(Adds details on anti-fraud efforts in paragraphs 4-6)
NEW YORK, March 26 OTC Markets, the operator of
three U.S. over-the-counter equity markets, is rolling out
tighter reporting standards and eligibility requirements for its
venture-stage market to crack down on stock scams and bolster
transparency, the company said on Wednesday.
OTC Markets will introduce a new minimum 1 cent bid price
requirement on May 1 for its OTCQB market and will require the
company's chief executive or chief financial officer to certify
that its reporting obligations are current and that disclosures
about shareholdings, officers and corporate profile are correct.
The bid requirement, in which stocks must have been quoted
for at least 1 cent daily over a 30-day period or be dropped
from the market, aims to ferret out companies that fall prey to
dilutive stock fraud schemes and promotions, OTC Markets said.
Greater scrutiny of management, directors and shareholders
would help reduce fraud in micro-cap stocks, which has been a
focus of the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to
Cromwell Coulson, president and chief executive of OTC Markets.
Even companies that are current in reporting information to
the SEC can be problematic, Coulson said. In 2012, the SEC
ordered 10-day suspensions of 672 micro-cap and shell
securities, just 16 of which were current in their reporting.
Yet the 16 securities accounted for nearly 80 percent of the
total dollar volume of all suspended securities in the 90 days
prior to their suspension, Coulson said in congressional
testimony last year.
OTC Markets also will charge a one-time $2,500 fee for new
applicants and an annual $10,000 fee for companies trading on
the OTCQB market.
Foreign companies that are listed on a qualified stock
exchange and are current in their U.S. reporting obligations
will be allowed to trade on OTCQB, OTC Markets' middle-tier
marketplace. In the past, they traded on the lowest "pink" tier.
On Tuesday, the two most actively traded stocks on OTC
Markets were French dairy products maker Danone SA
and Swiss pharmaceuticals Roche Holding AG.
Trading volume on OTC Markets was 20.1 billion shares on
Tuesday, about three times that of all U.S. stock exchanges and
other trading venues. But the value traded, $1.4 billion, paled
in comparison with the $263.4 billion executed on the other
exchanges and venues, data from BATS Global Markets showed.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Leslie Adler)