Friday, March 9, 2012

Very positive development for financing on the horizon…..

From A VC comes news that there's a bill in Congress to greatly loosen reporting and regulatory requirements for smallish and youngish publicly traded companies. Sort of a partial & temporary rollback of Sarbanes-Oxley for companies with <$1B in revenue.

I knew one publicly traded life science company with ~$200M in revenue who gauged their Sarbox compliance costs at $3M annually. Most of this money went to outside accountants and compliance experts who created more paperwork, but little extra comfort for shareholders. (And certainly less than for shareholders than if the $3M had instead been spent on R&D.)

The change under consideration would make IPOs more viable for virtually all private biotech companies (since no biotech company has ever busted $1B in revenue in their first 5 years public. Perhaps Intrexon could do it someday, if RJ Kirk decided to keep the company to himself long enough, but they'd be the exception, rather than the rule.) More financing viability = more liquidity for the life science sector. Also: more public issues = healthier financial markets.

In a perfect world we'd just rollback the entire Sarbanes-Oxley law - it doesn't solve any problems, but creates massive reporting and regulatory burdens for all public companies. It is widely acknowledged that Sarbox would not have stopped Enron or Worldcom from happening, and post-Sarbox, we've had Madoff and mortgage fraud, so I don't think it is any less risky for investors because of Sarbox.

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