“Restricted” securities are securities acquired in an unregistered, private sale from the issuing company or from an affiliate of the issuer. They typically bear a “restrictive” legend clearly stating that you may not resell them in the public marketplace unless the sale is exempt from the SEC’s registration requirements.
Rule 144 under the Securities Act of 1933 provides the most commonly used exemption for holders to sell restricted securities. To take advantage of this rule, you must meet several conditions, including a six-month or one-year holding period.
Even if you’ve met all the conditions of Rule 144, you still cannot sell your restricted securities to the public until you’ve had the legend removed from the certificate. Only a transfer agent can remove a restrictive legend. But the transfer agent won’t remove the legend unless the issuer consents—usually in the form of an opinion letter from the issuer’s counsel to the transfer agent.
If you want to remove the restrictive legend, you should contact the company that issued the securities—or the transfer agent for the company’s securities—to ask about the procedures for removing a legend. If you have a broker, you may want to ask your broker to help you.
If a dispute arises about whether a restrictive legend can be removed, the SEC will not normally intervene. The removal of a legend is a matter solely in the discretion of the issuer. State law, not federal law, covers disputes about the removal of legends.
If you are considering acquiring restricted securities, it would be wise for you to consult an attorney who specializes in securities law. To learn more about the conditions you would have to meet to publicly sell your restricted securities, read our overview, Rule 144: Selling Restricted and Control Securities. You can also read the SEC’s publications on Rule 144 and Form 144, which you may need to file with the SEC if you sell restricted securities.
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Mark Astarita is a nationally recognized securities attorney, who represents investors, financial professionals and firms in securities litigation, arbitration and regulatory matters, including SEC and FINRA investigations and enforcement proceedings.
He is a partner in the national securities law firm Sallah Astarita & Cox, LLC, and the founder of The Securities Law Home Page - SECLaw.com, which was one of the first legal topic sites on the Internet. It went online in 1995 and is updated daily with news, commentary and securities law related links.