Rule 144, promulgated by the SEC under the 1933 Act, permits, under limited circumstances, the public resale of restricted and controlled securities without registration. In addition to restrictions on the minimum length of time for which such securities must be held and the maximum volume permitted to be sold, the issuer must agree to the sale. If certain requirements are met, Form 144 must be filed with the SEC. Often, the issuer requires that a legal opinion be given indicating that the resale complies with the rule. The amount of securities sold during any subsequent 3-month period generally does not exceed any of the following limitations:
1% of the stock outstanding
the average weekly reported volume of trading in the securities on all national securities exchanges for the preceding 4 weeks
the average weekly volume of trading of the securities reported through the consolidated transactions reporting system (NASDAQ)
Notice of resale is provided to the SEC if the amount of securities sold in reliance on Rule 144 in any 3-month period exceeds 5,000 shares or if they have an aggregate sales price in excess of $50,000. After one year, Rule 144(k) allows for the permanent removal of the restriction except as to 'insiders'.
In cases of mergers, buyouts or takeovers, owners of securities who had previously filed Form 144 and still wish to sell restricted and controlled securities must refile Form 144 once the merger, buyout, or takeover has been completed.
Rule 144 is not to be confused with Rule 144A which provides a safe harbor from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 for certain private (as opposed to public) resales of restricted securities to qualified institutional buyers. Rule 144A has become the principal safe harbor on which non-U.S. companies rely when accessing the U.S. capital markets.