The Securities and Exchange Commission will give the public more time to submit comment letters on several rule proposals in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency said in a news release that it will not take final action before April 24 on five rule proposals that have comment periods ending in March "in order to allow commenters additional time if needed."
One of the impacted rule proposals would make more individual investors eligible to participate in private markets under a new definition of accredited investor. The proposal would add categories of who could qualify as accredited investors based on their professional knowledge, experience or certifications, or whether they meet an investments test, as well as knowledgeable employees of private funds. There is also a "catch-all" category for any entity owning more than $5 million in investments, and limited liability companies are eligible if they meet a $100 million investment threshold.
Also included is a proposal that would direct equity exchanges and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to file with the SEC a new national market system plan designed to increase transparency and address conflicts of interest and other issues that exist under the current governance structure for the existing NMS plans.
"The commission is operational and we encourage market participants to submit comments on the most reasonable possible timeframe," the SEC said. "The chairman will continue to consult with fellow commissioners and staff and make adjustments" as necessary.
In the news release outlining its COVID-19 response, the SEC also said it began assembling early "a cross-divisional working group" last month to prepare for the possible adverse effects of the virus. Since then staff across divisions and offices have expanded their ongoing outreach efforts with clearing agencies, exchanges, issuers, public accounting firms, investor representatives, credit rating agencies, fund sponsors, investment advisers and other market participants, as well as other domestic and foreign regulators, the SEC said.
"We stand ready to continue to work with federal and state authorities and market participants," SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement. "We are focused on ensuring that the business continuity plans of market participants are adjusted, as necessary or appropriate, to comply with health and safety measures, and that they also facilitate the continuing operation of our markets, market integrity and investor protection."