Stock transfer agent
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A stock transfer agent or share registry or Transfer Agency is a company, usually a third party unrelated to stock transactions, which cancels the name and certificate of the shareholder who sold the shares of stock, and substitutes the new owner's name on the official master shareholder listing. Stock transfer agent is the term used in the United States and Canada. Share registry is used in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Transfer secretary is used in South Africa. Usually Transfer Agency service provided along with Fund Accounting as a "package" for hassle-free services. TA and FA are interdependent, hence it's beneficial for Fund manager to give both services to single party.
Public companies typically use transfer agents to keep track of the individuals and entities that own their stocks and bonds. Most transfer agents are also banks or trust companies, but sometimes a company acts as its own transfer agent.
- Issuance and Transfer: Issue and cancel certificates to reflect changes in ownership. For example, when a company declares a stock dividend or stock split, the transfer agent issues new shares. Transfer agents keep records of who owns a company's stocks and bonds and how those stocks and bonds are held—whether by the owner in certificate form, by the company in book-entry form, or by the investor's brokerage firm in street name. They also keep records of how many shares or bonds each investor owns.
- Record Keeping: Transfer agents "track, record, and maintain on behalf of issuers the official record of ownership of each issuer’s securities."
- Registration: Transfer agents monitor "the issuance of [company] securities with a view to preventing unauthorized issuance, a function commonly performed by a person called a registrar."
- Paying Agent: A transfer agent may also serve as the company's paying agent to pay out interest, cash and stock dividends, or other distributions to stock- and bondholders. In addition, a transfer agent may act as a tender agent (tendering shares in a tender offer) or exchange agent (exchanging a company's stock or bonds in a merger).
- Shareholder Liaison: Transfer agents "facilitate communications between issuers and registered securityholders." Transfer agents often act as a proxy agent (sending out proxy materials) and a mailing agent (mailing the company's quarterly, annual, and other reports). Transfer agents may also run annual meetings as inspector of elections, proxy voting, and special meetings of shareholders. In this case they are considered the official keeper of the corporate shareholder records.
- Repository: Handle lost, destroyed, or stolen certificates. Transfer agents help shareholders and bondholders when a stock or bond certificate has been lost, destroyed, or stolen. Also a medallion signature stamp officer is the transfer agent.
- Treasury Manager: Transfer agent work to settle monetary transactions. They may hold shareholder's cash and Company's cash in separate accounts as per local regulations, in order to prevent loss in the event of bankruptcy and mismanagement of money.
In the UK, Registrars perform a similar role, although there is no medallion stamp signature process.
A public company usually only designates one company to transfer its stock.
The shares are issued in "street name" which is the term given to securities held in the name of a financial intermediary (such as brokerage, custodian bank, securities depositary, or a nominee of any of them) on behalf of a customer, usually done to facilitate subsequent transactions. Shares held in "Street name", usually Cede & Co., refers to shares which have a beneficial shareholder who maintain their ownership indirectly through a brokerage. Street name holders are not registered holders; they must exercise shareholder rights by obtaining proxies from the legal entity which is a holder of record.
Stock transfer agents in the United States verify that owners of stock are genuine through the use of signature guarantees. This is often referred to as a "Medallion Signature Guarantee". A signature guarantee is a warranty by the signature guarantor that the endorser of a stock certificate or stock power form is an appropriate person to endorse and thus transfer the security. Signatures on a stock certificate or stock power must have the medallion guarantee. A medallion guarantee is also used to validate the genuineness of a securities transaction document (typically a stock certificate). It is backed by a bond and protects the issuer of the security and their transfer agent from fraudulently transferred securities. A medallion guarantee may be obtained from most major banks, brokerage firms or credit unions.
Private companies typically do not use dedicated or SEC-registered transfer agent companies. Instead, they use a combination of software, law firm services, and in-house support.
In the US, recent changes to crowdfunding regulations make it necessary for some private companies to use dedicated transfer agent companies in some cases:
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- "SEC.gov | Transfer Agents". www.sec.gov. Retrieved 18 September 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Concept Release: Transfer Agent Regulations (Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)" (PDF). United States Securities Exchange Commission. 26 June 2017.
- "SEC.gov - Signature Guarantees: Preventing the Unauthorized Transfer of Securities". www.sec.gov.
- "Transfer Agents". www.sec.gov.
- "Why Private Companies Don't Need a Transfer Agent - Capshare Blog". Capshare Blog. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2018.