U.S. Microcap Stock Restrictions

Introduction
To comply with regulations regarding the sale of unregistered securities and to minimize the manual processing associated with trading shares that are not publicly quoted, IBKR imposes certain restrictions on U.S. Microcap Stocks. A list of those restrictions, along with other FAQs relating to this topic are provided below. 

Microcap Restrictions

  • IBKR will only accept transfers of U.S. Microcap stocks from Eligible Clients. Eligible Clients include accounts that: (1) maintain equity (pre or post-transfer) of at least $5 million or, clients of financial advisors with aggregate assets under management of at least $20 million; and (2) have less than half of their equity in U.S. Microcap Stocks.
  • IBKR will only accept transfers1 of blocks of U.S. Microcap Stocks where the Eligible Client can confirm the shares were purchased on the open market or registered with the SEC;
  • IBKR will not accept transfers1 of or opening orders for U.S. Microcap Stocks designated by OTC as Caveat Emptor or Grey Market from any client. Clients with existing positions in these stocks may close the positions;
  • IBKR will not accept transfers of U.S. Microcap Stocks to cover a short position established at IBKR;
  • Execution-only clients (i.e., execute trades through IBKR, but clear those trades elsewhere) may not trade U.S. Microcap Stocks within their IBKR account. (IBKR may make exceptions for U.S.-registered brokers);


Microcap FAQs

What is a U.S. Microcap Stock?
The term “Microcap Stock” refers to shares (1) traded over the counter or (2) that are listed on Nasdaq and NYSE American that have a market capitalization of between $50 million to $300 million and are trading at or below $5. For purposes of this policy, the term Microcap Stock will include the shares of U.S. public companies which have a market capitalization at or below $50 million, which are sometimes referred to as nanocap stocks or trade on a market generally associated with Microcap Stocks.

To avoid situations where minor, short-term fluctuations in a stock price cause repeated reclassification, any stock classified as U.S. Microcap will remain in that classification until both its market capitalization and share price  exceed $500 million and $5, respectively, for a 30 consecutive calendar day period.

As Microcap Stocks are often low-priced, they are commonly referred to as penny stocks. IBKR may make exceptions, including for stocks traded at low prices that recently had a greater market cap. In addition, IBKR will not consider ADRs on non-US companies to be Micro-Cap stocks.

Where do Microcap Stocks trade?
Microcap Stocks typically trade in the OTC market, rather than on a national securities exchange. They are often electronically quoted by market makers on OTC systems such as the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and the markets administered by the OTC Markets Group (e.g., OTCQX, OTCQB & Pink). Also included in this category are stocks which may not be publicly quoted and which are designated as Caveat Emptor, Other OTC or Grey Market.
In addition, U.S. regulators also consider stocks listed on Nasdaq or NYSE American trading at or below $5 with a market capitalization at or less than $300 million to be Microcap Stocks.

What happens if IBKR receives a transfer from an Eligible Client where one or more of the positions transferred is a Microcap Stock?
If IBKR receives a transfer containing a block of a Microcap stock, IBKR reserves the right to restrict the sale of any Microcap position(s) included in the transfer unless the Eligible Client provides appropriate documentation establishing that the shares were either purchased on the open market (i.e., on a public exchange through another broker) or were registered with the SEC pursuant to an S-1 or similar registration statement.

Eligible Clients can prove that shares were purchased on the open market by providing a brokerage statement or trade confirm from a reputable broker reflecting the purchase of the shares on a public exchange. Eligible Clients can establish that the shares are registered by providing the SEC (Edgar system) File number under which their shares were registered by the company (and any documents necessary to confirm the shares are the ones listed in the registration statement).

NOTE: All customers are free to transfer out any shares we have restricted at any time.

What restrictions will IBKR apply to Prime accounts?
Clients whose activities include Prime services are considered Eligible Clients solely for the purposes of those trades which IBKR has agreed to accept from its executing brokers. However, while Prime accounts may clear U.S. Microcap Stocks at IBKR, those shares will be restricted until such time IBKR confirms that the shares are eligible for re-sale under the procedures discussed above.  To remove the restriction for shares purchased on the open market, please provide an official Account Statement or Trade Confirmation from the executing broker or have the executing broker provide a signed letter, on company letterhead, showing the IBKR account name and number, stating that the shares were purchased in the open market, along with the details of the executions (date, time, quantity, symbol, price, and exchange).  Or if the shares were acquired through an offering the letter must provide documents or links to the relevant registration statement and state that the shares were part of it.

To summarize: Sell Long trades will be accepted if the long position is no longer restricted.  Sell Short trades will be accepted.  Buy Long trades will be accepted and the position will be restricted until Compliance is provided with sufficient information to remove the restriction.  Buy Cover trades and intraday round trip trades will not be accepted.


What happens if a stock you purchase gets reclassified as Grey Market or Caveat Emptor?

If you purchase a stock in your IBKR account that at a later date becomes classified as a Caveat Emptor or Grey Market stock, you will be allowed to maintain, close or transfer the position but will not be able to increase your position.


What are some of the reasons why Microcap Stock trading may be restricted in my account?
There are two primary reasons why you might be restricted from trading in a Microcap Stock:

  • Potential Affiliation to Issuer: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Rule 144 places certain limitations on trading of stocks (including Microcap Stocks) by an “affiliate” of the issuer. If IBKR observes trading activity or holdings in a Microcap Stock that are close to the trading volume thresholds under Rule 144 (“Rule 144 Thresholds”), IBKR may restrict the customer from trading the Microcap Stock until a compliance review is completed.
  • Transfer of Microcap Stock: If the customer has recently transferred a Microcap Stock into their IBKR account, IBKR may restrict the customer from trading in that security until a compliance review is completed.

If one of the above reasons apply, trading will be restricted in the security and a notification will be sent to the customer’s message center in Account Management. This notification will describe the reason for the restriction and the steps the customer must take before IBKR will consider lifting the restriction.


Why does IBKR consider me to be a potential affiliate of a Microcap Stock issuer?
An “affiliate” is a person, such as an executive officer, a director or large shareholder, in a relationship of control with the issuer.

Rule 144 applies to all securities, including Microcap Stocks. However, given the heightened risks associated with trading Microcap Stocks, if a customer’s trading and/or holdings in a Microcap Stock are close to the Rule 144 Thresholds, IBKR will restrict the customer’s trading in the Microcap Stock.  This restriction will remain in effect pending a compliance review into the customer’s potential affiliate status.

For the Potential Affiliate review, why do I need to ask for a new review every two weeks?
A customer’s affiliate status may change soon after IBKR completes the above-referenced Potential Affiliate review. As such, IBKR believes it is appropriate to refresh a Potential Affiliate review every two weeks if a customer’s trading activity and/or holdings in the Microcap Stock remain close to the Rule 144 Thresholds.

Where can I find a list of stocks that IBKR has designated as U.S. Microcaps?
A list of stocks designated as U.S. Microcaps by IBKR is available via the following link: www.ibkr.com/download/us_microcaps.csv

Note that this list is updated daily.

Where can I find additional information on Microcap Stocks?
Additional information on Microcap Stocks, including risks associated with such stocks may be found on the SEC website: https://www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsmicrocapstockhtm.html
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1This includes transfers by any method (e.g., ACATS, DWAC, FOP), conversion of Canadian listings to their U.S. equivalent via “Southbound” transfer, transfers to cover existing short positions, IB Prime customers executing with other brokers and clearing to IBKR, etc.