U.S. Eyes New Stock Rules

Federal securities regulators are moving toward easing decades-old constraints on share issues by private companies, in a sweeping review that could remake the way American start-ups raise capital.

The review by the Securities and Exchange Commission, disclosed in a letter to a lawmaker, could fuel the fast-growing market in private shares of technology firms such as Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Zynga Inc. The steps under consideration would help such privately held companies raise more money without incurring the increased reporting and other requirements of becoming a public company.

According to the letter and people familiar with the matter, the likely changes would include raising from 499 the number of shareholders private companies can have without being required to open their books, and also making it easier for such companies to publicize share offerings.

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