Rule G-37 Political Contributions and Prohibitions on Municipal Securities Business and Municipal Advisory Business

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REMINDER REGARDING THE APPLICATION OF RULE G-37 TO FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGNS OF ISSUER OFFICIALS - September 28, 2011

In 1999, the MSRB published a notice on the application of Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, to Presidential campaigns of issuer officials.[1]  In general, the notice described a 1995 interpretive letter[2] in which the Board noted that Rule G-37 is applicable to contributions given to an official of an issuer[3] who seeks election to federal office, such as the Presidency.  The Board also explained that the only exception to Rule G-37’s absolute prohibition on business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals.  Specifically, contributions by such persons to an official of an issuer would not invoke application of the prohibition if the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official, and provided that any contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election.  In the example of an issuer official running for President, any municipal finance professional in the country can contribute the de minimis amount to the official’s Presidential campaign without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  Finally, the Board noted that a Presidential candidate who has accepted public funding for the general election is prohibited under federal law from accepting any contributions to further his or her general election campaign.  In these circumstances, federal law allows individuals to contribute to the candidate’s compliance fund, which uses the contributions solely for legal and accounting services to ensure compliance with federal law and not for campaign activities.  Thus, any municipal finance professional in the country can contribute the de minimis amount to an issuer official’s compliance fund without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  This would apply if the issuer official runs for President or Vice President.

The MSRB wishes to remind dealers that these concepts also apply to an issuer official who campaigns for any federal office.  For example, any municipal finance professional residing in a state in which an issuer official is campaigning for a state-wide federal office may contribute the de minimis amount to the official’s campaign without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  The MSRB does not opine whether any particular individual is or is not an issuer official. 

The MSRB also wishes to remind dealers to be aware of the Rule G-37 issues involving indirect rule violations and contributions to non-dealer associated political action committees and payments to political parties, which issues have been the subjects of previous notices and interpretive Questions and Answers.[4]

September 28, 2011


[1] See Application of Rule G-37 to Presidential Campaigns of Issuer Officials reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2011) at 299-300.  The notice is also available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Notices section of the MSRB’s website at www.msrb.org.

[2] See MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2011) at 309-311.  The letter is also available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Letters section of the MSRB’s website at www.msrb.org.

[3] The term “official of an issuer” is defined in Rule G-37(g)(vi) as any person (including any election committee for such person) who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate: (A) for elective office of the issuer which office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by the issuer; or (B) for any elective office of a state or of any political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any person who is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by an issuer.

[4] See Notice Concerning Indirect Rule Violations: Rules G-37 and G-38, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2011) at 302-303; Rule G-37 Questions and Answers Nos.  III.4 and III.5 regarding contributions to a non-dealer associated PAC and payments to a state or local political party, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2011) at 290; and Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.7 regarding supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2011) at 291.  The notice and Questions and Answers are also available on the MSRB’s website at www.msrb.org.


GUIDANCE ON DEALER-AFFILIATED POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES UNDER RULE G-37 - December 12, 2010

Since 1994, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) has sought to eliminate pay-to-play practices in the municipal securities market through its Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business.[1]  Under the rule, certain contributions to elected officials of municipal securities issuers made by brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”), municipal finance professionals (“MFPs”) associated with dealers, and political action committees (“PACs”) controlled by dealers and their MFPs (“dealer-controlled PACs”)[2] may result in prohibitions on dealers from engaging in municipal securities business with such issuers for a period of two years from the date of any triggering contributions.

Rule G-37 requires dealers to record and disclose certain contributions to issuer officials, state or local political parties, and bond ballot campaigns, as well as other information, on Form G-37 to allow public scrutiny of such contributions and the municipal securities business of a dealer. In addition, dealers and MFPs generally are prohibited from soliciting others (including affiliates of the dealer or any PACs) to make contributions to officials of issuers with which the dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business, or to political parties of a state or locality where the dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business. Dealers and MFPs also are prohibited from circumventing Rule G-37 by direct or indirect actions through any other persons or means.[3]

Due to changes in the financial markets since the adoption of Rule G-37, many dealers and MFPs have become affiliated with a broad range of other entities in increasingly diverse organizational structures.  Some of these affiliated entities (including but not limited to banks, bank holding companies, insurance companies and investment management companies) have formed or otherwise maintain relationships with PACs (“affiliated PACs”) and other political organizations, many of which may make contributions to issuer officials.  Such relationships raise questions regarding the extent to which affiliated PACs may effectively be controlled by dealers or their MFPs and thereby constitute dealer-controlled PACs whose contributions are subject to Rule G-37.  Further, such relationships raise concerns regarding whether the contributions of such affiliated PACs, even if not viewed as dealer-controlled PACs, may be used by dealers or their MFPs to circumvent Rule G-37 as indirect contributions for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business.

The MSRB remains concerned that individuals and firms subject to Rule G-37 may seek ways around the rule through payments to and contributions by affiliated PACs that benefit issuer officials. When evaluating whether contributions made by affiliated PACs may be subject to the provisions of Rule G-37, the MSRB emphasizes that dealers should first determine whether such affiliated PAC would be viewed as a dealer-controlled PAC. If an affiliated PAC is determined to be a dealer-controlled PAC, then its contributions to issuer officials would subject the dealer to the ban on municipal securities business and its contributions to issuer officials, state or local political parties, and bond ballot campaigns would be subject to disclosure under Rule G-37. Even if the affiliated PAC is determined not to be a dealer-controlled PAC, the dealer still must consider whether payments made by the dealer or its MFPs to such affiliated PAC could ultimately be viewed as an indirect contribution under Rule G-37(d) if, for example, the affiliated PAC is being used as a conduit for making a contribution to an issuer official.

The MSRB wishes to provide guidance regarding the factors that may result in an affiliated PAC being viewed as controlled by the dealer or an MFP of the dealer and thereby being treated as a dealer-controlled PAC for purposes of Rule G-37. The MSRB also wishes to ensure that the industry is cognizant of prior MSRB guidance regarding the potential for payments to and contributions by affiliated PACs to constitute indirect contributions under the rule.

Indicators of Control by Dealers and MFPs

Soon after adoption of Rule G-37, the MSRB stated that each dealer must determine whether a PAC is dealer controlled, with any PAC of a non-bank dealer assumed to be a dealer-controlled PAC.[4]  The MSRB has also stated that the determination of whether a PAC of a bank dealer[5] is a dealer-controlled PAC would depend upon whether the bank dealer or anyone from the bank dealer department has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or the policies of the PAC.[6]  Such ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or the policies of a PAC also would be indicative of control of such PAC by a non-bank dealer or any of its MFPs, although it would not be the exclusive indicator of such control. While this guidance establishes basic principles with regard to making a determination of control, it does not set out an exhaustive list of circumstances under which a PAC may or may not be viewed as dealer or MFP controlled.  The specific facts and circumstances regarding the creation, management, operation and control of a particular PAC must be considered in making a determination of control with respect to such PAC.

Creation of PAC. In general, a dealer or MFP involved in the creation of a PAC would continue to be viewed as controlling such PAC unless and until such dealer or MFP becomes wholly disassociated in any direct or indirect manner with the PAC. Thus, any PAC created by a dealer, acting either in a sole capacity or together with other entities or individuals, would be presumed to be a dealer-controlled PAC.  This presumption continues at least as long as the dealer or any MFP of the dealer retains any formal or informal role in connection with such PAC, regardless of whether such dealer or MFP has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or policies of the PAC. This presumption also would continue for so long as any associated person of the dealer (either an individual, whether or not an MFP, or an affiliated company directly or indirectly controlling, controlled by or under common control with the dealer) has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or policies of the PAC. In effect, a dealer could not attempt to treat a PAC it created and then spun off to the control of an affiliated company as not being a dealer-controlled PAC. However, depending on the totality of the facts and circumstances, a PAC originally created by a dealer in which the dealer or its MFPs no longer retain any role, and with respect to which any other affiliates retain only very limited non-control roles, could be viewed as no longer controlled by the dealer.

Similarly, a PAC created by any person associated with the dealer at the time the PAC was created, acting either in a sole capacity or together with other entities or individuals, would be presumed to be controlled by such person.  Such presumption continues at least for so long as such person retains any formal or informal role in connection with such PAC, regardless of whether any such person has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or policies of the PAC.  This presumption also would continue for so long as any other person associated with the same dealer as the creator of the PAC has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or policies of the PAC. Although such PAC may not be viewed as being subject to Rule G-37 as an MFP-controlled PAC when originally created if such person was not then an MFP, if the person creating the PAC, or any other associated person with the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or policies of such PAC, is or later becomes an MFP, such PAC would be deemed an MFP-controlled PAC.[7]

Management, Funding and Control of PAC. Beyond the role of the dealer, MFP or other person in creating a PAC and maintaining an ongoing association with such PAC, the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or the policies of a PAC is also important. Strong indicators of management and control are not mitigated by the fact that such dealer, MFP or other person does not have exclusive, predominant or “majority” control of the PAC, its management, its policies, or its decisions with regard to making contributions.  For example, the fact that a dealer or MFP may only have a single vote on a governing board or other decision-making or advisory board or committee of a PAC, and therefore does not have sole power to cause the PAC to take any action, would not obviate the status of such dealer or MFP as having control of the PAC, so long as the dealer or MFP has the ability, alone or in conjunction with other similarly empowered entities or individuals, to direct or cause the direction of the management or the policies of the PAC.  In essence, it is possible for a single PAC to be viewed as controlled by multiple different dealers if the control of such PAC is shared among such dealers, although the presumption of control may be rebutted as described below.

The level of funding provided by dealers and their MFPs to a PAC may also be indicative of control. A PAC that receives a majority of its funding from a single dealer (including the collective contributions of its MFPs and employees) or a single MFP is conclusively presumed to be controlled by such dealer or MFP, regardless of the lack of any of the other indicia of control described in this notice.  Another important factor is the size or frequency of contributions by a dealer or MFP,[8] viewed in light of the size and frequency of contributions made by other contributors not affiliated in any way with such dealer or MFP. For example, a limited number of small contributions freely made by employees of a dealer to an affiliated PAC (i.e., not directed by the dealer and not part of an automated or otherwise dealer-organized program of contributions) would not, by itself, automatically raise a presumption of dealer control so long as the collective contributions by the dealer or its employees is not significant as compared to the total funding of the affiliated PAC, subject to consideration of the other relevant facts and circumstances. In addition, contributions made by a dealer or MFP to an affiliated PAC could raise a stronger inference of de facto dealer or MFP control than when such contributions were made to non-affiliated PACs.

However, even where a dealer or MFP is not viewed as controlling a PAC under the principles described above, dealers should remain mindful of the potential for leveraging the contribution activities of affiliated PACs in soliciting municipal securities business in a way that could raise a presumption of dealer or MFP control.  For example, an MFP’s references to the contributions made by an affiliated PAC during solicitations of municipal securities business could, depending on the facts and circumstances, serve as evidence of coordination of such PAC’s activities with the dealer or MFP that could, together with other facts, be indicative of direct or indirect control of the PAC by such dealer or MFP.  Such control could be found even in circumstances where the dealer or its MFPs have not made contributions to the affiliated PAC.[9]

Of course, the presumptions described above may be rebutted, depending upon the totality of facts and circumstances. Considerations that may serve to rebut such presumptions may include whether the dealer or person creating the PAC:  (i) participates with a broad-based group of other entities and/or individuals in creating the PAC, (ii) at no time undertakes any direct or indirect role (and, in the case of a dealer, no person associated with the dealer undertakes any direct or indirect role) in leading the creation of the PAC or in directing or causing the direction of the management or the policies of the PAC, and/or (iii) provides funding for such PAC (and, in the case of a dealer, its associated persons collectively provide funding for such PAC) that is not substantially greater than the typical funding levels of other participants in the PAC who do not undertake a direct or indirect role in leading the creation of the PAC or in directing or causing the direction of the management or the policies of the PAC.

Indirect Contributions Through Bank PACs or Other Affiliated PACs

As noted above, if an affiliated PAC is determined not to be a dealer-controlled PAC, a dealer must still consider whether payments made by the dealer or its MFPs to such affiliated PAC could be viewed as an indirect contribution that would become subject to Rule G-37 pursuant to section (d) thereof. The MSRB has provided extensive guidance on such indirect contributions, noting in 1996 that, depending on the facts and circumstances, contributions to a non-dealer associated PAC that is soliciting funds for the purpose of supporting a limited number of issuer officials might result in the same prohibition on municipal securities business as would contributions made directly to the issuer official.[10]  The MSRB also noted that dealers should make inquiries of a non-dealer associated PAC that is soliciting contributions in order to ensure that contributions to such a PAC would not be treated as an indirect contribution.[11]

The MSRB also has previously provided guidance in 2005 with regard to supervisory procedures [12] that dealers should have in place in connection with payments to a non-dealer associated PAC or a political party to avoid indirect rule violations of Rule G-37(d).  In such guidance, the MSRB stated that, in order to ensure compliance with Rule G-27(c) as it relates to payments to political parties or PACs and Rule G-37(d), each dealer must adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political parties or non-dealer controlled PACs to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer.[13]  Among other things, dealers might seek to establish procedures requiring that, prior to the making of any contribution to a PAC, the dealer undertake certain due diligence inquiries regarding the intended use of such contributions, the motive for making the contribution and whether the contribution was solicited. Further, in order to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d), dealers could consider establishing certain information barriers between any affiliated PACs and the dealer and its MFPs.[14]  Dealers that have established such information barriers should review their adequacy to ensure that the affiliated entities’ contributions, payments or PAC disbursement decisions are neither influenced by the dealer or its MFPs, nor communicated to the dealers and the MFPs.

The MSRB subsequently noted that the 2005 guidance did not establish an obligation to put in place the specific procedures and information barriers described in the guidance so long as the dealer in fact has and enforces other written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the dealer and its MFPs are in compliance with Rule G-37(d).[15]  Thus, for example, when information regarding past or planned contributions of an affiliated PAC is or may be available to or known by the dealer or its MFPs, the dealer might establish and enforce written supervisory procedures that prohibit the dealer or MFP from providing information to issuer personnel regarding past or anticipated affiliated PAC contributions.

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[1] Rule G-37 defines municipal securities business as: (i) the purchase of a primary offering of municipal securities from an issuer on other than a competitive bid basis; (ii) the offer or sale of a primary offering of municipal securities on behalf of an issuer; (iii) the provision of financial advisory or consultant services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the dealer was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis; or (iv) the provision of remarketing agent services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the dealer was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis.

[2] The MSRB has previously stated that the matter of control depends upon whether or not the dealer or the MFP has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or policies of the PAC (MSRB Question & Answer No. IV. 24 – Dealer Controlled PAC).

[3] Rule G-37(d) provides that no broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer or any municipal finance professional shall, directly or indirectly, through or by any other person or means, do any act which would result in a violation of sections (b) or (c) of the rule. Section (b) relates to the ban on business and Section (c) relates to the prohibition on soliciting and coordinating contributions.

[4] See Rule G-37 Question & Answer No. IV.24 (May 24, 1994).

[5] MSRB Rule D-8 defines a bank dealer as a municipal securities dealer which is a bank or a separately identifiable department or division of a bank.

[6] See Rule G-37 Question & Answer No. IV.24 (May 24, 1994).

[7] However, a PAC created by an individual acting in his or her formal capacity as an officer, employee, director or other representative of a dealer, regardless of whether such individual is an MFP, would be deemed a dealer-controlled PAC rather than a PAC controlled by the individual.

[8] A dealer or an MFP may make sufficiently large or frequent contributions to a PAC so as to obtain effective control over the PAC, depending on the totality of facts and circumstances.

[9] See Rule G-37 Question & Answer No. III.7 (September 22, 2005) for a discussion of potential indirect contributions through affiliated PACs.

[10] See Rule G-37 Question & Answer No. III.4 (August 6, 1996).

[11] See Rule G-37 Question & Answer No. III.5 (August 6, 1996).

[12] Rule G-27, on supervision, provides in section (c) that each dealer shall adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with MSRB rules.

[13] See Rule G-37 Question & Answer No. III.7 (September 22, 2005).

[14] The potential information barriers described in the guidance include: i) a prohibition on the dealer or MFP from recommending, nominating, appointing or approving the management of affiliated PACs; ii) a prohibition on sharing the affiliated PAC’s meeting agenda, meeting schedule, or meeting minutes; iii) a prohibition on identification of prior affiliated PAC contributions, planned PAC contributions or anticipated PAC contributions; iv) a prohibition on directly providing or coordinating information about prior negotiated municipal securities businesses, solicited municipal securities business, and planned solicitations of municipal securities business; and v) other such information barriers as the firms deems appropriate to monitor conflicting interest and prevent abuses effectively.

[15] See Rule G-37 Interpretive Letter – Supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions; conference accounts and 527 organizations (December 21, 2006).



MSRB PUBLISHES INTERPRETIVE LETTER REGARDING SOLICITATION ACTIVITY ON BEHALF OF AN AFFILIATED COMPANY PURSUANT TO RULES G-37 AND G-38
- June 23, 2009

Rules G-37 and G-38 Interpretive Letter – Solicitation activity on behalf of affiliated company.  This is in response to your April 29, 2009 letter seeking guidance regarding Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) Rule G-38, on solicitation of municipal securities business, and MSRB Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. Your letter relates to the formation of a joint venture broker-dealer (“JV B-D”) by two existing broker-dealers (the “legacy firms”). You state that JV B-D will not engage in municipal securities business[1] and that the employees of JV B-D will not retain their employment status with the legacy firms, but will be associated persons of both legacy firms.

Specifically, you request guidance on the following two issues: (i) whether the employees of the JV B-D may solicit municipal securities business, under Rule G-38, on behalf of the legacy firms; and (ii) whether an employee who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of one of the legacy firms will be considered a municipal finance professional (“MFP”) [2] solely of the legacy firm on whose behalf the MFP solicits municipal securities business under Rule G-37, rather than of both legacy firms. The Board has reviewed your letter and authorized this response.

JV B-D Employee Solicitation of Municipal Securities Business on Behalf of Legacy Firms: You ask whether employees of JV B-D, who are the prior employees of the legacy firms, may solicit municipal securities business on behalf of such firms under Rule G-38. Rule G-38(a) prohibits a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”) from providing, directly or indirectly, payment to any person who is not an affiliated person[3] of the dealer for a solicitation of municipal securities business on behalf of such dealer.

You state that JV B-D will be controlled by the legacy firms and, as such, should be viewed as an affiliated company[4] of the legacy firms. Under Rule G-38, if JV B-D is controlled by the legacy firms, JV B-D and its employees should be viewed as affiliates of the legacy firms. Based on the control relationships you describe, Rule G-38 will not be violated if employees of JV B-D are paid by a legacy firm for a solicitation of municipal securities business on behalf of such legacy firms.

JV B-D Employee Status as Municipal Finance Professional for Legacy Firm on Behalf of Which the Employee Has Solicited Municipal Securities Business: You also ask whether an employee of JV B-D who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of one of the legacy firms will be considered an MFP solely of the legacy firm on whose behalf the employee solicits municipal securities business, rather than of both legacy firms. Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B) defines MFP, in relevant part, as any associated person (including, but not limited to, any affiliated person of the dealer, as defined in Rule G-38) who solicits municipal securities business (a “solicitor MFP”). You note that this language does not expressly limit MFP status to the dealer on whose behalf the municipal securities business was solicited.

The MSRB is of the view that implicit in the concept of a solicitor MFP, as set forth in Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B), is the notion that an associated person who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of a dealer becomes an MFP of such dealer.[5] Although an individual who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of one dealer with which he or she is associated thereby becomes an MFP of such dealer, the solicitation does not by itself result in the individual becoming an MFP of a different dealer with which such individual may be associated but for which he or she has not solicited municipal securities business. Rather, such individual would have to undertake a solicitation or another activity described in Rule G-37(g)(iv) on behalf of the second dealer in order to become an MFP of such second dealer.

The MSRB notes that Rule G-38(b)(i) defines solicitation broadly to mean, any direct or indirect communication with an issuer for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. The MSRB has previously provided guidance regarding the types of communications that are viewed as solicitations of municipal securities business.[6] Depending upon specific facts and circumstances, a direct solicitation of municipal securities business by an individual on behalf of a dealer with which such individual is associated (the “directly-benefited dealer”) might also be considered an indirect solicitation of business on behalf of another dealer with which such individual is associated (the “indirectly-benefited dealer”). In conversations with issuers or other third parties, the individual must clearly indicate for which dealer he or she is soliciting business. For example, an individual who describes to issuer personnel two or more affiliated dealers as leading underwriting firms in that issuer’s state but only explicitly asks such personnel to hire one dealer (i.e., the directly-benefited dealer) would likely be considered to have indirectly solicited business on behalf of the other dealer as well (i.e., the indirectly-benefited dealer). An important factor in determining whether a direct solicitation on behalf of a directly-benefited dealer could also be considered an indirect solicitation on behalf of an indirectly-benefited dealer is whether the individual solely identifies his or her affiliation with the directly-benefited dealer or also identifies an affiliation with the other dealer.[7]  To the extent that multiple dealers are identified directly or indirectly, dealers would need to take extra precautions to ensure that the solicited issuer personnel understand that the solicitation is solely on behalf of the directly-benefited dealer and that the identification of the other firm is limited and does not serve to promote the other firm.[8] In circumstances similar to those described in this letter, dealers should have in place effective procedures to ensure that the solicitations for municipal securities business are tracked in a way that will properly classify individuals making solicitations as MFPs of the appropriate dealer. MSRB Interpretation of June 23, 2009.


[1] Rule G-37 defines municipal securities business as the purchase of a primary offering of municipal securities from an issuer on other than a competitive bid basis; or the offer or sale of a primary offering of municipal securities on behalf of any issuer; or the provision of financial advisory or consultant services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”) was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis; or the provision of remarketing agent services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the dealer was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis.
 
[2] Rule G-37(g)(iv) defines municipal finance professional as: (A) any associated person primarily engaged in municipal securities representative activities, as defined in Rule G-3(a)(i), provided, however, that sales activities with natural persons shall not be considered to be municipal securities representative activities; (B) any associated person (including but not limited to any affiliated person of the dealer, as defined in Rule G-38) who solicits municipal securities business; (C) any associated person who is both (i) a municipal securities principal or a municipal securities sales principal and (ii) a supervisor of any persons described in (A) or (B) above; (D) any associated person who is a supervisor of any person described in (C) above up through and including, in the case of a dealer other than a bank dealer, the Chief Executive Officer or similarly situated official and, in the case of a bank dealer, the officer or officers designated by the board of directors of the bank as responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the bank’s municipal securities dealer activities, as required pursuant to Rule G-1(a); or (E) any associated person who is a member of the dealer (or, in the case of a bank dealer, the separately identifiable department or division of the bank, as defined in Rule G-1) executive or management committee or similarly situated officials, if any.
 
[3] Rule G-38 defines an affiliated person of a dealer as any person who is a partner, director, officer, employee or registered person of the dealer (or, in the case of a bank dealer, any person occupying a similar status or performing similar functions for the bank dealer) or of an affiliated company of the dealer.
 
[4] Rule G-38 defines an affiliated company of the dealer as any entity directly or indirectly controlling, controlled by, or under common control with the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer whose activities with respect to the dealer or with respect to any other affiliated company of the dealer are not limited solely to the solicitation of municipal securities business.
 
[5] Thus, the requirements of Rule G-37 would apply to the activities of such an individual as an associated person of the dealer on whose behalf the solicitation was made. In addition, other MSRB rules of fair practice and professionalism also would apply to such individual’s solicitation and other municipal securities activities undertaken on behalf of such dealer. See Exchange Act Release No. 51561 (April 15, 2005), 70 FR 20782 (April 21, 2005) (proposing File No. SR-MSRB-2005-04); Exchange Act Release No. 52278 (August 17, 2005), 70 FR 49342 (August 23, 2005) (approving File No. SR-MSRB-2005-04).
 
 
[7] In this regard, dealers should consider both oral and written statements, including but not limited to business cards and marketing materials, provided to solicited issuer personnel.
 
[8] For example, if the individual’s firm name incorporates significant elements of two affiliated dealers’ firm names, such individual would need to take extra precautions to ensure that a direct solicitation on behalf of the directly-benefited dealer does not also serve as an indirect solicitation on behalf of the other dealer.

BUILD AMERICA BONDS AND OTHER TAX CREDIT BONDS: APPLICATION OF RULE G-37 TO SOLICITATIONS OF ISSUERS - June 9, 2009

On April 24, 2009, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (the "MSRB") published Notice 2009-15 on Build America Bonds and Other Tax Credit Bonds (the "April 2009 Notice").  In the April 2009 Notice, the MSRB explained that Build America Bonds and the other tax credit bonds described in the April 2009 Notice are municipal securities and are, therefore, subject to MSRB rules, including Rule G-37 on political contributions. 

The MSRB understands that, for the purpose of obtaining municipal securities business as defined in Rule G-37,[1] personnel from the taxable desk of brokers, dealers, or municipal securities dealers ("dealers"), or personnel from other departments or divisions of dealers that do not traditionally engage in municipal securities business, may participate in presentations to potential issuers of Build America Bonds or other tax credit bonds in response to requests for proposals or in other pre-selection meetings with such potential issuers to discuss the structuring, pricing, sales, and distribution of taxable bonds.  Dealers are reminded that such participation generally will make those personnel "municipal finance professionals" under Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B), because the personnel are considered to have solicited municipal securities business.[2]

Pursuant to Rule G-37(b)(ii), political contributions made by such personnel to an official of the issuer solicited by such personnel within the two years prior to the solicitation would need to be examined by the dealer to determine whether the two-year ban on municipal securities business imposed by Rule G-37(b)(i) is triggered by the solicitation.[3]  By engaging in solicitation activities, such personnel would become municipal finance professionals and subsequent political contributions to issuer officials by such personnel would also be subject to Rule G-37.


[1] Rule G-37(g)(vii) defines municipal securities business as "(A) the purchase of a primary offering (as defined in rule A-13(f)) of municipal securities from the issuer on other than a competitive bid basis (e.g., negotiated underwritings); or (B) the offer or sale of a primary offering of municipal securities on behalf of any issuer (e.g., private placement); or (C) the provision of financial advisory or consultant services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the dealer was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis; or (D) the provision of remarketing agent services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the dealer was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis."

[2] Any associated person of a dealer who solicits municipal securities business is a municipal finance professional pursuant to Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B), regardless of whether such associated person engages in any other municipal securities activities for the dealer.  Pursuant to Rule G-37(g)(ix) and Rule G-38(b)(i), solicitation of municipal securities business consists of any direct or indirect communication with an issuer for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business.

Once a dealer has been selected to engage in the underwriting of the new issue, communications with the issuer necessary to undertake that engagement are not considered solicitations for purposes of Rule G-37.  See Rule G-38 Interpretation - Interpretive Notice on the Definition of Solicitation Under Rules G-37 and G-38 (June 8, 2006).

[3] Thus, if a municipal finance professional has made a political contribution to an official of an issuer, other than a "de minimis" contribution under Rule G-37(b), during the preceding two years, the dealer would be banned from engaging in municipal securities business with such issuer if the municipal finance professional were to participate in the solicitation of such business.  Political contributions made by a municipal finance professional to an issuer official for whom such municipal finance professional is entitled to vote are considered de minimis and would not result in a ban on municipal securities business if such contributions, in total, did not exceed $250 per election.


REMINDER REGARDING THE APPLICATION OF RULE G-37 TO FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN OF ISSUER OFFICIALS - September 11, 2008

In 1999, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) published a notice on the application of Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, to Presidential campaigns of issuer officials.[1]  In general, the notice described a 1995 interpretive letter[2] in which the Board noted that Rule G-37 is applicable to contributions given to an official of an issuer[3] who seeks election to federal office, such as the Presidency.  The Board also explained that the only exception to Rule G-37’s absolute prohibition on business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals.  Specifically, contributions by such persons to an official of an issuer would not invoke application of the prohibition if the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official, and provided that any contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election.  In the example of an issuer official running for President, any municipal finance professional in the country can contribute the de minimis amount to the official’s Presidential campaign without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  Finally, the Board noted that a Presidential candidate who has accepted public funding for the general election is prohibited under federal law from accepting any contributions to further his or her general election campaign.  In these circumstances, federal law allows individuals to contribute to the candidate’s compliance fund, which uses the contributions solely for legal and accounting services to ensure compliance with federal law and not for campaign activities.  Thus, any municipal finance professional in the country can contribute the de minimis amount to an issuer official’s compliance fund without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  This would apply if the issuer official runs for President or Vice President.

The MSRB wishes to remind dealers that these concepts also apply to an issuer official who campaigns for any federal office.  For example, any municipal finance professional residing in a state in which an issuer official is campaigning for a state-wide federal office may contribute the de minimis amount to the official’s campaign without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  The MSRB does not opine whether any particular individual is or is not an issuer official. 

The MSRB also wishes to remind dealers to be aware of the Rule G-37 issues involving indirect rule violations and contributions to non-dealer associated political action committees and payments to political parties, which issues have been the subjects of previous notices and interpretive Questions and Answers.[4]


[1] See Application of Rule G-37 to Presidential Campaigns of Issuer Officials reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2008) at 246-247.  The notice is also available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Notices section of the MSRB’s website at www.msrb.org.

[2] See MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2008) at 251-253.  The letter is also available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Letters section of the MSRB’s website at www.msrb.org.

[3] The term “official of an issuer” is defined in Rule G-37(g)(vi) as any person (including any election committee for such person) who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate: (A) for elective office of the issuer which office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by the issuer; or (B) for any elective office of a state or of any political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any person who is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by an issuer.

[4] See Notice Concerning Indirect Rule Violations: Rules G-37 and G-38, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2008) at 248-249; Rule G-37 Questions and Answers Nos.  III.4 and III.5 regarding contributions to a non-dealer associated PAC and payments to a state or local political party, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2008) at 240; and Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.7 regarding supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 2008) at 240-241.  The notice and Questions and Answers are also available on the MSRB’s website at www.msrb.org.


MSRB PUBLISHES INTERPRETIVE LETTER RELATING TO PAYMENTS TO NON-POLITICAL ACCOUNTS OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS UNDER RULE G-37 - September 25, 2007

Payments to non-political accounts of political organizations.  This is in response to your request for clarification that language relating to the “fungibility” of money included in Question and Answer No. III.8 dated September 22, 2005 (the “2005 Q&A”)[1] under Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, was not intended to be construed to prohibit all contributions to political committees, political parties, political action committees (“PACs”) and other political entities or committees within the meaning of Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code (collectively, “political organizations”) that might themselves make contributions to officials of issuers.

Rule G-37 does not prohibit contributions to political organizations or issuer officials.  Rather, contributions to officials of an issuer by a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”), a municipal finance professional (“MFP”) of the dealer, or a PAC controlled by the dealer or any of its MFPs can result in the dealer being banned from engaging in municipal securities business with such issuer for a period of two years under section (b) of the rule.[2]  Further, if a dealer is currently engaged in, or seeking to become engaged in, municipal securities business with an issuer, then such dealer and its MFPs are prohibited from soliciting or coordinating contributions to officials of such issuer under section (c) of the rule.  Section (d) of Rule G-37 provides, in part, that no dealer or MFP shall, directly or indirectly, through or by any other person or means, do any act which would result in a violation of section (b) or (c) of the rule.

The MSRB has previously provided guidance regarding the potential for payments made to political organizations or other third parties to constitute indirect contributions to issuer officials for purposes of Rule G-37(d).  In guidance published in 1996, the MSRB stated that a dealer would violate Rule G-37 by doing municipal securities business with an issuer after providing money to any person or entity when the dealer knows that such money will be given to an official of an issuer who could not receive such a contribution directly from the dealer without triggering the rule’s prohibition on municipal securities business. Further, depending on the specific facts and circumstances, a payment to a political organization that is soliciting funds for the purpose of supporting a limited number of issuer officials might result in the same prohibition on municipal securities business as would a contribution made directly to an issuer official.[3]  In such circumstances, dealers should inquire of the political organization how any funds received from the dealer would be used.[4]

In 2005, the MSRB published guidance, as a companion to the 2005 Q&A (the “2005 Companion Guidance”), to the effect that each dealer must adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures under Rule G-27, on supervision, reasonably designed to ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political organizations to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer.[5]  This guidance also included examples of certain provisions that dealers might include in their written supervisory procedures to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d).  In a subsequent interpretive letter (the “2006 Interpretation”),[6] the MSRB stated that such examples are not exclusive and are only suggestions, and that each dealer is required to evaluate its own circumstances and develop written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37(d). Thus, a dealer need not include the specific supervisory procedures described in the guidance in order to meet its obligation under Rule G-27 so long as the dealer in fact has, and enforces, other written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37(d).

In the 2005 Q&A, the MSRB stated that payments to housekeeping, conference or overhead accounts of political organizations (referred to herein, together with any other similar accounts, as “non-political accounts”) are not safe harbors under Rule G-37 and that a dealer must have adequate supervisory procedures reasonably designed to prevent a violation of Rule G-37(d) even when payments are being made to non-political accounts of political organizations.  The MSRB noted that “preemptive” instructions accompanying payments to non-political accounts of political organizations stating that the payments are not to be used for the benefit of one or a limited number of issuer officials are not considered sufficient to meet the dealer’s obligations with regard to ensuring that such payments are not being made to circumvent the requirements of Rule G-37.  Among other things, the MSRB stated that “because money is fungible, a payment made to a fund earmarked for non-issuer official elections might ‘free up’ other money to support the candidacy of specific issuer officials.”  Thus, merely limiting contributions to such non-political accounts, or merely providing preemptive instructions regarding the use of funds, does not automatically avoid the possibility of an indirect contribution under Rule G-37(d).  However, as the MSRB noted in the 2006 Interpretation, procedures permitting payments to political organizations only if made to non-political accounts and/or requiring preemptive instructions regarding the use of such payments may be elements in a supervisory program that, together with other appropriate procedures, could adequately ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d), depending on the specific facts and circumstances.

The fungibility language used in the 2005 Q&A makes clear, and the 2006 Interpretation confirms, that a dealer may not satisfy its obligation to adopt and enforce written supervisory procedures to prevent violations of Rule G-37(d) merely by limiting payments to non-political accounts of political organizations since such payments may “free up” other money that would otherwise have been used to fund such political accounts to now be used to support the candidacy of specific issuer officials.  Thus, the guidance provided in the 2005 Q&A, the 2005 Companion Guidance, and the 2006 Interpretation, as well as the MSRB’s prior guidance with respect to Rule G-37(d), is relevant for any payment to a political organization, whether such payment is provided without restriction as to its use (referred to herein as an “unrestricted payment”) or is made to a non-political account.  The fungibility language in the 2005 Q&A serves to illustrate that, in many cases, it may be reasonably foreseeable that moneys provided to non-political accounts could result in indirect contributions to issuer officials under Rule G-37(d) much in the same way as unrestricted payments.  As a result, the types of procedures (including but not limited to any due diligence procedures) that would apply to unrestricted payments generally also should apply when payments are made to non-political accounts of political organizations.[7] 

The fungibility language does not, however, cause all payments to political organizations that make contributions to issuer officials to trigger the ban on municipal securities business under Rule G-37.  Rather, as described above, it places payments to non-political accounts on relatively equal footing with unrestricted payments to political organizations regarding the need for dealers to adopt and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political organizations to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer in circumvention of the rule’s ban on municipal securities business.[8]  The procedures adopted by dealers with respect to Rule G-37(d) must be designed to address such possible circumvention, regardless of whether it is through unrestricted payments or through payments to non-political accounts. MSRB Interpretation of September 25, 2007.


[1] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.8 (September 22, 2005), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[2] Certain de minimis contributions made by MFPs to issuer officials do not trigger this ban on engaging in municipal securities business.

[3] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.4 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[4] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.5 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[5] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.7 (September 22, 2005), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[6] See Rule G-37 Interpretive Letter – Supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions:  conference accounts and 527 organizations, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[7] As noted above, the 2006 Interpretation observed that limiting payments solely to non-political accounts of political organizations may itself serve as one of the elements in a supervisory program that, together with other appropriate procedures, could adequately ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d), depending on the specific facts and circumstances.

[8] As you note in your letter, section (d) of Rule G-37 was adopted by the MSRB to prohibit dealers and their MFPs from using other persons or entities as conduits to circumvent Rule G-37’s prohibitions.  See Exchange Act Release No. 33482 (January 14, 1994), 59 FR 3389 (January 21, 1994).  See also Exchange Act Release No. 33868 (April 7, 1994), 59 FR 17621 (April 13, 1994).


REMINDER OF OBLIGATIONS UNDER RULE G-37 ON POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND RULE G-27 ON SUPERVISION WHEN SPONSORING MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES INVOLVING ISSUER OFFICIALS - March 26, 2007

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“Board” or “MSRB”) is publishing this notice to remind brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) of the possible application of Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, when dealers sponsor meetings and conferences where issuer officials are invited to attend or are featured speakers.  Dealers are responsible for ensuring that their supervisory policies and procedures established under Rule G-27, on supervision, are adequate to prevent and detect violations of MSRB rules.  Thus, it is incumbent on dealers to have appropriate supervisory procedures in place to review the nature of, and activities surrounding, the types of events discussed in this notice to ensure that Rule G-37 is not violated, directly or indirectly.

Rule G-37, in general, prohibits dealers from engaging in municipal securities business with issuers for a two-year period if certain political contributions have been made to officials of such issuers by the dealer or a municipal finance professional (“MFP”) (other than certain de minimis contributions), and requires dealers to record and disclose certain political party payments and municipal securities business to assist in severing the connection between contributions and the awarding of municipal securities business.  The rule also includes, among other things, a prohibition on dealers and their MFPs from (1) soliciting any person (including, but not limited to, any affiliated entity of the dealer) or political action committee (“PAC”) to make any contribution, or (2) coordinating any contributions to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in business.  Dealers and MFPs are prohibited from, directly or indirectly, through or by any other person or means, doing any act which would result in violation of the rule’s ban on business or prohibition on soliciting and coordinating (bundling) contributions.

A dealer sponsoring a meeting or conference where an issuer official is invited to attend or is a featured speaker should be mindful of the parameters of Rule G-37, including the prohibition on soliciting and coordinating contributions.  For example, if the issuer official (or his/her staff) solicits contributions in connection with the event, or dealer personnel solicit or coordinate contributions, such activities may constitute fundraising activities. [1]  If a determination is made, based on the particular facts and circumstances, that the event is a fundraising event for the issuer official, then expenses incurred by the dealer for hosting the event may be deemed a contribution, thereby triggering the two-year ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.  Such expenses may include, but are not limited to, the cost of the facility; the cost of refreshments; any expenses paid for administrative staff; and the payment or reimbursement of any of the issuer official’s expenses for the event. [2]

The dollar amount of an expense incurred by the dealer for hosting the event is not dispositive of whether that expense constitutes a contribution and therefore triggers the ban on municipal securities business under Rule G-37.  If, depending on the particular facts and circumstances, the event is a fundraising event, then any expense incurred by the dealer may be deemed a contribution to the issuer official, thereby triggering the two-year ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.

By publishing this notice, the MSRB is not suggesting that dealers curtail their legitimate hosting or sponsoring of meetings or conferences where issuer officials are invited to attend or are featured speakers.  However, dealers should consider carefully the true nature of such events and the possible application of Rule G-37 if the meeting or conference involves fundraising activities in support of an issuer official.

In addition to dealers’ Rule G-37 obligations, Rule G-27, on supervision, requires that dealers supervise the conduct of their municipal securities activities, and that of their associated persons, to ensure compliance with MSRB rules, and that dealers adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure such compliance.  It is therefore incumbent on dealers to have appropriate supervisory procedures in place to review the nature of, and activities surrounding, the types of events discussed in this notice to ensure that Rule G-37 is not violated, directly or indirectly. Dealers should therefore take appropriate steps to ensure that such events are not fundraising events by, among other things, ensuring that: (i) contributions are not solicited by the issuer official or his/her staff; (ii) any attendee contact information provided by the dealer is not used by the issuer official or his/her staff to solicit contributions; and (iii) contributions are not solicited, coordinated or made by dealer personnel in connection with the event. [3]


[1] The MSRB has previously stated that “Dealers may not engage in municipal securities business with issuers if they or their municipal finance professionals engage in any kind of fundraising activities for officials of such issuers….”  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 33868 (April 7, 1994), 59 FR 17621 (April 13, 1994).  See also Questions and Answers Concerning Political Contributions and Prohibitions on Municipal Securities Business: Rule G-37 (May 24, 1994), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; MSRB Interpretation of November 7, 1994 (Solicitation of Contributions), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995 (Campaign for Federal Office), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

The MSRB has stated, however, that MFPs are “free to, among other things, solicit votes or other assistance for such an issuer official so long as the solicitation does not constitute a solicitation or coordination of contributions for the official.” In upholding the constitutionality of Rule G-37, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit observed that “municipal finance professionals are not in any way restricted from engaging in the vast majority of political activities, including making direct expenditures for the expression of their views, giving speeches, soliciting votes, writing books, or appearing at fundraising events.” Blount v. SEC, 61 F.3d 938, 948 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 116 S. Ct. 1351 (1996).  However, the MSRB has stated that hosting or paying to attend a fundraising event may constitute a contribution subject to section (b) of the rule.  See Question and Answers II.11 and II.18 (May 24, 1994); see also MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995 (Campaign for Federal Office), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[2] Other amounts paid to issuer officials (such as honoraria) may be subject to Rule G-20 on gifts, gratuities and non-cash compensation, to the extent such payments are in relation to the issuer's municipal securities activities.

[3] Although Rule G-37(c) prohibits MFPs from soliciting or coordinating contributions, the MSRB has previously stated that "Whether a municipal finance professional is permitted by section (c) of the rule to indicate to third parties that someone is a 'great candidate' or to provide a list of third parties for the candidate to call would be dependent upon all the facts and circumstances surrounding such action. The facts and circumstances that may be relevant for this purpose may include, among any number of other factors, whether the municipal finance professional has made an explicit or implicit reference to campaign contributions in his or her conversations with third parties whom the candidate may contact and whether the candidate contacts such third parties seeking campaign contributions. However, the totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding any particular activity must be considered in determining whether such activity may constitute a solicitation of contributions for purposes of section (c) of the rule. Therefore, the Board cannot prescribe an exhaustive list of precautions that would assure that no violation of this section would occur as a result of such activity." See MSRB Interpretive Notice on Solicitation of Contributions (May 21, 1999), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book


Interpretive Letter: Supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions: conference accounts and 527 organizations - December 21, 2006

Supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions: conference accounts and 527 organizations.  This is in response to your request for confirmation that donations to segregated conference accounts of organizations such as the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and Republican Governors Association (RGA) do not constitute contributions to an official of an issuer within the meaning of Rule G-37(b) without an intent to use the conference accounts as a device for contributing to the election activities of individual governors or other officials of issuers.  You describe both organizations as independent, voluntary political organizations constituted under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities.  You note that the organizations’ activities have the primary purpose of influencing gubernatorial elections but also seek to conduct policy conferences and workshops to help their members and other interested parties to understand and participate in public policy questions that confront state governments.  You state that all Democratic governors are members of the DGA and all Republican governors are members of the RGA.

You further note that each organization has a wide variety of accounts into which it receives funds from individuals, organizations and other entities, with some accounts used to provide financial support to gubernatorial candidates and other accounts (including conference accounts) used exclusively to fund policy conferences.  You state that the conference accounts are segregated from accounts that provide financial support to gubernatorial candidates and that neither organization permits transfers of funds from their conference accounts to any of their other accounts, including their administrative accounts.  You represent that both organizations follow a standard practice of honoring any request by a donor to place donated funds in a conference account and that they have further committed to provide, upon a donor’s request, written confirmation prior to accepting a donation that the donated funds will be allocated to the conference account.

The MSRB cannot provide confirmation regarding the status under Rule G-37 of payments to any particular organization or account of such organization as such a determination requires an analysis of, among other things, the specific facts and circumstances of each individual payment, the written supervisory procedures of the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”), and the efforts of the dealer to enforce such procedures.  However, this letter reviews guidance previously provided by the MSRB that may assist you in undertaking such an analysis.

Under Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, contributions to officials of an issuer by a dealer, a municipal finance professional (“MFP”) of the dealer, or a political action committee (“PAC”) controlled by the dealer or an MFP can result in the dealer being banned from municipal securities business with such issuer for a period of two years.[1]  Section (d) of Rule G-37 provides, in part, that no dealer or MFP shall, directly or indirectly, through or by any other person or means, do any act which would result in a violation of the ban on municipal securities business.

The MSRB has previously provided guidance regarding the potential for payments made to political parties, PACs or others to constitute indirect contributions to issuer officials for purposes of Rule G-37(d).  In guidance published in 1996, the MSRB stated that a dealer would violate Rule G-37 by doing municipal securities business with an issuer after providing money to any person or entity when the dealer knows that such money will be given to an official of an issuer who could not receive such a contribution directly from the dealer without triggering the rule’s prohibition on municipal securities business. Further, depending on the specific facts and circumstances, a payment to a PAC or political party that is soliciting funds for the purpose of supporting a limited number of issuer officials might result in the same prohibition on municipal securities business as would a contribution made directly to an issuer official.[2]  In such circumstances, dealers should inquire of the PAC or political party how any funds received from the dealer would be used.[3]

In 2005, the MSRB published guidance on dealers’ written supervisory procedures under Rule G-27, on supervision, relating to compliance with Rule G-37(d).  The MSRB noted that each dealer must adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political parties and non-dealer controlled PACs to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer.[4]  Please note that the scope of Rule G-37(d) is not limited to the use of political parties and PACs as possible conduits for indirect contributions to issuer officials and, therefore, the need for such supervisory procedures would apply in connection with dealer and MFP payments to other types of political organizations as well, including but not limited to organizations constituted under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code.

The 2005 guidance on supervisory procedures included examples of certain provisions that dealers might include in their written supervisory procedures to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d).  The MSRB stated that such examples are not exclusive and are only suggestions, and that each dealer is required to evaluate its own circumstances and develop written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37(d).[5]  Thus, a dealer need not include the specific supervisory procedures described in the 2005 guidance in order to meet its obligation under Rule G-27(c) so long as the dealer in fact has, and enforces, other written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37(d).

The MSRB also has stated that payments to “housekeeping,” “conference” or “overhead” accounts of political parties are not safe harbors under Rule G-37 and that a dealer’s written supervisory procedures designed to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d) must take into account such payments.  The MSRB noted that “preemptive” instructions accompanying payments to housekeeping accounts of political parties stating that such payments are not to be used for the benefit of one or a limited number of issuer officials are not considered sufficient to meet the dealer’s obligations with regard to ensuring that the payment is not being made to circumvent the requirements of Rule G-37.[6]  Although payments to housekeeping, conference or overhead accounts are not safe harbors and preemptive instructions are not by themselves sufficient to establish compliance with Rule G-37(d), procedures permitting payments to political parties and other political organizations only if made to these types of accounts and/or requiring preemptive instructions regarding the use of such payments may be elements in a supervisory program that, together with other appropriate procedures, could adequately ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d), depending on the specific facts and circumstances. MSRB Interpretation of December 21, 2006.
__________

[1] MFPs may make certain de minimis contributions to issuer officials without triggering the ban on business.

[2] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.4 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[3] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.5 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[4] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.7 (September 22, 2005) (“Q&A-III.7”), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[5] See Q&A-III.7.

[6] See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.8 (September 22, 2005), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.


NOTICE CONCERNING INDIRECT RULE VIOLATIONS: RULES G-37 AND G-38 - August 6, 2003

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s (“MSRB” or “Board”) statutory mandate is to protect investors and the public interest in connection with dealers’ activities in the municipal securities market.  The municipal securities market is one of the world’s leading securities markets.  Investors hold approximately $1.6 trillion worth of municipal securities—either through direct ownership or through investment in institutional portfolios.  These investors provide much needed capital to more than 50,000 state and local governments.  Maintaining municipal market integrity is an exceptionally high priority for the Board as it seeks to foster a fair and efficient municipal securities market through dealer regulation. 

In 1994, the MSRB adopted Rule G-37 in an effort to remove the real or perceived conflict of interest of issuers who receive political contributions from dealers and award municipal securities business to such dealers.  As noted by the Court reviewing Rule G-37, “underwriters’ campaign contributions self-evidently create a conflict of interest in state and local officials who have power over municipal securities contracts and a risk that they will award the contracts on the basis of benefit to their campaign chests rather than to the governmental entity.”[1] Pay-to play harms the integrity of the underwriter selection process.

In general, Rule G-37 prohibits brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) from engaging in municipal securities business with issuers if certain political contributions have been made to officials of such issuers; prohibits dealers and municipal finance professionals (“MFP”) from soliciting or bundling contributions to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business; and requires dealers to record and disclose certain political contributions, as well as other information, to allow public scrutiny of political contributions and the municipal securities business of a dealer.  The rule also seeks to ensure that payments made to political parties by dealers, MFPs, and political action committees (“PAC”) not controlled by the dealer or MFP do not represent attempts to make indirect contributions to issuer officials in contravention of Rule G-37 by requiring dealers to record and disclose all payments made to state and local political parties.[2]  The party payment disclosure requirements were intended to assist in severing any connection between payments to political parties (even if earmarked for expenses other than political contributions) and the awarding of municipal securities business.[3] 

Although Rule G-37 initially included certain limited disclosure requirements for consultants used by dealers to obtain municipal securities business, in 1996, the MSRB adopted a separate Rule G-38, on consultants, to prevent persons from circumventing Rule G-37 through the use of consultants.  Rule G-38 currently requires dealers who use consultants[4] to evidence the consulting arrangement in writing, to disclose, in writing, to an issuer with which it is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business information on consulting arrangements relating to such issuer, and to submit to the Board, on a quarterly basis, reports of all consultants used by the dealer, amounts paid to such consultants, and certain political contribution and payment information from the consultant.

The impact of Rules G-37 and G-38 has been very positive.  The rules have altered the political contribution practices of municipal securities dealers and opened discussion about the political contribution practices of the entire municipal industry. 

While the Board is pleased with the success of these rules, it also is concerned with increasing signs that individuals and firms subject to the rules may be seeking ways around Rule G-37 through payments to political parties or non-dealer controlled PACs that find their way to issuer officials, significant political contributions by dealer affiliates (e.g., bank holding companies and affiliated derivative counterparty subsidiaries) to both issuer officials and political parties, contributions by associated persons of the dealer who are not MFPs and by the spouses and family members of MFPs to issuer officials, and the use of consultants who make or bundle political contributions.  In addition to dealer and dealer-related giving, the Board is also concerned about media and other reports regarding significant giving by other market participants, including independent financial advisors, swap advisors, swap counterparties, investment contract providers and public finance lawyers.

The MSRB is mindful that Rule G-37’s prohibitions involve sensitive constitutional issues and is reluctant to significantly broaden the scope of the rule.  The rule was constructed and will continue to be reviewed with full regard for and consideration of an individual’s right to participate fully in our political processes.  The Board, however, wishes to remind dealers that Rule G-37, as currently in effect, covers indirect as well as direct contributions to issuer officials, and to alert dealers that it has expressed its concern to the entities that enforce the Board’s rules that some of the increased political giving may indicate a rise in indirect Rule G-37 violations.  While Rule G-37 was adopted to deal specifically with contributions made to officials of issuers by dealers and MFPs, and PACs controlled by dealers or MFPs, the rule also prohibits MFPs and dealers from using conduits—be they parties, PACs, consultants, lawyers, spouses or affiliates—to contribute indirectly to an issuer official if such MFP or dealer can not give directly to the issuer without triggering the ban on business.  The MSRB will continue to work with the enforcement agencies to identify and halt abusive practices.  If, at a later date, the Board learns of specific problematic dealer practices that it believes must be addressed more directly, the Board may proceed with additional rulemaking relating to Rules G-37 and G-38. 

The Board strongly believes that pay-to-play undermines the integrity of the municipal securities industry.  Such practices are regulated not only by the specific parameters of Rule G-37, but also by the fair practice principles embodied in the MSRB’s Rule G-17, on fair dealing.  Similarly, the MSRB reminds issuers and dealers that the SEC has previously advised that, with respect to primary offering disclosure, increased attention needs to be directed at disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and material financial relationships among issuers, advisors and underwriters, including those arising from political contributions.[5]  These issuer conflicts of interest can and do arise not only from contributions made by municipal securities dealers, but also from payments by unregulated municipal securities market participants.

The costs of political campaigns are skyrocketing across the country.  The MSRB is aware of reports that elected officials, or persons acting on behalf of elected officials, are putting pressure on dealers and MFPs to find ways to contribute to the costs associated with political campaigns.  The Board also recognizes that there is significant political giving that is not by, or directed by, municipal securities dealers.  Thus, the MSRB wishes to encourage state and local governments to take a fresh look at these issues and see whether their policies and procedures should be revised to help maintain the integrity of the underwriting process.  The Board believes that it is critical that the municipal market engender the highest degree of public confidence so that investors will continue to provide much needed capital to state and local governments. 


[1] Blount v. SEC, 61 F. 3d 938 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 116 S. Ct. 1351 (1996).

[2] If a dealer or MFP is considering contributing funds to a non-dealer associated PAC or political party, Rule G-37 requires that the dealer or MFP “should inquire of the non-dealer associated PAC or political party how any funds received from the dealer or MFP would be used.”  See Questions and Answers Notice: Rule G-37, No. 2 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[3] See Securities and Exchange Act Release No. 35446 (SEC Order Approving Proposed Rule Change by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board Relating to Rule G-37 on Political Contributions and Prohibitions on Municipal Securities Business, and Rule G-8, on Recordkeeping) (March 6, 1995).

[4] Rule G-38 (a)(i) defines the term “consultant” as any person used by a dealer to obtain or retain municipal securities business through direct or indirect communication by such person with an issuer on the dealer’s behalf where the communication is undertaken by such person in exchange for, or with the understanding of receiving, payment from the dealer or any other person.

[5] See SEC Release No. 33-7049; 34-33741 (Statement of the Commission Regarding Disclosure Obligations of Municipal Issuers and Others) (March 17, 1994).


INTERPRETATION ON THE EFFECT OF A BAN ON MUNICIPAL SECURITIES BUSINESS UNDER RULE G-37 ARISING DURING A PRE-EXISTING ENGAGEMENT RELATING TO MUNICIPAL FUND SECURITIES - April 2, 2002

Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, prohibits any broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (a "dealer") from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution (other than certain de minimis contributions) to an official of such issuer made by: (i) the dealer; (ii) any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer; or (iii) any political action committee controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional. The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board ("MSRB") has received inquiries regarding the effect of a ban on municipal securities business with an issuer arising from a contribution made after a dealer has entered into a long-term contract to serve as the primary distributor of the issuer's municipal fund securities.

In an interpretive notice published in 1997 (the "1997 Interpretation"), the MSRB stated that a dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business with an issuer is allowed to continue to execute certain issue-specific contractual obligations in effect prior to the date of the contribution that caused the prohibition.[1] For example, dealers that had already executed a contract with the issuer to serve as underwriter or financial advisor for a new issue of debt securities prior to the contribution could continue in these capacities.

The 1997 Interpretation also addressed certain types of on-going, non-issue-specific municipal securities business that a dealer may have contracted with an issuer to perform prior to the making of a contribution that causes a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer. For example, the MSRB noted that a dealer may act as remarketing agent for an outstanding issue of municipal securities or may continue to underwrite a specific commercial paper program so long as the contract for such services was in effect prior to the contribution. The MSRB stated that these activities are not considered new municipal securities business and may be performed by dealers that are banned from municipal securities business with an issuer. The MSRB further stated, however, that provisions in existing contracts that allow for changes in the services provided by the dealer or compensation paid by the issuer would be viewed by the MSRB as new municipal securities business and, therefore, rule G-37 would preclude a dealer subject to a ban on municipal securities business from performing such additional functions or receiving additional compensation. The MSRB cited two examples of these types of provisions. The first involved a contract to serve as remarketing agent for a variable rate issue that might permit a fixed rate conversion, with a concomitant increase in the per bond compensation. The second example involved an agreement to underwrite a commercial paper program that might include terms for increasing the size of the program, with no increase in per bond fees but an increase in overall compensation resulting from the larger outstanding balance of commercial paper. In both cases, the MSRB viewed the exercise of these provisions as new municipal securities business that would be banned under the rule.

In the 1997 Interpretation, the MSRB recognized that there is great variety in the terms of agreements regarding municipal securities business and that its guidance in the 1997 Interpretation may not adequately deal with all such agreements. The MSRB sought input on other situations where contracts obligate dealers to perform various types of activities after the date of a contribution that triggers a ban on municipal securities business and stated that additional interpretations might be issued based upon such input.

The MSRB understands that dealers typically are selected by issuers to serve as primary distributors of municipal fund securities on terms that differ significantly from those of a dealer selected to underwrite an issue of debt securities. Issuers generally enter into long-term agreements (in many cases with terms of ten years or longer) with the primary distributor of municipal fund securities for services that include the sale in a continuous primary offering of one or more categories or classes of the securities issued within the framework of a single program of investments.[2] In addition, an issuer may often engage a particular dealer to serve as the primary distributor of its municipal fund securities as part of a team of professionals that includes the dealer's affiliated investment management firm, which is charged with managing the investment of the underlying portfolios.

The MSRB believes that the guidance provided in the 1997 Interpretation, although appropriate for the circumstances discussed therein, may not be adequate to address the unique features of municipal fund securities programs. For example, so long as a program realizes net in-flows of investor cash, the size of an offering of municipal fund securities will necessarily increase over time. Under most compensation arrangements in the market, any net in-flow of cash generally would result in an increase in total compensation, causing any new sales of municipal fund securities that exceed redemptions to be considered new municipal securities business under the 1997 Interpretation. Also, the addition by the issuer of a new category of investments (e.g., a new portfolio in an aged-based Section 529 college savings plan created for children born in the most recent year) could be considered a new offering from which such dealer might be banned, even where such new category may have been clearly contemplated at the outset of the dealer's engagement. Further, the MSRB understands that the repercussions to an issuer of municipal fund securities or investors in such securities of a sudden change in the primary distributor (and possible concurrent change in the investment manager) resulting from a ban on municipal securities business arising during the term of an existing arrangement often will be significantly greater than in the case of an underwriting or other primary market activity relating to the typical debt offering. Issuers could be faced with redesigning existing programs and investors may need to establish new relationships with different dealers in order to maintain their investments.

As a result, the MSRB believes that further interpretive guidance is necessary in this area. The MSRB is of the view that, where a dealer has become subject to a ban on municipal securities business with an issuer of municipal fund securities with which it is currently serving as primary distributor, any continued sales of existing categories of municipal fund securities for such issuer during the duration of the ban would not be considered new municipal securities business if the basis for determining compensation does not change during that period, even if total compensation increases as a result of net in-flows of cash. Further, the MSRB believes that any changes in the services to be provided by the dealer to the issuer throughout the duration of the ban that are contemplated under the pre-existing contractual arrangement (e.g., the addition of new categories of securities within the framework of the existing program) would not be considered new municipal securities business so long as such changes do not result in: (1) an increase in total compensation received by the dealer for services performed for the duration of the ban (whether paid during the ban or as a deferred payment after the ban); or (2) in an extension of the term of the dealer in its current role.


[1] See Rule G-37 Interpretation - Interpretation on Prohibition on Municipal Securities Business Pursuant to Rule G-37, February 21, 1997, MSRB Rule Book (January 2002) at 232.

[2] The various categories generally reflect interests in funds having different allocations of underlying investments. For example, a so-called Section 529 college savings plan may offer one category that represents investments primarily in equity securities and another in debt securities, or may have categories where the allocation shifts from primarily equity securities to primarily debt or money market securities as the number of years remaining until the beginning of college decreases. In the case of state and local government pools, the types of securities in the underlying portfolios may be allocated so as to create one category of short-term "money market" like investments (i.e., with net asset value maintained at approximately $1 per share) and another with a longer timeframe and fluctuating net asset value.


ACTIVITIES BY DEALERS AND MUNICIPAL FINANCE PROFESSIONALS DURING TRANSITION PERIODS FOR ELECTED ISSUER OFFICIALS - November 29, 2001

The MSRB has received inquiries on the applicability of rule G-37 to certain activities by dealers and municipal finance professionals relating to the transition period during which an issuer official has won an election but has not yet taken office.  The definition of “contribution” in rule G-37(g)(i) includes any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made for transition or inaugural expenses incurred by the successful candidate.

The MSRB stated in a Question and Answer Notice dated May 24, 1994 (Q&A number 24) that rule G-37 is not intended to prohibit or restrict municipal finance professionals from engaging in personal volunteer work; however, if the municipal finance professional uses the dealer’s resources (e.g., a political position paper prepared by dealer personnel) or incurs expenses in the conduct of such volunteer work (e.g., hosting a reception), then the value of such resources or expenses would constitute a contribution.  In addition, personal expenses incurred by the municipal finance professional in the conduct of such volunteer work, which expenses are purely incidental to such work and unreimbursed by the dealer (e.g., cab fares and personal meals), would not constitute a contribution.  In a Question and Answer Notice dated August 18, 1994 (Q&A number 3), the MSRB stated that an employee of a dealer generally can donate his or her time to an issuer official’s campaign without this being viewed as a contribution by the dealer to the official, as long as the employee is volunteering his or her time during non-work hours, or is using previously accrued vacation time or the dealer is not otherwise paying the employee’s salary (e.g., an unpaid leave of absence).  Thus, rule G-37 does not prohibit a municipal finance professional from serving on an issuer official’s transition team or performing other transition-related activities; however, as noted above, the use of dealer resources in connection with such activity would be considered a contribution by the dealer to the issuer official thereby resulting in the dealer being prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with the issuer for two years.

The MSRB also recognizes that dealers and their municipal finance professionals may solicit issuer officials for municipal securities business during the transition period prior to these officials taking office.  In the course of making such solicitations, dealers may sometimes prepare and present materials such as financing plans and economic development studies.  The provision of these types of materials to an issuer official during the transition period would not constitute contributions under rule G-37 if performed as part of a solicitation for municipal securities business.

Finally, in a Question and Answer Notice dated September 9, 1997 (Q&A number 1), the MSRB addressed whether a municipal finance professional who is entitled to vote for an issuer official may make contributions to pay for such official’s transition or inaugural expenses without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer.  If a municipal finance professional contributed $250 to the general election of an issuer official, the municipal finance professional would not be able to make any contributions to pay for transition or inaugural expenses without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer.  If a municipal finance professional made no contributions to an issuer official prior to the election, then the municipal finance professional may, if entitled to vote for the candidate, contribute up to $250 to pay for transition or inaugural expenses and payment of debt incurred in connection with the election without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business.


Municipal finance professional: supervisor - November 23, 1999

Municipal finance professional: supervisor.  This is in response to your inquiry seeking guidance regarding the possible classification as a municipal finance professional under rule G-37 of a Taxable Department Head at your firm. You stated that the Taxable Department Head is the direct supervisor of a Branch Manager and this Branch Manager manages a sales representative who has solicited municipal securities business from an issuer. You state that it is clear that the Branch Manager and the sales representative are both municipal finance professionals. However, you further state that the Taxable Department Head has delegated all Public Finance/Municipal oversight responsibilities to the Public Finance Department Head for the Taxable Department Head's personnel. You ask whether, under these circumstances, the Taxable Department Head would be considered a municipal finance professional under rule G-37 as a result of his or her supervisory position.

The term "municipal finance professional" is defined in rule G-37(g)(iv). Clauses (C) and (D) of the definition set forth the basis for considering an associated person of a dealer to be a municipal finance professional as a result of his or her supervisory position. Clause (C) includes any associated person who is both (i) either a municipal securities principal or municipal securities sales principal and (ii) a supervisor of any associated person either primarily engaged in municipal securities representative activities or who solicits municipal securities business (referred to herein as a "primary municipal securities supervisor"). Clause (D) includes any associated person who is a supervisor of a primary municipal securities supervisor up through and including (in the case of a non-bank dealer) the Chief Executive Officer or similarly situation official (referred to herein as a "secondary municipal securities supervisor").

Unlike in the case of a primary municipal securities supervisor, a secondary municipal securities supervisor is not required to be a municipal securities principal or municipal securities sales principal. The status of a secondary municipal securities supervisor as a municipal finance professional is not conditioned on the areas in which such supervisor has responsibility over a primary municipal securities supervisor, so long as such secondary municipal securities supervisor retains some degree of supervisory responsibility (whether or not relating to municipal securities activities) over the primary municipal securities supervisor.  MSRB interpretation of November 23, 1999.


Solicitation of contributions - May 21, 1999

Solicitation of contributions.  This is in response to your letter in which you summarize your understanding of our telephone conversation relating to section (c) of rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. As I noted during our conversation, the Board’s rules, including rule G-37, apply solely to brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”). The Board’s rulemaking authority, granted under Section 15B of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, does not extend to issuers of municipal securities. Thus, rule G-37 does not impose any obligations upon issuers or officials of issuers. Although the Board appreciates your interest in not placing dealers and their associated persons in a position to violate their obligations under the rule, it is ultimately the responsibility of such dealers and associated persons, in consultation with appropriate compliance personnel, to ensure compliance with Board rules.

As you know, rule G-37(c) provides that no dealer or municipal finance professional shall solicit any person or political action committee to make any contribution, or shall coordinate any contributions, to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business. The Board has previously stated that this provision would:

prohibit a dealer and any municipal finance professional from soliciting . . . any other person or entity, to make contributions to an official of an issuer with which the dealer engages or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business or to coordinate (i.e., bundle) contributions. . .[*] [M]unicipal finance professionals may volunteer their personal services in other ways to political campaigns.[1]

You had sought guidance regarding what activities would be covered by this provision of the rule. As you noted in your letter, I had indicated that the term “solicit” is not explicitly defined for purposes of section (c) of the rule. I had stated that whether a particular activity can be characterized as a solicitation of a contribution for purposes of section (c) is dependent upon the facts and circumstances surrounding such activity. I had noted, however, that the rule does not prohibit or restrict municipal finance professionals from engaging in personal volunteer work, unless such work constituted solicitation or bundling of contributions for an official of an issuer with which the municipal finance professional’s dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business[2] Municipal finance professionals are therefore free to, among other things, solicit votes or other assistance for such an issuer official so long as the solicitation does not constitute a solicitation or coordination of contributions for the official. [3]

Whether a municipal finance professional is permitted by section (c) of the rule to indicate to third parties that someone is a “great candidate” or to provide a list of third parties for the candidate to call would be dependent upon all the facts and circumstances surrounding such action. The facts and circumstances that may be relevant for this purpose may include, among any number of other factors, whether the municipal finance professional has made an explicit or implicit reference to campaign contributions in his or her conversations with third parties whom the candidate may contact and whether the candidate contacts such third parties seeking campaign contributions. However, the totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding any particular activity must be considered in determining whether such activity may constitute a solicitation of contributions for purposes of section (c) of the rule. Therefore, the Board cannot prescribe an exhaustive list of precautions that would assure that no violation of this section would occur as a result of such activity.  MSRB interpretation of May 21, 1999.
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[1] MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 5. See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 33868 (April 7, 1994), 59 FR 17621 (April 13, 1994). See also Questions and Answers Concerning Political Contributions and Prohibitions on Municipal Securities Business: Rule G-37, May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; MSRB Interpretation of November 7, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book. Furthermore, the Board stated in its filing of the rule with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the rule’s “anti-solicitation and anti-bundling proscriptions are intended to prohibit covered parties from: (i) soliciting others, including spouses and family members, to make contributions to issuer officials; and (ii) coordinating, or soliciting others to coordinate, contributions to issuer officials in order to influence the awarding of municipal securities business.” SEC File No. SR-MSRB-94-2.

[2] See Question and Answer No. 24, May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; Question and Answer No. 3, August 18, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book. In addition, if the municipal finance professional used dealer resources or incurred expenses that could be considered contributions in the course of undertaking such volunteer work, the ban on municipal securities business under section (b) of the rule could be triggered.

[3] In upholding the constitutionality of rule G-37, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit observed that “municipal finance professionals are not in any way restricted from engaging in the vast majority of political activities, including making direct expenditures for the expression of their views, giving speeches, soliciting votes, writing books, or appearing at fundraising events.” Blount v. SEC, 61 F.3d 938, 948 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 116 S. Ct. 1351 (1996). However, the Board has stated that hosting or paying to attend a fundraising event may constitute a contribution subject to section (b) of the rule. See Questions and Answers Nos. 24 and 29, May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[*][sentence deleted to reflect current rule provisions.]


APPLICATION OF RULE G-37 TO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS OF ISSUER OFFICIALS - March 23, 1999

In response to numerous calls on this subject, the Board wishes to reiterate its position on the application of rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, to Presidential campaigns of issuer officials. The Board directs persons interested in contributing to an issuer official's Presidential campaign to the MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995 (the “1995 Interpretive Letter”).[1]

Rule G-37, among other things, prohibits a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”) from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of an issuer made by the dealer; any municipal finance professional associated with the dealer; or any political action committee controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional. In the 1995 Interpretive Letter, the Board noted that rule G-37 is applicable to contributions given to officials of issuers who seek election to federal office, such as the Presidency. The Board also explained that the only exception to rule G-37's absolute prohibition on business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals.[2] Specifically, contributions by such persons to officials of issuers would not invoke application of the prohibition if the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official, and provided that any contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election. In the example of an issuer official running for President, any municipal finance professional in the country can contribute the de minimis amount to the official's Presidential campaign without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer.

The Board previously has stated that, if an issuer official is involved in a primary election prior to the general election, a municipal finance professional who is entitled to vote for such official may contribute up to $250 for the primary election and $250 for the general election to each such official.[3] In the context of a Presidential campaign, the Board notes that the $250 de minimis amount applies to the entire primary process, up through and including the national party convention. While rule G-37 allows a municipal finance professional to then contribute another $250 to the party candidate's general election campaign fund, the Board understands that a Presidential candidate who has accepted public funding for the general election is prohibited under federal law from accepting any contributions to further his or her general election campaign.

Finally, the Board also notes that rule G-37(c) provides that no dealer or municipal finance professional shall solicit any person or political action committee to make any contributions, or shall coordinate any contributions, to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business.


[1] The 1995 Interpretive Letter is reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 1999) at 201-203. It also is available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Letters section of the Board's Web site at www.msrb.org.

[2] The term “municipal finance professional” is a defined term in rule G-37(g)(iv). The Board wishes to remind dealers that the term is broader than persons directly involved in municipal securities activities and may include certain supervisors, including in the case of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer other than a bank dealer, the Chief Executive Officer, and in the case of a bank dealer, the officer or officers designated by the board of directors of the bank as responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the bank's municipal securities dealer activities. It also may include members of the dealer's executive or management committee or similarly situated officials. See Question and Answer number 2 dated May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 1999) at 192; MSRB Reports , Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 13; Question and Answer number 3 dated September 9, 1997, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 1999) at 199. The Questions and Answers also are available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Notice section of the Board's Web site at www.msrb.org.

[3] See Question and Answer number 10 dated May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (January 1, 1999) at 192; MSRB Reports , Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 13. The Question and Answer also is available from the MSRB Rules/Interpretive Notice section of the Board's Web site at www.msrb.org.


INTERPRETATION OF PROHIBITION ON MUNICIPAL SECURITIES BUSINESS PURSUANT TO RULE G-37 - February 21, 1997

Recently, dealers have raised questions regarding how the prohibition on municipal securities business in rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, applies to certain situations. Rule G-37 prohibits any dealer from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer made by: (i) the dealer; (ii) any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer; or (iii) any political action committee controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional.[1] If a municipal finance professional makes a political contribution to an issuer official for whom he is not entitled to vote, the dealer is prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with that issuer for two years. The Board has been asked whether the prohibition on municipal securities business extends to certain services provided under contractual agreements with an issuer that pre-date the contribution. The Board is issuing the following interpretation of the prohibition on municipal securities business pursuant to rule G-37.

"New" Municipal Securities Business

 A dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business with an issuer may not enter into any new contractual obligations with that issuer for municipal securities business.[2] The Board adopted rule G-37 in an effort to sever any connection between the making of political contributions and the awarding of municipal securities business. The Board believes that the problems associated with political contributions––including the practice known as "pay-to-play"––undermine investor confidence in the municipal securities market, which confidence is crucial to the long-term health of the market, both in terms of liquidity and capital-raising ability.

Pre-Existing Issue-Specific Contractual Undertakings

The Board believes that it is consistent with the intent of rule G-37 that a dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business with an issuer be allowed to continue to execute certain issue-specific contractual obligations in effect prior to the date of the contribution that caused the prohibition. For example, if a bond purchase agreement was signed prior to the date of the contribution, a dealer may continue to perform its services as an underwriter on the issue. Also, if an issue-specific agreement for financial advisory services was in effect prior to the date of the contribution, the dealer may continue in its role as financial advisor for that issue. In the same manner, a dealer may act as remarketing agent or placement agent for an issue and also may continue to underwrite a commercial paper program as long as the contract to perform these services was in effect prior to the date of the contribution. Subject to the limitations noted below, these activities are not considered new municipal securities business and thus can be performed by dealers under a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer.

Dealers also have asked questions regarding certain terms in contracts to provide on-going municipal securities business that allow for additional services or compensation. For example, a dealer may have an agreement to provide remarketing services for a municipal securities issue, the terms of which allow the issuer to change the "mode" of the outstanding bonds from variable to a fixed rate of interest or from Rule 2a-7 eligible to non-Rule 2a-7 eligible. [3] Generally, the per bond fee increases if the dealer sells fixed rate municipal securities or non-money market fund securities. Also, an agreement to underwrite a commercial paper program may include terms for increasing the size of the program. While the per bond fee probably does not increase if more commercial paper is underwritten, the amount of money paid to the dealer does increase. The Board views the provisions in existing contracts that allow for changes in the services provided by the dealer or compensation paid by the issuer as new municipal securities business and, therefore, rule G-37 precludes a dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business from performing such additional functions or receiving additional compensation.

Non-Issue Specific Contractual Undertakings

Dealers also at times enter into long-term contracts with issuers for municipal securities business, e.g., a five-year financial advisory agreement. If a contribution is given after such a non-issue-specific contract is entered into that results in a prohibition on municipal securities business, the Board believes the dealer should not be allowed to continue with the municipal securities business, subject to an orderly transition to another entity to perform such business. This transition should be as short a period of time as possible and is intended to give the issuer the opportunity to receive the benefit of the work already provided by the dealer and to find a replacement to complete the work, as needed.

* * *

The Board recognizes that there is a great variety in the terms of agreements regarding municipal securities business and that the interpretation noted above may not adequately deal with all such agreements. Thus, the Board is seeking comment on how a prohibition on municipal securities business pursuant to rule G-37 affects contracts for municipal securities business entered into with issuers prior to the date of the contribution triggering the prohibition on business. In particular, the Board is seeking comment on other examples whereby a dealer may be contractually obligated to perform certain activities after the date of the triggering contribution. If other examples are provided, the Board would like comments on how these situations should be addressed pursuant to rule G-37.

Based upon the comments received on this notice, the Board may issue additional interpretations or amend the language of rule G-37. 


[1] The only exception to rule G-37’s absolute prohibition on municipal securities business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals. Contributions by such persons to officials of issuers do not invoke application of the prohibition on business if (i) the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official and (ii) contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election.

[2] The term "municipal securities business" is defined in the rule to encompass certain activities of dealers, such as acting as negotiated underwriters (as managing underwriter or as syndicate member), financial advisors, placement agents and negotiated remarketing agents. The rule does not prohibit dealers from engaging in business awarded on a competitive bid basis.

[3] SEC Rule 2a-7 under the Investment Company Act of 1940 defines eligible securities for inclusion in money market funds



Financial advisor to conduit borrower - January 23, 1997

Financial advisor to conduit borrower.  This is in response to your letter concerning rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. You state that your firm served as financial advisor to the underlying borrower, not the governmental issuer, for a certain issue of municipal securities. You ask whether you are required to report this financial advisory activity on Form G-37/G-38.

Rule G-37(g)(vii) defines the term "municipal securities business" to include "the provision of financial advisory or consultant services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a primary offering of municipal securities in which the dealer was chosen to provide such services on other than a competitive bid basis." If the financial advisory services your firm provided were to the underlying borrower and not "to or on behalf of an issuer,"[1] then your firm was not engaging in "municipal securities business" and these financial advisory services are not required to be reported on Form G-37/G-38.  MSRB interpretation of January 23, 1997.
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[1] Rule G-37(g)(ii) defines "issuer" as the governmental issuer specified in section 3(a)(29) of the Securities Exchange Act.


Campaign for federal office - May 31, 1995

Campaign for federal office. This is in response to your letter dated May 5, 1995, concerning the application of the Board's rule G-37 to a campaign for President of the United States. You ask specifically about the application of rule G-37 to contributions to Governor [name deleted] presidential campaign. The Board reviewed your letter at its May 18-19, 1995 meeting and has authorized this response.

As you know, rule G-37, among other things, prohibits any broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (dealer) from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer made by: (i) the dealer; (ii) any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer; or (iii) any political action committee controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional. The only exception to rule G-37's absolute prohibition on business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals. Specifically, contributions by such persons to officials of issuers would not invoke application of the prohibition if the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official, and provided that any contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election. Rule G-37(g)(i) defines the term "contribution" as any "gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made: (A) for the purpose of influencing any election for federal, state or local office..."

The Board previously has clarified that rule G-37 does not encompass all contributions to candidates for federal office. Rather, for federal office, the rule encompasses only those contributions to a current issuer official who is seeking election to federal office.[1]

You ask whether the Governor of [a state] is an "official of an issuer" for purposes of rule G-37. Rule G-37(g)(vi) defines the term "official of an issuer" as "any person (including any election committee for such person) who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate: (A) for elective office of the issuer which office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by the issuer; or (B) for any elective office of a state or of any political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any official(s) of an issuer..." as defined above. The Board has not provided any exemptions from, or exception to, the definition "official of an issuer" as set forth in rule G-37.

The Board does not make determinations concerning whether a particular individual meets the definition of "official of an issuer." The Board believes that because such determinations may involve particular issues of fact, such decisions must generally be the dealer's responsibility. The Board has, however, provided guidance in this area by recommending that dealers review the scope of authority conferred upon the particular office (and not the individual) to determine whether the office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a dealer for municipal securities business.[2] For example, a state may have certain issuing authorities whose boards of directors are appointed by the governor. In such circumstances, the Board previously has stated that it intended to include the governor as an official of the issuer.a [3]

You ask whether rule G-37 applies to candidates for President of the United States. As noted above, the term "contribution" as defined in rule G-37(g)(i) includes payments "for the purpose of influencing any election for federal, state or local office." [Emphasis added]. Thus, rule G-37 is applicable to contributions given to officials of issuers who seek election to federal office, such as the House of Representatives, the Senate or the Presidency.

You ask whether rule G-37 unfairly impinges upon Governor [name deleted] equal protection and freedom of speech and association rights in the context of the Presidential election since he is, at this time, the only candidate with respect to whom those covered by the rule face "disqualification" from municipal securities business for making contributions. You also state that rule G-37 violates the First Amendment rights of association or speech by limiting the ability of municipal finance professionals to contribute to Governor [name deleted] presidential campaign. In its order approving rule G-37, the Securities and Exchange Commission stated that:

any resulting hardship to candidates for federal office who are currently local officials is not a reason for eliminating these requirements. The MSRB cannot overlook potential conflicts of interest solely because there are candidates for the same federal office who do not face the same conflicts. In any event, the resulting burden to current local officials does not appear to be significant.[4]

The Board believes that rule G-37 is not the product of governmental action and is not subject to Constitutional review. However, as you may be aware, these issues currently are pending before the D.C. Court of Appeals.

You ask whether the creation of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority means that the President of the United States is an "official of an issuer" and that all candidates for President now fall under rule G-37. Rule G-37(g)(vi) defines "official of an issuer" as "any person ... who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate: (A) for elective office of the issuer which office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by the issuer; or (B) for any elective office of a state or political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any official(s) of an issuer." [Emphasis added]. The President does not hold an elective office of an "issuer" of municipal securities. In addition, the President is not, and would not become, an issuer official by virtue of his authority to appoint members to the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority because the Presidency is not an elective office of a state or political subdivision.

You ask a number of questions concerning what activities are permissible by those individuals covered by the rule. You ask whether the $250 de minimis contribution exception in rule G-37 applies to Presidential candidates. As noted previously, the only exception to rule G-37's absolute prohibition on business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals. Specifically, contributions by such persons to officials of issuers would not invoke application of the prohibition if the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official, and provided that any contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election. The Board previously has stated that, if an issuer official is involved in a primary election prior to the general election, the municipal finance professional who is entitled to vote for such official may contribute up to $250 for the primary election and $250 for the general election to each such official.[5]

[Two paragraphs deleted.][6]

You ask whether an individual covered by rule G-37 may raise money from others on behalf of Governor [name deleted]. Rule G-37(c) provides that no dealer or any municipal finance professional shall solicit any person or political action committee to make any contribution, or shall coordinate any contributions, to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business. A violation of rule G-37(c) does not trigger a two-year ban on engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer; however, if the appropriate enforcement agency finds that a violation of rule G-37(c) has occurred, the enforcement agency will determine the appropriate sanction.[7] You ask whether the de minimis exception applies to solicited and bundled contributions of $250 and less. Solicitations of contributions are prohibited by the rule (for those covered); therefore, there is no de minimis exception.

You ask whether a covered individual may hold a party in his home for a Presidential candidate if contributions are raised at the party. The Board has stated that rule G-37 is not intended to restrict municipal finance professionals from engaging in personal volunteer work.[8] Personal expenses incurred by the municipal finance professional in the conduct of such volunteer work, which expenses are purely incidental to such work and unreimbursed by the dealer (e.g., cab fares and personal meals), would not constitute a contribution. However, the expenses incurred for hosting a party to solicit contributions would be viewed as a contribution.[9] The Board also has stated that if a dealer's or a municipal finance professional's name appears on fundraising literature for an issuer official for which the dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business then there is a presumption that such activity is a solicitation by the dealer or municipal finance professional in violation of section (c) of the rule.[10] 

Finally, you ask whether spouses and eligible children of covered personnel may contribute to a Presidential candidate. The Board has stated that contributions to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals' spouses and household members are not covered by rule G-37 unless these contributions are directed by the municipal finance professional, which is prohibited by section (d) of the rule.[11] MSRB interpretation of May 31, 1995.
__________

[1] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 14.

[2] Id.

[3] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 4 (August 1994) at 24.

[4] See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 33868 (April 7, 1994) at 41-42; 59 FR 17621.

[5] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 13.

[6] An interpretation on determining whether a municipal finance professional is "entitled to vote" for an issuer official was withdrawn by the Board in January 1996. The Board has issued a revised interpretation of "entitled to vote" which states that a municipal finance professional is "entitled to vote" for an issuer official if the municipal finance professional's principal residence is in the locality in which the issuer official seeks election. In such instances, a municipal finance professional is able to make a de minimis contribution without resulting in a ban on municipal securities business. For example, if an issuer official is a governor running for re-election, anyone residing in that state may make a de minimis contribution to the official without causing a ban on municipal securities business with that issuer. In the example of an issuer official running for President, anyone in the country can contribute the de minimis amount to the official's Presidential campaign. The Securities and Exchange Commission approved this revision on February 16, 1996. See MSRB Reports, Vol. 16. No. 1 (January 1996) at 31-34.

[7] The enforcement agencies are: for securities firms, the National Association of Securities Dealers; and for bank dealers, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve Board, or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

[8] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 15.

[9] Id.

[10] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 5 (December 1994) at 17.

[11] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 15.


Solicitation of contributions - November 7, 1994

Solicitation of contributions. This is in response to your letter dated September 29, 1994 regarding rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. You review a situation regarding a municipal finance professional's participation in a fundraising event for a certain state official. You seek guidance on two matters. First, you inquire whether the activities of the municipal finance professional in connection with this fundraiser constitute a violation of the solicitation prohibition in rule G-37(c). Second, you inquire that, if a violation of rule G-37(c) occurred, would such violation subject your firm to a two-year ban on municipal securities business with the state. The Board has reviewed your letter and authorized this response.

Rule G-37(b) prohibits dealers from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer made by: (i) the dealer; (ii) any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer; or (iii) any political action committee controlled by the dealer or municipal finance professional.[1] Rule G-37(c) provides that no dealer or any municipal finance professional shall solicit any person or political action committee to make any contribution, or shall coordinate any contributions, to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business.

With regard to your first inquiry, the Board is not the appropriate authority to determine whether in this instance the municipal finance professional's activities amounted to a solicitation of contributions in violation of rule G-37(c). While the Board has authority to adopt rules concerning transactions in municipal securities effected by brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers, it has no enforcement authority over dealers; that authority is vested with the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD) for securities firms. Whether a particular activity should be characterized as a solicitation of a contribution and a violation of the rule is fact specific, and further inquiry and investigation may be appropriate prior to a determination of violation. The Board believes that it is more appropriate for the NASD to make such inquiries and determinations. Your letter has been forwarded to the NASD for its review.

The Board believes, however, that if a dealer's or a municipal finance professional's name appears on fundraising literature for an issuer official for which the dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business, there is a presumption that such activity is a solicitation by the named party.

With regard to your second inquiry, a violation of rule G-37(c) does not trigger a two-year ban on engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer. If the NASD finds a violation of rule G-37(c) has occurred, the NASD will determine the appropriate sanction.

Finally, rule G-27, on supervision, requires each dealer to adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance with Board rules, including rule G-37. In view of the significant penalties associated with rule G-37, including a two-year ban on municipal securities business with an issuer in certain cases, effective compliance procedures are essential. We recognize that some dealers may focus their compliance procedures on the areas in the rule concerning certain political contributions. Rule G-37 has other important provisions, however, such as the prohibition against certain solicitations and the recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Given the situation presented in your letter, your firm may wish to review its procedures to determine whether they are sufficient to ensure compliance with all provisions of rule G-37. MSRB Interpretation of November 7, 1994.

__________

[1]  The prohibition does not apply if the only contributions to officials of issuers are made by municipal finance professionals entitled to vote for such officials, and provided, such contributions, in total, are not in excess of $250 by each such municipal finance professional to each official of such issuer, per election.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS CONCERNING POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND PROHIBITIONS ON MUNICIPAL SECURITIES BUSINESS: RULE G-37 - May 24, 1994

All Rule G-37 interpretive guidance for dealers shall apply to the analogous interpretive issues for municipal advisors. See Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change Consisting of Proposed Amendments to Rule G-37, on Political Contributions and Municipal Securities Business, Rule G-8, on Books and Records, Rule G-9 on Preservation of Records, and Form G-37 and G-37x, Release No. 34-76763 (December 16, 2015), 80 FR 81710, at 81718, 81735 (December 30, 2015) (File No. SR-MSRB-2015-14).


I. PERSONS/ENTITIES SUBJECT TO THE RULE

I.1
Q: To whom does Rule G-37 apply?
A: In general, Rule G-37 applies to brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (collectively referred to as dealers), municipal finance professionals, and PACs controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional. In addition, the recordkeeping and disclosure provisions apply to non-MFP executive officers of the dealer.

(May 24, 1994)

II. PROHIBITION ON ENGAGING IN MUNICIPAL SECURITIES BUSINESS (Rule G-37(b))

II.1
Q: What actions would cause a dealer to be prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer?
A:
Rule G-37(b) prohibits a dealer from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer made by: (i) the dealer, (ii) any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer; or (iii) any PAC controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional.

(May 24, 1994)

II.2
Q: Is there an exception to this prohibition on engaging in municipal securities business?
A: There is one exception to Rule G-37(b). The prohibition does not apply if the only contributions to officials of issuers are made by municipal finance professionals entitled to vote for such officials, and provided such contributions, in total, are not in excess of $250 by each such municipal finance professional to each official of such issuer, per election.

(May 24, 1994)

II.3
Q: What is the municipal securities business that a dealer would be banned from engaging in with an issuer if certain political contributions are made to officials of such issuers?
A: The term "municipal securities business" is defined in Rule G-37(g)(vii) to encompass certain activities of dealers, such as acting as negotiated underwriters (as managing underwriter or as syndicate member), financial advisors and consultants, placement agents, and negotiated remarketing agents. The rule does not prohibit a dealer from engaging in competitive underwritings or competitive remarketing services for the issuer.

(May 24, 1994)

II.4
Q: If a non-MFP executive officer makes a contribution to an official of an issuer, is the dealer prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with that issuer?
A:
No. The prohibition section applies only to contributions made by the dealer, its municipal finance professionals, or any PAC controlled by the dealer or any of its municipal finance professionals. The definition of non-MFP executive officer does not include any municipal finance professional. However, contributions by non-MFP executive officers are subject to the reporting/disclosure provisions of the rule. In addition, pursuant to section (d), dealers are prohibited from using non-MFP executive officers (as well as any other person or entity) as a conduit for making contributions to officials of issuers.

(May 24, 1994)

II.5
Q: Would a dealer be prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with a state agency, whose board members are appointed by the governor, if the dealer makes contributions to the governor?
A: Yes, the definition of “official of an issuer” in Rule G-37(g)(vi) includes any person who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate for any elective office of a state or of any political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any person who is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by an issuer.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

II.6
Q: May a municipal finance professional who is entitled to vote for an issuer official make contributions to pay for such official’s transition or inaugural expenses without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer?
A: Yes, under certain conditions. The de minimis exception allows a municipal finance professional to contribute up to $250 per candidate per election if the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for that issuer official. The de minimis exception is keyed to an election cycle; therefore, if a municipal finance professional contributed $250 to the general election of an issuer official, the municipal finance professional would not be able to make any contributions to pay for transition or inaugural expenses without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer. If a municipal finance professional made no contributions to an issuer official prior to the election, then the municipal finance professional may, if entitled to vote for the candidate, contribute up to $250 to pay for transition or inaugural expenses and payment of debt incurred in connection with the election without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business.

(September 9, 1997)

II.7
Q: Are any payments made to issuer officials, other than political contributions, covered by the rule?
A:
No. However, any other payments may be subject to Rule G‑20 on gifts and gratuities.

(May 24, 1994)

Primary, State Caucus or Convention

II.8
Q: If an issuer official is involved in a primary election prior to the general election, may a municipal finance professional who is entitled to vote for such official contribute $250 to the issuer official's primary as well as general election?
A:
Yes, the municipal finance professional could contribute up to $500 to each such official (i.e., $250 per election).

(May 24, 1994)

II.9
Q: If the locality in which the incumbent or candidate is seeking election as an issuer official holds a convention or caucus (instead of a primary election) prior to the general election, may a municipal finance professional entitled to vote in that locality contribute $250 to the incumbent or candidate's convention or caucus election campaign, as well as $250 to the incumbent or candidate's general election, without causing a ban on municipal securities business with the issuer?
A: Yes, if the issuer official has been qualified to be considered at the state caucus or convention.

(June 15, 1995)

MFP as Incumbent or Candidate

II.10
Q: If a municipal finance professional also is an incumbent or candidate for political office in a municipality in which the municipal finance professional's employer (i.e., the dealer) conducts municipal securities business, must the dealer terminate the municipal finance professional or are there any restrictions on the kind of business a dealer can engage in with that issuer?
A: No. However, the dealer, any municipal finance professional and any PAC controlled by the dealer or municipal finance professional must ensure that the dealer does not engage in municipal securities business with the issuer if contributions (other than the de minimis contributions allowed under section (b)) are made to an official of the issuer. The municipal finance professional who is an incumbent or candidate for office is not limited to contributing the de minimis amount to his or her own campaign in such instances.

(May 24, 1994)

Attendance at Fund-Raising Dinner

II.11
Q: May a dealer continue to engage in municipal securities business with an issuer if a municipal finance professional pays for and attends a fund-raising dinner for a candidate who is seeking election to a position as an official of such issuer?
A: A municipal finance professional who contributes funds in this instance would subject the dealer to a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer unless the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such candidate and any contributions do not exceed $250 to such candidate per election. In addition, any municipal finance professional who attends the dinner for the purpose of soliciting contributions by others for the issuer official would violate Rule G-37's prohibition on soliciting contributions. See also Rule G-37(c).

(May 24, 1994)

Two-Year Look Back

II.12
Q: A municipal finance professional (i.e., a municipal investment banker subject to the two year look back) was associated with dealer X at the time he made a contribution which resulted in the dealer being prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with the issuer. Then, less than two years after making the contribution, the municipal finance professional becomes associated with dealer Y. Is dealer Y also subject to the prohibition on business?
A: Both dealers are subject to the prohibition for two years from the date the municipal finance professional made the contribution. Of course, dealer Y's prohibition on business only begins when the municipal finance professional becomes associated with that dealer.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

II.13
Q: Prior to becoming associated with any dealer, a person makes a contribution to an issuer official. Less than two years after making the contribution, that person becomes a municipal finance professional (i.e., a municipal investment banker subject to the two year look back). Would the hiring dealer be prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with that issuer?
A: Yes. Rule G-37 attempts to sever any connection between the making of contributions and the awarding of municipal securities business by prohibiting the dealer from engaging in municipal securities business with the issuer for two years from the date the contribution was made. As noted above, the dealer's prohibition on business would begin when the municipal finance professional becomes associated with that dealer. Thus, if the individual was hired, for example, six months after making the contribution, then the dealer's prohibition on business would extend for one and one half years.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

II.14
Q: If a dealer hires an individual as a retail sales person, would the contributions made by that person prior to being hired subject the dealer to the two-year prohibition on municipal securities business?
A: The rule's two-year prohibition is triggered by contributions by dealers, municipal finance professionals, and political action committees controlled by a dealer or a municipal finance professional. If a retail sales person is not a municipal finance professional and does not become a municipal finance professional within two years after making a contribution to an issuer official, then such contributions will not trigger the ban on business. However, if the retail sales person is, or within two years becomes, a municipal finance professional (e.g., by solicitation of officials of an issuer), then contributions made by that person will subject the hiring dealer to the two-year ban on business. A retail sales person would not be considered to be a municipal finance professional solely because of his or her municipal securities retail sales activities. (See Rule G-37(g)(iv)).

(December 7, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

II.15
Q: A person is associated with a dealer in a non-municipal finance professional capacity, and makes a contribution to an issuer official. Less than two years after making the contribution, that person becomes a municipal finance professional (i.e., a municipal investment banker subject to the two year look back). Would the dealer be prohibited from engaging in a negotiated underwriting with that issuer?
A: Yes, the dealer is subject to the prohibition for two years from the date the contribution was made.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

II.16
Q: A person is associated with a dealer in a non-municipal finance professional capacity and makes a political contribution to an official of an issuer for whom such person is not entitled to vote. Less than two years after such person made the contribution, the dealer merges with another dealer and, solely as a result of the merger, that person becomes a municipal finance professional of the surviving dealer. Would the surviving dealer be prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with that issuer?
A: Yes. Rule G-37 would prohibit the surviving dealer from engaging in municipal securities business with the issuer for two years from the date the contribution was made. Of course, the surviving dealer’s prohibition on business would only begin when the person who made the contribution becomes a municipal finance professional of the surviving dealer.

The Board notes, however, that Rule G-37 was not intended to prevent mergers in the municipal securities industry or, once a merger is consummated, to seriously hinder the surviving dealer’s municipal securities business if the merger was not an attempt to circumvent the letter or spirit of rule G-37. Thus, the dealer may wish to seek an exemption from the ban on business pursuant to Rule G-37(i) from its appropriate regulatory authority.

(June 29, 1998, revised October 30, 2003)

Refund of Inadvertent Contribution

II.17
Q: A disgruntled municipal finance professional made a contribution purposely to subject the dealer to the two-year prohibition on business. When the contribution is discovered by the dealer, a refund of the contribution is requested and obtained. Is the dealer still banned from engaging in business with that issuer? In addition, does the contribution have to be disclosed on Form G-37?
A: Rule G-37(b) prohibits a dealer from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer by any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer if the contribution does not meet the de minimis exemption. Section (i) of the rule provides a procedure whereby dealers may seek relief from the appropriate enforcement agency of the rule G-37 prohibition on business. In determining whether to grant such an exemption, one of the factors the enforcement agency will consider is whether the dealer has taken all available steps to obtain a return of the contribution. Even if a refund of the contribution has been obtained, dealers are required to seek an exemption from the ban on business. In addition, dealers also must disclose the contribution on Form G-37. Dealers may wish to indicate on the form (and in their own records) that a refund of the contribution was obtained. See Rule G-37(i).

(August 18, 1994)

Volunteer Work

II.18
Q: Is a municipal finance professional prohibited from performing volunteer work on an issuer official's behalf?
A: Rule G-37 is not intended to prohibit or restrict municipal finance professionals from engaging in personal volunteer work. However, soliciting and bundling of contributions would invoke application of the rule. In addition, if the municipal finance professional uses the dealer's resources (e.g., a political position paper prepared by dealer personnel) or incurs expenses in the conduct of such volunteer work (e.g., hosting a reception), then the value of such resources or expenses would constitute a contribution. Personal expenses incurred by the municipal finance professional in the conduct of such volunteer work, which expenses are purely incidental to such work and unreimbursed by the dealer (e.g., cab fares and personal meals), would not constitute a contribution.

(May 24, 1994)

Dealer Resources

II.19
Q: If an employee of a dealer is donating his or her time to an issuer official's campaign, does the dealer have to disclose this as a contribution to such official? In addition, would the fact that the employee is taking a leave of absence from the dealer cause a different result?
A: An employee of a dealer generally can donate his or her time to an issuer official's campaign without this being viewed as a contribution by the dealer to the official, as long as the employee is volunteering his or her time during non-work hours, or is using previously accrued vacation time or the dealer is not otherwise paying the employee's salary (e.g., an unpaid leave of absence).

(August 18, 1994)

Making Contributions to Issuer Officials on Behalf of Other Persons

II.20
Q: A municipal finance professional signs a check drawn on a joint account, which is owned by the municipal finance professional and another person, and submits it to an issuer official as a contribution along with a writing which states that the contribution is being made solely by the other holder of the joint account. Would any portion of this contribution be attributable to the municipal finance professional under Rule G-37?
A: If a municipal finance professional signs a check, whether the check was drawn on a joint account or not, and submits it as a contribution to an issuer official, then the municipal finance professional is deemed to have made the full contribution, regardless of any writing accompanying the check that provides or directs otherwise. Moreover, if this amount exceeds, or does not qualify for, the de minimis exception, then by making such a contribution the municipal finance professional will trigger the rule's ban on business thereby prohibiting his dealer/employer from engaging in municipal securities business with the particular issuer for two years.

(February 16, 1996)

II.21
Q: If a municipal finance professional and another person (e.g., her spouse) both sign a check drawn on their joint account and submit the check to an issuer official as a contribution, would the contribution amount be attributable equally between them (i.e., 50% to each person) for purposes of Rule G-37?
A: Yes. If a municipal finance professional and any other person both sign a check drawn on their joint account and submit it to an issuer official as a contribution, then each person is deemed to have made half of the contribution, regardless of any writing accompanying the check that provides or directs otherwise.

(February 16, 1996)

Making Contributions to a Candidate Who Later Loses the Election

II.22
Q: If a municipal finance professional made a political contribution which was not subject to the de minimis exception to an issuer official candidate who subsequently did not win the election, is the dealer banned from engaging in municipal securities business with that issuer (i.e., the governmental entity)?
A: Yes. Rule G-37 defines the term "official of such issuer" or "official of an issuer" as "any person (including any election committee for such person) who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate: (A) for elective office of the issuer which office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by the issuer; or (B) for any elective office of a state or of any political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any official(s) of an issuer, as defined in subparagraph (A), above." It is clear from the rule that, at the time the contribution is made, if the recipient of that contribution is an "official of an issuer," then the dealer is subject to the two-year ban on business with the issuer, regardless of whether the candidate wins or loses the election. Any other result would mean that municipal finance professionals could make contributions to issuer officials, but the ban on business would not be triggered (if at all) until election results were known.

(February 16, 1996)

III. INDIRECT CONTRIBUTIONS (Rule G-37(d))

Contributions by Spouses and Household Members

III.1
Q: Are contributions to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals’ spouses and household members covered by the rule?
A: No, unless these contributions are directed by the municipal finance professional, which is prohibited by section (d) of the rule.

(May 24, 1994)

III.2
Q: If a municipal finance professional directs a retail sales person (who is not a municipal finance professional) to make a political contribution to an issuer official, would this trigger the rule's two-year prohibition on business with that issuer?
A: Yes. Section (d) of the rule prohibits municipal finance professionals (and dealers) from using any person or means to do, directly or indirectly, any act which would violate the rule. In other words, a municipal finance professional is prohibited from using a sales person (or any other person not otherwise subject to the rule) as a conduit to circumvent the rule. Thus, contributions made, directly or indirectly, by a municipal finance professional (or a dealer) to an issuer official will subject the dealer to the rule's two-year prohibition on municipal securities business with that issuer. In addition to triggering the prohibition, the municipal finance professional in this case has violated section (d) of the rule.

(December 7, 1994)

Political Parties

III.3
Q: Are contributions to national, state or local political parties covered by the rule?
A: Any such contributions would not trigger the prohibition on business portion of the rule (section (b)) unless such entities are used as a conduit to indirectly contribute to an issuer official, which is prohibited by section (d) of the rule. However, contributions to state or local political parties must be recorded under Rule G-8(a)(xvi) and disclosed in summary form under Rule G‑37(e), except for those contributions which meet the de minimis exemption. See also Rule G-37(e).

(May 24, 1994)

Contributions to a Non-Dealer Associated PAC and Payments to a State or Local Political Party

III.4
Q: Could contributions to a non-dealer associated PAC or payments to a state or local political party lead to a ban on municipal securities business with an issuer under Rule G-37?
A: Rule G-37(d) prohibits a dealer and any municipal finance professional from doing any act indirectly which would result in a violation of the rule if done directly by the dealer or municipal finance professional. A dealer would violate Rule G-37 by doing business with an issuer after providing money to any person or entity when the dealer knows that such money will be given to an official of an issuer who could not receive such a contribution directly from the dealer without triggering the rule’s prohibition on business. For example, in certain instances, a non-dealer associated PAC or a local political party may be soliciting funds for the purpose of supporting a limited number of issuer officials. Depending upon the facts and circumstances, contributions to the PAC or payments to the political party might well result in the same prohibition on municipal securities business as would a contribution made directly to the issuer official. (August 6, 1996)

III.5
Q: If a dealer receives a fund raising solicitation from a non-dealer associated PAC or a political party with no indication of how the collected funds will be used, can the dealer make contributions to the non-dealer associated PAC or payments to the political party without causing a ban on municipal securities business?
A: Dealers should inquire of the non-dealer associated PAC or political party how any funds received from the dealer would be used. For example, if the non-dealer associated PAC or political party is soliciting funds for the purpose of supporting a limited number of issuer officials, then, depending upon the facts and circumstances, contributions to the PAC or payments to the political party might well result in the same prohibition on municipal securities business as would a contribution made directly to the issuer official.

(August 6, 1996)

Making Payments to a National Political Party for its Non-Federal Account (Rule G-37(e))

III.6
Q: If a national political party accepts payments in which contributors have designated that their payments be deposited into the account for a state or local political party, must the dealer record such payments and report them on Form G-37?
A: Yes. Rule G-37 requires that dealers record and report payments made to state and local political parties and the ultimate recipient in the above scenario is a state or local political party so designated by the contributor.

(February 16, 1996)

Supervisory Procedures Relating to Indirect Contributions

III.7
Q: Is a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”) required to have written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d), on indirect contributions and solicitations, with regard to payments to political parties and PACs by a dealer or its municipal finance professionals (“MFPs”)?
A: Yes. The relevant portion of the MSRB's supervision rule, Rule G-27(c), provides that, “Each dealer shall adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance [with MSRB rules].”

Rule G-37(d) provides that: “No broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer or any municipal finance professional of the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer shall, directly or indirectly, through or by any other person or means, do any act which would result in a violation of sections (b) or (c) of this rule.” While Rule G-37 was adopted to deal specifically with contributions made to officials of issuers by dealers and municipal finance professionals, and political action committees (“PACs”) controlled by dealers or MFPs, this section of the rule also prohibits MFPs and dealers from using conduits—such as, but not limited to parties, PACs, affiliates, consultants, lawyers or spouses—to contribute indirectly to an issuer official if such MFP or dealer can not give directly to the issuer without triggering the ban on business.

In order to ensure compliance with Rule G-27(c) as it relates to payments to political parties or PACs and Rule G-37(d), each dealer must adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political parties and non-dealer controlled PACs to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer.[1] For example, a dealer's written supervisory procedures might provide that, if the dealer or any of its MFPs want to make payments to political parties or PACs, the dealer must perform adequate due diligence prior to allowing political party or PAC payments by the dealer or its MFPs to reasonably ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political parties or non-dealer controlled PACs to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer. [2] Such due diligence also might include inquiring about and documenting the intent or motive in making the payment, whether the party payment or PAC contribution was solicited by anyone, and if so, the identification of the person soliciting the party payment and a record of written solicitations. This information will assist the dealer in determining whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the payment support the reason given for making the payment.

In addition, to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d) in connection with contributions by dealers or MFPs to non-controlled (but affiliated) PACs,[3]

the dealer might adopt information barriers between any affiliated PACs and the dealer or its MFPs. Examples of such information barrier provisions might include such things as:

• a prohibition on the dealer or MFPs from recommending, nominating, appointing or approving the management of affiliated PACs;

• a prohibition on sharing the affiliated PAC's meeting agenda, meeting schedule, or meeting minutes;

• a prohibition on identification of prior affiliated PAC contributions, planned PAC contributions or anticipated PAC contributions;

• a prohibition on directly providing or coordinating information about prior negotiated municipal securities business, solicited municipal securities business, and planned solicitations of municipal securities business; and

• other such information barriers as the firm deems appropriate to effectively monitor conflicting interests and prevent abuses.

These examples are not exclusive and are only suggestions for supervisory procedures that dealers could consider. Each dealer is required under Rule G-27, on supervision, to evaluate its own circumstances and develop written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37, on indirect violations.

(September 22, 2005)


[1] In addition, pursuant to MSRB Rule G-8(a)(xx), on Records Concerning Compliance with Rule G-27, each dealer must maintain and keep current the records required under Rules G-27(c) and G-27 (d).

[2] See Rule G-37 Questions and Answers Nos. III. 4 and III.5, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[3] For the purposes of this guidance the term “affiliated PAC” means a PAC controlled by an affiliated entity of a dealer. An “affiliated entity” is an entity that controls, is controlled by or is under common control with the dealer.

III.8
Q: Is a dealer required to have written supervisory procedures in place to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d) if the dealer only allows the dealer or its municipal finance professionals (“MFPs”) to make political party payments to “housekeeping”, “conference” or “overhead” type accounts of a political party?
A: Yes. There is no safe harbor under Rule G-37 for payments to “housekeeping”, “conference” or “overhead” type political party accounts. The dealer must have adequate supervisory procedures reasonably designed to prevent a violation of Rule G-37(d), on indirect political contributions, even when the payments are being made to a “housekeeping”, “conference” or “overhead” type account. While the political party itself may prohibit direct contributions to issuer official candidates from “housekeeping” accounts, payments to these accounts might be used for political party events that are focused to benefit a specific candidate or a small number of candidates. Additionally, because money is fungible, a payment made to a fund earmarked for non-issuer official elections might “free up” other money to support the candidacy of specific issuer officials.

The need for dealers to adopt adequate written supervisory procedures to prevent indirect violations via “housekeeping”, “conference” or “overhead” type political party accounts is especially important in light of media and other reports that issuer agents have informed dealers and MFPs that, if they are prohibited from contributing directly to an issuer official's campaign, they should contribute to an affiliated party's “housekeeping” account. In addition, NASD staff has informed the MSRB that some firms make contributions to “housekeeping” accounts or PAC's with explicit instructions accompanying the payment that the specific payment is not to be used for the benefit of one or a limited number of issuer officials. The MSRB does not consider such “preemptive” disclosures or instructions sufficient to meet the dealer's obligation to perform due diligence to reasonably ensure that the payment to the political party or PAC is not being made to circumvent the requirements of Rule G-37.

(September 22, 2005)

IV. DEFINITIONS (Rule G-37(g))

Contribution

IV.1
Q: How is the term "contribution" defined in Rule G-37?
A: The term "contribution" is defined in Rule G-37(g)(i) to mean any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made: (i) for the purpose of influencing any election for federal, state or local office; (ii) for payment of debt incurred in connection with any such election; or (iii) for transition or inaugural expenses incurred by the successful candidate for state or local office.

(May 24, 1994)

IV.2
Q: Is Rule G-37 applicable to contributions given to officials of issuers who are seeking election to federal office, such as the House of Representatives, the Senate or the Presidency?
A: Yes. Rule G-37(g)(i) defines “contribution” as, among other things, any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made for the purpose of influencing any election for federal, state or local office.

(June 15, 1995)

IV.3
Q: Does Rule G-37 encompass all contributions to candidates for federal office?
A: No. Rule G-37 encompasses, for federal offices, only those contributions to an official of an issuer who is seeking election to a federal office.

(May 24, 1994)

IV.4
Q: Are contributions to bond ballot campaigns subject to the requirements of Rule G-37.
A: Such political contributions are subject to the disclosure requirements of Rule G-37(e) (other than contributions made by a municipal finance professional or a non-MFP executive officer to a bond ballot campaign for a ballot initiative with respect to which such person is entitled to vote if all contributions by such person to such bond ballot campaign, in total, do not exceed $250 per ballot initiative). Although such contributions will not result in a ban on municipal securities business under Rule G-37(b), as with all MSRB rules, failure to comply with requirements of the rule (i.e., by failing to disclose such contributions) may subject dealers to fines and other disciplinary actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or other appropriate regulatory agencies.

(May 24, 1994, revised February 25, 2010)

Charitable Donations

IV.5
Q: Would a charitable donation to an organization made by a dealer at the request of an issuer official meet the definition of "contribution" in Rule G-37?
A: No. Charitable donations are not considered political contributions for purposes of Rule G‑37 and therefore are not covered by the rule.

(May 24, 1994)

Municipal Finance Professional

IV.6
Q: Who is considered a municipal finance professional?
A: To determine if a particular person is a municipal finance professional, first determine whether the person is an "associated person" of a dealer (other than a bank dealer) under Section 3(a)(18) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Act), or an associated person of a bank dealer under Section 3(a)(32) of the Act. Then determine whether the associated person fits within one of the four categories listed in the definition of municipal finance professional under Rule G-37.

Under Section 3(a)(18) of the Act, "associated person of a broker or dealer" is defined as:

  • Any partner, officer, director, or branch manager (or any person occupying a similar status or performing similar functions);
  • Any person directly or indirectly controlling, controlled by, or under common control with the dealer;
  • Or any employee of such broker or dealer, except those whose functions are solely clerical or ministerial.

Under Section 3(a)(32) of the Act, "person associated with a municipal securities dealer" when used with respect to a municipal securities dealer which is a bank or a division or department of a bank means:

  • Any person directly engaged in the management, direction, supervision, or performance of any of the municipal securities dealer’s activities with respect to municipal securities; and
  • Any person directly or indirectly controlling such activities or controlled by the municipal securities dealer in connection with such activities.

Under Rule G-37(g)(iv), a municipal finance professional is defined as:

1. Any associated person primarily engaged in municipal representative activities pursuant to Rule G-3(a)(i) (such activities include underwriting, trading, sales, financial advisory and consultant services, research or investment advice on municipal securities, or any other activities which involve communication, directly or indirectly, with public investors relating to the activities listed in this paragraph), provided, however, that sales activities with natural persons shall not be considered to be municipal securities representative activities for purposes of Rule G-37(g)(iv);

2. Any associated person who solicits "municipal securities business" as defined in Rule G-37 (which includes negotiated underwriting activities, private placement activities, negotiated remarketing services, financial advisory and consultant services);

3. Any associated person who is both (i) a municipal securities principal or a municipal securities sales principal and (ii) a supervisor of any persons described in paragraphs 1 or 2 above;

4. Any associated person who is a supervisor of the associated persons described in paragraph 3 above, up through and including: (i) for dealers that are not bank dealers, the CEO or similarly situated official; and (ii) for bank dealers, the officer or officers designated by the bank's board of directors as responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the bank's dealer activities.

5. For dealers other than bank dealers: any associated person who is a member of the executive or management committee, or similarly situated officials, if any. For bank dealers: any member of the executive or management committee of the separately identifiable department or division of the bank, as defined in Rule G‑1, if any. However, if the only associated persons meeting the definition of municipal finance professional are those described in this paragraph 5, the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer shall be deemed to have no municipal finance professionals.

Each person listed by the dealer as a municipal finance professional is deemed to be such for purposes of Rule G-37.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

IV.7
Q: Does the definition of municipal finance professional include all registered representatives?
A: No. The definition of municipal finance professional includes, among others, any associated person primarily engaged in municipal representative activities pursuant to Rule G-3(a)(i), but excludes sales activities with natural persons.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

IV.8
Q: Does the definition of municipal finance professional include any associated person who solicits municipal securities business, even if this solicitation activity is a very small portion of the associated person's work?
A: Yes. Even if an associated person is not "primarily engaged in municipal representative activities," that associated person can be considered a municipal finance professional if he or she solicits municipal securities business, as defined in Rule G-37 (such business includes negotiated underwriting activities, private placement activities, negotiated remarketing services, financial advisory and consultant services).

(May 24, 1994)

IV.9
Q: Does the definition of municipal finance professional include anyone other than an associated person of the dealer, for example, consultants, lawyers or spouses of municipal finance professionals?
A: No. Municipal finance professionals must be associated persons of the dealer. Of course, if a dealer or a municipal finance professional seeks indirectly to make contributions to issuer officials through consultants, lawyers or spouses, such contributions would result in the dealer being prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with the issuer for two years from the date of such contributions.

(May 24, 1994)

Finder’s Fee

IV.10 & IV.11 Deleted

IV.12
Q: Is a "finder's fee" solely cash compensation?
A: No. Such compensation, for example, may take the form of: (i) an unusually large allocation of bonds to a particular sales person; (ii) sales credits; or (iii) any other kind of remuneration.

(December 7, 1994)

IV. 13 Deleted

Supervisors

IV.14
Q: A sales representative at a branch office solicits municipal securities business for the dealer. Such activity results in that person becoming a "municipal finance professional" under Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B). Would that person's branch manager also be considered a municipal finance professional?

A: Yes. Rule G-37(g)(iv)(C) provides that the definition of municipal finance professional includes, among others, any associated person who is both a (i) municipal securities principal or a municipal securities sales principal and (ii) a supervisor of any associated person who solicits municipal securities business (or who is primarily engaged in municipal securities representative activities). If a sales person is soliciting municipal securities business, then the supervisor of that person (i.e., the branch manager) also is included within the definition of municipal finance professional. Branch managers are included within the definition of municipal finance professional in the circumstances described above.

(March 22, 1995, revised October 30, 2003)

Designation Period for Municipal Finance Professionals

IV.15
Q: Rule G-37(g)(iv) states that each person designated a municipal finance professional shall retain this designation for one year after the last activity or position which gave rise to the designation. If a dealer terminates a municipal finance professional’s employment, and that person is no longer associated in any way with the dealer (including any affiliated entities of the dealer), must the dealer continue to designate that person a “municipal finance professional” for recordkeeping and reporting purposes under Rules G-37(g)(iv) and G-8(a)(xvi)?
A: No. If a municipal finance professional is no longer employed by the dealer, and is not an “associated person” of the dealer, then the dealer is not required to designate that person a municipal finance professional and the dealer may cease its recordkeeping and reporting obligations with respect to that person.

(August 6, 1996, revised October 30, 2003)

IV.16
Q: If a municipal finance professional is transferred from a firm’s dealer department to another non-municipal department, such as the corporate department, must the dealer continue to designate this person a municipal finance professional for recordkeeping and reporting purposes?
A: If a municipal finance professional is transferred to another department within the same firm (such as corporate, equities, etc.) and remains an “associated person” of the dealer, the dealer must continue to designate this person a municipal finance professional for one year from the date of the last activity or position which gave rise to this designation and must continue its recordkeeping and reporting obligations under Rules G-37 and G-8. It is incumbent upon each dealer to determine whether the person is an associated person pursuant to Section 3(a)(18) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. If so, then in addition to recordkeeping and reporting obligations, dealers should be mindful that any contributions made by this associated person during the one-year designation period (other than contributions that qualify for the rule’s $250 de minimis exception) will subject the dealer to the rule’s ban on municipal securities business for two years from the date of such contribution. Of course, the ban can only be triggered if the person previously was a municipal finance professional.

(August 6, 1996, revised October 30, 2003)

IV.17
Q: A municipal finance professional resigns from a dealer, but still remains an associated person of the dealer (e.g., by retaining a position in the dealer’s holding company). May the dealer cease designating this person a municipal finance professional for purposes of the recordkeeping and reporting requirements under Rules G-37 and G-8? In addition, may this person make contributions to issuer officials without causing the dealer to be banned from municipal securities business with such issuers?
A: If a person is no longer a municipal finance professional because he or she has left the dealer’s employ, but nevertheless remains an associated person of the dealer, then the dealer must continue to designate this person a municipal finance professional for one year from the last activity or position which gave rise to such designation. Moreover, any contributions by this associated person (other than those that qualify for the de minimis exception under Rule G-37(b)) will subject the dealer to the rule’s ban on municipal securities business for two years from the date of the contribution.

(August 6, 1996, revised October 30, 2003)

IV.18
Q: In making the determination of which associated persons of a dealer meet the definitions of municipal finance professional and non-MFP executive officer, is it correct to designate all the executives of the dealer (e.g., President, Executive Vice Presidents) under the category of non-MFP executive officers?

A: No. In making the determination of whether someone is a municipal finance professional or non-MFP executive officer, one must review the activities of the individual and not his or her title. Rule G-37(g)(iv) defines the term “municipal finance professional” as:

(A) any associated person primarily engaged in municipal securities representative activities, as defined in Rule G-3(a)(i), provided, however, that sales activities with natural persons shall not be considered to be municipal securities representative activities for purposes of this subparagraph (A);

(B) any associated person who solicits municipal securities business, as defined in paragraph (vii);

(C) any associated person who is both (i) a municipal securities principal or a municipal securities sales principal and (ii) a supervisor of any persons described in subparagraphs (A) or (B);

(D) any associated person who is a supervisor of any person described in subparagraph (C) up through and including, in the case of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer other than a bank dealer, the Chief Executive Officer or similarly situated official and, in the case of a bank dealer, the officer or officers designated by the board of directors of the bank as responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the bank’s municipal securities dealer activities, as required pursuant to Rule G-1(a); or

(E) any associated person who is a member of the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (or, in the case of a bank dealer, the separately identifiable department or division of the bank, as defined in Rule G-1) executive or management committee or similarly situated officials, if any; provided, however, that, if the only associated persons meeting the definition of municipal finance professional are those described in this subparagraph (E), the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer shall be deemed to have no municipal finance professionals.

Rule G-37(g)(v) defines the term “non-MFP executive officer” as:

an associated person in charge of a principal business unit, division or function or any other person who performs similar policy making functions for the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (or, in the case of a bank dealer, the separately identifiable department or division of the bank, as defined in Rule G-1), but does not include any municipal finance professional, as defined in paragraph (iv) of this section (g); provided, however, that, if no associated person of the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer meets the definition of municipal finance professional, the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer shall be deemed to have no non-MFP executive officers. [emphasis added]

Dealers should first review the activities of their associated persons to determine whether they are municipal finance professionals, and then, once that list of individuals has been established, conduct a review of the remaining associated persons to determine whether they are non-MFP executive officers. Dealers should pay close attention to those associated persons who are soliciting municipal securities business and, thus, will be considered municipal finance professionals.

(September 9, 1997, revised October 30, 2003 and June 8, 2006)

Non-MFP Executive Officer

IV.19
Q: Who is a non-MFP "executive officer?"
A: Pursuant to Rule G-37(g)(v), a non-MFP executive officer is defined as any associated person in charge of a principal business unit, division or function, or any other person who performs similar policy making functions for the dealer (or, in the case of a bank dealer, the separately identifiable department or division of the bank, as defined in Rule G-1), but does not include any municipal finance professional.

(May 24, 1994)

IV.20
Q: In a bank with a separately identifiable dealer department, who would be considered a non-MFP executive officer?
A: For most bank dealer departments which deal only in municipal securities, there are no individuals who meet the definition of non-MFP executive officer within Rule G-37.

(August 18, 1994)

Official of an Issuer

IV.21
Q: How is the term "official of an issuer" defined in Rule G-37?
A: Rule G-37(g)(vi) defines the term "official of an issuer" to mean “any person (including any election committee for such person) who was, at the time of the contribution, an incumbent, candidate or successful candidate: (A) for elective office of the issuer which office is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by the issuer; or (B) for any elective office of a state or of any political subdivision, which office has authority to appoint any person who is directly or indirectly responsible for, or can influence the outcome of, the hiring of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer for municipal securities business by an issuer. Thus, contributions to certain state-wide executive or legislative officials would be included within the prohibition on engaging in municipal securities business.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

IV.22
Q: How can a dealer determine whether an incumbent or candidate for a particular elective office will be able to award or influence the awarding of municipal securities business? For example, in many states, such influence is found in executive branch elected officials, not legislative branch officials.
A: The dealer must review the scope of authority of the particular office at issue, whether executive or legislative branch, not the individual, to determine whether influence over the awarding of municipal securities business is present.

(May 24, 1994)

IV.23
Q: An incumbent was seeking re-election as an issuer official but she lost the election. She is now soliciting money to pay for the debt incurred in connection with this election. Would there be a prohibition on engaging in municipal securities business with the issuer if a dealer or a municipal finance professional provides money for the payment of this debt?
A: No, under certain conditions. If the incumbent is out of office at the time she is soliciting money to pay for the election debt, then she is no longer considered to be within the definition of “official of an issuer” and any monies given for the payment of debt incurred in connection with the election in this instance is not subject to Rule G-37. If the incumbent still holds her issuer official position at the time she is soliciting money to pay for the election debt, then, if a municipal finance professional contributed $250 to her during the general election, the municipal finance professional would not be able to make any contributions for the payment of debt without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer. If a municipal finance professional made no contributions to the incumbent prior to the election, then the municipal finance professional may, if entitled to vote for the candidate, contribute up to $250 for the payment of debt incurred in connection with the election while the incumbent is still in office without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business. A dealer may not contribute any monies towards the payment of debt while the incumbent is still in office without causing a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer.

(September 9, 1997)

Dealer-Controlled PAC

IV.24
Q: What is a "dealer-controlled" PAC?
A: Each dealer must determine whether a PAC is dealer controlled. For dealers, other than bank dealers, one may assume that any PAC of the dealer would be considered a dealer-controlled PAC for purposes of Rule G-37. For bank dealers, it will depend upon whether the dealer or anyone from the dealer department has the ability to direct or cause the direction of the management or the policies of the PAC.

(May 24, 1994)

V. SCOPE OF WAIVER PROVISION IN RULE G-37(i)

V.1
Q: If an enforcement agency grants an exemption from a ban on municipal securities business pursuant to Rule G-37(i), may this exemption be applied retroactively so that any municipal securities business engaged in after the ban had gone into effect but prior to the date on which the exemption was granted would not be viewed as a Rule G-37 violation?
A: Rule G-37(i) allows the enforcement agencies to exempt a dealer from a ban on municipal securities business. It is the Board’s view that such an exemption is only effective as of the date of the exemption. Rule G-37(i) does not contain a provision allowing for the retroactive application of the exemption. Thus, a dealer would violate Rule G-37 if, prior to the date of the exemption, the dealer engaged in municipal securities business with an issuer while subject to a ban with this issuer because of a political contribution. As with any violation of a Board rule, the enforcement agencies have discretion in determining the type and extent of enforcement action appropriate for such violation, in light of the specific facts and circumstances. If an enforcement agency has granted an exemption to a dealer from the ban on municipal securities business, the facts and circumstances considered by such agency in granting the exemption could appropriately also be considered (together with any other relevant facts and circumstances) in determining what, if any, enforcement action should be taken against such dealer if it had engaged in municipal securities business after the ban on such business became effective but prior to the date on which the exemption was granted.

(March 1, 2000)

VI. RECORDKEEPING AND REPORTING (Rules G-37(e), G-8 and G-9)

VI.1 

Q: If a dealer has instituted an internal voluntary ban on political contributions, is the dealer still subject to the recordkeeping requirements?
A: Yes. The Board amended Rule G-8 and G-9, on recordkeeping and record retention, respectively, to require each dealer to maintain records of certain information. This recordkeeping is designed to assist dealers in determining whether or not they may engage in business with a particular issuer, as well as to facilitate compliance with, and enforcement of, Rule G-37.

(May 24, 1994)

VI.2
Q: Rule G-8 requires dealers to record all issuers with which the dealer has engaged in municipal securities business. The term "issuer" includes the issuer of a separate security as defined in SEC Rule 3b-5(a) under the Act. In the context of industrial revenue bond issues, for example, the issuer of a separate security is a private corporation, not a government entity. Must we record these "issuers"?
A: No. Such private corporations, which are not an agency or instrumentality of a state or any political subdivision, need not be recorded. Of course, dealers are required to record the governmental issuer in these situations, for both taxable and tax-exempt municipal securities.

(December 7, 1994)

VI.3
Q:
What are the reporting requirements under rule G-37?
A: Dealers are required to submit Form G-37/G-38 to the MSRB by the last day of the month following the end of each calendar quarter. These submission dates correspond to January 31, April 30, July 31 and October 31 of each year. There is no fixed time frame for submission of Form G-37x. However, if a dealer wishes to rely on the Form G-37x exemption from the Form G-37/G-38 submission requirement for a particular calendar quarter, Form G-37x must be submitted by no later than the submission deadline for such quarter.

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

VI.4
Q: Under what circumstances must Form G-37/G-38 be filed with the Board?
A: Form G-37/G-38 must be submitted to the Board for a calendar quarter if ANY one of the following occurred: (i) reportable political contributions or payments to political parties were made during the reporting period, unless the dealer has previously submitted Form G-37x and the submission remains effective; (ii) the dealer engaged in municipal securities business during the reporting period; or (iii) the dealer used consultants during the reporting period (i.e., new or continuing relationship with consultants).

(May 24, 1994, revised October 30, 2003)

VI.5
Q: Does a dealer have to complete the section of Form G-37/G-38 concerning issuers with whom the dealer has engaged in municipal securities business if the only municipal securities related business engaged in during the reporting period was as a selling group member?
A: No. Rule G-37 does not define "municipal securities business" to include selling group member activities.

(May 24, 1994)

VI.6
Q: Which contributions must be disclosed to the Board on Form G-37/G-38?
A: Those contributions which are required to be recorded pursuant to rule G-8(a)(xvi). These include (i) the contributions, direct or indirect, to officials of an issuer and to political parties of states and political subdivisions made by the dealer and each PAC controlled by the dealer (or controlled by any municipal finance professional of such dealer); (ii) the contributions, direct or indirect, to officials of an issuer made by each municipal finance professional and non-MFP executive officer, however, such records need not reflect any contribution made by a municipal finance professional or non-MFP executive officer to officials of an issuer for whom such person is entitled to vote if the contributions by each such person, in total, are not in excess of $250 to any official of an issuer, per election; (iii) the contributions, direct or indirect, to political parties of states and political subdivisions made by all municipal finance professionals and non-MFP executive officers, however, such records need not reflect those contributions made by any municipal finance professional or non-MFP executive officer to a political party of a state or political subdivision in which such persons are entitled to vote if the contributions by each such person, in total, are not in excess of $250 per political party, per year; (iv) the contributions, direct or indirect, to bond ballot campaigns made by the dealer and each PAC controlled by the dealer (or controlled by any municipal finance professional of such dealer); and (v) the contributions, direct or indirect, to bond ballot campaigns made by each municipal finance professional and non-MFP executive officer, however, such records need not reflect any contributions made by a municipal finance professional or non-MFP executive officer to a bond ballot campaign for a ballot initiative with respect to which such person is entitled to vote if the contributions by such person, in total, are not in excess of $250 to any bond ballot campaign, per ballot initiative.

(May 24, 1994, revised February 25, 2010)

VI.7

Q: May non-dealers (e.g., attorneys, independent financial advisors) voluntarily submit information on political contributions and other activities to the Board?
A:
Yes, as long as the filing procedures are followed.

(May 24, 1994)

VI.8
Q: Will the Forms G-37 submitted to the Board be available for public review?

A: Yes. The Forms G-37/G-38 and Forms G-37x submitted to the Board are posted on the Board’s website for viewing (www.msrb.org).

(May 24, 1994, revised June 14, 2010)

VI.9
Q: May a holding company submit to the Board one Form G-37/G-38 reflecting information for various dealers within the control of the holding company?

A: No. A separate Form G-37/G-38 must be submitted for each dealer.

(February 16, 1996)

VI.10
Q: Rule G-37(e) requires, among other things, that dealers submit information to the Board on Form G-37/G-38 about the municipal securities business in which they engaged. Is information about the municipal securities business engaged in required to be submitted by all syndicate and selling group members, or is it only the responsibility of the manager(s) to submit such information on behalf of the syndicate?
A: All manager(s) and syndicate members (excluding selling group members) must separately report the municipal securities business in which they engaged.

(September 9, 1997)

VI.11
Q: Are dealers required to identify the type of contributor (i.e. dealer, dealer controlled PAC, MFP, MFP controlled PAC, or non-MFP executive officer) when completing Form G-37/G-38?
A: Yes. Rule G-37 (e)(i)(2) requires dealers to report to the Board on its Form G-37/G-38 the contribution or payment amount made and the contributor category of each of the following persons and entities making such contributions or payments during each calendar quarter: the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer; each municipal finance professional; each non-MFP executive officer; and each political action committee controlled by the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer or by any municipal finance professional. It is not sufficient to list contributors as “employee” or “registered representative.” For each contribution listed on the Form G-37/G-38, one of the specified contributor categories must be identified.

(February 25, 2004)

VI.12
Q: How should contributions to officials of issuers who are seeking federal office be reported on Form G-37/G-38?
A: Under Rule G-37, contributions given to officials of issuers who are seeking election to federal office, such as the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate or the Presidency, must be reported on the dealer's quarterly Form G-37/G-38 unless they meet the de minimis exception. When reporting these contributions, dealers must report information identifying the issuer official. Firms may additionally report information identifying the federal office sought. For example, if a sitting Governor of a state were running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Governor is an “official of an issuer,” the form must list the state where the official is serving as Governor, and the Governor's complete name and title. Dealers may also report the federal office sought by the issuer official.

(February 25, 2004)


Last Updated Date: August 17, 2016