State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

SOX: Shooting Ourselves in the Head

Hear is an excellent article, IT’S OFFICIAL: The IPO Market Is Crippled — And It’s Hurting Our Country  in the Business Insider, on the damage we have done to our capital markets.  The article starts out by showing that many of our biggest companies went public when they were very small.  At the time there were numerous underwriters and often the main inventors were individual investors.  For instance, the article explains:

As recently as 1986 Adobe had an IPO raising $6M.   None of these companies could have gone public in today’s environment even adjusting for inflation.  Virtually all the buyers at the time were individuals and there was a robust “over the counter” after market for young companies.

The article then explains that a company has to have a market valuation of $250M or more to be viable in today’s market.  My estimates are higher.  The article points out that a major reason for this change in the market is because of Sarbanes Oxley or SOX, which imposes onerous accounting requirements on companies.  The article then discusses some attempted solutions to this problem.  (I have suggested an alternative in my post Circumventing Sarbox and the IPO drought)

This has been a disaster for the venture capital industry.  As a result, VCs are looking for companies that can exit by M&A at earlier states.  VCs are also not investing in capital intensive companies.

Unfortunately, the article calls for half measures of curtailing but not eliminating SOX.  They suggest this course of action despite the fact that they do not single benefit provided by SOX.  The authors point out that:

The number of annualU.S.issuers listing IPOs onU.S.exchanges has declined since 1996 from 756 to a low of 36 in 2008 and 50 in 2009 and 120 last year according to Dealogic.  By contrast, there have been 346 Chinese issued IPOs listed onChinaexchanges in 2010 even though the U. S. GDP is 3x larger thanChina’s.

This is just one more example of how were are exporting our innovation and jobs overseas.

The insane thing about our securities laws is that in the U.S. you have to hire a lawyer to invest in a non-public company, but you can blow your money in Vegas, Atlantic City, etc freely.  One activity creates jobs and wealth and creates value.  The other is a less than zero sum that destroys wealth.

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May 6, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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