Financial Reform Proposal: The Changing Standard for an Accredited Investor

As financial reform has made its way through Congress there have been several proposed changes to the standard of what it takes to be an accredited investor.

In 1982, the SEC prescribed the standard in Rule 501 of Regulation D:

5. Any natural person whose individual net worth, or joint net worth with that person's spouse, at the time of his purchase exceeds $1,000,000;

6. Any natural person who had an individual income in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with that person's spouse in excess of $300,000 in each of those years and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year;

The Senate version of the bill would have increased both amounts. If you use the CPI index, the amounts would more than double.

Although the bill has not passed yet, but it looks like the accredited investor standard is going to change. Section 413 of the bill is Adjusting the Accredited Investor Standard.

The net worth standard will stay at $1 million for at least the next four years, but the value of the primary residence will be excluded from net worth. Otherwise the SEC will be tasked with a review of the definition of "accredited investor" and has a clean slate to develop its own definition. The SEC can revisit the definition every four years. The only standard is that the definition be "appropriate for the protection of investors, in the public interest, and in light of the economy."

Looking into my crystal ball, I expect the SEC to adjust the income standards based on inflation. That would put them at around $459,000 if single and $688,000 if married. I would also expect the standard to include some sort investment expertise and knowledge standard. Having a big pile of cash or a big paycheck will likely no longer be the only standard.  At least that's my guess.



For additional commentary on developments in compliance and ethics, visit Compliance Building, a blog hosted by Doug Cornelius.