The North Carolina PACES Act (Providing Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs and Small business) will enable a new way to help finance startups and small business in North Carolina using investment crowdfunding. The NC PACES Act advisory team has extensive experience in startup and small business financing and regulatory issues, and have been active in the investment crowdfunding industry for several years.

The NC PACES Act Team was recently honored with the 2017 WRAL Techwire Editors Choice Award for their work on getting the NC PACES law passed. 

The NC PACES Act Advisory Team:

Mark Easley

Mark Easley is a tech startup advisor and angel investor in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. Mark previously had a 25 year technology career in engineering, marketing, and sales in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. In addition to his startup advisor activities, he has been on the executive board of a Raleigh/Durham area angel investor group. Mark was honored to receive the 2017 WRAL Techwire Award for 'Most Noteworthy Startup Investor'.

Community Affiliations
  • Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) Member
  • NC Regional Internet of Things Member
  • Startup advisor and mentor at local incubators and accelerators including HQ Raleigh, American Underground, The Frontier, and Groundwork Labs
  • Judge at startup competitions in the Triangle
  • Crowdfunding advocate
  • BS Computer Science Purdue University 1978

Benji Taylor Jones
Benji Taylor Jones is a Corporate Attorney at Ward and Smith

Corporate attorney Benji Taylor Jones recently joined the Raleigh office of Ward and Smith.  She has been a trusted counselor to numerous private and public companies in a variety of corporate and securities law matters for nearly two decades. Most recently, she’s been focusing her practice on crowdfunding and fin-tech financings.  Benji played a critical role in the passage of North Carolina’s intrastate crowdfunding exemption (NC PACES). She represented the only platform offering peer2peer real estate loans under Regulation A and the first NC company to conduct a Regulation Crowdfunding campaign under Title III of the JOBS ACT. Benji is on the forefront of crowdfunding offerings in North Carolina.

Additionally, Benji advises public and private companies on a broad spectrum of legal issues affecting businesses. She regularly represents clients in public equity and debt offerings, traditional private placements and repurchase programs, public company securities compliance, corporate formation and governance, early stage financing for start-up and growth companies, mergers and acquisitions and strategic contracting.

Benji teaches as an adjunct professor and as a guest lecturer at local area universities and law schools. She regularly speaks and writes on crowdfunding, the JOBS Act, and related matters. While in law school, Benji was on the staff and editorial board of the Columbia Law Review, externed for the Honorable Shira Schiendlin of the Southern District of New York, worked at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton in New York City, and clerked for the Italian law firm of Ughi e Nunziante in Rome.


  • Columbia University, J.D., Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, 1998
  • New York University, M.A., 1996
  • Southern Methodist University, B.F.A., 1991

Representative Experience

  • Represented first North Carolina company to launch a Title III Regulation Crowdfunding offering
  • Advised a real estate micro-lending crowdfunding platform in qualification with the SEC and NASAA of Tier 1 Regulation A offering  
  • Counseled a global provider of biopharmaceutical development services and commercial outsourcing services in its $1.1 billion initial public offering and listing on the New York Stock Exchange
  • Advised a global CRO business in the staged acquisition of the leading interactive response technology provider for $75 million in value
  • Counseled a leading international developer of video games and game engine software in significant minority investment by a Chinese internet company
  • Represented a global biopharmaceutical services company with its $525 million offering of senior notes and a related holding company reorganization and spinoff of a subsidiary to its shareholders
  • Represented a global solid state LED lighting and semiconductor manufacturing company with the acquisition of a privately held company (valued at approximately US $200 million) and related fairness hearing before the Securities Division of the North Carolina Secretary of State
  • Counseled a global biopharmaceutical services company in connection with a private equity transaction that reconstituted the company’s ownership and provided liquidity to its existing security holders
  • Advised a multinational manufacturer and supplier to the papermaking industry in connection with a private placement of $240 million of senior notes and subsequent exchange offer for registered notes
  • Represented a major convenience store chain with a refinancing of senior credit facilities and tender offer and consent solicitation of outstanding senior secured notes
  • Advised a venture capital funded agricultural biotechnology company in a $400 million sale to public company in a cash and milestone based transaction
Benji is also a regular speaker and author. Some recent articles and appearances include:

Honors and Distinctions

Recognized with the "Editor's Choice" Award, WRAL's TechWire Annual Awards, 2017

Professional and Community Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • Wake County Bar Association
  • Member on the board of directors of several non-profit arts organizations

Admitted to Practice

North Carolina

About Me

Don't be surprised if you are out at a Triangle theater production, and happen to spot me on the stage. I sometimes perform, and enjoy it immensely.

James F. Verdonik

Jim Verdonik is leader of the Securities Practice Group at Ward and Smith.  His practice experience focuses on corporate and securities law, including both transactional and counseling work.  Mr. Verdonik's transactional work includes public and private securities offerings, venture capital investments, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate partnership transactions on behalf of both public and private companies.  He has advised companies in more than a billion dollars of capital raising transactions.  Mr. Verdonik has extensive experience with clients in both the biotechnology and information technology industries.  He regularly counsels boards of directors, company founders, management teams, shareholders, and investors in public and private companies about their relationships with one another on matters that include director fiduciary duties, shareholder rights, corporate governance, securities disclosure issues, management compensation, and conflicts of interest.  Mr. Verdonik has received the Council for Entrepreneurial Development's "Outstanding Service Provider Award," the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce's "Outstanding Service to the Business Community Award," and has been rated by his peers as being "preeminent" in his fields of law. 

Jim is a prolific writer on business regulatory subjects and investment crowdfunding. Jim's newest book is a very valuable handbook for entrepreneurs, attorneys, investors, and crowdfunding industry professionals called Crowdfunding Opportunities and Challenges.

Jim writes a column about business and legal issues for Triangle Business Journal, which has been republished by two dozen newspapers around the country, including in the country's primary technology centers, such as Boston and Silicon Valley.  Mr. Verdonik has served on advisory boards to two governors about state policies to encourage the growth of technology businesses.  He authored North Carolina's current statute that grants tax credits to investors in technology companies and other entrepreneurial businesses.  Mr. Verdonik also teaches an eLearning course and authored a series of five books titled Thinking and Acting Like an Owner-Worker.

Professional and Community Affiliations
•Council for Entrepreneurial Development (former member, board of directors)
•Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce (former chairman, Venture Capital Task Force)
•National Association of Corporate Directors (former member, board of advisors for the Research Triangle Chapter)
•North Carolina Bar Association — Sections: Business Law; Corporate Counsel; Intellectual Property Law
•North Carolina Technology Association (member, Board of Advisors)

Admitted to Practice
•North Carolina, 1985
•All state courts in North Carolina

Honors and Distinctions*
•The Best Lawyers in America, 1995-2016
•"Legal Elite," Business North Carolina, 2007
•"Super Lawyer," North Carolina Super Lawyers, 2006-2007

•J.D., cum laude, Fordham University School of Law, 1977. Fordham Law Review.
•B.A., Fordham University, 1971

R. Brooks Malone III

Brooks Malone has 27 years of public accounting experience. He joined Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP (“HPG”) in 1990 and became a partner in 1997. Prior to joining HPG, Brooks worked at McGladrey & Pullen, LLP, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Brooks works with clients in a variety of industries including information technology, medical device, life science and biotechnology, construction and real estate, service companies and nonprofit organizations. Brooks’ areas of concentration include financial reporting, business consulting, and financial planning.

Brooks also co-leads the knowledge-based industries (KBI) practice team that serves high-growth and investor-backed technology companies and their founders and executives including information technology (software, SaaS, hardware, and related industries) medical devices, and life science (pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical, CRO, and related industries). 

Education and Professional Affiliations
  • B.A., Accounting
  •  B.A., Business Management
  •  Omicron Delta Epsilon Honor Society
  •  North Carolina State University (NCSU), 1988
  • NCSU School of Accounting Advisory Board Member
  • North Carolina Certificate #19337
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • North Carolina Association of CPAs
Community Affiliations

Council for Entrepreneurial Development:
  • Board of Directors
  • 2008 Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs Award
  • 2007 Winner of Board Sponsorship Drive
  • 2008 Winner of Board Membership Drive
  • FastTrac Tech Instructor
NC State University Club, Board of Directors and Treasurer
 Duke Start-up Challenge Business Plan Judge and DUHatch Coach on-call
 National Eagle Scout Association, Member (Eagle Class of 1982)
 Leadership Raleigh 11, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Graduate
 Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame Award, 2011
Triangle Business Journal “40 Under 40” Award, 2005

NC PACES/JOBS Act Team Alumni

These alumni team members made significant contributions to the creation of the original NC JOBS Act in 2013, which is the predecessor of the NC PACES Act.

Primary Sponsors of the Original North Carolina General Assembly House Bill H680 during the 2013-2014 session:

Representative Tom Murry
Representative Tim D. Moffitt
Representative Phil Shepard
Representative Kelly E. Hastings

Tom Murry

Former Representative Tom Murry served two terms representing parts of Cary, Apex, Morrisville, and New Hill. Rep. Murry was Chair of the House Commerce and Job Development Committee. Tom is currently serving as the legal counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts. Tom and his wife Tamara live in Morrisville’s Breckenridge neighborhood and have two daughters. The Murrys attend College Park Baptist Church in Cary.

Nick Bhargava

Nick Bhargava was a Triangle entrepreneur and consultant. He has since relocated to Atlanta as the co-founder of real estate crowdfunding startup, He specializes in financial innovation. His first startup, Motaavi, was heavily involved in the federal JOBS Act legislation and was an NC IDEA grant winner. Prior to that, he worked for the Financial Services Roundtable, the Securities Exchange Commission, and FINRA. He has also worked for TD Waterhouse and RBC Financial Group. His new startup is a financial services disruptor called

Steve Reaser

Entrepreneur and investor, Steve has been active in crowdfunding since November 2011. Co-founder of Funding Launchpad -- an equity and rewards crowdfunding platform -- and founding member of the Crowdfunding Professionals Association (CfPA) and active member of the CrowdFunding Intermediary Regulatory Advocates (CFIRA). Prior to Funding Launchpad Steve co-founded an educational technology company, helping grow it to over one million paid users. Mechanical Engineer, Cornell.

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