1791, the Democratizing Access to Capital Act of 2011. 120S. 1791, 112th Cong. § 1 (2011). Brown’s bill limited investments to $1,000 per investor and required more substantial disclosures by the issuer. 121See id. § 2.

One month later, on December 8, 2011, Senator Jeff Merkley sponsored yet another crowdfunding bill, Senate Bill 1970. 122S. 1970, 112th Cong. (2011). It is interesting to note that two of Merkley’s top three contributors by industry were “lawyers/law firms” and “securities and investment.” Top Industries: Senator Jeff Merkley 2007–2012, OpenSecrets.org, http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?type=C&cid=N00029303&newMem=N&cycle=2012 (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). Merkley’s bill included several new provisions and restrictions, a number of which survived in the final Crowdfund Act. First, Merkley proposed capping annual investment at 1% of the investor’s annual income for investors earning greater than $50,000 and less than $100,000 annually and 2% of the investor’s annual income for investors earning greater than $100,000 annually. 123S. 1970, 112th Cong. § 2 (2011). The amount was capped at $500 if the investor earned $50,000 or less. See id. Merkley’s bill also introduced the “funding portal” intermediary requirement, imposed the target offering provision, and required even more substantial issuer disclosures to investors and the SEC than either McHenry or Brown’s bill. 124See id. § 2(b); supra notes 116, 118 and accompanying text. Shortly after the introduction of Senate Bill 1970, attorney and blogger William Carleton wrote that the bill “takes paternalism to new (and wholly impractical) magnifications of micro-management.” William Carleton, Third #Crowdfunding Bill Is No Charm, Counselor@Law (Dec. 14, 2011), http://www.wac6.com/wac6/2011/12/senator-merkley-introduces-alternative-crowdfunding-bill.html. Most importantly, at least for the purposes of this Comment, Merkley included a new civil liability provision. 125S. 1970 § 2(b). This provision created a direct, private right of action against the

issuer and any person who is a director or officer (or any person occupying a similar status or performing a similar function) or partner in the issuer . . . for any untrue statement of a material fact or omission to state a material fact required to be stated in connection with any offering. 126Id.

The Senate did not act on either bill until after the House passed the JOBS Act, which essentially incorporated wholesale McHenry’s crowdfunding bill, on March 8, 2012. 127See Jonathan Weisman, With November in Mind, House Passes a Jobs Bill, N.Y. Times, Mar. 9, 2012, at A16. The JOBS Act as a whole loosened a number of securities regulations, including lifting the ban on general solicitation and advertising for offers made pursuant to Rule 506 of Regulation D, lessening accounting requirements on “emerging growth companies,” creating a new offering exemption for amounts up to $50 million per twelve-month period modeled off Regulation A, and upping the shareholder and asset amount cap for mandatory registration. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, §§102, 201, 401, 501, 601, 126 Stat. 306, 309–10, 313, 323–27 (2012). For more information on the JOBS Act, see generally Elizabeth M. Dunshee & David M. Lynn, The JOBS Act: Easing Exempt Offering Restrictions, Bus. L. Today (May 2012), http://dialogueonfreedom.org/buslaw/blt/content/2012/05/article-02-dunshee.pdf. Five days later Senators Merkley and Brown introduced a hastily written and poorly drafted 128See Bradford, supra note 18, at 198 (describing the poorly drafted crowdfunding exemption, which incorporates Senate Bill 2190). Professor Bradford notes that there are a number of inconsistencies and several ambiguities in the Crowdfund Act and even one glaring drafting error that cross-references the wrong section. See id. at 215–16. compromise crowdfunding bill, Senate Bill 2190. 129S. 2190, 112th Cong. (2012). The compromise bill retained most of Merkley’s requirements, although it raised the investor cap to be more in line with the McHenry bill. 130See id. § 2(a); supra notes 117–19, 122–26 and accompanying text. Moreover, it retained the direct liability provision from Merkley’s bill, although it added an affirmative due diligence defense for issuers—also known as a reasonable care defense—that resembles the due diligence defense in Section 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act. 131See S. 2190 § 2(c)(2) (“An issuer shall be liable . . . if the issuer . . . does not sustain the burden of proof that such issuer did not know, and in the exercise of reasonable care could not have known, of [a requisite] untruth or omission.”); supra note 24. In the name of protecting investors from fraud, Senators Merkley, Brown, and Bennet offered this compromise crowdfunding bill as an amendment to the JOBS Act, replacing McHenry’s less-burdensome crowdfunding proposal. 132See Seung Min Kim, Senate Passes JOBS Act, with Tweak, Politico (Mar. 22, 2012, 1:29 PM), http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74363.html. Senator Merkley stated that the crowdfunding portion of the JOBS Act in the House bill was “simply a pathway to predatory scams.” Id.

In a rush of bipartisan momentum, exacerbated by the need to pass substantive legislation during an election year, the Senate voted in favor of the amendment and the JOBS Act on March 22, and the House followed suit on March 27, 2012. 133See Jonathan Weisman, Final Approval by House Sends Jobs Bill to President for Signature, N.Y. Times, Mar. 28, 2012, at A12. With great fanfare, President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law on April 5, 2012. 134See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, supra note 12. The Crowdfund Act instructed the SEC to promulgate securities regulations to govern equity crowdfunding within 270 days after the legislation’s signing. 135See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(c), 126 Stat. 306, 320 (2012). As of this writing, the SEC has missed its 270-day deadline, and industry observers speculate that rules may not be finalized until early 2014. 136See Amy Cortese, The Crowd Is Anxious, N.Y. Times, Jan. 6, 2013, at BU1. Given the expected delay in legalizing equity crowdfunding and the Crowdfund Act’s high transaction costs, as discussed in Part II, the political self-congratulations for passing the Crowdfund Act were premature.

II. The High Transaction Costs of Crowdfunding

Securities regulation involves a requisite balancing act between mandating sufficient disclosures to protect investors from fraud yet refraining from creating regulations so burdensome on companies that businesses cannot effectively raise capital in the markets. 137Cf. Hazen, supra note 20, at 1765. Securities regulation in the United States is grounded in a disclosure-based system—the idea that, as Justice Brandeis stated, “[s]unlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” 138Louis D. Brandeis, Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It 62 (1933). Thus, the SEC does not examine the merits of public offerings; rather, it attempts to enforce accurate, sufficient disclosures to allow investors to determine the merits of an investment for themselves. 139See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1741. There is almost no question that—given the volatility of startups, the difficulty of determining the pre-money valuation of a startup, crowdfunding’s targeting of retail investors, and the risk of fraud—the Crowdfund Act needed robust disclosure requirements. 140See id. at 1769; Johnson, supra note 24. The difficulty lies in mandating sufficient disclosure to remedy information asymmetry between issuer and investor, while not creating an exemption that is too burdensome for issuers to use in practice. At first glance, the Crowdfund Act appears to perform an acceptable job of balancing investor protection and manageable disclosure requirements. 141See Karina Sigar, Comment, Fret No More: Inapplicability of Crowdfunding Concerns in the Internet Age and the Jobs Act’s Safeguards, 64 Admin. L. Rev. 473, 489–502 (2012) (arguing that the wisdom of the tech-savvy market and the JOBS Act’s safeguards render worries over investor protection unfounded). However, as this Comment shows, the Crowdfund Act’s hidden costs will drive up transaction costs for all issuers and may entirely deter sophisticated issuers from relying on crowdfunding.

Although the mechanics of the Crowdfund Act are complicated, an entire industry is springing up to guide issuers through the process. 142See Crowdfunding 101, Startup Exemption, http://www.startupexemption.com/crowdfunding-101#axzz2FRojAL7A (last visited Aug. 13, 2013); see infra note 272 and accompanying text. First, an issuer must file certain basic information with the SEC and make the same information available to potential investors through the funding portal 143The JOBS Act also imposes a number of requirements on funding portals, including registering with the SEC and with a self-regulatory organization; providing investors with education materials; ensuring that investors review the education materials and affirm that they understand the risk of investment; obtaining background checks on directors, officers, and shareholders owning more than 20% of the issuer’s outstanding equity; releasing funds only when the target amount is met; and preventing investors from exceeding investment limits. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 316 (2012). : the issuer’s name, legal status, physical address, and website; the names of the issuer’s directors, officers, and shareholders owning more than 20% of the company; and the issuer’s business plan and the intended use of the proceeds. 144See id. at 317. The issuer must also provide information that will require the assistance of attorneys, including the terms of the securities being offered; a description of how the securities offered are valued; and the specific risks involved with ownership, additional issuance of shares, and a sale of the issuer or of the issuer’s assets. 145See id. at 317–18. The SEC also has the broad power to require additional information by rule “for the protection of investors and in the public interest,” which may generate additional transaction costs once the SEC promulgates its rules. See id. Appropriately disclosing the specific risks involved in ownership to avoid liability will likely be a substantial task that requires an attorney, especially if the SEC adopts a disclosure format resembling the Form 1-A offering statement used in Regulation A offerings. 146See Taku, supra note 50. While Regulation A–style disclosure requirements may be sensible, they will drive up the cost of using crowdfunding. 147See Heminway & Hoffman, supra note 65, at 921 & n.216 (“Although mini-registration under Regulation A costs less than a registered offering, the expense of a Regulation A offering will often still be more than the amount of capital that the crowdfunding venture seeks to raise.”). Moreover, attorneys will also need to review and potentially amend existing corporate provisions, such as voting rights, board composition, restrictions on share transfers, and company right of first refusal, that might conflict with a crowdfunded offering, all of which further increases the costs of crowdfunding. 148See Vincent Ryan, The Burdens of Crowdfunding, CFO (May 9, 2012), http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/14638132/1 (writing that the “regulatory hurdles” in the JOBS Act “may be too complex and onerous—and not very cost-effective” for many startups); Taku, supra note 50 (noting that “many companies may be unable to prepare disclosure documents in compliance with the crowdfunding provisions of the JOBS Act” based on the transaction costs).

An even greater concern of Crowdfund Act critics is the Act’s financial disclosure requirements. Issuers seeking to raise $100,000 or less must provide company income tax returns for the previously completed year and financial statements of the issuer certified accurate by the principal executive officer. 149See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). Issuers seeking to raise between $100,000 and $500,000 must provide financial statements reviewed by a public accountant, and issuers raising between $500,000 and $1 million must provide audited financial statements. 150See id. § 302(a)–(b). These financial disclosure requirements impose larger burdens than certain other registration exemptions, such as Regulation D 151See Cohn, supra note 21, at 1442. For example, Professor Cohn notes that CEO-certified financial statements are not required for other federal or state registration exemptions and that Rule 504 of Regulation D does not require financial statements for offerings up to $1 million. See id. or Regulation A. 152Part F/S of Regulation A Form 1-A does not require audited financial statements unless the issuer already has them prepared, for up to $5 million. 3A Harold S. Bloomenthal & Samuel Wolff, Securities and Federal Corporate Law § 6:43 (2d ed. 2013); see 17 C.F.R. § 230.251(b) (2012). The cost of audited statements is likely to eat up a “significant percentage” of funds raised, 153Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, The Troubles with the New Crowdfunding Law?, JD Supra L. News (May 22, 2012), http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-troubles-with-the-new-crowdfunding-l-71994. especially for startups, which rarely undertake the auditing process this early in the business’s lifecycle. 154See Cohn, supra note 21, at 1442 (noting that “[i]t is difficult to understand how these major practical concerns could have been ignored or so readily dismissed”); Mandelbaum, supra note 15.

Based on these disclosure requirements, issuers will have to compensate at least three outside parties: the attorneys preparing the offering materials, the accountants creating the financial statements, and the funding portal hosting the offering. The funding portal fee—likely structured as a percentage of the funds raised 155Crowdcube, an equity crowdfunding platform in the United Kingdom, charges a 5% fee on the total funds collected as well as a legal fee. See Adrianne Jeffries, The U.K. Already Has Equity-Based Crowdfunding, and This Startup Just Set a Record, Beta Beat (June 8, 2012, 8:52 AM), http://betabeat.com/2012/06/the-u-k-already-has-equity-based-crowdfunding-and-this-startup-just-set-a-record/. —will probably be considerable based on all the requirements levied on funding portals, including educating and screening investors, conducting background checks, monitoring investor caps, registering with the SEC and a self-regulatory organization, and potentially confronting Section 4A(c) liability. 156See Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, supra note 153 (“These [registered broker dealers or funding portals] are subject to numerous requirements, and their compliance with those requirements will make the process much more difficult and costly for [startups].”); supra note 143. For more on the burdens placed on funding portals, see generally Thomas V. Powers, SEC Regulation of Crowdfunding Intermediaries Under Title III of the JOBS Act, Banking & Fin. Services Pol’y Rep., October 2012, at 1. Section 4A(c)’s definition of “issuer” appears to extend liability for misrepresentations and omissions made by the issuer to the hosting funding portal as well. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 319 (2012) (“As used in this subsection, the term ‘issuer’ includes . . . any person who offers or sells the security in [a crowdfunded] offering.”). This appears to mean that the funding portal is liable for statements that it makes about the offering as well as statements that the issuer makes about the offering. See Hanks, supra note 95. If the issuer ends up judgment-proof from a lack of funds, then disgruntled investors may go after the funding portals, the cost of which will ultimately be passed along to later issuers via higher hosting fees. Compensating all of these outside parties is likely to add up to a substantial sum relative to the amount of money being raised. 157See Tretter, supra note 20, at 2. However, the more significant costs for issuers are hidden—the administrative cost of managing shareholders, the deterrent effect on later rounds of investment, and the potential liability costs down the road.

First, there is the administrative cost associated with managing numerous shareholder investments and relationships. 158See Louis A. Bevilacqua et al., JOBS Act Targets Smaller Business Capital Raising, Pillsbury L. (Apr. 5, 2012), http://www.pillsburylaw.com/publications/jobs-act-targets-smaller-business-capital-raising. John Alexander, founder and chair of the Twin Cities Angels, writes that “[n]on-accredited investors can be a nightmare for a CEO.” John Alexander, The Obama JOBS Act and Crowdfunding: Bright Promises, Likely Failure, Bring Me The News (May 8, 2012), http://www.bringmethenews.com/2012/05/08/the-obama-jobs-act-and-crowdfunding-bright-promises-likely-failure/. This cost may include new shareholders asking questions of the business and seeking to inspect corporate books and records 159See Taku, supra note 50, at 4. and the cost of bookkeeping investments. 160See Sigar, supra note 141, at 482. Long-term compliance with the Crowdfund Act will require issuers to retain the services of accountants and attorneys because reports on the results of operations and the issuer’s financial statements must be filed “not less than annually” with the SEC and provided to investors. 161See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). A second hidden cost resides in the fact that many, if not most, venture capital firms and angel investor groups will be reluctant to invest in companies that previously utilized crowdfunding 162See John Tozzi, Alone in a Crowd: How Crowdfunding Could Strand Startups, Bloomberg Businessweek (Mar. 6, 2012), http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-06/alone-in-a-crowd-how-crowdfunding-could-strand-startups; Telephone Interview with Devon Wijesinghe, Former President, Atlanta Technology Angels (Oct. 2, 2012) (explaining that angel investors prefer a clean capitalization table). since these groups worry about investing in deals with numerous small and unsophisticated shareholders who could create liability issues down the road. 163See Susan Schreter, Crowdfunding—Boom or Bust for Entrepreneurs?, FOX Business (May 16, 2012), ; Telephone Interview with Bradley M. Burman, Associate Attorney, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough (Sept. 28, 2012) (opining that venture capitalists are unlikely to invest in a company that engages in crowdfunding because the numerous investors who each own small shares in that company also have the right to sue it). Venture capital firms will also want to avoid the additional hassles that arise from having numerous shareholders, such as needing to seek shareholder approval before a new round of funding or other corporate actions that may trigger voting requirements. 164See Tozzi, supra note 162; Telephone Interview with Bradley M. Burman, supra note 163 (opining that venture capitalists are unlikely to invest in a company that engages in crowdfunding because they will need to obtain the approval of numerous investors “every time they want to get something done”). The deterrence of venture capital funding will be especially problematic for potentially high-growth issuers in life sciences, technology, and manufacturing, that typically expect successive rounds of funding from angel investors or venture capital firms. 165See Todd Hixon, Is Crowdfunding a Boon, or a Disaster?, Forbes (Apr. 4, 2012, 9:44 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddhixon/2012/04/04/is-crowdfunding-a-boon-or-a-disaster/; Tozzi, supra note 162. If, on the other hand, venture capitalists are not deterred from investing in crowdfunded ventures, then there is a significant risk that crowdfunding shareholders’ stakes may be diluted if they do not have proper upside protection. For more information on this problem and several excellent solutions, see Wroldsen, supra note 11, at 611–22. However, the third and most significant hidden cost is the unexpected liability risk posed by Section 4A(c)’s broad sweep as discussed in Part III.

III. Liability Provision 4A(c)—Draconian for Issuers and an Ineffective Remedy for Investors

Because of the SEC’s limited resources, a great deal of policing fraud is accomplished through private actions brought by investors, 166See John C. Coffee, Jr., Reforming the Securities Class Action: An Essay on Deterrence and Its Implementation, 106 Colum. L. Rev. 1534, 1536 (2006); Érica Gorga & Michael Halberstam, Litigation Discovery and Corporate Governance: The Missing Story About the “Genius of American Corporate Law, 63 Emory L.J. (forthcoming spring 2014) (manuscript at 49), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2239322 (“Regulators in the United States do not have the resources to provide the existing level of verification and enforcement of securities disclosure without the substantial resources dedicated to the process by private parties.”). which helps protect both investors and the market’s integrity. 167Thomas A. Martin, The JOBS Act of 2012: Balancing Fundamental Securities Law Principles with the Demands of the Crowd 6–7 (Apr. 12, 2012) (unpublished comment), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2040953. Given the expected high number of crowdfunding investments and their small size, such investments will likely escape close regulatory oversight. 168See Letter from William Francis Galvin to Elizabeth M. Murphy, supra note 26, at 2 (writing that crowdfunding “offerings will fly under the radars of many regulators”). Crowdfunding presents a dynamic unseen in securities regulations and, thus, requires a rethinking of how civil liability provisions can best protect investors and the functioning of the market.

A. Current Section 12(a)(2) Elements and Application

Since Section 4A(c) of the Crowdfund Act borrows directly from the language of Securities Act Section 12(a)(2), 169Tretter, supra note 20. any prediction regarding the future application of Section 4A(c) must start with an examination of Section 12(a)(2). Section 12(a)(2) provides investors with a right of action against issuers for materially misleading statements or omissions contained in an oral communication or a prospectus. 170See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012). The prima facie elements for a plaintiff’s cause of action under Section 12(a)(2) include (1) an offer or sale of a security (2) by the use of any means or instruments of transportation or communication in interstate commerce or of the mails (3) by means of a prospectus or oral communication (4) that includes an untrue statement of material fact or omits to state a material fact necessary to make the statements, in light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading. 171Id. The seminal Supreme Court case Pinter v. Dahl clarified that liability under 12(a)(2) extends only to “statutory sellers,” meaning a seller that passed title to the buyer for value or successfully solicited the purchase of a security. See 486 U.S. 622, 642, 647 (1988). While Section 11’s elements are similar, 172See In re Morgan Stanley Info. Fund Sec. Litig., 592 F.3d 347, 359 (2d Cir. 2010) (“Claims under sections 11 and 12(a)(2) are . . . Securities Act siblings with roughly parallel elements . . . .”). Section 11 provides investors with a right of action against issuers for materially misleading statements or omissions contained in the registration statement. See Securities Act of 1933 § 11. three key differences exist that show Section 4A(c) is more closely patterned off Section 12(a)(2); 173First, Section 11 does not apply to oral statements, whereas Sections 12(a)(2) and 4A(c) both encompass oral statements. See 2 Thomas Lee Hazen, Treatise on the Law of Securities Regulation § 7:6 (2013); see also infra note 188 and accompanying text. Second, Section 11 only permits recovery based on the difference between the amount paid for the security and the value of the security at the time of suit, whereas Sections 12(a)(2) and 4A(c) both allow for rescission or damages. See Hillary A. Sale, Disappearing Without a Trace: Sections 11 and 12(a)(2) of the 1933 Securities Act, 75 Wash. L. Rev. 429, 440 (2000); see also infra note 211 and accompanying text. Third, the issuer is strictly liable under Section 11 whereas Sections 12(a)(2) and 4A(c) both provide the same “reasonable care” affirmative defense to the issuer. See Hazen, supra, § 7:4; see also infra note 205 and accompanying text. thus, this Comment primarily confines its discussion to Section 12(a)(2).

Section 12(a)(2)’s prima facie elements are relatively easy to prove, especially compared to the elements of Rule 10b-5 174To state a claim under Rule 10b-5, a plaintiff must show the following six elements: (1) the defendant made a materially false statement or omission (2) with scienter (3) in connection with the purchase or sale of a security (4) upon which the plaintiff justifiably relied (5) that caused the plaintiff to suffer economic loss, and (6) there exists a causal connection between the material misrepresentation and the loss. See Tad E. Thompson, Recent Development, Messin’ with Texas: How the Fifth Circuit’s Decision in Oscar Private Equity Misinterprets the Fraud-on-the-Market Theory, 86 N.C. L. Rev. 1086, 1087–88 (2008). —the broadest and most important liability provision in securities law 175See Robert A. Prentice, The Future of Corporate Disclosure: The Internet, Securities Fraud, and Rule 10b-5, 47 Emory L.J. 1, 4 (1998). —for three reasons. First, the level of culpability required by Section 12(a)(2) is mere negligence, not scienter as required in Rule 10b-5. 176See In re Wachovia Equity Sec. Litig., 753 F. Supp. 2d 326, 367–68 (S.D.N.Y. 2011); 1 Stuart R. Cohn, Securities Counseling for Small and Emerging Companies § 19:4 (2012). Second, the plaintiff does not have to prove reliance as required under Rule 10b-5—even if the plaintiff never read or heard the untruth, the issuer could still be held liable under 12(a)(2). 177See Currie v. Cayman Res. Corp., 835 F.2d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 1988). Finally, the plaintiff does not need to prove loss causation as required under Rule 10b-5—the share price may have dropped for any reason and the issuer may still be liable if a false statement was made. 178See In re Wachovia, 753 F. Supp. 2d at 367. However, the plaintiff does have the burden of proving that he or she did not know of the misstatement or omission at the time the plaintiff purchased the security. 179See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012). Although liability under Section 12(a)(2) is “more readily triggered” than under Rule 10b-5, it is far narrower in scope 180See In re Wachovia, 753 F. Supp. 2d at 368. because the false statement or omission must have occurred in a written prospectus or oral communication that relates to the prospectus in a public offering. 181See Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U.S. 561, 567–68, 584 (1995).

In the seminal and highly controversial 5–4 opinion in Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., the Supreme Court essentially redefined the meaning of “prospectus” and limited the application of 12(a)(2) to public offerings of securities. 182See id. at 569. The Court repeatedly emphasized that for liability to attach under 12(a)(2), the material misstatement or omission must have been made “by means of a prospectus or an oral communication.” See id. at 567 (internal quotation marks omitted). Based on the use of “prospectus” in Section 10 of the Securities Act, the Court held that “the term [prospectus] is confined to a document that, absent an overriding exemption, must include the ‘information contained in the registration statement.’” Id. at 569. Following Gustafson, this limitation meant that investors purchasing shares in a private offering, such as a Rule 144A or Rule 506 of Regulation D offering, 183However, Section 12(a)(2) specifically applies to the new “small” offering exemption created by the JOBS Act, referred to as Regulation A+, which permits exempt offerings up to $50 million. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 401(a), 126 Stat. 306, 324 (2012); Bevilacqua et al., supra note 158. no longer had a private right of action for negligent misrepresentations or omissions. 184See Natasha S. Guinan, Note, Nearly a Decade Later: Revisiting Gustafson and the Status of Section 12(A)(2) Liability in the Courts—Creative Judicial Developments and a Proposal for Reform, 72 Fordham L. Rev. 1053, 1075 (2004); Bevilacqua et al., supra note 158. Prior to Gustafson, the courts had overwhelmingly held that Section 12(a)(2) applied to all securities offerings, including secondary or private sales, 185See Cohn, supra note 176. and that the definition of “prospectus” as used in Section 12(a)(2) included any “‘communication, written or by radio or television.’” 186Cf. Gustafson, 513 U.S. at 585–87 (Thomas, J., dissenting). The majority in Gustafson stated that such a broad interpretation of “prospectus” would “create[] vast additional liabilities” since it “gives rise to an action for rescission, without proof of fraud by the seller or reliance by the purchaser.” 187See id. at 572, 574 (majority opinion). The Court reasoned:It is not plausible to infer that Congress created this extensive liability for every casual communication between buyer and seller . . . . It is often difficult, if not altogether impractical, for those engaged in casual communications not to omit some fact that . . . could give rise to an action for rescission, with no evidence of fraud on the part of the seller or reliance on the part of the buyer.Id. at 578. The dissent shared the majority’s opinion that “extending § 12(2) to secondary and private transactions might result in an unwanted increase in securities litigation,” although the dissent believed the Court “must rely upon other branches of government to limit the 1933 Act.” Id. at 594–95 (Thomas, J., dissenting). Academics have criticized Gustafson as being policy-based and “blatantly results-driven.” See, e.g., Stephen M. Bainbridge, Securities Act Section 12(2) After the Gustafson Debacle, 50 Bus. Law. 1231, 1231–32 (1994–1995). Yet, in Section 4A(c) of the Crowdfund Act, this is exactly what Congress did when it replaced “by means of a prospectus” with “by any means of any written or oral communication,” thus broadening the scope of liability for crowdfunded offerings by startups far beyond the scope of Section 12(a)(2) liability for companies issuing public offerings. 188See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315, 319 (2012).

Before Gustafson, a “substantial upswing” in claims brought under Section 12(a)(2) had occurred. 189See Bainbridge, supra note 187, at 1234. After Gustafson excluded purchasers in private offerings from making a claim under Section 12(a)(2), the usefulness of Section 12(a)(2)—and the number of cases brought under it—decreased. 190See Sale, supra note 173, at 431–32; Guinan, supra note 184, at 1069 (“[T]he Gustafson decision was, arguably, a policy-based result, the express aim of which was to decrease securities litigation by facilitating fewer lawsuits.”). Adding insult to injury, courts also utilized Gustafson to impose even stricter “tracing” requirements on shareholders bringing a 12(a)(2) claim. 191See Sale, supra note 173, at 432. This required shareholders to plead and prove that they bought their shares either “in” or “pursuant to” the public offering in which the prospectus containing the material misstatement was issued. 192See id. at 441. This standing requirement effectively limits the class of people who can bring suit under Section 12(a)(2) to purchasers of shares directly connected to the faulty prospectus. 193See id. at 441–42. For example, Professor Sale notes that if the shareholders purchased previously issued common stock and not new common stock issued under the faulty prospectus, the shareholders will not have a cause of action. Id. at 442. As a result of this limitation, the vast majority of claims brought under Section 12(a)(2) do not survive motions to dismiss and class certification is denied for want of traceability. 194See id. at 482–83. Given these tight restrictions, experienced securities fraud class action lawyers generally assert Rule 10b-5 claims instead. 1951 Harold S. Bloomenthal & Samuel Wolff, Going Public Handbook § 10:38 (2012). Section 12(a)(2) claims are more likely to be secondary or pro forma if included at all. 196Id.

The above-mentioned restrictions have severely limited “the deterrent and remedial purposes” of Section 12(a)(2) in civil litigation. 197See Sale, supra note 173, at 431. Professor Sale elaborates—“Indeed, the effect of the tracing requirement and Gustafson on the accessibility of section 11 and 12(a)(2) claims to shareholders is dramatic. The Second Circuit’s mistaken finding that the tracing requirement would both prevent overinclusiveness and fulfill the statute’s purpose has resulted in scores of dismissed cases.” Id. at 462. However, none of these restrictions is likely to be present in Section 4A(c) in a crowdfunded offering. Because Congress replaced “prospectus” with “any written or oral communication,” the reach of Section 4A(c) will certainly cover all disclosure statements filed with the SEC and provided to investors, and it will likely cover all additional statements related to the offering or selling of the securities. 198See supra note 188 and accompanying text. Minimal traceability issues will exist because investors must hold purchased securities for a minimum of one year under the Crowdfund Act. 199Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315, 319 (2012). However, purchasers may transfer these securities (1) to the issuer, (2) to an accredited investor, (3) as part of a registered offering, or (4) to a family member prior to the one-year mark. Id. The absence of these hurdles will make class certification far easier under Section 4A(c) than under Section 12(a)(2). Given Section 4A(c)’s broad sweep and minimal elements, plaintiffs’ attorneys will now likely prefer to bring a claim under Section 4A(c) rather than under Rule 10b-5. 200See Sale, supra note 173, at 469 (noting that “Securities Act claims [Sections 11 and 12] should be easier to prove than their Securities Exchange Act counterpart [Section 10b]”). Given the discarding of the restrictions in Section 4A(c) detailed above, it follows that attorneys will now actually find a Section 4A(c) claim easier to prove than a Rule 10b-5 claim. Temporarily leaving aside the financial incentive to bring the class action, Section 4A(c) is far more likely to provide an express cause of action for plaintiffs than Section 12(a)(2) ever supplied. However, Section 4A(c)’s cause of action is likely too express to fit the new crowdfunding environment. Startups issuing a crowdfunding offering will confront substantial liability exposure based on a number of factors unique to startups and crowdfunding that will increase the likelihood of an inadvertent material misstatement or omission occurring in a crowdfunded offering as discussed in the following section.

B. Crowdfunding’s New Liability Dynamic

Section 4A(c) of the Crowdfund Act imposes liability on any issuer, including personal liability on all officers and directors, for any materially 201Presumably, “materiality” will continue to mean a substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider the misstatement or omission significant in deciding whether to invest. See Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224, 231–32 (1988). false or misleading statements or omissions made by “any means of any written or oral communication, in the offering or sale of a security in a transaction exempted by the provisions of Section 4(6).” 202Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). Section 4A(c), like Section 12(a)(2), presents three bases for liability: (1) a misrepresentation of factual information, (2) an omission of factual information in the face of an affirmative duty to disclose, or (3) an omission of factual information that is necessary to prevent previous disclosures from being misleading. 203See id.; 17A J. William Hicks, Civil Liabilities: Enforcement & Litigation Under the 1933 Act § 6:133 (2013). The liability provision limits plaintiffs to purchasers in a crowdfunding transaction who do not know of the “untruth or omission.” 204Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). Section 4A(c), like Section 12(a)(2), also provides two affirmative defenses for issuers. First, the issuer can attempt to prove that it “did not know, and in the exercise of reasonable care could not have known, of such untruth or omission.” 205See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). This defense—known as the “reasonable care” or “due diligence” defense—places a heavy burden on the issuer, because it is charged with constructive knowledge until it can prove that it could not have learned of the material misstatement or omission through the exercise of reasonable care. 206See Hicks, supra note 203, § 6:165. If the issuer or any of its employees is negligent, then this defense will likely not preclude recovery. 207See Cohn, supra note 176, § 19:4. Under Section 12(a)(2), the courts look at several factors in evaluating the due diligence defense, “including level of participation in the transaction, access to source material, skill in finding the truth, financial interest in completing the transaction, and level of trust in the relationship between purchaser and seller.” Sale, supra note 173, at 439. In addition, the issuer can avoid liability for part or all of the damages if it can prove that the loss of value occurred because of something other than the untrue statement. 208Bradford, supra note 18, at 210–11. This is the opposite of the burden imposed in Rule 10b-5, under which the plaintiff must prove loss causation, 209See Allen Ferrell & Atanu Saha, The Loss Causation Requirement for Rule 10b-5 Causes of Action: The Implications of Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 63 Bus. Law. 163, 163–64 (2007). but is in line with the negative loss causation defense under Section 12(a)(2). 210Bradford, supra note 18, at 210–11.

Section 4A(c)’s remedies also parallel those of Section 12(a)(2). If the plaintiff tenders the security back to the issuer, the plaintiff may recover “the consideration paid for such security,” plus interest on it. 211Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). If the plaintiff “no longer owns the security,” the plaintiff can sue for damages, 212Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). although the statute does not state how to calculate such damages. 213Bradford, supra note 18, at 210. Plaintiffs often prefer rescissionary damages, such as those available under Sections 12(a)(2) or 4A(c), rather than the actual damages available under Rule 10b-5, because rescissionary damages often provide fuller compensation. 214See Bainbridge, supra note 187, at 1233–34. As discussed below, crowdfunding’s dynamic creates a greater risk of startup issuers making material misstatements or omissions than issuers face in a typical public offering. Thus, the Crowdfund Act’s adoption and broadening of Section 12(a)(2)—a liability provision that applies only to statements in a public offering prospectus and is inapplicable to private offerings—simply does not fit the crowdfunding context. At the same time, the relatively small amounts invested by individuals and the high obstacles to class action certification suggest that crowdfunding investors who suffer losses due to actual fraud may have no access to a remedy. 215See infra Part III.B.2.

1. The Increased Risk of Material Misstatements or Omissions for Startups in a Crowdfunding Offering

Several unique characteristics of startups and crowdfunding will dramatically increase the likelihood of a material misstatement or omission in a crowdfunded offering, resulting in greater liability exposure for crowdfunding issuers. As discussed in Part III.A, Section 12(a)(2) applies only to companies making a public offering, which means the company has reached a certain stage of maturity in its lifecycle. Crowdfunding, on the other hand, is designed for startups—businesses still in their infancy. 216Technically, any company that satisfies the Crowdfund Act’s requirements can use crowdfunding. However, Section 4A(f) disqualifies reporting companies, meaning any company that is required to “file reports pursuant to section 13 or section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934,” which effectively limits the size of crowdfunding companies. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b). Startups face multiple disadvantages compared to more mature companies due to startups’ limited human, informational, and financial resources; personal financial pressures; and greater risk and complexity in decision-making. 217See Jill Perry-Smith & Leslie H. Vincent, The Benefits and Liabilities of Multidisciplinary Commercialization Teams: How Professional Composition and Social Networks Influence Team Processes, in 18 Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results 35, 36 (Gary D. Libecap & Marie C. Thursby eds., 2008). Crowdfunded startups simply will not have the same resources to hire compliance experts and may not even realize the necessity of doing so. 218See Bryan Sullivan & Stephen Ma, Crowdfunding: Potential Legal Disaster Waiting to Happen, Forbes (Oct. 22, 2012, 7:00 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2012/10/22/crowdfunding-potential-legal-disaster-waiting-to-happen/ (noting that many of the businesses using crowdfunding “won’t have the business experience or savvy to make even the minimum appropriate disclosures or hire an attorney to guide them through disclosure drafting and execution”). In addition, crowdfunded startups will confront six different issues—explored in detail in the rest of this section—that will raise the likelihood of liability attaching under Section 4A(c): (1) dramatically higher likelihood of business failure, (2) emerging technology product development problems, (3) entrepreneurs’ psychological predispositions to risk, (4) the broadening of Section 4A(c)’s applicability to “any written or oral communication,” 219Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b) (emphasis added). (5) crowdfunding’s unique pitching strategy, and (6) a lack of thorough due diligence conducted by investors. These six characteristics converge to create a dramatically heightened likelihood that startups using crowdfunding will make material misstatements or omissions.

First, startups are far more likely than reporting companies to fail and result in investor losses, which raises the risk of investors bringing Section 4A(c) lawsuits. 220See Keith Paul Bishop, Crowdfunding—There Will Be Investor Losses, Cal. Corp. & Sec. L. (Apr. 4, 2012), http://calcorporatelaw.com/2012/04/crowdfunding-there-will-be-investor-losses/ (writing that he “expect[s] that many of the issuers that use [crowdfunding] will be start-ups just trying to get off the ground” and that “[m]any, if not most, of these companies will fail and there will be investor losses”). When investors earn money, there are rarely lawsuits; it is when investors lose money that “opportunistic plaintiff attorneys will look aggressively for errors in company disclosures,” 221Schreter, supra note 163. which raises the liability exposure for crowdfunding startups. 222Of course, this is not a new phenomenon or one unique to startups. However, the combination of earlier stage companies and the volatility of the high-tech industry are likely to exacerbate the problem. For example, Professor Alexander documented a large number of computer-related companies that went public in 1983 at an earlier stage in development than was normal at the time. See Janet Cooper Alexander, Do the Merits Matter? A Study of Settlements in Securities Class Actions, 43 Stan. L. Rev. 497, 507 (1991). When these newly public firms failed to hit product deadlines and meet sales goals, their stock prices declined and “[i]n due course class action suits were filed alleging securities violations in the offerings.” Id. at 508–09. The maxim in venture investing is that out of ten startups, three or four fail completely, three or four break even, and one or two provide significant returns. 223Deborah Gage, The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-ups Fail, Wall St. J., Sept. 20, 2012, at B1. A 2011 study by Professor Shikhar Ghosh of Harvard Business School shows that the failure rate is actually even higher: approximately three-quarters of venture-backed startups do not return investors’ capital. 224Id. Even more alarming when considering the likelihood of material misstatements in financial statements and projections, Professor Ghosh found that more than 95% of venture-backed startups fell short of either their declared cash flow break-even date or specific revenue growth rate projection. 225See id. These figures do not bode well for crowdfunding startups because the startups Professor Ghosh tracked received funding from established venture capital firms, which are highly selective, invest at a later stage in the game, 226See supra notes 85–87 and accompanying text. and generally conduct thorough due diligence before investing. 227See infra notes 273–75 and accompanying text. Yet even these closely vetted startups fail at an incredibly high rate. These statistics should raise alarm bells for startups considering crowdfunding and for investors as well because the issuers using crowdfunding may at times be the same companies turned down by the more cautious angel investors and venture capital firms.

Second, startups, especially high-tech startups, face serious issues with developing emerging technology products on schedule. 228See Perry-Smith & Vincent, supra note 217, at 36 (noting that high-tech startups routinely confront “technology challenges that stem from the novelty and uncertainty associated with the technology itself”). This challenge makes crowdfunding issuers more vulnerable to liability actions brought by unhappy investors when products fail to materialize as promised. Although the press described the Pebble Watch as “a poster child for what can go wrong with crowdfunded projects,” 229See, e.g., John Koetsier, Pebble’s Lead Designer ‘Stuck in Asia’ to Get the 21st Century E-paper Watch Built, Venture Beat (Oct. 11, 2012, 2:51 PM), http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/11/pebbles-lead-designer-stuck-in-asia-to-get-the-21st-century-e-paper-watch-built/. the Pebble Watch project’s failure to deliver its product on schedule is not an anomaly. Professor Ethan Mollick of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business tracked the results of 381 successfully funded projects with “clearly identifiable outcomes” from Kickstarter’s Design and Technology categories. 230Ethan Mollick, The Dynamics of Crowdfunding: An Exploratory Study, J. Bus. Venturing (forthcoming 2013) (manuscript at 11), available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2013.06.005. Professor Mollick found that “the majority of products were delayed, some substantially, and may, ultimately, never be delivered.” 231Id. (manuscript at 12). Despite making “efforts to fulfill their obligations to funders,” over 75% of Kickstarter-funded ventures “deliver products later than expected” and 33% of projects had yet to deliver the promised product at all. 232Id. (manuscript at 1–2, 12). Another study by CNN Money shows that 84% of the 50 most-funded projects on Kickstarter missed their target delivery dates 233Julianne Pepitone, Why 84% of Kickstarter’s Top Projects Shipped Late, CNN Money (Dec. 18, 2012, 8:04 AM), http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/18/technology/innovation/kickstarter-ship-delay/index.html. because of manufacturing obstacles, logistics issues, and regulatory certification roadblocks. 234See Stacy Cowley et al., 9 Reasons Kickstarter Projects Ship Late, CNN Money (Dec. 19, 2012, 1:27 PM), http://money.cnn.com/gallery/technology/2012/12/18/kickstarter-ship-late/index.html?iid=EL. The Pebble Watch and several other high-profile, multimillion-dollar projects have been described in the press as “vaporware,” a tech industry term that refers to a product announced to the public but never actually released, or officially cancelled. 235See, e.g., Farhad Manjoo, Kickstarter Warnings as Dreamy Projects Flounder, Sydney Morning Herald (Oct. 14, 2012, 9:15 AM), . Since the Pebble Watch started shipping in late January 2013, it is no longer a “vaporware” product. See supra note 7 and accompanying text. One frequent Kickstarter funder, Dustin Wood, complains that he has spent approximately $800 on a number of different crowdfunding projects yet has “no products to account for it.” 236Tim Bradshaw, Project Delays Anger Kickstarter Backers, Fin. Times (Nov. 14, 2012, 1:17 PM), http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d34bada8-2ad1-11e2-802d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2SBNTGFDO. Professor Mollick believes that such delays and failures will continue in equity crowdfunding and comments, “You will have many disappointed people. You’ll have people backing things, most of which will go bad.” 237See Krantz, supra note 9. Of course, the high development failure rate is not always solely the fault of the entrepreneurs behind these startups, who are often capable and well-intentioned. 238Professor Mollick’s study found that the “direct failure rate”—those who had refunded money or stopped responding to backers—was “well below 5%,” despite the fact that Kickstarter does not have an “enforcement mechanism to prevent con artists from using the system to raise funds for fake projects.” See Mollick, supra note 230 (manuscript at 12). In September 2012, Kickstarter refined its policies, including banning photorealistic product simulations and forcing project founders to disclose and highlight risks, in response to these product delays. Bradshaw, supra note 236. Instead, a number of factors, including the difficulty of design, testing, and manufacturing, problems with scaling up, and the capriciousness of the market, hamper the commercialization process. 239See Robert Prentice, Vaporware: Imaginary High-Tech Products and Real Antitrust Liability in a Post-Chicago World, 57 Ohio St. L.J. 1163, 1175 (1996). Such development issues plague even the world’s largest corporations, and vaporware claims have resulted in securities fraud lawsuits—primarily grounded in Rule 10b-5 claims—against Apple, Microsoft, and several other corporations. See id. at 1253.

Third, crowdfunded startups face greater liability exposure because entrepreneurs’ unique psychology makes them more likely than established company managers to make risky, overly optimistic assertions. In academia and the public consciousness, entrepreneurs are intrinsically associated with risk. 240See Brian Wu & Anne Marie Knott, Entrepreneurial Risk and Market Entry, 52 Mgmt. Sci. 1315, 1315–16 (2006). John Stuart Mill, who brought the term “entrepreneur” into common usage, even distinguished “entrepreneurs” from company “managers” based on the additional “risk bearing” role of entrepreneurs. 241Robert H. Brockhaus, Sr., Risk Taking Propensity of Entrepreneurs, 23 Acad. Mgmt. J. 509, 509 (1980). It is well known that entrepreneurs risk their financial, psychic, and emotional well-being; career opportunities; and even family relations when they engage in a new business venture, which historically has led scholars to describe entrepreneurs as excessive risk-takers. 242See id. at 510–11. Recent scholarship, such as writing by Professor Anne Marie Knott and Brian Wu, presents a more nuanced view of entrepreneurial risk-taking. Professor Knott and Wu posit that, while entrepreneurs display classic risk aversion with respect to market demand uncertainty, entrepreneurs exhibit overconfidence regarding their “own entrepreneurial ability.” 243Wu & Knott, supra note 240, at 1315. That is to say, entrepreneurs do not believe they are taking significant economic risks because they are “overestimating their capability” in their risk calculations. 244See id. at 1317. For example, when engineers in “entrepreneurial firms” were asked to fill out a self-assessment comparing their abilities to those of their peers, 42% of the engineers surveyed believed they were in the top 5% of peer performance and 73.3% believed they were in the top 10% of peer performance. Id. (“Thus, while all engineers are prone to overconfidence, those drawn to start-ups are particularly overconfident.”). This helps explain why entrepreneurs “all have rosy glasses through which they view their business and their market.” 245Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, supra note 90; accord Carmen Nobel, Why Companies Fail—and How Their Founders Can Bounce Back, Harv. Bus. Sch. Working Knowledge (Mar. 7, 2011), http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6591.html (“[S]tubborn entrepreneurs continue to found companies, in spite of the failure rates . . . . Sometimes this is due to naïveté and hubris—the notion that their idea simply cannot fail.”). According to Professor Knott and Wu, entrepreneurs believe their superior abilities can translate a long-shot idea—at least as viewed from an outside perspective—into the next Facebook. 246See supra notes 243–44 and accompanying text.

Of course, overestimating one’s own ability can be positive, encouraging entrepreneurs to risk their life savings (and often the savings of their families and friends) on the next big venture, at least a few of which will succeed wildly. Before signing the JOBS Act, President Obama praised risk-taking among American entrepreneurs:

We think big. We take risks. And we believe that anyone with a solid plan and a willingness to work hard can turn even the most improbable idea into a successful business. So ours is a legacy of Edisons and Graham Bells, Fords and Boeings, of Googles and of Twitters. This is a country that’s always been on the cutting edge. And the reason is that America has always had the most daring entrepreneurs in the world. 247Obama, supra note 111.

Such entrepreneurial ventures are critical to the country’s economic growth. 248See supra notes 110–13 and accompanying text. However, risk-taking based on an inflation of one’s own likelihood of success is exactly the type of risk-taking that is likely to lead to overconfident projections that fall outside of the Securities Act’s safe harbor for forward-looking statements. 249For example, a projection or forward-looking statement does not fall within the Securities Act’s “safe harbor” if the “statement was made or reaffirmed without a reasonable basis.” 17 C.F.R. § 230.175 (2012); Prentice, supra note 239, at 1252–53. The “reasonable basis” requirement could be challenged in circumstances of unrealistically overconfident projections. Thus, crowdfunded startups run by entrepreneurs with this mindset will confront substantially greater liability risk than companies run by comparatively conservative managers.

Fourth, crowdfunded startups face greater liability exposure because Section 4A(c) significantly broadens the scope of communications that may trigger civil liability for issuers. 250See supra notes 181–88 and accompanying text. Post-Gustafson judicial discussions of Sections 11 and 12(a)(2) frequently refer to the “interrorem [sic] nature of the liability” of these sections. 251See, e.g., In re Morgan Stanley Info. Fund Sec. Litig., 592 F.3d 347, 359 (2d Cir. 2010). These cases justify the “stringent standard of liability” 252See Herman & MacLean v. Huddleston, 459 U.S. 375, 381–82 (1983) (“[Section 11] was designed to assure compliance with the disclosure provisions of the Act by imposing a stringent standard of liability on the parties who play a direct role in a registered offering.” (footnote omitted)). imposed on issuers because public offering materials are formal documents intended for public reliance; thus, issuers bear a “moral responsibility to the public [that] is particularly heavy.” 253See Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U.S. 561, 581 (1995) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 73–85, at 9 (1933)). Liability for material misstatements and omissions under Section 4A(c)’s “any written or oral communication” standard will clearly attach to the formal disclosures distributed to the public and the SEC. 254See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 317–19 (2012). However, Section 4A(c), at least on its face, appears to cover other informal statements and communications to the public—to the extent such communication is permitted under the SEC’s final rules—since the phrase “any written or oral communication, in the offering or sale of a security” is not limited to formal statements filed with the SEC. 255See id. Formal disclosures to the SEC and the public are already substantial and provide ample room for misstatement and omissions even without the extension of liability for promotional statements under 4A(c). 256See Hanks, supra note 95 (“The disclosure requirements will be unfamiliar to small companies that may be entering the capital markets for the first time and they are likely to make inadvertent mistakes.”).

Fifth, crowdfunded offerings involve a unique blend of customer marketing and investor pitching, which is likely to open issuers to additional liability if promotional statements fall within Section 4A(c). 257Even if promotional statements do not fall within Section 4A(c), this environment creates a risk of triggering Rule 10b-5 liability for issuers and funding portals. See id. (“It is easy to imagine the type of promotional statements that inexperienced funding portals might make that would form the basis for a 10b-5 suit.”). A crowdfunding startup is seeking not just financing from the crowd, but also the establishment of a customer base to promote its product. 258See Slava Rubin, The Wisdom of Crowdfunding, Forbes, Oct. 22, 2012, at 62. This dual purpose means that entrepreneurs need to show more than just the startup’s financial statements and business plan, as required by the Crowdfund Act. 259See supra notes 144, 150 and accompanying text. Instead, entrepreneurs need to convince hundreds of potential investors to also become customers. 260In some ways, this is a more difficult sale than pitching to angel investors or venture capital firms where the entrepreneur simply needs to convince the investor that customers exist regardless of whether the investor sees himself or herself as a customer. The notable difference between this pitch and a securities marketing road show 261A “road show” may occur before a large securities offering, such as an IPO, to drum up interest among investors. See Craig F. Arcella, The Nuts and Bolts of Road Shows 1 (2010), http://www.cravath.com/files/Uploads/Documents/The%20Nuts%20and%20Bolts%20of%20Road%20Shows%20(5-502-2419).pdf. During a road show, the issuer’s senior management and its lead underwriters make presentations to potential investors. Id. is that, in crowdfunding, these pitches will target unsophisticated retail investors instead of the institutional investors, money managers, and brokerage firms typically courted during road shows. 262See id. In rewards-based crowdfunding, this sales pitch often takes the form of a marketing video. 263On Kickstarter, for example, projects featuring videos “succeed [at raising funds] at a much higher rate than those without.” Making Your Video, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/help/school#making_your_video (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). Since liability for inaccurate representations under Section 4A(c) on its face attaches to “any written or oral communication” as discussed above, liability may very well attach to all online and video promotions related to selling the security, at least to the extent the SEC rules permit such promotional material. Companies are more likely to make predictions and representations on websites and in videos that they would not make in print and certainly would not make in a prospectus. 264See Prentice, supra note 175, at 33. Potentially even more problematic is that entrepreneurs will likely attempt to promote their offerings through social media platforms, which currently form the backbone of crowdfunding solicitation efforts. 265Telephone Interview with Jim Cummings, Member, Ornana, LLC (Sept. 27, 2012) (explaining how he used social media platforms, including Facebook and “anything else [he] could” to promote his campaign). Professor Mollick’s Kickstarter results study also demonstrates the value of social media connections. See Mollick, supra note 230 (manuscript at 8) (“To take an average project in the Film category, a founder with 10 Facebook friends would have a 9% chance of succeeding, one with 100 friends would have a 20% chance of success, and one with 1000 friends would have a 40% chance of success.”). Even these casual communications could result in Section 4A(c) liability since they are written communications. 266See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 317, 319 (2012). It is currently unclear to what extent issuers will be able to promote their offerings through promotional materials or social media. The Crowdfund Act currently states that issuers shall “not advertise the terms of the offering, except for notices which direct investors to the funding portal or broker.” Id. at 318. Of course, the likelihood of counsel reviewing all these communications in a crowdfunding setting is slim, given the cost of such review and the relatively small amount of money being raised in a crowdfunded offering.

Sixth, misleading statements, omissions, and overly optimistic assertions are less likely to be caught and rooted out in crowdfunding than in traditional financing because of the minimal level of due diligence that will likely be undertaken in crowdfunded offerings. 267See Daniel Isenberg, The Road to Crowdfunding Hell, HBR Blog Network (Apr. 23, 2012, 10:57 AM), http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/the_road_to_crowdfunding_hell.html (arguing that due diligence is too expensive for crowdfunding). If, as posited above, entrepreneurs skew expected return calculations and omit certain risks based on overconfidence in their own performance, these skewed returns and omissions will inevitably appear in risk disclosure statements, business plans, and financial projections. When angel investors and venture capital firms receive business plans and financial projections, they take a closer, skeptical look during the due diligence process. 268“A lot of what entrepreneurs disclose may or may not be 100% accurate. . . . It takes a lot of time and a lot of specific knowledge to drill down to what is realistic.” Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, supra note 90. Sophisticated investors expect overstatements and anticipate finding material mistakes and misstatements during due diligence. 269See id. (“Groups like the ATA and sophisticated angels and venture capital firms cut to the chase because they have seen this standard entrepreneur optimism a million times and they know what to do.”). However, crowdfunding does not present the same opportunity for thorough due diligence on the part of investors. Crowdfunding investors will rely either on the issuer’s sales pitch or, at best, on the issuer’s disclosed financials and projections, without the ability to conduct their own due diligence. 270See infra notes 273–77 and accompanying text. Several scholars and legal practitioners question the extent to which these financial disclosures will actually benefit retail investors since many, if not most, retail investors will either not understand these documents or not bother reading them. 271See Bradford, supra note 64, at 112 (writing that “at least some of the people investing in crowdfunding offerings will not have the basic financial knowledge required to understand the risks” even if disclosed); Wroldsen, supra note 11, at 605 (writing that a disclosure’s “effectiveness in helping investors, especially unsophisticated ones, judge the quality of securities offerings is questionable”); Sullivan & Ma, supra note 218 (“Typical crowdfunding investors, even with basic disclosure requirements for participation, won’t have the investment savvy to determine whether an investment is real or a fraud.”). The concern around the lack of due diligence is so strong that several businesses, including CrowdCheck, Crowdfunding Roadmap, and CrowdQualifier, have sprouted to offer due diligence services for issuers and crowdfunding intermediaries. 272See CrowdCheck, http://www.crowdcheck.com/about-us (last visited Aug. 13, 2013); Crowdfunding Roadmap, http://www.crowdfundingroadmap.com/ (last visited Aug. 13, 2013); CrowdQualifier, http://www.crowdqualifier.com/home (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). However, these due diligence services are unlikely to be as thorough as those conducted by sophisticated investors because of the time and cost involved in high-quality due diligence. 273See Isenberg, supra note 267. Venture capital firms may spend upwards of $50,000 on due diligence before committing funds to a startup, 274See id. and angel investor groups perform an average of sixty hours on due diligence before investing. 275See Robert Wiltbank & Warren Boeker, Returns to Angel Investors in Groups 5 (2007). Venture capitalists may spend several months conducting due diligence. Id. Since crowdfunding will involve smaller sums of money, especially in comparison to venture capital investing, and because issuers will ultimately have to foot the bill for due diligence, 276Even if some funding portals cover the up-front cost of due diligence, this cost will ultimately be passed along to the issuer in higher hosting fees. expensive and lengthy due diligence is not practical. 277Isenberg, supra note 267. This financial reality increases the likelihood that material mistakes will not be unearthed—mistakes that may come back to haunt issuers under Section 4A(c) if the startup flounders or fails.

2. The Likelihood of Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Bringing Suit Under 4A(c)

Despite Section 4A(c)’s minimal elements, the Crowdfund Act’s liability provision is at risk of providing investors a right without an effective remedy unless attorney fee-shifting is instituted as this Comment proposes. The small dollar amounts in a crowdfunded offering may well render the liability section ineffective because no single individual is likely to have a sufficient investment to pursue litigation. 278See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1759 (writing that there are “questions regarding the economics of bringing such a claim and the adequacy of the economic incentives to plaintiff’s law firms to bring suit on a contingent fee basis”). Under the Crowdfund Act, an individual with an annual income or net worth of less than $100,000 can invest the greater of $2,000 or 5% of the individual’s income or net worth; if the investor’s annual income or net worth is equal to or greater than $100,000, the investment is capped at 10% of the individual’s annual income or net worth, not to exceed $100,000. 279See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315 (2012). Although it remains to be seen, it seems unlikely that an investor would invest anywhere near $100,000 because such an investor could invest as an angel and negotiate more favorable terms. The limited dollar amount essentially necessitates filing a class action suit that pools together investor claims. 280See Sullivan & Ma, supra note 218. However, even as a class action suit, the sum of money at issue is so small that attorneys will have to anticipate reaching a quick settlement before trial in order to justify even the pretrial costs of the litigation.

The vast majority of security lawsuits are filed as class actions in order to balance the costs of the litigation against the potential awards to the class. 281See Hicks, supra note 203, § 6:48 (“The securities laws are complex; actions under them are expensive. Without a class action, many actionable wrongs would go uncorrected and uncompensated.” (quoting Gibb v. Delta Drilling Co., 104 F.R.D. 59, 71 (N.D. Tex. 1984))). However, crowdfunding presents a much smaller investment pool than other financing rounds, such as IPOs, because the Crowdfund Act caps offerings at $1 million in any twelve-month period. 282Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(a). By comparison, the median IPO deal size in 2012 measured $124 million and $160.2 million in 2011. Tomio Geron, IPO Market Raises $43B in 2012, but Median Deal Size Down 23%, Forbes (Dec. 18, 2012, 12:00 PM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/12/18/ipo-market-raises-43m-in-2012-but-median-deal-size-down-23/. Attorney Lyndon Tretter worries that “even the aggregate amount of investments [in a crowdfunded offering] may not be enough to attract plaintiffs’ class-action counsel to take the case on a contingency-fee basis.” 283Tretter, supra note 20. Plaintiffs’ attorneys must incur the up-front expenses of litigation in hopes of securing an award that offsets the cost of litigation, while these attorneys can hope to recover 30% of the award. 2841 Alba Conte, Attorney Fee Awards § 2:8 (“[C]ommon-fund fees in complex class action and shareholder derivative suits normally constitute 20 to 30% of the class recovery . . . .”). In this calculation, plaintiffs’ attorneys must also discount both for the likelihood of losing in court and for the time value of money until the award is secured. 285Coffee, supra note 166, at 1543. As a result of this calculation, a substantial sum of money is required to motivate lawyers to bring suit. One study on IPOs asserted that “‘smaller sized offerings hardly ever experience a securities-fraud lawsuit,’” noting that less than 1% of offerings below $5 million resulted in a class action lawsuit. 286Id. Another study asserted that a threshold of $20 million in damages must be available to “make the class action economically attractive to plaintiffs’ attorneys.” 287Id. at 1544 n.28. Because the maximum recovery under the Crowdfund Act is approximately $1 million, the economics of bringing a class action are questionable; but the possibility of litigation should not be ruled out entirely because attorneys may bring individual or class action suits in anticipation of a quick settlement. 288See Sullivan & Ma, supra note 218 (“[C]rowdfunding will lead to, perhaps, one Google and thousands of Friendsters. And plenty of lawsuits.”).

The minimal burdens Section 4A(c) imposes on plaintiffs may propel a rash of suits filed in anticipation of a quick settlement—suits that may or may not have any merit. In 1995 Congress passed the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) to reduce the “routine filing” of frivolous or nonmeritorious suits brought for their settlement value, 289See Coffee, supra note 166, at 1534 n.1 (quoting H.R. Rep No. 104–369, at 31 (1995)). commonly referred to as “strike suits.” 290See William S. Feinstein, Pleading Securities Fraud with Particularity—Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) in the Rule 10b-5 Context: Kowal v. MCI Communications Corporation, 63 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 851, 864 (1995). However, Section 12(a)(2) claims alleging negligence and not fraud are not subject to the PSLRA’s heightened pleading standards. 291See Rombach v. Chang, 355 F.3d 164, 170–71 (2d Cir. 2004). As a result, plaintiffs need not “state with particularity all facts” 29215 U.S.C. § 78u-4(b)(1) (2012). on which their belief in a securities violation is founded. 293See Rombach, 355 F.3d at 170–71. Presumably, Section 4A(c) cases will likewise be exempt from the heightened pleading standard, which means that plaintiffs can proceed without particularized evidence of misleading statements and force defendants to undergo expensive discovery. 294See Gorga & Halberstam, supra note 166, at 6 (stating that Congress enacted the PSLRA to prevent strike suits that threatened defendant corporations with “costly discovery”). Additionally, the defenses to Section 4A(c) liability—reasonable care and negative loss causation—are both affirmative defenses, meaning the defendant will bear the burden—and costs—of proving these in court. 295See supra notes 205–10 and accompanying text. Before crowdfunding has even legally commenced, there are already “strike suit lawyer advertisements on the internet,” which suggests that plaintiffs’ lawyers have not overlooked this opportunity for a quick payout. 296See Jeff Koeppel, Singing in the Rain, Crowd Funding News (Dec. 24, 2012), http://jeffkoeppel.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/singing-in-the-rain/.

Of course, claims brought under Section 4A(c) may have merit, especially given that its express cause of action presents such a minimal hurdle for plaintiffs. Another parallel to IPOs is helpful. Consider that companies going public may spend several hundred thousand dollars preparing the prospectus and registration statements. 297See supra note 97 and accompanying text. Despite the cost and careful preparation of these materials, many of these companies, especially high-tech companies, are sued in a class action or derivative suit shortly after their IPO. 298See Johnson, supra note 24 (“[A] rite of passage for any publicly traded tech company is its first securities class action or derivative suit.”). Groupon and Facebook provide illustrative examples. A lawsuit filed against Groupon pointed to its “material weakness in internal controls” that, if true, potentially resulted in false and misleading statements in its registration statement and prospectus. 299See Sam Gustin, Groupon Faces SEC Probe, Investor Lawsuit as Stock Hits New Low, Time (Apr. 5, 2012), http://business.time.com/2012/04/05/groupon-faces-SEC-probe-investor-lawsuit-as-stock-hits-new-low/. After Facebook’s dismal IPO in May 2012, investors filed forty-two securities lawsuits against Facebook, alleging it misrepresented its financial condition prior to its IPO. 300Nate Raymond, Judge Names Lead Plaintiffs in Facebook Litigation, Thomson Reuters News & Insight (Dec. 6, 2012), http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/SECurities/News/2012/12_-_December/Judge_names_lead_plaintiffs_in_Facebook_litigation/. These suits inevitably arise because IPOs are “the most attractive kind of suit for the plaintiff’s bar,” according to Columbia Law Professor John Coffee. 301Aaron Lucchetti, Facebook’s Next Fight: Suits, and More Suits, Wall St. J., Sept. 26, 2012, at C1. Since crowdfunding offers share many of the same characteristics as IPOs—aside from the monetary value of the offering—they may likewise be very attractive to the plaintiff’s bar. 302See supra note 24 and accompanying text. Although the past frequency of such suits is not a guarantee of the frequency of crowdfunding litigation, it at least indicates that plaintiffs’ attorneys will be looking closely at the potential benefits of bringing a suit under Section 4A(c), which means issuers must factor this cost into their crowdfunding transaction calculations. As discussed in the next section, providing fee-shifting for plaintiffs’ attorneys successful at trial on the merits will motivate attorneys to pursue cases that might not otherwise make financial sense, thus ensuring investors a more effective remedy under Section 4A(c).

IV. Recommendations for Congress and Issuers

Given the overly broad liability sweep of Section 4A(c), its cost implications, and the potentially ineffective remedy it provides to investors, Congress must revise the Crowdfund Act’s overbearing liability provision. This possibility is not as far-fetched as one might initially believe, especially when considering Congress’s frustration at the SEC over the delay in rulemaking. 303See Letter from Senator Jeff Merkley et al., to Mary Schapiro, Chairman, SEC (Dec. 10, 2012), available at http://www.merkley.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=911718cf-ad8b-4f66-8455-8cad3960f51d (“The law directed the SEC to promulgate the necessary rules within 270 days of the enactment of the Act. . . . At this point, it will be difficult to complete the rules by the deadline in the Act, but the SEC should move expeditiously to attempt to do so.”). If Congress picks up the pencil to complete rulemaking, it should take the opportunity to revisit Section 4A(c) as well. 304Sara Hanks, a former SEC attorney, notes that congressional legislation already supplanted SEC rulemaking once in the JOBS Act when Congress altered Section 12(g) registration triggers, and that “[i]t is not impossible that the drafting pencil could be seized from the Commission’s hands again.” Hanks, supra note 95. At the same time, Congress is not always known for fixing what it may consider a minor detail. See William J. Carney, The Costs of Being Public After Sarbanes-Oxley: The Irony of “Going Private, 55 Emory L.J. 141, 160 n.109 (2006) (noting the fact that Congress “will not rethink its choices” regarding the Sarbanes-Oxley Act despite criticism from the Act’s author). This Part provides a prescriptive solution for redrafting Section 4A(c) that balances investor protection from fraud and issuer liability exposure.

As discussed in Part III.B, the negligence-like standard of care imposed by Section 4A(c) imposes draconian liability on issuers. 305See supra Part III.B. This level of care is difficult—if not impossible—to achieve even for more mature companies undergoing IPOs with far greater sums of money to expend on attorneys and accountants. 306See supra notes 298–302 and accompanying text. For many startups and emerging companies with limited financial resources, the disclosure requirements and hidden transaction costs will make crowdfunding unsustainable for the very companies the crowdfunding legislation was intended to benefit. 307See supra Part II. This Comment addresses this problem by proposing a redraft of Section 4A(c) to require issuer scienter, while simultaneously providing a fee-shifting provision for plaintiffs’ attorneys who are successful on the merits at trial. This simple rebalancing of Section 4A(c) will lower issuer liability exposure and transaction costs but will also maintain investor protection from fraud and the integrity of the market.

Although Rule 10b-5 will apply to crowdfunding transactions, 308See Hanks, supra note 95; supra note 37 and accompanying text. the heightened risk of fraud in online crowdfunding warrants a new liability provision, albeit not one as oppressive as Section 4A(c). The PSLRA requirement that plaintiffs have certain facts in hand before trial when alleging Rule 10b-5 claims 309See Michael A. Perino, Did the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act Work?, 2003 U. Ill. L. Rev. 913, 925 (2003); supra notes 291–92 and accompanying text. —coupled with the burden of proving the six elements of Rule 10b-5 and the small sums of money in play—will likely minimize the effectiveness of Rule 10b-5 for defrauded investors. Even in securities fraud cases with much higher monetary stakes than in crowdfunding, many people worry that PSLRA requirements are preventing legitimate lawsuits as well as frivolous ones. 310See Jane Bryant Quinn, Madoff Victims Face Grim Prospects in Court, Bloomberg (Feb. 11, 2009), http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&refer=columnist_quinn&sid=axkhffRnncpI (discussing how the PSLRA acts as a barrier to recovery for victims of Bernard Madoff scam); see also Perino, supra note 309, at 926 & nn.73–75. Although this Comment proposes that scienter—carrying its standard meaning of recklessness 311“Recklessness” is “‘an extreme departure from the standards of ordinary care to the extent that the danger was either known to the defendant or was so obvious that the defendant must have been aware of it.’” In re Wachovia Equity Sec. Litig., 753 F. Supp. 2d 326, 348 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (quoting S. Cherry St., LLC, v. Hennessee Grp., LLC, 573 F.3d 98, 109 (2d Cir. 2009)). or deliberateness—should be added as an element of Section 4A(c) to be proved by the plaintiff, the heightened PSLRA pleading standard should not apply to Section 4A(c) claims because this barrier could prevent the plaintiff from advancing to discovery to unearth fraud. This compromise revision of Section 4A(c) provides several benefits: lowering the issuer’s transaction costs, focusing litigation on fraudulent issuers, avoiding PSLRA’s hurdles, and reducing the likelihood of strike suits.

First, this revision helps lower the up-front and hidden transaction costs of crowdfunding. The role of the SEC is to mandate disclosure and to remedy the information asymmetry between issuer and investor without choking off the market’s utility. 312See Johnson, supra note 24. However, as noted, the Crowdfund Act currently risks creating burdens disproportionate to the Act’s benefits. 313See supra Part II. The likelihood of making a material misstatement or omission in a crowdfunded offering is extremely high. 314See supra Part III.B.1. This risk increases the need for attorneys and further raises the costs of using crowdfunding. Concededly, adding a scienter requirement to Section 4A(c)’s liability standard might let some issuers avoid liability for negligence. However, allowing issuers to avoid some limited liability is a trade-off warranted by the economic benefits of potentially plugging the startup capital funding gap. 315See supra notes 57–60 and accompanying text; see also supra Part I.B.

Additionally, this proposed revision to Section 4A(c) will help focus recovery efforts on the most culpable issuers—those actually engaging in clear and demonstrable fraud. 316To further this end, plaintiffs’ attorneys and the courts should first look to culpable corporate insiders for the payment of any judgment instead of initially seeking recovery from the corporation, which would just impoverish the remaining shareholders. See Jennifer H. Arlen & William J. Carney, Vicarious Liability for Fraud on Securities Markets: Theory and Evidence, 1992 U. Ill. L. Rev. 691, 719 (1992) (discussing how enterprise liability for securities fraud “simply replaces one group of innocent victims with another” while “a large percentage of the plaintiffs’ recovery goes to their lawyers”). Under Section 4A(c), as presently written, a plaintiff’s attorney is just as likely to bring a case against an issuer that carelessly mistranscribes a decimal in its financial statements as against an issuer that deliberately cooks its financial statements. The addition of scienter as an element of Section 4A(c) will concentrate litigation against the latter—the issuers that intentionally or recklessly abuse crowdfunding and damage the market’s integrity. Next, by eschewing the PSLRA’s heightened pleading standard, this revision would allow plaintiffs to more readily survive a motion to dismiss and proceed to discovery, where evidence of fraud could be unearthed. Finally, this change would reduce the potential likelihood of suits filed in anticipation of a quick settlement, because plaintiffs’ attorneys would face the hurdle of proving scienter and not mere negligence.

In addition to requiring scienter for material misstatements or omissions, Section 4A(c) should permit attorney fee-shifting for the prevailing party at trial on the merits of the case, such as is done in civil rights cases. 317See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) (2006). If patterned after attorney fee-shifting in civil rights cases, the revised Section 4A(c) would allow either party to win attorney’s fees, although civil rights precedent favors recovery by the plaintiff rather than the defendant. 318See Mark R. Brown, A Primer on the Law of Attorney’s Fees Under § 1988, 37 Urb. Law. 663, 664 (2005) (“A prevailing defendant can win attorney’s fees under § 1988 only if it can prove that a plaintiff’s claim is frivolous, groundless, or vexatious.”). Allowing recovery by the defendant in such situations would further discourage strike suits. This revision would provide defrauded plaintiffs with a more robust remedy since the economic incentives of litigating a class action suit under Section 4A(c) are questionable at best. 319See supra Part III.B.2. Permitting fee-shifting would alter the calculations made by plaintiffs’ attorneys. Instead of being deterred by the limited size of the award, attorneys could concentrate on the likelihood of success because they would receive adequate compensation if they won on the merits at trial. 320If the defendant settles the case, any fees should come from the common fund and not through attorney fee-shifting to avoid encouraging strike suits. The court could base the awarded fee on a lodestar calculation that multiplies hours expended by counsel by a reasonable hourly rate, and then adjust the result based on other pertinent factors, such as the experience of counsel, novelty of the questions, and the “undesirability” of the case. 321See Theodore Eisenberg & Geoffrey P. Miller, Attorney Fees in Class Action Settlements: An Empirical Study, 1 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 27, 30–31 (2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). The authors also note several potential problems with this form of calculation, although an in-depth discussion of these issues lies outside the scope of this Comment. Id. at 31.

This fee-shifting provision would place some issuers on the hook for far more money than under Section 4A(c) in its current form, which provides only for rescission of funds plus interest upon a tendering of the plaintiff’s securities. 322See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302, 126 Stat. 306, 315, 318 (2012). However, holding fraudulent issuers accountable for plaintiffs’ attorney fees may additionally deter would-be fraudulent issuers, especially those issuers who would be willing to commit fraud when the most likely civil repercussion is simply returning the raised funds. 323Of course, the SEC and state enforcement agencies can also levy monetary sanctions and suspensions against fraudulent issuers. However, statistics show that from 2000 to 2002, private action awards amounted to more than twice those imposed by the SEC and more than all those imposed by the SEC, state regulatory authorities, the National Association of Securities Dealers Exchange, and the New York Stock Exchange combined. See Coffee, supra note 166, at 1542. Of course, instituting fee-shifting may deter legitimate issuers from using crowdfunding as well. However, the deterrent effect should not be as great on legitimate issuers contemplating crowdfunding because the addition of scienter to Section 4A(c) will shield issuers from liability if they simply commit a beginner’s mistake sans scienter.

Until these issues with Section 4A(c) are revisited by Congress or attended to by the SEC or the courts, issuers need to be aware of this hidden liability trap and factor it into their crowdfunding cost calculations. In particular, startups and high-tech companies—those companies facing the highest risk of making a material misstatement or omission 324See supra Part III.B.1. —should think twice before using crowdfunding. What initially seems a fast and easy form of financing may quickly unravel into costly and time-consuming litigation.

Conclusion

Crowdfunding poses the potential for the most significant shake-up and democratization of the investment industry in decades. For the first time, nearly every American adult will be able to invest in startups, once a privilege largely reserved to the fewer than four million accredited investors in the United States. 325Wagner, supra note 58. Of course the positives should not be overstated. When unsophisticated investors meet unsophisticated issuers, there will be investor losses and there will be fraudulent offerings. 326See supra notes 20, 39 and accompanying text. But fraudulent offerings and investor losses already occur in the public and private markets. 327See Johnson, supra note 28, at 995, 1009; Bishop, supra note 220.

The key to this grand experiment is balancing investor protection from fraud and the burdens of issuing a crowdfunded offering. The up-front transaction costs of attorneys and accountants to prepare disclosure statements that comply with SEC regulations, plus the fees owed to funding portals, will consume a substantial portion of the $1 million maximum that can be raised. 328See supra Part II. Even more significant are crowdfunding’s hidden costs, including the administrative cost of managing shareholders, the deterrent effect of numerous shareholders on later rounds of investment, and, most critically, the potential liability costs under Section 4A(c) down the road.

Section 4A(c) of the Crowdfund Act sweeps too broadly for the crowdfunding environment and will ensnare unsophisticated entrepreneurs in its trap. The liability provision’s minimal elements—merely proving a material misrepresentation or omission that makes a stated fact misleading—coupled with the expansion of Section 12(a)(2)’s language to include “any written or oral communication” 329Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302, 126 Stat. 306, 315, 319 (2012). will impose draconian liability on unsuspecting issuers. The problems with this liability provision are further exacerbated by the dynamics of startups using crowdfunding: young companies statistically likely to fail, emerging technology issues, entrepreneurial predisposition to risk, broad mediums of communication, a unique form of investor pitching, and a lack of thorough due diligence by the crowd. 330See supra Part III.B.1.

As a new, unprecedented form of financing, crowdfunding likewise deserves a new liability provision, not a rehashing of a liability provision intended for companies undertaking a high-priced public offering with the assistance of a small army of attorneys, accountants, and investment professionals. Moreover, crowdfunding deserves a liability provision that actually addresses the risk of securities fraud, not beginners’ reporting mistakes. Congress should revise Section 4A(c) to require the plaintiff to prove scienter in the untrue statement or omission rather than only allowing the issuer to prove reasonable care or negative loss causation as affirmative defenses. The redrafted provision should also permit attorney fee-shifting to justify the costs of plaintiffs’ attorneys pursuing class action litigation over a relatively small sum of money in order to provide defrauded investors with an effective remedy. These corrections will focus the liability provision on those issuers committing fraud—the ostensible concern of lawmakers and regulators—instead of extending liability to cover the inevitable mistakes inexperienced entrepreneurs will make in crowdfunded offerings. These revisions will also drive down the transaction costs of crowdfunding by reducing the need for attorneys to vet every statement and lessening the risk of civil liability springing up down the road. Ultimately, this Comment’s proposal would balance securities regulations to protect investors and the integrity of the market, while keeping transaction costs low enough to allow this revolutionary experiment an opportunity to develop.

Footnotes

1See Joanna Stern, Pebble Watch: Behind the Smartwatch Sensation, ABC News (July 11, 2012), http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/pebble-watch-smartwatch-iphone-android/story?id=16750944#.UGYH4WBt_80.

2See id.

3See Pebble Tech., Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android?ref=live (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

4See id.

5Pebble Tech., $1mm in 28 Hours, Update to Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android, Kickstarter (Apr. 12, 2012), http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts?page=9.

6See Pebble Tech., supra note 3.

7See ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival), Get Pebble, http://help.getpebble.com/customer/portal/articles/1020569-eta-estimated-time-of-arrival (last updated July 9, 2013).

8Id.

9See Matt Krantz, Crowd Funding’s Dark Side; Sometimes Investments Just Swirl Down the Drain, USA Today, Aug. 15, 2012, at 1B.

10See infra notes 230–34 and accompanying text.

11See John S. (Jack) Wroldsen, The Social Network and the Crowdfund Act: Zuckerberg, Saverin, and Venture Capitalists’ Dilution of the Crowd, 15 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 583, 594 (2013) (describing the “revolutionary power of Internet crowdfunding”).

12See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, President Obama to Sign Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act (Apr. 5, 2012), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/05/president-obama-sign-jumpstart-our-business-startups-jobs-act.

13Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302, 126 Stat. 306, 315–21 (2012).

14See Wroldsen, supra note 11, at 588–89. Unless otherwise noted, all further references to “crowdfunding” are to equity crowdfunding, which is the primary concern of this Comment.

15See Robb Mandelbaum, ‘Crowdfunding’ Rules Are Unlikely to Meet Deadline, N.Y. Times, Dec. 27, 2012, at B1. All securities, including shares of a company using equity crowdfunding, must be registered with the SEC or satisfy a registration exemption before they can be sold. See id. Registering securities under Section 5 of the Securities Act is prohibitively expensive for startups, and none of the other registration exemptions fits equity crowdfunding. See infra Part I.B.

16See infra Part I.A–B for an explanation of rewards crowdfunding and the inapplicability of current securities regulations.

17See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

18See C. Steven Bradford, The New Federal Crowdfunding Exemption: Promise Unfulfilled, 40 Sec. Reg. L. J. 195, 217 (2012), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2066088.

19See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, supra note 12.

20See Thomas Lee Hazen, Crowdfunding or Fraudfunding? Social Networks and the Securities Laws—Why the Specially Tailored Exemption Must Be Conditioned on Meaningful Disclosure, 90 N.C. L. Rev. 1735, 1767–69 (2012); Lyndon M. Tretter, Crowdfunding: Small-business Incubator or Securities Fraud Accelerator? 18 WL J. Sec. Litig. & Reg., no. 8, Aug. 21, 2012 at 1, 1, available at 2012 WL 3580266; Skip Kaltenheuser, Legislating to Create the Next Enron, IBA Net, http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=1542A41C-C561-474A-B057-18696C22BDE0 (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

21See Stuart R. Cohn, The New Crowdfunding Registration Exemption: Good Idea, Bad Execution, 64 Fla. L. Rev. 1433, 1438–40 (2012).

22See infra Part II.

23See Bradford, supra note 18, at 210–11.

24Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012). Although crowdfunding does not permit trading on the public markets, a crowdfunded offering shares several characteristics with an initial public offering (IPO). See Antone Johnson, The Great Crowdfunding Train Wreck of 2013, Gust Blog (Mar. 19, 2012), http://gust.com/angel-investing/startup-blogs/2012/03/19/crowdfunding-train-wreck/. Crowdfunding, likewise, makes equity shares in a business available in relatively small dollar amounts to a large number of retail investors. See id. (explaining that crowdfunding “sounds virtually identical” to an IPO).

25See infra Part I.C.

26See Letter from William Francis Galvin, Sec’y of the Commonwealth, Commonwealth of Mass., to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Sec’y, SEC (Aug. 8, 2012), available at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/sct/sctpdf/Jobs_ Act0001.pdf (“Crowdfunding represents a significant departure from long-established rules for public offerings of securities.”).

27An “accredited investor” is, inter alia, “a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years.” Accredited Investors, SEC.gov, http://www.sec.gov/answers/accred.htm (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

28Private placements are securities offerings sold outside of the normal public securities markets. See Jennifer J. Johnson, Fleecing Grandma: A Regulatory Ponzi Scheme, 16 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 993, 995 (2012). Although Rules 505 and 506 of Regulation D allow selling securities to thirty-five non-accredited investors in a private placement, most issuers do not do so to avoid triggering extensive disclosure requirements. See infra note 107 and accompanying text; see also Johnson, supra note 24. Moreover, although Rule 504 of Regulation D does not limit the number of non-accredited investors, it also does not preempt state law registration requirements, which may in turn impose strict limitations on the number of non-accredited investors permitted. See infra note 108 and accompanying text; see also Alexander J. Davie, Can a Friends and Family Round Include Non-Accredited Investors? Should It? Strictly Bus. L. Blog (Aug. 15, 2011), http://www.strictlybusinesslawblog.com/2011/08/15/can-a-friends-and-family-round-include-non-accredited-investors-should-it/.

29See Paul Belleflamme et al., Crowdfunding: Tapping the Right Crowd 2 (Ctr. for Operations Research & Econometrics, Discussion Paper No. 2011/32, 2012), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1578175. Currently, several platforms, including AngelList, FundersClub, and MicroVentures, are using crowdfunding to raise money from accredited angel investors. See Sarah E. Needleman & Lora Kolodny, Site Unseen: More ‘Angels’ Invest via InternetRisks Abound, but Investors Search for Promising Startups, Wall St. J., Jan. 24, 2013, at B1. Although this variation on equity crowdfunding shows great promise for untethering angel investors from traditional finance hotspots, such as New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, these platforms essentially just move traditional angel investor financing into online communities. See id.; see also infra note 79. This Comment is primarily concerned with equity crowdfunding involving retail investors, not angels.

30Jennifer J. Johnson, Secondary Liability for Securities Fraud: Gatekeepers in State Court, 36 Del. J. Corp. L. 463, 472 (2011).

31See supra note 13 and accompanying text.

32See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 319 (2012).

33See id.; see also infra notes 205–10 and accompanying text.

34Bradford, supra note 18, at 198.

35The Crowdfund Act places strict investment caps on individual investors. See infra note 279 and accompanying text.

36Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(a).

37See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1757.

38See id. at 1757–58.

39For example, the North American Securities Administrators Association has already identified about 200 crowdfunding website names that appear suspicious and state regulators are taking or considering taking enforcement action against “a handful of companies for allegedly exploiting online fundraising to commit fraud.” See Jean Eaglesham, Crowdfunding Efforts Draw Suspicion, Wall St. J., Jan. 18, 2013, at C1. This concern emphasizes the need for a strong liability provision, such as the one proposed, but not a provision that unduly exposes honest but inexperienced issuers to stark liability.

40See generally Bradford, supra note 18 (analyzing the requirements of the Crowdfund Act and discussing its flaws); Cohn, supra note 21 (comparing the new crowdfunding exemption to other exemptions and criticizing its complexity).

41See Bradford, supra note 18, at 196.

42See Edan Burkett, A Crowdfunding Exemption? Online Investment Crowdfunding and U.S. Securities Regulation, 13 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 63, 71 (2011).

43Julia Groves, A $2.8bn Global Concept That’s Not yet in the Dictionary, Pioneers Post (Sept. 4, 2013), http://www.pioneerspost.com/news/20130409/28bn-global-concept-thats-not-yet-the-dictionary. To be fair, “crowdfunding” is in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. Crowdfunding, Oxford Dictionaries, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/crowdfunding (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

44See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1736.

45See Nikki D. Pope, Crowdfunding Microstartups: It’s Time for the Securities and Exchange Commission to Approve a Small Offering Exemption, 13 U. Pa. J. Bus. L. 973, 976–77 (2011).

46See infra Part I.B.

47This category can be broken down into three related subcategories, depending on what the funder receives in return for his or her contribution: (1) a strictly donation-based model where, for example, the funder of a band making an album does not receive anything; (2) a nominal rewards model where, for example, the funder receives a thank-you in the album’s liner notes or a poster of the band’s album cover; and (3) a pre-purchase model where, for example, the funder receives a copy of the album once it is released. See D. Scott Freed, Crowdfunding as a Platform for Raising Small Business Capital, Md. B.J. July/August 2012, at 13.

48Although a great deal could be written about crowdfunding loans or the related topic of microlending, that subject lies outside the scope of this Comment. For more information, see generally Andrew Verstein, The Misregulation of Person-to-Person Lending, 45 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 445, 445 (2011), offering a proposal of a regulatory scheme aimed to preserve the “innovative mix of social finance, microlending, and disintermediation” involved in person-to-person lending.

49See Crowdfunding, Crowdsourcing.org, http://www.crowdsourcing.org/community/crowdfunding/7 (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

50See Burkett, supra note 42, at 71; see also Yoichiro Taku, Crowdfunding: Its Practical Effect May Be Unclear Until SEC Rulemaking Is Complete, Bus. L. Today (May 2012), http://apps.americanbar.org/buslaw/blt/content/2012/05/article-03-taku.pdf.

51See Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Buddy, Can You Spare a C-Note? A Field Guide to Crowdfunding, Inc., Nov. 2011, at 114.

52See Burkett, supra note 42, at 68, 71.

53See The New Thundering Herd, Economist, June 16, 2012, at 71.

54See CrowdfundingKids.com Launches Crowdfunding Site for U.S. Teens, SF Gate (Sept. 26, 2012, 7:01 AM), http://www.sfgate.com/business/prweb/article/CrowdfundingKids-com-Launches-Crowdfunding-Site-3895135.php.

55See Dean Takahashi, Gambitious Launches Crowdfunding Platform for Video Games Only, Venture Beat (Sept. 24, 2012, 11:00 PM), http://venturebeat.com/2012/09/24/gambitious-launches-crowdfunding-platform-for-video-games-only/.

56See SoFund.Us: The World’s First Crowdfunding Platform Dedicated to the Funeral Profession, You Tube (Sept. 16, 2012), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9BYrhQOcb0.

57See Kickstarter Stats, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

58See Kurt Wagner, Waiting to Sow the Seed Funding, CNN Money (Dec. 28, 2012, 5:00 AM), http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/12/28/crowdfunding-jobs-act/?iid=SF_F_River.

59See infra notes 122–24 and accompanying text.

60158 Cong. Rec. S1829 (daily ed. Mar. 20, 2012) (statement of Sen. Jeff Merkley). Similarly, the CEO of EarlyShares.com, Maurice Lopes, relies on Amy Cortese, the author of Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit from It, who, according to Lopes, explains that “if Americans shift just 1 percent of their $30 trillion in long-term investments to small businesses, it would equal more than 10 times the venture capital invested in all of 2011.” See Lou Carlozo, With Crowdfunding, Experts Urge Caution Before Businesses Raise Funds, Reuters (Aug. 1, 2012), http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-jobs-crowdfunding-idUSBRE87014U20120801.

61See Pope, supra note 45, at 978. See supra note 47 for a description of the three rewards-based model subcategories.

62See Bradford, supra note 18, at 196; see also Securities Act of 1933 § 5(a)(1), 15 U.S.C. § 77e(a)(1) (2012).

6315 U.S.C. § 77b(a)(1).

64C. Steven Bradford, Crowdfunding and the Federal Securities Laws, 2012 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 1, 30 (2012).

65See Joan MacLeod Heminway & Shelden Ryan Hoffman, Proceed at Your Peril: Crowdfunding and the Securities Act of 1933, 78 Tenn. L. Rev. 879, 886 (2011).

66See id.

67SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., 328 U.S. 293, 298–99 (1946).

68See Burkett, supra note 42, at 80.

69See id.

70See 158 Cong. Rec. S1828 (daily ed. Mar. 20, 2012) (statement of Sen. Jeff Merkley); see also The New Thundering Herd, supra note 53. The SEC also requested data from Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and RocketHub to help the SEC with drafting regulations. See Mandelbaum, supra note 15.

71Kickstarter Basics: Kickstarter 101, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

72Id.

73See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315–16 (2012). Indiegogo, on the other hand, allows users to pay a higher fee but collect raised funds even if the target goal is not reached. See How Pricing Works on Indiegogo, Indiegogo, http://www.indiegogo.com/how-pricing-works-on-indiegogo (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

74Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(a); see Learn How to Raise Money for an Idea, Indiegogo, http://www.indiegogo.com/learn-how-to-raise-money-for-a-campaign (last visited Aug. 13, 2013). As of this writing, 42 projects have raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter. See Kickstarter Stats, supra note 57.

75See Belleflamme et al., supra note 29, at 5.

76See id. at 28.

77See Pope, supra note 45, at 1002.

78Angel investors are wealthy individuals, typically with an entrepreneurial background. See Johnson, supra note 28, at 998.

79See Ryan Tate, Feds to Break Up Tech’s Investor Party, Wired (Aug. 21, 2012, 2:16 PM), http://www.wired.com/business/2012/08/SEC-tech-investors/.

80See Bradford, supra note 64, at 100–01; see also Burkett, supra note 42, at 63.

81Bradford, supra note 64, at 100 (quoting William K. Sjostrom, Jr., Relaxing the Ban: It’s Time to Allow General Solicitation and Advertising in Exempt Offerings, 32 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 1, 3 (2004)).

82See id.

83See id. at 102.

84See Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, 2012 Survey of Credit Underwriting Practices 7–8 (2012). As of May 2012, only 10.2% of small businesses that applied for bank loans received them. See Carlozo, supra note 60.

85See Bradford, supra note 64, at 102. Venture capitalists turn down 99% of applicants. See id. at 103.

86Id. at 102.

87See Pope, supra note 45, at 973–74.

88See id. at 994 (noting that “angel investment in startups has declined steadily since 2007”).

89See id. at 994–95. Jeffrey Sohl, Director of the University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Research, stated, “This decrease in seed/start-up stage and first sequence investing is of concern.” Press Release, The Univ. of N.H., Angel Investor Market Rebounds in 2010, UNH Center for Venture Research Finds Total Investment Increases 14 Percent from 2000 (Apr. 12, 2011), available at http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2011/apr/lw12funds.cfm. Seed and startup capital investment improved slightly in 2011, although it decreased again to about 2010 levels in 2012. See Jeffrey Sohl, The Angel Investor Market in 2012: A Moderating Recovery Continues, Ctr. for Venture Research, Apr. 25, 2013, available at http://paulcollege.unh.edu/sites/default/files/2012_analysis_report.pdf.

90Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, Associate Attorney, formerly with Atlanta Technology Angels (Sept. 28, 2012).

91Sohl, supra note 89.

92See Pope, supra note 45, at 995 (“Less than three percent of the thousands of entrepreneurs seeking funding from angel investors actually get funding . . . .”); Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, supra note 90 (explaining that around 1–3% of applicants to Atlanta Technology Angels receive funding); Probability of Success in Raising Angel Capital, Bill Payne (June 7, 2011), http://billpayne.com/2011/06/07/probability-of-success-in-raising-angel-capital.html (concluding that “probably about 2% of entrepreneurs seeking funding from angels are successful”).

93See Bradford, supra note 64, at 101.

94See id. Reliance on personal funds or family and friends effectively precludes a significant portion of the U.S. population without such resources from pursuing a startup idea. See Deborah L. Cohen, Fund for All: ‘Crowdfunding’ Supporters Look to Congress to Lighten Regulatory Load, 98 A.B.A. J. 11 (2012). Similarly, SEC regulatory requirements also “favor those with connections to high-net-worth individuals, wealthy friends and family members.” Id.

95Friends and family financing frequently violates Section 5’s registration requirements and is often discovered only when a company is preparing for its initial public offering. See Sara Hanks, JOBS Act Crowdfunding Provisions Await Clarification by SEC, in 44 Sec. Reg. & L. Rep. (BNA) 1710, 1710 (Sept. 17, 2012).

96Burkett, supra note 42, at 82.

97See Bradford, supra note 64, at 42; Burkett, supra note 42, at 82.

98See Bradford, supra note 64, at 42.

9917 C.F.R. § 230.251(b) (2012).

100Id. § 230.251(d).

101See Bradford, supra note 64, at 48. Regulation A offerings typically cost upwards of $40,000. See id.

102See Burkett, supra note 42, at 88.

103See id.

10417 C.F.R. §§ 230.504(b)(2), 505(b)(2)(i) (2012).

105See Heminway & Hoffman, supra note 65, at 917–18.

10617 C.F.R. §§ 230.502(c), 505(b)(1), 506(b)(1), 504(b)(1) (2012). Following passage of the JOBS Act, the SEC promulgated Rule 506(c), which permits an issuer the option to engage in general solicitation and advertising under Rule 506 as long as all purchasers of the securities are accredited investors and the issuer “take[s] reasonable steps” to verify that purchasers of the securities are accredited investors. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 201(a)(1), 126 Stat. 306, 313 (2012); 17 C.F.R. § 230.506(c) (2013).

10717 C.F.R. §§ 230.505(b)(2)(ii), 506(b)(2)(i).

108See id. § 230.504(b)(1).

109See Heminway & Hoffman, supra note 65, at 920. But see generally Jason W. Parsont, Crowdfunding: The Real and the Illusory Exemption, 4 Harv. Bus. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2014) (arguing that “accredited crowdfunding” under the new Rule 506(c) will likely dominate retail equity crowdfunding).

110See President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President After Roundtable with Local Business Leaders in Seattle, Washington (Aug. 17, 2010) (transcript available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/17/remarks-president-after-roundtable-with-local-business-leaders-seattle-w) (“America’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy . . . .”); Restoring the American Dream: Economy & Jobs, GOP.com, http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform_restoring/ (last visited Aug. 13, 2013) (“America’s small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy . . . .”).

111President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President at JOBS Act Bill Signing (Apr. 5, 2012) (transcript available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/05/remarks-president-jobs-act-bill-signing) (stating “maybe . . . one of the folks in the audience here today will be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg”).

112See Gene B. Sperling & Karen G Mills, Introduction to Nat’l Econ. Council, The Small Business Agenda: Growing America’s Small Businesses to Win the Future (2011) (“With regards to job creation, however, we know that America’s small businesses pack the biggest punch, creating two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.”).

113See Obama, supra note 111. For example, angel investments in early-stage companies generated 370,000 new jobs in 2010. Jeffrey Sohl, The Angel Investor Market in 2010: A Market on the Rebound, Ctr. for Venture Research, Apr. 12, 2011, available at http://paulcollege.unh.edu/sites/default/files/2010_analysis_report.pdf.

114See Frank James, Political Scientist: Republicans Most Conservative They’ve Been in 100 Years, NPR (Apr. 13, 2012, 2:24 PM), http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/04/10/150349438/gops-rightward-shift-higher-polarization-fills-political-scientist-with-dread.

115See Burkett, supra note 42, at 93, 102–03, 105 (discussing the petition and the unlikeliness of SEC action).

116See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act (Sept. 8, 2011), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/08/fact-sheet-american-jobs-act; Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, supra note 12.

117See Press Release, Congressman Patrick McHenry, House Passes McHenry Crowdfunding Bill (Nov. 3, 2011), available at http://mchenry.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=267628.

118See Office of Mgmt. & Budget, Exec. Office of the President, Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2930—Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act, (Nov. 2, 2011), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr2930r_20111102.pdf.

119H.R. 2930, 112th Cong. § 2 (2011). Firms could raise up to $2 million if they provided audited financial statements to potential investors. Id.

120S. 1791, 112th Cong. § 1 (2011).

121See id. § 2.

122S. 1970, 112th Cong. (2011). It is interesting to note that two of Merkley’s top three contributors by industry were “lawyers/law firms” and “securities and investment.” Top Industries: Senator Jeff Merkley 2007–2012, OpenSecrets.org, http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?type=C&cid=N00029303&newMem=N&cycle=2012 (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

123S. 1970, 112th Cong. § 2 (2011). The amount was capped at $500 if the investor earned $50,000 or less. See id.

124See id. § 2(b); supra notes 116, 118 and accompanying text. Shortly after the introduction of Senate Bill 1970, attorney and blogger William Carleton wrote that the bill “takes paternalism to new (and wholly impractical) magnifications of micro-management.” William Carleton, Third #Crowdfunding Bill Is No Charm, Counselor@Law (Dec. 14, 2011), http://www.wac6.com/wac6/2011/12/senator-merkley-introduces-alternative-crowdfunding-bill.html.

125S. 1970 § 2(b).

126Id.

127See Jonathan Weisman, With November in Mind, House Passes a Jobs Bill, N.Y. Times, Mar. 9, 2012, at A16. The JOBS Act as a whole loosened a number of securities regulations, including lifting the ban on general solicitation and advertising for offers made pursuant to Rule 506 of Regulation D, lessening accounting requirements on “emerging growth companies,” creating a new offering exemption for amounts up to $50 million per twelve-month period modeled off Regulation A, and upping the shareholder and asset amount cap for mandatory registration. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, §§102, 201, 401, 501, 601, 126 Stat. 306, 309–10, 313, 323–27 (2012). For more information on the JOBS Act, see generally Elizabeth M. Dunshee & David M. Lynn, The JOBS Act: Easing Exempt Offering Restrictions, Bus. L. Today (May 2012), http://dialogueonfreedom.org/buslaw/blt/content/2012/05/article-02-dunshee.pdf.

128See Bradford, supra note 18, at 198 (describing the poorly drafted crowdfunding exemption, which incorporates Senate Bill 2190). Professor Bradford notes that there are a number of inconsistencies and several ambiguities in the Crowdfund Act and even one glaring drafting error that cross-references the wrong section. See id. at 215–16.

129S. 2190, 112th Cong. (2012).

130See id. § 2(a); supra notes 117–19, 122–26 and accompanying text.

131See S. 2190 § 2(c)(2) (“An issuer shall be liable . . . if the issuer . . . does not sustain the burden of proof that such issuer did not know, and in the exercise of reasonable care could not have known, of [a requisite] untruth or omission.”); supra note 24.

132See Seung Min Kim, Senate Passes JOBS Act, with Tweak, Politico (Mar. 22, 2012, 1:29 PM), http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74363.html. Senator Merkley stated that the crowdfunding portion of the JOBS Act in the House bill was “simply a pathway to predatory scams.” Id.

133See Jonathan Weisman, Final Approval by House Sends Jobs Bill to President for Signature, N.Y. Times, Mar. 28, 2012, at A12.

134See Press Release, White House, Office of the Press Sec’y, supra note 12.

135See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(c), 126 Stat. 306, 320 (2012).

136See Amy Cortese, The Crowd Is Anxious, N.Y. Times, Jan. 6, 2013, at BU1.

137Cf. Hazen, supra note 20, at 1765.

138Louis D. Brandeis, Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It 62 (1933).

139See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1741.

140See id. at 1769; Johnson, supra note 24.

141See Karina Sigar, Comment, Fret No More: Inapplicability of Crowdfunding Concerns in the Internet Age and the Jobs Act’s Safeguards, 64 Admin. L. Rev. 473, 489–502 (2012) (arguing that the wisdom of the tech-savvy market and the JOBS Act’s safeguards render worries over investor protection unfounded).

142See Crowdfunding 101, Startup Exemption, http://www.startupexemption.com/crowdfunding-101#axzz2FRojAL7A (last visited Aug. 13, 2013); see infra note 272 and accompanying text.

143The JOBS Act also imposes a number of requirements on funding portals, including registering with the SEC and with a self-regulatory organization; providing investors with education materials; ensuring that investors review the education materials and affirm that they understand the risk of investment; obtaining background checks on directors, officers, and shareholders owning more than 20% of the issuer’s outstanding equity; releasing funds only when the target amount is met; and preventing investors from exceeding investment limits. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 316 (2012).

144See id. at 317.

145See id. at 317–18. The SEC also has the broad power to require additional information by rule “for the protection of investors and in the public interest,” which may generate additional transaction costs once the SEC promulgates its rules. See id.

146See Taku, supra note 50.

147See Heminway & Hoffman, supra note 65, at 921 & n.216 (“Although mini-registration under Regulation A costs less than a registered offering, the expense of a Regulation A offering will often still be more than the amount of capital that the crowdfunding venture seeks to raise.”).

148See Vincent Ryan, The Burdens of Crowdfunding, CFO (May 9, 2012), http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/14638132/1 (writing that the “regulatory hurdles” in the JOBS Act “may be too complex and onerous—and not very cost-effective” for many startups); Taku, supra note 50 (noting that “many companies may be unable to prepare disclosure documents in compliance with the crowdfunding provisions of the JOBS Act” based on the transaction costs).

149See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

150See id. § 302(a)–(b).

151See Cohn, supra note 21, at 1442. For example, Professor Cohn notes that CEO-certified financial statements are not required for other federal or state registration exemptions and that Rule 504 of Regulation D does not require financial statements for offerings up to $1 million. See id.

152Part F/S of Regulation A Form 1-A does not require audited financial statements unless the issuer already has them prepared, for up to $5 million. 3A Harold S. Bloomenthal & Samuel Wolff, Securities and Federal Corporate Law § 6:43 (2d ed. 2013); see 17 C.F.R. § 230.251(b) (2012).

153Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, The Troubles with the New Crowdfunding Law?, JD Supra L. News (May 22, 2012), http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-troubles-with-the-new-crowdfunding-l-71994.

154See Cohn, supra note 21, at 1442 (noting that “[i]t is difficult to understand how these major practical concerns could have been ignored or so readily dismissed”); Mandelbaum, supra note 15.

155Crowdcube, an equity crowdfunding platform in the United Kingdom, charges a 5% fee on the total funds collected as well as a legal fee. See Adrianne Jeffries, The U.K. Already Has Equity-Based Crowdfunding, and This Startup Just Set a Record, Beta Beat (June 8, 2012, 8:52 AM), http://betabeat.com/2012/06/the-u-k-already-has-equity-based-crowdfunding-and-this-startup-just-set-a-record/.

156See Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, supra note 153 (“These [registered broker dealers or funding portals] are subject to numerous requirements, and their compliance with those requirements will make the process much more difficult and costly for [startups].”); supra note 143. For more on the burdens placed on funding portals, see generally Thomas V. Powers, SEC Regulation of Crowdfunding Intermediaries Under Title III of the JOBS Act, Banking & Fin. Services Pol’y Rep., October 2012, at 1. Section 4A(c)’s definition of “issuer” appears to extend liability for misrepresentations and omissions made by the issuer to the hosting funding portal as well. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 319 (2012) (“As used in this subsection, the term ‘issuer’ includes . . . any person who offers or sells the security in [a crowdfunded] offering.”). This appears to mean that the funding portal is liable for statements that it makes about the offering as well as statements that the issuer makes about the offering. See Hanks, supra note 95. If the issuer ends up judgment-proof from a lack of funds, then disgruntled investors may go after the funding portals, the cost of which will ultimately be passed along to later issuers via higher hosting fees.

157See Tretter, supra note 20, at 2.

158See Louis A. Bevilacqua et al., JOBS Act Targets Smaller Business Capital Raising, Pillsbury L. (Apr. 5, 2012), http://www.pillsburylaw.com/publications/jobs-act-targets-smaller-business-capital-raising. John Alexander, founder and chair of the Twin Cities Angels, writes that “[n]on-accredited investors can be a nightmare for a CEO.” John Alexander, The Obama JOBS Act and Crowdfunding: Bright Promises, Likely Failure, Bring Me The News (May 8, 2012), http://www.bringmethenews.com/2012/05/08/the-obama-jobs-act-and-crowdfunding-bright-promises-likely-failure/.

159See Taku, supra note 50, at 4.

160See Sigar, supra note 141, at 482.

161See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

162See John Tozzi, Alone in a Crowd: How Crowdfunding Could Strand Startups, Bloomberg Businessweek (Mar. 6, 2012), http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-06/alone-in-a-crowd-how-crowdfunding-could-strand-startups; Telephone Interview with Devon Wijesinghe, Former President, Atlanta Technology Angels (Oct. 2, 2012) (explaining that angel investors prefer a clean capitalization table).

163See Susan Schreter, Crowdfunding—Boom or Bust for Entrepreneurs?, FOX Business (May 16, 2012), ; Telephone Interview with Bradley M. Burman, Associate Attorney, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough (Sept. 28, 2012) (opining that venture capitalists are unlikely to invest in a company that engages in crowdfunding because the numerous investors who each own small shares in that company also have the right to sue it).

164See Tozzi, supra note 162; Telephone Interview with Bradley M. Burman, supra note 163 (opining that venture capitalists are unlikely to invest in a company that engages in crowdfunding because they will need to obtain the approval of numerous investors “every time they want to get something done”).

165See Todd Hixon, Is Crowdfunding a Boon, or a Disaster?, Forbes (Apr. 4, 2012, 9:44 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddhixon/2012/04/04/is-crowdfunding-a-boon-or-a-disaster/; Tozzi, supra note 162. If, on the other hand, venture capitalists are not deterred from investing in crowdfunded ventures, then there is a significant risk that crowdfunding shareholders’ stakes may be diluted if they do not have proper upside protection. For more information on this problem and several excellent solutions, see Wroldsen, supra note 11, at 611–22.

166See John C. Coffee, Jr., Reforming the Securities Class Action: An Essay on Deterrence and Its Implementation, 106 Colum. L. Rev. 1534, 1536 (2006); Érica Gorga & Michael Halberstam, Litigation Discovery and Corporate Governance: The Missing Story About the “Genius of American Corporate Law, 63 Emory L.J. (forthcoming spring 2014) (manuscript at 49), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2239322 (“Regulators in the United States do not have the resources to provide the existing level of verification and enforcement of securities disclosure without the substantial resources dedicated to the process by private parties.”).

167Thomas A. Martin, The JOBS Act of 2012: Balancing Fundamental Securities Law Principles with the Demands of the Crowd 6–7 (Apr. 12, 2012) (unpublished comment), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2040953.

168See Letter from William Francis Galvin to Elizabeth M. Murphy, supra note 26, at 2 (writing that crowdfunding “offerings will fly under the radars of many regulators”).

169Tretter, supra note 20.

170See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012).

171Id. The seminal Supreme Court case Pinter v. Dahl clarified that liability under 12(a)(2) extends only to “statutory sellers,” meaning a seller that passed title to the buyer for value or successfully solicited the purchase of a security. See 486 U.S. 622, 642, 647 (1988).

172See In re Morgan Stanley Info. Fund Sec. Litig., 592 F.3d 347, 359 (2d Cir. 2010) (“Claims under sections 11 and 12(a)(2) are . . . Securities Act siblings with roughly parallel elements . . . .”). Section 11 provides investors with a right of action against issuers for materially misleading statements or omissions contained in the registration statement. See Securities Act of 1933 § 11.

173First, Section 11 does not apply to oral statements, whereas Sections 12(a)(2) and 4A(c) both encompass oral statements. See 2 Thomas Lee Hazen, Treatise on the Law of Securities Regulation § 7:6 (2013); see also infra note 188 and accompanying text. Second, Section 11 only permits recovery based on the difference between the amount paid for the security and the value of the security at the time of suit, whereas Sections 12(a)(2) and 4A(c) both allow for rescission or damages. See Hillary A. Sale, Disappearing Without a Trace: Sections 11 and 12(a)(2) of the 1933 Securities Act, 75 Wash. L. Rev. 429, 440 (2000); see also infra note 211 and accompanying text. Third, the issuer is strictly liable under Section 11 whereas Sections 12(a)(2) and 4A(c) both provide the same “reasonable care” affirmative defense to the issuer. See Hazen, supra, § 7:4; see also infra note 205 and accompanying text.

174To state a claim under Rule 10b-5, a plaintiff must show the following six elements: (1) the defendant made a materially false statement or omission (2) with scienter (3) in connection with the purchase or sale of a security (4) upon which the plaintiff justifiably relied (5) that caused the plaintiff to suffer economic loss, and (6) there exists a causal connection between the material misrepresentation and the loss. See Tad E. Thompson, Recent Development, Messin’ with Texas: How the Fifth Circuit’s Decision in Oscar Private Equity Misinterprets the Fraud-on-the-Market Theory, 86 N.C. L. Rev. 1086, 1087–88 (2008).

175See Robert A. Prentice, The Future of Corporate Disclosure: The Internet, Securities Fraud, and Rule 10b-5, 47 Emory L.J. 1, 4 (1998).

176See In re Wachovia Equity Sec. Litig., 753 F. Supp. 2d 326, 367–68 (S.D.N.Y. 2011); 1 Stuart R. Cohn, Securities Counseling for Small and Emerging Companies § 19:4 (2012).

177See Currie v. Cayman Res. Corp., 835 F.2d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 1988).

178See In re Wachovia, 753 F. Supp. 2d at 367.

179See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012).

180See In re Wachovia, 753 F. Supp. 2d at 368.

181See Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U.S. 561, 567–68, 584 (1995).

182See id. at 569. The Court repeatedly emphasized that for liability to attach under 12(a)(2), the material misstatement or omission must have been made “by means of a prospectus or an oral communication.” See id. at 567 (internal quotation marks omitted). Based on the use of “prospectus” in Section 10 of the Securities Act, the Court held that “the term [prospectus] is confined to a document that, absent an overriding exemption, must include the ‘information contained in the registration statement.’” Id. at 569.

183However, Section 12(a)(2) specifically applies to the new “small” offering exemption created by the JOBS Act, referred to as Regulation A+, which permits exempt offerings up to $50 million. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 401(a), 126 Stat. 306, 324 (2012); Bevilacqua et al., supra note 158.

184See Natasha S. Guinan, Note, Nearly a Decade Later: Revisiting Gustafson and the Status of Section 12(A)(2) Liability in the Courts—Creative Judicial Developments and a Proposal for Reform, 72 Fordham L. Rev. 1053, 1075 (2004); Bevilacqua et al., supra note 158.

185See Cohn, supra note 176.

186Cf. Gustafson, 513 U.S. at 585–87 (Thomas, J., dissenting).

187See id. at 572, 574 (majority opinion). The Court reasoned:It is not plausible to infer that Congress created this extensive liability for every casual communication between buyer and seller . . . . It is often difficult, if not altogether impractical, for those engaged in casual communications not to omit some fact that . . . could give rise to an action for rescission, with no evidence of fraud on the part of the seller or reliance on the part of the buyer.Id. at 578. The dissent shared the majority’s opinion that “extending § 12(2) to secondary and private transactions might result in an unwanted increase in securities litigation,” although the dissent believed the Court “must rely upon other branches of government to limit the 1933 Act.” Id. at 594–95 (Thomas, J., dissenting). Academics have criticized Gustafson as being policy-based and “blatantly results-driven.” See, e.g., Stephen M. Bainbridge, Securities Act Section 12(2) After the Gustafson Debacle, 50 Bus. Law. 1231, 1231–32 (1994–1995).

188See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315, 319 (2012).

189See Bainbridge, supra note 187, at 1234.

190See Sale, supra note 173, at 431–32; Guinan, supra note 184, at 1069 (“[T]he Gustafson decision was, arguably, a policy-based result, the express aim of which was to decrease securities litigation by facilitating fewer lawsuits.”).

191See Sale, supra note 173, at 432.

192See id. at 441.

193See id. at 441–42. For example, Professor Sale notes that if the shareholders purchased previously issued common stock and not new common stock issued under the faulty prospectus, the shareholders will not have a cause of action. Id. at 442.

194See id. at 482–83.

1951 Harold S. Bloomenthal & Samuel Wolff, Going Public Handbook § 10:38 (2012).

196Id.

197See Sale, supra note 173, at 431. Professor Sale elaborates—“Indeed, the effect of the tracing requirement and Gustafson on the accessibility of section 11 and 12(a)(2) claims to shareholders is dramatic. The Second Circuit’s mistaken finding that the tracing requirement would both prevent overinclusiveness and fulfill the statute’s purpose has resulted in scores of dismissed cases.” Id. at 462.

198See supra note 188 and accompanying text.

199Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315, 319 (2012). However, purchasers may transfer these securities (1) to the issuer, (2) to an accredited investor, (3) as part of a registered offering, or (4) to a family member prior to the one-year mark. Id.

200See Sale, supra note 173, at 469 (noting that “Securities Act claims [Sections 11 and 12] should be easier to prove than their Securities Exchange Act counterpart [Section 10b]”). Given the discarding of the restrictions in Section 4A(c) detailed above, it follows that attorneys will now actually find a Section 4A(c) claim easier to prove than a Rule 10b-5 claim.

201Presumably, “materiality” will continue to mean a substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider the misstatement or omission significant in deciding whether to invest. See Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224, 231–32 (1988).

202Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

203See id.; 17A J. William Hicks, Civil Liabilities: Enforcement & Litigation Under the 1933 Act § 6:133 (2013).

204Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

205See Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

206See Hicks, supra note 203, § 6:165.

207See Cohn, supra note 176, § 19:4. Under Section 12(a)(2), the courts look at several factors in evaluating the due diligence defense, “including level of participation in the transaction, access to source material, skill in finding the truth, financial interest in completing the transaction, and level of trust in the relationship between purchaser and seller.” Sale, supra note 173, at 439.

208Bradford, supra note 18, at 210–11.

209See Allen Ferrell & Atanu Saha, The Loss Causation Requirement for Rule 10b-5 Causes of Action: The Implications of Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 63 Bus. Law. 163, 163–64 (2007).

210Bradford, supra note 18, at 210–11.

211Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2), 15 U.S.C. § 77l(a)(2) (2012); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

212Securities Act of 1933 § 12(a)(2); Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

213Bradford, supra note 18, at 210.

214See Bainbridge, supra note 187, at 1233–34.

215See infra Part III.B.2.

216Technically, any company that satisfies the Crowdfund Act’s requirements can use crowdfunding. However, Section 4A(f) disqualifies reporting companies, meaning any company that is required to “file reports pursuant to section 13 or section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934,” which effectively limits the size of crowdfunding companies. See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b).

217See Jill Perry-Smith & Leslie H. Vincent, The Benefits and Liabilities of Multidisciplinary Commercialization Teams: How Professional Composition and Social Networks Influence Team Processes, in 18 Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results 35, 36 (Gary D. Libecap & Marie C. Thursby eds., 2008).

218See Bryan Sullivan & Stephen Ma, Crowdfunding: Potential Legal Disaster Waiting to Happen, Forbes (Oct. 22, 2012, 7:00 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2012/10/22/crowdfunding-potential-legal-disaster-waiting-to-happen/ (noting that many of the businesses using crowdfunding “won’t have the business experience or savvy to make even the minimum appropriate disclosures or hire an attorney to guide them through disclosure drafting and execution”).

219Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(b) (emphasis added).

220See Keith Paul Bishop, Crowdfunding—There Will Be Investor Losses, Cal. Corp. & Sec. L. (Apr. 4, 2012), http://calcorporatelaw.com/2012/04/crowdfunding-there-will-be-investor-losses/ (writing that he “expect[s] that many of the issuers that use [crowdfunding] will be start-ups just trying to get off the ground” and that “[m]any, if not most, of these companies will fail and there will be investor losses”).

221Schreter, supra note 163.

222Of course, this is not a new phenomenon or one unique to startups. However, the combination of earlier stage companies and the volatility of the high-tech industry are likely to exacerbate the problem. For example, Professor Alexander documented a large number of computer-related companies that went public in 1983 at an earlier stage in development than was normal at the time. See Janet Cooper Alexander, Do the Merits Matter? A Study of Settlements in Securities Class Actions, 43 Stan. L. Rev. 497, 507 (1991). When these newly public firms failed to hit product deadlines and meet sales goals, their stock prices declined and “[i]n due course class action suits were filed alleging securities violations in the offerings.” Id. at 508–09.

223Deborah Gage, The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-ups Fail, Wall St. J., Sept. 20, 2012, at B1.

224Id.

225See id.

226See supra notes 85–87 and accompanying text.

227See infra notes 273–75 and accompanying text.

228See Perry-Smith & Vincent, supra note 217, at 36 (noting that high-tech startups routinely confront “technology challenges that stem from the novelty and uncertainty associated with the technology itself”).

229See, e.g., John Koetsier, Pebble’s Lead Designer ‘Stuck in Asia’ to Get the 21st Century E-paper Watch Built, Venture Beat (Oct. 11, 2012, 2:51 PM), http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/11/pebbles-lead-designer-stuck-in-asia-to-get-the-21st-century-e-paper-watch-built/.

230Ethan Mollick, The Dynamics of Crowdfunding: An Exploratory Study, J. Bus. Venturing (forthcoming 2013) (manuscript at 11), available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2013.06.005.

231Id. (manuscript at 12).

232Id. (manuscript at 1–2, 12).

233Julianne Pepitone, Why 84% of Kickstarter’s Top Projects Shipped Late, CNN Money (Dec. 18, 2012, 8:04 AM), http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/18/technology/innovation/kickstarter-ship-delay/index.html.

234See Stacy Cowley et al., 9 Reasons Kickstarter Projects Ship Late, CNN Money (Dec. 19, 2012, 1:27 PM), http://money.cnn.com/gallery/technology/2012/12/18/kickstarter-ship-late/index.html?iid=EL.

235See, e.g., Farhad Manjoo, Kickstarter Warnings as Dreamy Projects Flounder, Sydney Morning Herald (Oct. 14, 2012, 9:15 AM), . Since the Pebble Watch started shipping in late January 2013, it is no longer a “vaporware” product. See supra note 7 and accompanying text.

236Tim Bradshaw, Project Delays Anger Kickstarter Backers, Fin. Times (Nov. 14, 2012, 1:17 PM), http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d34bada8-2ad1-11e2-802d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2SBNTGFDO.

237See Krantz, supra note 9.

238Professor Mollick’s study found that the “direct failure rate”—those who had refunded money or stopped responding to backers—was “well below 5%,” despite the fact that Kickstarter does not have an “enforcement mechanism to prevent con artists from using the system to raise funds for fake projects.” See Mollick, supra note 230 (manuscript at 12). In September 2012, Kickstarter refined its policies, including banning photorealistic product simulations and forcing project founders to disclose and highlight risks, in response to these product delays. Bradshaw, supra note 236.

239See Robert Prentice, Vaporware: Imaginary High-Tech Products and Real Antitrust Liability in a Post-Chicago World, 57 Ohio St. L.J. 1163, 1175 (1996). Such development issues plague even the world’s largest corporations, and vaporware claims have resulted in securities fraud lawsuits—primarily grounded in Rule 10b-5 claims—against Apple, Microsoft, and several other corporations. See id. at 1253.

240See Brian Wu & Anne Marie Knott, Entrepreneurial Risk and Market Entry, 52 Mgmt. Sci. 1315, 1315–16 (2006).

241Robert H. Brockhaus, Sr., Risk Taking Propensity of Entrepreneurs, 23 Acad. Mgmt. J. 509, 509 (1980).

242See id. at 510–11.

243Wu & Knott, supra note 240, at 1315.

244See id. at 1317. For example, when engineers in “entrepreneurial firms” were asked to fill out a self-assessment comparing their abilities to those of their peers, 42% of the engineers surveyed believed they were in the top 5% of peer performance and 73.3% believed they were in the top 10% of peer performance. Id. (“Thus, while all engineers are prone to overconfidence, those drawn to start-ups are particularly overconfident.”).

245Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, supra note 90; accord Carmen Nobel, Why Companies Fail—and How Their Founders Can Bounce Back, Harv. Bus. Sch. Working Knowledge (Mar. 7, 2011), http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6591.html (“[S]tubborn entrepreneurs continue to found companies, in spite of the failure rates . . . . Sometimes this is due to naïveté and hubris—the notion that their idea simply cannot fail.”).

246See supra notes 243–44 and accompanying text.

247Obama, supra note 111.

248See supra notes 110–13 and accompanying text.

249For example, a projection or forward-looking statement does not fall within the Securities Act’s “safe harbor” if the “statement was made or reaffirmed without a reasonable basis.” 17 C.F.R. § 230.175 (2012); Prentice, supra note 239, at 1252–53. The “reasonable basis” requirement could be challenged in circumstances of unrealistically overconfident projections.

250See supra notes 181–88 and accompanying text.

251See, e.g., In re Morgan Stanley Info. Fund Sec. Litig., 592 F.3d 347, 359 (2d Cir. 2010).

252See Herman & MacLean v. Huddleston, 459 U.S. 375, 381–82 (1983) (“[Section 11] was designed to assure compliance with the disclosure provisions of the Act by imposing a stringent standard of liability on the parties who play a direct role in a registered offering.” (footnote omitted)).

253See Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U.S. 561, 581 (1995) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 73–85, at 9 (1933)).

254See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 317–19 (2012).

255See id.

256See Hanks, supra note 95 (“The disclosure requirements will be unfamiliar to small companies that may be entering the capital markets for the first time and they are likely to make inadvertent mistakes.”).

257Even if promotional statements do not fall within Section 4A(c), this environment creates a risk of triggering Rule 10b-5 liability for issuers and funding portals. See id. (“It is easy to imagine the type of promotional statements that inexperienced funding portals might make that would form the basis for a 10b-5 suit.”).

258See Slava Rubin, The Wisdom of Crowdfunding, Forbes, Oct. 22, 2012, at 62.

259See supra notes 144, 150 and accompanying text.

260In some ways, this is a more difficult sale than pitching to angel investors or venture capital firms where the entrepreneur simply needs to convince the investor that customers exist regardless of whether the investor sees himself or herself as a customer.

261A “road show” may occur before a large securities offering, such as an IPO, to drum up interest among investors. See Craig F. Arcella, The Nuts and Bolts of Road Shows 1 (2010), http://www.cravath.com/files/Uploads/Documents/The%20Nuts%20and%20Bolts%20of%20Road%20Shows%20(5-502-2419).pdf. During a road show, the issuer’s senior management and its lead underwriters make presentations to potential investors. Id.

262See id.

263On Kickstarter, for example, projects featuring videos “succeed [at raising funds] at a much higher rate than those without.” Making Your Video, Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/help/school#making_your_video (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

264See Prentice, supra note 175, at 33.

265Telephone Interview with Jim Cummings, Member, Ornana, LLC (Sept. 27, 2012) (explaining how he used social media platforms, including Facebook and “anything else [he] could” to promote his campaign). Professor Mollick’s Kickstarter results study also demonstrates the value of social media connections. See Mollick, supra note 230 (manuscript at 8) (“To take an average project in the Film category, a founder with 10 Facebook friends would have a 9% chance of succeeding, one with 100 friends would have a 20% chance of success, and one with 1000 friends would have a 40% chance of success.”).

266See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 317, 319 (2012). It is currently unclear to what extent issuers will be able to promote their offerings through promotional materials or social media. The Crowdfund Act currently states that issuers shall “not advertise the terms of the offering, except for notices which direct investors to the funding portal or broker.” Id. at 318.

267See Daniel Isenberg, The Road to Crowdfunding Hell, HBR Blog Network (Apr. 23, 2012, 10:57 AM), http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/the_road_to_crowdfunding_hell.html (arguing that due diligence is too expensive for crowdfunding).

268“A lot of what entrepreneurs disclose may or may not be 100% accurate. . . . It takes a lot of time and a lot of specific knowledge to drill down to what is realistic.” Telephone Interview with Brian Batchelor, supra note 90.

269See id. (“Groups like the ATA and sophisticated angels and venture capital firms cut to the chase because they have seen this standard entrepreneur optimism a million times and they know what to do.”).

270See infra notes 273–77 and accompanying text.

271See Bradford, supra note 64, at 112 (writing that “at least some of the people investing in crowdfunding offerings will not have the basic financial knowledge required to understand the risks” even if disclosed); Wroldsen, supra note 11, at 605 (writing that a disclosure’s “effectiveness in helping investors, especially unsophisticated ones, judge the quality of securities offerings is questionable”); Sullivan & Ma, supra note 218 (“Typical crowdfunding investors, even with basic disclosure requirements for participation, won’t have the investment savvy to determine whether an investment is real or a fraud.”).

272See CrowdCheck, http://www.crowdcheck.com/about-us (last visited Aug. 13, 2013); Crowdfunding Roadmap, http://www.crowdfundingroadmap.com/ (last visited Aug. 13, 2013); CrowdQualifier, http://www.crowdqualifier.com/home (last visited Aug. 13, 2013).

273See Isenberg, supra note 267.

274See id.

275See Robert Wiltbank & Warren Boeker, Returns to Angel Investors in Groups 5 (2007). Venture capitalists may spend several months conducting due diligence. Id.

276Even if some funding portals cover the up-front cost of due diligence, this cost will ultimately be passed along to the issuer in higher hosting fees.

277Isenberg, supra note 267.

278See Hazen, supra note 20, at 1759 (writing that there are “questions regarding the economics of bringing such a claim and the adequacy of the economic incentives to plaintiff’s law firms to bring suit on a contingent fee basis”).

279See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302(b), 126 Stat. 306, 315 (2012). Although it remains to be seen, it seems unlikely that an investor would invest anywhere near $100,000 because such an investor could invest as an angel and negotiate more favorable terms.

280See Sullivan & Ma, supra note 218.

281See Hicks, supra note 203, § 6:48 (“The securities laws are complex; actions under them are expensive. Without a class action, many actionable wrongs would go uncorrected and uncompensated.” (quoting Gibb v. Delta Drilling Co., 104 F.R.D. 59, 71 (N.D. Tex. 1984))).

282Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act § 302(a). By comparison, the median IPO deal size in 2012 measured $124 million and $160.2 million in 2011. Tomio Geron, IPO Market Raises $43B in 2012, but Median Deal Size Down 23%, Forbes (Dec. 18, 2012, 12:00 PM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/12/18/ipo-market-raises-43m-in-2012-but-median-deal-size-down-23/.

283Tretter, supra note 20.

2841 Alba Conte, Attorney Fee Awards § 2:8 (“[C]ommon-fund fees in complex class action and shareholder derivative suits normally constitute 20 to 30% of the class recovery . . . .”).

285Coffee, supra note 166, at 1543.

286Id.

287Id. at 1544 n.28.

288See Sullivan & Ma, supra note 218 (“[C]rowdfunding will lead to, perhaps, one Google and thousands of Friendsters. And plenty of lawsuits.”).

289See Coffee, supra note 166, at 1534 n.1 (quoting H.R. Rep No. 104–369, at 31 (1995)).

290See William S. Feinstein, Pleading Securities Fraud with Particularity—Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) in the Rule 10b-5 Context: Kowal v. MCI Communications Corporation, 63 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 851, 864 (1995).

291See Rombach v. Chang, 355 F.3d 164, 170–71 (2d Cir. 2004).

29215 U.S.C. § 78u-4(b)(1) (2012).

293See Rombach, 355 F.3d at 170–71.

294See Gorga & Halberstam, supra note 166, at 6 (stating that Congress enacted the PSLRA to prevent strike suits that threatened defendant corporations with “costly discovery”).

295See supra notes 205–10 and accompanying text.

296See Jeff Koeppel, Singing in the Rain, Crowd Funding News (Dec. 24, 2012), http://jeffkoeppel.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/singing-in-the-rain/.

297See supra note 97 and accompanying text.

298See Johnson, supra note 24 (“[A] rite of passage for any publicly traded tech company is its first securities class action or derivative suit.”).

299See Sam Gustin, Groupon Faces SEC Probe, Investor Lawsuit as Stock Hits New Low, Time (Apr. 5, 2012), http://business.time.com/2012/04/05/groupon-faces-SEC-probe-investor-lawsuit-as-stock-hits-new-low/.

300Nate Raymond, Judge Names Lead Plaintiffs in Facebook Litigation, Thomson Reuters News & Insight (Dec. 6, 2012), http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/SECurities/News/2012/12_-_December/Judge_names_lead_plaintiffs_in_Facebook_litigation/.

301Aaron Lucchetti, Facebook’s Next Fight: Suits, and More Suits, Wall St. J., Sept. 26, 2012, at C1.

302See supra note 24 and accompanying text.

303See Letter from Senator Jeff Merkley et al., to Mary Schapiro, Chairman, SEC (Dec. 10, 2012), available at http://www.merkley.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=911718cf-ad8b-4f66-8455-8cad3960f51d (“The law directed the SEC to promulgate the necessary rules within 270 days of the enactment of the Act. . . . At this point, it will be difficult to complete the rules by the deadline in the Act, but the SEC should move expeditiously to attempt to do so.”).

304Sara Hanks, a former SEC attorney, notes that congressional legislation already supplanted SEC rulemaking once in the JOBS Act when Congress altered Section 12(g) registration triggers, and that “[i]t is not impossible that the drafting pencil could be seized from the Commission’s hands again.” Hanks, supra note 95. At the same time, Congress is not always known for fixing what it may consider a minor detail. See William J. Carney, The Costs of Being Public After Sarbanes-Oxley: The Irony of “Going Private, 55 Emory L.J. 141, 160 n.109 (2006) (noting the fact that Congress “will not rethink its choices” regarding the Sarbanes-Oxley Act despite criticism from the Act’s author).

305See supra Part III.B.

306See supra notes 298–302 and accompanying text.

307See supra Part II.

308See Hanks, supra note 95; supra note 37 and accompanying text.

309See Michael A. Perino, Did the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act Work?, 2003 U. Ill. L. Rev. 913, 925 (2003); supra notes 291–92 and accompanying text.

310See Jane Bryant Quinn, Madoff Victims Face Grim Prospects in Court, Bloomberg (Feb. 11, 2009), http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&refer=columnist_quinn&sid=axkhffRnncpI (discussing how the PSLRA acts as a barrier to recovery for victims of Bernard Madoff scam); see also Perino, supra note 309, at 926 & nn.73–75.

311“Recklessness” is “‘an extreme departure from the standards of ordinary care to the extent that the danger was either known to the defendant or was so obvious that the defendant must have been aware of it.’” In re Wachovia Equity Sec. Litig., 753 F. Supp. 2d 326, 348 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (quoting S. Cherry St., LLC, v. Hennessee Grp., LLC, 573 F.3d 98, 109 (2d Cir. 2009)).

312See Johnson, supra note 24.

313See supra Part II.

314See supra Part III.B.1.

315See supra notes 57–60 and accompanying text; see also supra Part I.B.

316To further this end, plaintiffs’ attorneys and the courts should first look to culpable corporate insiders for the payment of any judgment instead of initially seeking recovery from the corporation, which would just impoverish the remaining shareholders. See Jennifer H. Arlen & William J. Carney, Vicarious Liability for Fraud on Securities Markets: Theory and Evidence, 1992 U. Ill. L. Rev. 691, 719 (1992) (discussing how enterprise liability for securities fraud “simply replaces one group of innocent victims with another” while “a large percentage of the plaintiffs’ recovery goes to their lawyers”).

317See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) (2006).

318See Mark R. Brown, A Primer on the Law of Attorney’s Fees Under § 1988, 37 Urb. Law. 663, 664 (2005) (“A prevailing defendant can win attorney’s fees under § 1988 only if it can prove that a plaintiff’s claim is frivolous, groundless, or vexatious.”). Allowing recovery by the defendant in such situations would further discourage strike suits.

319See supra Part III.B.2.

320If the defendant settles the case, any fees should come from the common fund and not through attorney fee-shifting to avoid encouraging strike suits.

321See Theodore Eisenberg & Geoffrey P. Miller, Attorney Fees in Class Action Settlements: An Empirical Study, 1 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 27, 30–31 (2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). The authors also note several potential problems with this form of calculation, although an in-depth discussion of these issues lies outside the scope of this Comment. Id. at 31.

322See Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302, 126 Stat. 306, 315, 318 (2012).

323Of course, the SEC and state enforcement agencies can also levy monetary sanctions and suspensions against fraudulent issuers. However, statistics show that from 2000 to 2002, private action awards amounted to more than twice those imposed by the SEC and more than all those imposed by the SEC, state regulatory authorities, the National Association of Securities Dealers Exchange, and the New York Stock Exchange combined. See Coffee, supra note 166, at 1542.

324See supra Part III.B.1.

325Wagner, supra note 58.

326See supra notes 20, 39 and accompanying text.

327See Johnson, supra note 28, at 995, 1009; Bishop, supra note 220.

328See supra Part II.

329Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, § 302, 126 Stat. 306, 315, 319 (2012).

330See supra Part III.B.1.

I am enormously grateful to my advisor, Professor Anne M. Rector, for her guidance, unflagging support, and willingness to closely review innumerable drafts of this Comment. This piece also benefitted immensely from the insightful comments of Professor William J. Carney and the several people interviewed for this work. Any errors that remain are my responsibility alone. Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to write in a nascent subject area but one that already boasts superb writing by numerous professors and practicing attorneys from whom I learned a great deal.