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Airbnb asks SEC to let it give hosts equity

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

Airbnb has sent a comment letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, asking it to allow the home-sharing company to give equity to its hosts.

Flashback: Airbnb isn't the first "gig economy" company to look into stock-sharing. Ride-hailing startup Juno famously pledged to give its drivers equity when it debuted, but later had to nix the plan when it realized that would be too difficult. Uber has also met multiple times with the SEC to discuss how it could do this, as Axios reported last year.

What they're saying: “Airbnb is a community-based company and we would be nothing without our hosts. We would like our most loyal hosts to be shareholders, but need these policies to change in order to make that happen," said Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in a statement to Axios.

The details:

  • Airbnb's letter (read it here) specifically addresses the SEC's interest in potentially revising Rule 701 of the Securities Act to add a "gig economy worker" category. Currently, private companies like Airbnb can only give equity to investors and employees.
  • But even if approved, the U.S. federal government would have to consider the current tax implications of private stock transfer.
  • Additionally, either the SEC or Congress would also have to revise Section 12(g) of the Exchange Act, which currently caps the total number of shareholders at 2,000 before a company is subject to public reporting requirements.

The story has been updated with a link to the letter.