What's New about EMMA?

MSRB President Lynnette Kelly Explains the Investor-Focused Enhancements 

Transparency in financial markets helps protect investors and enhances public confidence. That’s why the MSRB in 2008 created the Electronic Municipal Market Access, or EMMA®, website. EMMA has since become the go-to source for municipal securities disclosures and market data, providing free, up-to-the minute information about this important $3.9 trillion market.

In 2018, EMMA marks 10 years of improving municipal market transparency with a redesign that kicks off a multi-year commitment by the MSRB to make EMMA a more useful and user-friendly resource.

We sat down with MSRB President Lynnette Kelly to learn more about EMMA, the redesign and its roots in user feedback and focus groups, and why market transparency matters for investors, the communities that issue municipal bonds and the public. 

What are EMMA’s accomplishments in its first decade?

Before we created EMMA, it was difficult for investors to analyze the prices at which bonds were trading, or to learn about the features and risks of a municipal bond investment. And the municipal bond market is very decentralized—more than 50,000 communities and states across the country issue municipal bonds—so EMMA brings all the available information and data for investors together in one place and provides free access 24-7. EMMA is designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as the official repository for municipal securities disclosures. Our website also helps municipal bond issuers explore how and when other state and local governments fund their capital needs, and it lets market participants access real-time information about the market. 

We’re proud that every day, EMMA helps investors and issuers participate more knowledgeably and confidently in the municipal market, particularly since individuals are the largest group of investors in municipal bonds.

What’s changing with the 2018 redesign?

Over the past 10 years, we’ve made dozens of enhancements to EMMA, notably with the addition of third-party data and tools such as credit ratings and yield curves. But it was time to give EMMA a fresh new look and make it a lot easier to access these great tools, as well as information about individual securities and their issuers. We started this process in fall 2016, asking market participants to give us feedback into what would make EMMA more useful to them. That research started us on the path to many changes EMMA users will see starting today. These include:

  •  A new homepage that lets users search for municipal bond information by state, using an intuitive and interactive map

              
  • Enhanced visuals for each individual security, with interactive graphs of trade prices and yields 
  • A more easily searchable listing of important disclosure documents
  • Better integrated tips and educational resources to help new EMMA users find and understand information

What data and information can I find on EMMA?

EMMA is your one-stop-shop for trade data and disclosure information about virtually every municipal security, and for important information about the municipalities and states that issue bonds. 

You can to go EMMA for information about the securities themselves, including descriptive data, real-time prices, bond yields and interest rates of municipal securities, as well as for statistics about overall municipal market trends.

EMMA also stores official statements for most new municipal securities. These documents are like a prospectus for a stock and give detailed information about the financial health of the state and local issuers who are responsible for bond repayment, as well as the terms and features of the bonds themselves. EMMA also houses continuing disclosure documents, like an issuer’s annual financial information or notices of recent events. Municipal entities that issue bonds are required to disclose this information throughout the lifecycle of a bond. 

That’s not all. EMMA collects political contribution information from municipal financial professionals that work with state and local governments who—with some exceptions—
must submit information about their political contributions to municipal entity officials, state and local political parties and bond ballot campaigns, in the interest of preventing “pay-to-play” practices. 

There are often other, voluntary disclosure documents as well. It really is a treasure trove of data. 

Who will be interested in the new EMMA?

Naturally, we hope that municipal bond investors, issuers and their advisors will continue to find EMMA’s data about municipal securities important and helpful—and now easier to access. 

But we’ve found that EMMA can also be a useful tool for journalists seeking more financial information about state and local governments, and about political contributions.

Policymakers and the public may also find EMMA useful for understanding how this market works, especially given its critical role in financing infrastructure and economic development around the country. 

April 30, 2018

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