Information is the investor’s best tool when it comes to investing wisely. But accurate information about “microcap stocks” — low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies — may be difficult to find. Many microcap companies do not file financial reports with the SEC, so it’s hard for investors to get the facts about the company’s management, products, services, and finances. When reliable information is scarce, fraudsters can easily spread false information about microcap companies, making profits while creating losses for unsuspecting investors.

In the battle against microcap fraud, the SEC has toughened its rules and taken actions against wrongdoers, but we can’t stop every microcap fraud. We need your help in winning the battle. Before you consider investing in a microcap company, arm yourself first with information. This alert tells you about microcap stocks, how to find information, what “red flags” to consider, and where to turn if you run into trouble.

What Is a Microcap Stock?

The term “microcap stock” applies to companies with low or “micro” capitalizations, meaning the total value of the company’s stock. Microcap companies typically have limited assets. For example, in cases where the SEC suspended trading in microcap stocks, the average company had only $6 million in net tangible assets — and nearly half had less than $1.25 million. Microcap stocks tend to be low priced and trade in low volumes.

Where Do Microcap Stocks Trade?

Many microcap stocks trade in the “over-the-counter” (OTC) market and are quoted on OTC systems, such as the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) or the “Pink Sheets.”

  • OTC Bulletin Board   The OTCBB is an electronic quotation system that displays real-time quotes, last-sale prices, and volume information for many OTC securities that are not listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market or a national securities exchange. Brokers who subscribe to the system can use the OTCBB to look up prices or enter quotes for OTC securities. Although the NASD oversees the OTCBB, the OTCBB is not part of the Nasdaq Stock Market. Fraudsters often claim that an OTCBB company is a Nasdaq company to mislead investors into thinking that the company is bigger than it is.
     
  • The “Pink Sheets”  The Pink Sheets — named for the color of paper on which they’ve historically been printed — are listings of price quotes for companies that trade in the over-the-counter market (OTC market). “Market makers” — the brokers who commit to buying and selling the securities of OTC issuers-can use the pink sheets to publish bid and ask prices. A company named Pink Sheets LLC, formerly known as the National Quotation Bureau, publishes the pink sheets in both hard copy and electronic format. Pink Sheets LLC is not registered with the SEC as a stock exchange, nor does the SEC regulate its activities.

How Are Microcap Stocks Different From Other Stocks?

Lack of Public Information   The biggest difference between a microcap stock and other stocks is the amount of reliable, publicly available information about the company. Larger public companies file reports with the SEC that any investor can get for free from the SEC’s website. Professional stock analysts regularly research and write about larger public companies, and it’s easy to find their stock prices in the newspaper. In contrast, information about microcap companies can be extremely difficult to find, making them more vulnerable to investment fraud schemes.