Penny Stock Rules
May 9, 2013
The term "penny stock" generally refers to a security issued by a very small company that trades at less than $5 per share. Penny stocks generally are quoted over-the-counter, such as on the OTC Bulletin Board (which is a facility of FINRA) or OTC Link LLC (which is owned by OTC Markets Group, Inc., formerly known as Pink OTC Markets Inc.); penny stocks may, however, also trade on securities exchanges, including foreign securities exchanges. In addition, the definition of penny stock can include the securities of certain private companies with no active trading market.
Penny stocks may trade infrequently, which means that it may be difficult to sell penny stock shares once you own them. Moreover, because it may be difficult to find quotations for certain penny stocks, they may be difficult, or even impossible, to accurately price. For these, and other reasons, penny stocks are generally considered speculative investments. Consequently, investors in penny stocks should be prepared for the possibility that they may lose their whole investment (or an amount in excess of their investment if they purchased penny stocks on margin).
Because of the speculative nature of penny stocks, Congress prohibited broker-dealers from effecting transactions in penny stocks unless they comply with the requirements of Section 15(h) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") and the rules thereunder. These SEC rules provide, among other things, that a broker-dealer must (1) approve the customer for the specific penny stock transaction and receive from the customer a written agreement to the transaction; (2) furnish the customer a disclosure document describing the risks of investing in penny stocks; (3) disclose to the customer the current market quotation, if any, for the penny stock; and (4) disclose to the customer the amount of compensation the firm and its broker will receive for the trade. In addition, after executing the sale, a broker-dealer must send to its customer monthly account statements showing the market value of each penny stock held in the customer's account.
For more information, read the penny stock rules section of our Broker-Dealer Registration Guide. You may also want to review the penny stock rules (Exchange Act Section 15(h) and Exchange Act Rules 3a51-1 and 15g-1 through 15g-100).
Before you consider investing in the stock of any small company, be sure to read our brochure, Microcap Stock: A Guide for Investors.