By Don Reisinger
September 21, 2018

Travel company Airbnb has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow it to start issuing equity in its company to hosts, according to a new report.

In a letter to the SEC obtained by Axios, Airbnb cited Rule 701 of the Securities Act, which would need to be changed to include a new category of people who would be allowed to own shares in a company called a “gig economy worker.” The current provision only allows private companies like Airbnb to give shares to investors or employees.

However, a company like Airbnb is heavily reliant upon hosts, or people that open their homes to its users to allow them to stay there for a period of time. Having the ability to give them shares in Airbnb could maintain loyalty with those hosts and provide Airbnb with another method of compensating them for opening their homes to travelers.

In a statement to Axios, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky called his company “community-based” and said that it “would be nothing without our hosts.” He added that Airbnb wants its “most loyal hosts to be shareholders.”

Still, there are some hurdles ahead. In addition to changing Rule 701 in the Securities Act, the Internal Revenue Service would also need to get involved to determine how a shareholder agreement with hosts would affect tax liability.

If the move is ratified, however, it could go a long way in changing how those in the “gig economy” are compensated.

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