"U.S. capital markets are the largest and considered to be the most efficient in the world. Companies rely heavily on capital access to fund growth and create jobs. As the principal regulator of U.S. capital markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that offers and sales of securities either be registered with the SEC or be undertaken with an exemption from registration. Registered securities offerings, often called public offerings, are available to all types of investors and have more rigorous disclosure requirements. By contrast, securities offerings that are exempt from SEC registration are referred to as private offerings and are mainly available to more sophisticated investors. Some policymakers have concluded that changes in market trends require updated regulations governing capital access. Specifically, the number of publicly listed U.S. companies has declined by half over the last two decades, and small- to medium-sized companies are said to have more difficulty accessing capital relative to larger companies. Additionally, new capital access tools not previously part of the SEC regulatory regime, such as crowdfunding and initial coin offerings, have emerged. These new tools are especially helpful for small businesses and startups."
CRS Report for Congress, R45221