Compliance

Learn What Makes a Qualified Investor

Whether raising money for a private placement or building your portfolio of investment clients, working with a qualified investor will help to improve your success. By working with a premier group of investors, you will be able to accomplish more in less time. The key is understanding what makes a qualified investor and how to find them.

The definition of a qualified investor is determined by the type of investment vehicle they are investing in. For example, anyone can invest in the stock market where accredited investors can invest in private offerings. If you are targeting investors to expand your client portfolio, the key is to look at how much they have to invest and what their future earning potential looks like. As a general rule of thumb, most investment brokers prefer to work with people that have at least $50,000 available to invest.

The best qualified investor is one that is an accredited investor with cash to invest. An accredited investor is someone that makes $200,000 a year as an individual or $300,000 with their spouse. They are required to have made this amount in the previous two years and be likely to continue earning at that level. Investors can also qualify using their total net worth, which must be greater than $1 million, excluding their primary residence. These are excellent investors to work with because they are able to participate in private offerings by investing in private placement memorandums. Since they make a higher than average amount, they are likely to have capital they can invest on an annual basis. Once you have a pool of investors to work with, you will be able to present them with opportunities that are tailored to their investment appetite.

The SEC has another classification of investors, “sophisticated investors”. Qualified investors with this designation may participate in Regulation D Rule 506b offerings. This has been the most common type of private placement. In order to be considered sophisticated an investor must have outside knowledge of financial matters that make them qualified to evaluate investment opportunities and to make informed decisions about them. A good example would be a business banker, investment broker, CPA, attorney, or someone with a degree in finance. Their education and on the job experience gives them valuable information and resources without necessarily paying them the amount required to be considered accredited. This rule is slightly ambiguous so before working with sophisticated investors you should create a checklist or policy document that clarifies your internal standards. This way, when you say someone is a qualified investor because they are sophisticated, you can prove how you arrived at that conclusion.

When raising capital for a Reg D private offering make sure to work with qualified investors and to document what makes them qualified. For Regulation D Rule 504, 505, and 506b, investors can self-certify. This means that if you give them a document, they can check the applicable boxes, write in their income and net worth, and sign the form stating they are accredited. If you are raising money for a Reg D Rule 506c offering, you must have outside verification of their accreditation status. Keep track of how you arrived at your conclusions for compliance purposes.

To start raising money today purchase your own list of qualified investors from www.accreditedinvestorleads.com or www.salesleads.com.

Telemarketing Rules You Should Know About

If you are in sales, it is important to understand the telemarketing rules governing your industry to make sure that you don’t accidentally wind up violating one and slapped with a fine.

There are several laws that govern telemarketing including The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), the Federal Communications Commissions’ (FCC) Do Not Call Registry, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  Many of the guidelines overlap and in the past year some of the rules have tightened, for example, with calls made to cell phones.

Telemarketing Rules for Cell Phones

Previously, if you had an existing relationship with a customer, you could call their cell phone.  This was considered implied consent.  Basically, if they bought something from you they obviously would want to hear from you again, right?  Apparently not.  Enough consumers complained that the legislation was changed to require companies to secure “express written consent” prior calling someone on their cell phone.  The written consent can be in paper or electronic form and can be revoked by the consumer at any time.

Charging a Customer Over the Phone

If you are selling a product over the phone and collecting payment for it, you must receive “express informed consent” from the consumer prior to charging their card. This means that you must disclose the fact that the card is about to be charged and the exact amount of the charge itself. If you have their financial information prior to placing the call, you still must confirm the account they want to use, billing address and the dollar amount that will be charged now or in the future.

Telemarketing Rules for Caller ID

When placing a call, you need to make sure that your phone number, and when possible your name, shows up on the caller ID.  Do a test call to make sure everything shows up correctly and avoid a potential violation.

Live Transfer

In order to reduce abandoned calls, if you are using an auto dialer it must transfer the call to you or another live agent within two seconds of someone answering the phone.  This is to reduce the number of dead air calls and hang-ups.

Robocalls

Before a business can call with a pre-recorded message, it must have consent from the consumer to make that specific type of call.  For example, if you want to reach people with pre-recorded message, they must specifically approve that call.  This is the strictest form of calling regulation apart from making calls to cell phones.  The exception is if you are making an informative call to a customer, for example, an airline calling to say that the flight was delayed.

No list of cold calling rules would be complete without a reminder to scrub your lead list against the Do Not Call Registry.  It is also wise to have a policies and procedures manual, even if you are a solopreneur, that states the steps you are taking to stay in compliance with cold calling regulation.  Make sure that the entire staff reads and signs this document on an annual basis.  If you accidentally call someone on the DNC Registry or make another violation, this will demonstrate that it was accidental, and you have been trying to stay in compliance.

State Telemarketing Laws

If you are a telemarketer or making sales calls, it is important to follow both federal and state telemarketing laws.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming that they only need to follow the federal laws and avoid violating the Do Not Call Registry.  The reality is that each state has the ability to make their own laws and to enforce them.  If you are calling in your home state, you can easily place a call to your local Attorney General to identify any specific laws that you need to be following.  If you are calling nationwide it becomes more complicated, and you need to make sure that your policies and procedures are established to avoid any violations.

Here are some state telemarketing laws that you need to know about:

  • Missouri – The state of Missouri has a No Call Law.  This law prohibits telemarketers from contacting any residential numbers that are on the states no call registry.  Even if the individual has not listed their phone number on the federal registry, they could be listed on the statewide one.  Missouri defines a telemarketer as anyone who is connected to a company that does telemarketing through incoming or outgoing phone calls. This includes automatic calls made from a computer, owners, operators, directors, and managers of said companies. In order to get a copy of the registry businesses have to apply for it and pay a $50 fee.  The registry is updated every quarter and both in state and out of state companies must comply with the telemarketing laws.
  • New York – New York has passed several state wide telemarketing laws that make it more difficult for companies making sales calls.  They require that any telemarketing company using pre-recorded messages must have prior written consent before reaching New Yorkers at home.  They also have a law requiring telemarketers raising money for charity to disclose how much of the money goes to the charity itself.  Both in state and out of state companies must comply with their telemarketing laws and keep records of all activities for two years.
  • Arizona – Telemarketing companies making sales calls in Arizona must first register with their Secretary of State.  If any company has a change in their filing, it must be reported within ten days of the change.  This applies to all companies making telemarketing calls in Arizona.  The state does not allow telemarketing companies to block their Caller ID or use prerecorded messages on mobile devices.

These are only some of the states with specific telemarketing laws on the books.  It is important to check the state laws prior to making calls in order to avoid any potential violations.  You should also create a policies and procedures manual that includes how to follow both federal and state laws.  This will be a good reference guide and show authorities that you are trying to comply if a mistake is accidentally made.

You can also purchase a specific call list from www.SalesLeads.tv to ensure that your calling efforts are reaching the right people and as effective as possible.

The NDNCR – What You Should Know

What You Should Know About the Do Not Call Registry as a Telemarketer

If you are making sales calls you are probably familiar with the National Do Not Call Registry.  As a telemarketing company you are required to comply with specific provisions of the TCPA regulation, including scrubbing your lead lists against the DNC registry.

Here is what you need to know about the Do Not Call Registry and staying in compliance.

  • The registry was created in 2003 and is monitored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • People can list their home phones and personal phones on the registry.  Business numbers are typically not listed but it is smart to check in case a small business is using the owners cell phone.
  • Calls covered under the DNC are those with the purpose of selling something.  This includes people selling something directly or arranging a sale for someone else.
  • If you are conducting a survey and trying to sell something on the same call, it is covered under the DNC guidelines. If you want to make survey calls without worrying about the guidelines, gather the data you need and make a separate sales call.
  • In order to have use the established business exemption, a consumer needs to have bought something from you within the past eighteen months.  If they have applied for something from your company, but not purchased, you can call for an additional three months.

Exceptions

Political calls, charities, survey calls, and companies that a consumer has an existing relationship with do not need to abide by these provisions.  If a charity is calling to raise money they are not bound to the DNC rules, however, if a third party is calling on behalf of that charity than they have to abide by the rules and stop calling if the consumer requests it.

If you are a for profit company you can also gain exemption from the rules by doing the following:

  • Providing Information.  If your calls are for informational purposes you do not have to follow the DNC guidelines.  For example, an organization calling to inform people about a community event.
  • Business to Business Calls.  B2B sales calls are exempt from the DNC guidelines, making it easier for telemarketers to contact businesses rather than consumers. Just make sure not to call personal cell phones, as they could be registered.
  • Receive Written Permission.  If you want to call or text consumers that may be on the DNC you need to obtain  prior written permission to do so.  This can be a traditional document or electronically signed.  Prior written consent should be obtained whenever possible as you build your calling data base because it gives you the most calling and texting flexibility.

Remember to follow these guidelines in order to stay in compliance and avoid receiving unnecessary fines.  A recommended best practice is to create a procedural manual that lists out your policies and procedures for how to check numbers against the do not call list, what you do when someone asks to be taken off of your list, and how you train employees on regulation updates.  This binder should include a training log that employees have to sign, certifying they have read and understand the compliance.  Even if you are a small organization, this binder could prevent you from getting a fine if you make an accidental mistake.

Telemarketing Rules for Debt Relief Companies

The Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center has released a guide on telemarketing rules for debt relief companies.

There are basic provisions about cold calling that apply to all industries  For example, you must scrub your lead list against the Do Not Call Registry and must have a policy in place for how to follow these guidelines.  As of October 2013 companies are also not allowed to send text messages without prior written consent.

While many of these rules are the same across all industries that are specific, additional provisions that apply to debt relief companies.  These regulations have been created to protect consumers against what the government feels are deceptive or misleading practices.

The major difference with these new telemarketing rules is that it ALSO applies to calls you receive – not just outbound calls you place.

Here is what you need to know:

  • You must make specific disclosures before selling people your services. There are specific things that you have to disclose.  This includes how long it will take for the consumer to see results, the basics of what you will be doing for them, what they have to pay, how working with you will negatively impact their credit, and information on dedicated accounts. Basically, the consumer needs to be informed about how your business works, the steps along the way, and the good and bad results that they will experience.
  • You must be truthful about your services. You cannot make false or unsubstantiated claims about your services.  This is common sense but necessary to specifically mention it.
  • You can’t charge or collect upfront fees.  Until you have settled their debts or somehow negotiated a different payment scenario, you cannot collect fees from the customer.  If you negotiate each debt individually, you can collect a fee each time.  The caveat is that you cannot front-load any payments. If you are having customers make a payment of fees and to the creditor that goes into a specified account their are set rules for how that has to be handled.

The best way to protect yourself from violating telemarketing rules is to stay up to date on changes and create an internal policy that is regularly shared with your employees.  Make sure that employees are trained on the fact that telemarketing rules now also apply to in-bound calls they receive.  Keep a log where each employee signs that they were trained, or received a refresher course, on a specific day.  This is a good best practice for any company that is engaged in telemarketing.  The penalties are less severe for companies that can prove they are trying to abide by the regulation but may have had a rogue employee.

If you are providing outsourced telemarketing services make sure that your contract specifies who is liable for any violations, who would pay the fees, and if either party is required to provide legal support in the event that charges are brought.  It is important for each party to abide by the telemarketing rules and specific contracts can protect you in the event of an accidental violation.

Definitions Under the TCPA

Definitions Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

 

If you are in sales, marketing, or a telemarketer by trade it is important to understand the rules found within the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in order to avoid accidentally violating them. TCPA Violations can lead to fines or even losing the ability to telemarket.

Here is what you need to know:

Telemarketing Defined

The regulations consider a telemarketing call to be one made by advertisers to offer or sell products or services.  If you are simply providing information it is not telemarketing.  For example, an airline telling you a flight has been delayed is not considered telemarketing.

An Autodialer is a Machine or Software That Helps You Make Calls

When you have to pick up the phone and personally dial every call, it can take a lot of time and slow you down.  Minutes are wasted dialing, waiting for someone to answer, and getting busy signals.  An autodialer can automatically call people for you and give them a recorded message or connect you once they have answered.  While this is a more efficient calling method it is also more highly regulated.   If your autodialer delivers a pre-recorded message it is considered a robocall, the most highly regulated form of telemarketing.   Previously, if a consumer had an existing business relationship with you a robocall would be acceptable.  Now, there must be prior written consent in order to avoid a violation.

Text Messages Are Regulated by the TCPA

Recent regulation has made it more difficult for telemarketers to contact people on their cell phone.  Now, if you want to send a text message you need to have prior written consent from the consumer to do so.  This cannot be considered implied consent but must be clearly spelled out in writing.  You can have consumers sign their consent on a traditional piece of paper or electronically give their consent.  This is a big change because in the past an existing business relationship fulfilled this requirement. The only exception is text messages for the purpose of informing someone, rather than selling them something.

Do Not Call Registry 

It is important to always scrub your call list against the national Do Not Call Registry.  Remove anyone that is on the registry from your list.  If you contact someone that was not registered, but wants to be removed from your list, you must do so immediately.  It is wise to have a written policy in place for how you remove people once a request has been made.

Violating TCPA Regulations

If you violate the TCPA guidelines you could be fined anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per call, message, or text.  This is not per day but per call.  If you make 100 calls that violate these regulations that could be a $150,000 fine.  Many companies have gone out of business due to these penalties.

Stay up to date on regulation and create policies and procedures to protect yourself and your company.  Taking the time to ensure that you are in compliance could save you money and headaches down the road.

New Telemarketing Legislation Proposed in NY

Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore) has introduced new telemarketing legislation into the New York assembly that would require telemarketers raising money for charities to disclose how much of their donation will actually go to the organization.

If passed, telemarketers would need to specify how much money they were taking in profit and how much would end up in the charity itself.

“Generous New Yorkers have a right to know where their donations are going and how that money will be spent,” Titone said.

In 2012, a report was issued called “Pennies for Charities”.  This report showed that out of every dollar raised by telemarketing companies for charity, only 0.38 went to the charity with the remainder going to the telemarketing company. In that year alone over $249 million in donations were raised in New York and Titone believes that New Yorkers should be made aware of where their funds are going.

If the legislation passes telemarketers would have to send a follow up letter to everyone that donated explaining the breakdown of the funds.

This would give them the information they need to determine if they want to donate in the future, and is aimed at specifically helping to educate the elderly and disabled, who he claims are often victims of telemarketers.

From a telemarketers perspective, if the legislation goes forward it will require an additional compliance step that cannot be ignored.  It is likely that someone within the organization would need to be hired or assigned to the specific task of sending follow up letters to contributors and keeping record of this correspondence.

Some things will need to be clarified.  For example, how quickly after the donation was recieved does the letter need to be sent?  Do telemarkters need to inform contributors that a letter will be sent and how long will the records need to be kept?  Companies raising money in New York, and throughout the country, need to stand by for the next couple of weeks until individual states are done with their legislative sessions.

Many companies fall into the trap of only watching telemarketing legislation at the federal level, while ignoring individual state legislation.

Each state has the ability to create and enforce laws that regulate the industry so it is important to conduct research prior to calling in that state.  This recent telemarketing legislation out of New York is only one example.

For state specific information you can visit the state attorney generals office website or put in a call to them in order to be directed to where you can access their regulations.  If you are hired to run a large state wide campaign make sure to understand the rules before you start dialing.  It could save you and your firm thousands in fines.  Most state sessions end by mid April so we should know the results of New York’s telemarketing legislation then.

Do Not Call Compliance for Your Company

Telemarketing is an important marketing tactic.  It’s popular because it works.  However, with the rise in legislation surrounding telemarketing it is equally important that you and your company stay in compliance.  Otherwise, you could be hit with large fines that cut into your bottom line.

Here are some Do Not Call compliance guidelines you can use when making calls.

  • Scrub your sales leads.  Buy a sales leads list that has been scrubbed against the Do Not Call registry.  You can also create an online account and scrub your leads on a regular basis.
  • Call time.  Do not call people before 9am or after 8pm.  Otherwise you could be violating state calling rules.  Each state has different guidelines so you may want to confirm the time restrictions in your particular state.
  • Keep an internal list.  You are responsible for keeping an internal list of people that do not want to be called by your company for a minimum of five years.  Whether you keep the list electronically or manually, make sure you have a back up in case something happens.
  • Inform your staff.  Each business is responsible for educating their staff about the DNC guidelines and how to follow them.
  • Create an internal policy.  Companies are required to have an internal policy and procedure manual surrounding the Do Not Call rules and regulations.  This should be written by management and reviewed by an attorney to ensure that you are 100 percent in compliance.  This is particularly important if you are calling multiple states.
  • Run business number.  Technically, most B2B calls are not covered under the Do Not Call guidelines.  Their is a caveat.  Business owners often use their personal phone numbers or cell phone as their business line.  These personal phone numbers can end up on the DNC registry.  This makes it important to scrub your business sales leads as well.

There are safe harbor guidelines that prevent companies from getting fined when they make innocent mistakes.  In order to prove that you made an “innocent mistake” you have to follow these best practice guidelines.  Feel free to include more of your own, but the point is that you need to be able to show that you are doing your best to stay in compliance with DNC guidelines. It is natural for people, and businesses, to make a mistake.  Just be prepared to demonstrate your compliance practices when you do.

You can stay up to date on regulation and learn more about best practices by visiting https://www.donotcall.gov/ or reading our blog for further updates.

Cold Calling Rules & Warnings from the SEC

If you are getting sales leads in order to call prospective investors for a private offering, you need to be aware of the cold calling rules and warnings published by the SEC.  Calling accredited investors can be an extremely effective way to generate interest in your private placement and to raise capital.  It does, however, come with risks because you need to follow the rules in order to avoid a fine.

Before you start dialing make sure that your list has been scrubbed against the National Do Not Call Registry. This is an important first step and some dialing programs will do this for you and connect the call upon a live answer.  If you are manually dialing make sure that you buy your sales leads from someone that scrubs them for you or create an account to check the DNC list yourself.

Here are additional cold calling rules you need to follow.

  • Call hours.  Only call between the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM.  Make sure that if you are calling in a different time zone that you don’t accidentally call outside of their hours.
  • Introduce yourself.  As soon as someone answers you need to give them your name, why you are calling, what company you are with, and either your address or telephone number.  The last part only applies if you are selling an investment.
  • Be truthful.  This goes without saying, but it is important that you are 100 percent truthful with your sales pitch.  Make sure it is in line with any offering documents that have been prepared.

If someone asks to be removed from your call list, you must comply immediately and make sure they are not called back.  It is important to have some sort of tracking system, especially if you have a team of people making calls.  Once someone asks to be removed you could be fined for calling back.

If an investor is excited and wants to participate in your private offering – great news!  Just make sure that they sign a written agreement before you take any funds.  You cannot obtain their bank account information over the phone and complete the transaction unless they have already given you written permission to complete the transaction and withdraw money from their bank account.

It is essential that, as a sales person, you comply with these cold calling rules.  Otherwise, you could put yourself at risk to have complaints filed with the SEC and FINRA.  This could have a negative consequence on your ability to raise money along with your overall reputation.

It is also important that when you are making calls to investors, you are calling accredited investors.  You are not allowed to solicit or advertise to non-accredited investors.  You can avoid this by purchasing your list from salesleads.tv .  That way you are assured to have a solid list of prospective investors to call.

As you start reaching out to investors use a tracking system.  There are several software programs available and at minimum you can use an excel spreadsheet or upload a shared spreadsheet to Google docs.  You can effectively raise money for your private offering.  Follow the cold calling rules when you do.