Vonage commits technical violation of Securities Act

Bill Sjostrom —  23 May 2006

I blogged earlier about Vonage taking advantage of recently liberalized SEC rules that allow the use of written marketing materials during the IPO waiting period (see here). Specifically, they emailed a letter to their customers regarding a directed share program. They then followed up the letter with a voicemail blast (see here). All this is allowed under SEC regulations provided certain conditions are met. Well it seems that Vonage dropped the ball on some of the conditions. They failed to include a hyperlink to their latest preliminary prospectus in the email. They also did not include all required information in the voicemail blast.

See below the fold for the disclosure on these issues added to Vonage’s amended registration statement.

Our initial email communication to prospective participants in the Vonage Customer Directed Share Program and the first page of the website identified above (from which a reader could access a detailed “frequently asked questions” section about the Vonage Customer Directed Share Program) did not include an active hyperlink to the prospectus contained in our most recently filed registration statement relating to this offering as required pursuant to Rule 433 under the Securities Act. The email communication and the information on the first page of the website therefore might be viewed as not having been preceded or accompanied by a prospectus meeting the requirements of the Securities Act. As a result, it is possible that the e-mail communication and the first page of the website could be determined to be an illegal offer in violation of Section 5 of the Securities Act, in which case recipients could seek to recover damages or seek to require us to repurchase their shares at the IPO price.

In addition, our initial voicemail communication to prospective Vonage Customer Directed Share Program participants, which communication may contain only limited information pursuant to Rule 134 under the Securities Act, included the Internet address at which prospective participants could obtain additional information about the Vonage Customer Directed Share Program, including a copy of the prospectus contained in our most recently filed registration statement relating to this offering. However, the voicemail did not include the name and address of a person from whom such a prospectus could be obtained. The inclusion of the Internet address in the voicemail might be viewed as incorporating into the voicemail information that is beyond the scope permissible under Rule 134. In addition, the omission of the name and address of a contact person means that the voice mail would not be entitled to the “safe-harbor” provided by Rule 134. As a result, it is possible that the voicemail could be determined to be an illegal offer in violation of Section 5 of the Securities Act, in which case recipients could seek to recover damages or seek to require us to repurchase their shares at the IPO price.

We believe we would have meritorious defenses to any legal actions based on claims of alleged defects in the email, website or voicemail. The website through which the Vonage Customer Directed Share Program is being conducted requires each prospective investor to open an electronic copy of a prospectus meeting the requirements of the Securities Act prior to making a conditional offer to purchase shares of our common stock. It is, therefore, impossible for someone to place an order (or to open an account to do so) in the Vonage Customer Directed Share Program without first having received a copy of the required prospectus. As a result, we believe that the risks to us relating to any such potential claims are not significant.

I feel sorry for the associate given the responsibility of making sure the email and voicemail complied with the new rules, but it is a boneheaded mistake.  Hopefully he or she at least uses shareholder/stockholder correctly.

Hat tip: DealBook.

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