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April 9, 2011 at 11:41 AM

SEC to review rules on 'crowd-funding'

WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- U.S. market regulators said they are reviewing rules that limit a smaller, private company's ability to raise funds.

At issue is firms that wish to use the social Web sites on the Internet to raise funds as small as $100,000, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The technique is referred to as "crowd funding" -- seeking many investors to chip in, for example, $100 each, rather than seeking one investor with $100,000.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro said in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight Committee that a review of the rules had just begun.

A second critical rule limits closely held companies to a maximum of 499 investors.

That rule tends to exclude the average investor, as shares for closely-held firms are often sold through brokers that limit investors to those with a net worth of $1 million, the Journal said.

What is at stake for companies is the ability to avoid a long list of regulatory hurdles and public disclosures that apply when they are seeking investors. If the rules are relaxed, companies seeking small investments can avoid regulatory scrutiny.

What is at stake for investors is the ability for ordinary investors to get in early on a growing start-up firm. But there are risks.

A similar effort to relax rules that lasted from 1992 through 1999 was abandoned in the end on concerns of investment scams.

"A whole lot of investors could be harmed," said former SEC Chief Accountant Lynn Turner, fearing firms that seek funding, although they are "more hoopla than they are substance."


Looking near and far for Myspace buyer

NEW YORK, April 9 (UPI) -- Media giant News Corp. is talking with firms in China and the United States to unload its struggling Myspace Web site, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

News Corp., which also owns the Wall Street newspaper, lost $156 million on Myspace in the fourth quarter of 2010 and may have to shed jobs at the Internet firm in order to secure a deal, the Journal said.

Sources said News Corp. had talked to Tencent Holding Ltd., a Chinese Internet firm, about a possible deal. It had also talked with Vevo, a music video Web company, and private equity and venture capital firms.

Myspace has already eliminated 1,200 jobs in the past two years, including 500 in January.

Its online traffic has also declined. ComScore Inc. said Myspace had 37.7 million unique U.S. visitors in February, down 44 percent from the same month of 2010.


Tuition hikes draw fire in Britain

LONDON, April 9 (UPI) -- A growing number of British universities said they would raise tuition to the maximum allowed, despite the government's intention to limit increases.

The government said universities charging more than $9,828 per year occur in "exceptional circumstances," The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

At this point, however, a study showed 65 percent of British universities have said they would increase tuition in 2012 to $14,742, the maximum amount allowed.

Shadow Business Secretary John Denham said, "The Tory-led government has completely lost control of its fees policy. With more universities charging $14,742, the government is set to have a big funding gap it will need to fill."

Denham said funding student loans would cost the government $1.6 billion over four years more than what was anticipated, a figure that was, "unnecessary, unfair and unsustainable."

University minister David Willetts said the $1.6 billion figure was "ludicrous" as the figure failed to account for discounts for poorer students, which range from $3,276 to nearly $10,000 for the poorest students.

"Yet again, Labor's figures don't add up. We are on track to deliver reforms to higher education that mean better teaching for students, savings for the Exchequer and no payments up front for students," Willetts said.


Survey: Iceland to reject payback deal

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, April 9 (UPI) -- Opinion polls suggest that voters in Iceland will reject new terms on paying back the Netherlands and Britain, which bailed out Icelandic banks in 2008.

The Daily Telegraph in London reported Saturday that surveys indicate 57 percent of voters in Iceland disagree with the deal which allows Iceland to repay the British Treasury $3.7 billion at 3.3 percent interest.

In March 2010, voters in Iceland rejected a deal to pay back the funds at 5.5 percent interest, the British Broadcasting Corp. said. Ninety-three percent of voters rejected that deal, the Telegraph reported.

Fifteen percent of respondents to a recent survey indicated they were undecided on the new terms, meaning the second referendum has an outside chance of passing.

In total, $5.8 billion is owed to compensate Britain and the Netherlands, which covered losses in 400,000 bank accounts when Iceland's three largest banks collapsed in the fall of 2008.

If voters on Saturday reject the referendum spelling out the new terms, the case would be decided by the European Free Trade Association Court, the Telegraph said.

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