SEC’s unicorn hunt is a luxury

2 minute read

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

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NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters Breakingviews) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission wants more transparency from large private companies – notably so-called unicorns, or those worth $1 billion or more. Democratic Commissioner Allison Lee reckons such firms offer “absolutely no visibility” for investors, per the Wall Street Journal.

There are nearly 1,000 unicorns, according to CB Insights. Private fundraising is potent: Venture-capital investment hit $330 billion in 2021, according to PitchBook, more than companies raised in all U.S. initial public offerings, according to Dealogic.

Lee’s best argument may be that some private firms effectively exceed the 2,000-shareholder threshold that triggers SEC oversight, but the official tally is lower because many holdings aggregated through a single broker count as only one.

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Yet the SEC already has a huge agenda, including policing IPOs and, more importantly, overhauling public-market investor protections when private firms list by merging with special-purpose acquisition companies. By making the process of going public fully transparent, the agency would also help keep private companies on the straight and narrow. Until that’s done, a unicorn hunt is a luxury. (By Richard Beales)

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Editing by Lauren Silva Laughlin and Sharon Lam

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