The regulator, SPAC and investor point of view – 29 October 2021
“Q1 of this year will go down as the 2000 internet bubble for SPACs. There was a unique confluence of factors that drove that insane risk-seeking behaviour, particularly at a retail investor level.” – FT, 27.09.2021
The next EU Financial Law clinic (Jan Ronse Institute, KU Leuven) will deal with one of the most intriguing phenomenons of this year: “special purpose acquisition companies”, or SPACs for short.
SPACs, short for “special purpose acquisition companies”, are companies without commercial operations or material assets. Once incorporated, they aim to raise money through an IPO to then buy another already existing company. Which company will be acquired is typically unknown at the time of the IPO. Investors therefore indeed give a “blank cheque” to the SPAC.
SPACs were probably one of the hottest product in the US investment industry in early 2021. In Europe, the picture is more diverse. While there have been over 32 SPACs in the Netherlands this year to date, Belgium is still waiting for its first SPAC.
In this financial law clinic, our four distinguished speakers will explore the topic of SPACs from a regulatory, practical and investor protection perspective. They will first discuss the process of creating a SPAC and the subsequent de-SPAC procedure, with attention for the practical and regulatory challenges involved, based on practical experience with cases in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. They will then focus on the (potential) regulatory framework (prospectus, MiFID product governance, market abuse, and AIF legislation) and compare the SPAC-process with traditional IPOs. In addition, the speakers will address the question why certain Member States seem to attract many more SPACs than others, and analyze the diverse supervisory responses to the phenomenon (by ESMA and several national regulators). Finally, the speakers will discuss potential causes for the recent difficulties experienced by SPACs and the future potential of the phenomenon.
Our four speakers are experts in this area. Gregory Frigo is a senior policy officer at the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and has been working on the recent ESMA guidance on SPACs. Annemie Rombouts will present the FSMA’s recently published minimum standards for SPACs. Martijn Schoonewille, attorney at law at the Loyens&Loeff Amsterdam office, has advised several SPACs in both the Netherlands and Luxemburg. Vanessa Marquette, attorney at law at the Loyens&Loeff Brussels office, has analyzed the regulatory constraints for SPACs in Belgium and conducted a comparative overview of the treatment of SPACs in Belgium, Luxembourg and in the Netherlands.
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