MSRB NOTICE 2003-20 (May 23, 2003)

NOTICE ON REPORTING AND COMPARISON OF CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS EFFECTED BY INVESTMENT ADVISORS: RULE G-12(f) AND G-14

In recent months, the MSRB has received a number of questions relating to certain kinds of transactions in which independent investment advisors instruct selling dealers to make deliveries to other dealers.  This notice addresses questions that have been raised relating to Rule G-12(f)(i), on automated comparison, and Rule G-14, on transaction reporting.  It describes existing requirements that follow from the language of the rules and does not set forth any new policies or procedures.

An independent investment advisor purchasing securities from one dealer sometimes instructs that dealer to make delivery of the securities to other dealers where the investment advisor’s clients have accounts.  The identities of individual account holders typically are not given.[1]  The dealers receiving the deliveries in these cases generally are providing “wrap fee” or similar types of accounts that allow investors to use independent investment advisors to manage their municipal securities portfolios.  In these kinds of arrangements, the investment advisor chosen by the account holder may be picked from a list of advisors approved by the dealer; however, dealers offering these accounts have indicated that the investment advisor acts independently in effecting transactions for the client’s municipal securities portfolio. 

The following example illustrates the situation.  An Investment Advisor purchases a $1 million block of municipal bonds from the Selling Dealer and instructs the Selling Dealer to deliver $300,000 of the bonds to Dealer X and $700,000 to Dealer Y.  The Investment Advisor does not give the Selling Dealer the individual client accounts at Dealer X and Dealer Y to which the bonds will be allocated and there is no contact between the Selling Dealer and Dealers X and Y at the time of trade.  The Investment Advisor, however, later informs Dealer X and Dealer Y to expect the delivery from the Selling Dealer, and gives the identity and quantity of securities that will be delivered, the final monies, and the individual account allocations.  For example, the Investment Advisor may instruct Dealer X to allocate its $300,000 delivery by placing $100,000 in John Doe’s account and $200,000 in Mary Smith’s account. 

With respect to transaction reporting requirements in this situation, the Selling Dealer should report a $1 million sale to a customer.  No other dealer should report a transaction.  The comparison system should not be used for the inter-dealer transfers between the Selling Dealer and Dealers X and Y because this would cause them to be reported as inter-dealer trades. 

Frequently Asked Questions

One frequently asked question in the context of the above example is whether the transfers of the $300,000 and $700,000 blocks by the Selling Dealer to Dealer X and Dealer Y should be reported as inter-dealer transactions.  Another question is whether these transfers may be accomplished by submitting them to the automated comparison system for inter-dealer transactions.  Based on the information that has been provided to the MSRB, these transfers do not appear to represent inter-dealer trades and thus should not be reported under Rule G-14 or compared under Rule G-12(f)(i) using the current central comparison system. 

One reason for the conclusion that no inter-dealer trade exists is that municipal securities professionals for firms in the roles of Dealer X and Y have stated that the Investment Advisor is acting independently and is not acting as their agent when effecting the trade with the Selling Dealer.  In support of this assertion, they note that they often are not informed of the transaction or the deliveries that they should expect until well after the trade has been effected by the Investment Advisor.  They also note that the actions of the Investment Advisor are not subject to their control or supervision.  Thus, the $300,000 and $700,000 inter-dealer transfers in the above example appear to be simply deliveries made in accordance with a contract made by, and the instructions given by, the Investment Advisor.  The inter-dealer transfers thus do not constitute inter-dealer transactions.

Because Rule G-14 transaction reporting of inter-dealer trades is accomplished through the central comparison system, any dealer submitting the $300,000 and $700,000 inter-dealer transfers to the comparison system is in effect reporting inter-dealer transactions that did not occur.  In addition, this practice tends to drive down comparison rates and the overall performance of dealers in the automated comparison system.  As noted above, the trading desks of Dealer X and Dealer Y generally do not know about the Investment Advisor’s transaction at the time of trade.  They consequently cannot submit comparison information to the system unless the Investment Advisor provides them with the trade details in a timely, accurate and complete manner.  Since the Investment Advisor is acting independently and is not supervised by municipal securities professionals at Dealer X and Dealer Y, there is no means for the municipal securities professionals at Dealer X and Dealer Y to ensure that this happens.

Questions also have been received on whether the individual allocations to investor accounts (e.g., the $100,000 and $200,000 allocations to the accounts of John Doe and Mary Smith in the example above) should be reported under Rule G-14 as customer transactions.  Even though the dealer housing these accounts obviously has important obligations to the investor with respect to receiving deliveries, paying the Selling Dealer for the securities, and processing the allocations under the instructions of the Investment Advisor, it does not appear that the dealer entered into a purchase or sale contract with the investor and thus nothing is reportable under Rule G-14.  This conclusion again is based upon statements by dealers providing the “wrap fee” and similar accounts, who indicate that the investment advisor acts independently and not as the dealer’s agent when it effects the original block transaction and when it makes allocation decisions. 

For purposes of price transparency, the only transaction to be reported in the above example is a single $1 million sale to a customer.  This is appropriate because the only market price to be reported is the one set between the Selling Dealer and the Investment Advisor for the $1 million block of securities.  It is appropriate that the $300,000 and $700,000 inter-dealer transfers, and the $100,000 or $200,000 investor allocations are not disseminated as transactions since they would have to be reported using the price for the $1 million block.  This could be misleading in that market prices for $1 million round lots are often different than market prices for smaller transaction sizes.

Questions about this notice may be directed to Justin R. Pica, Uniform Practice Specialist, at 703-797-6600. 

May 23, 2003



[1]          It should be noted that in this situation, the investment advisor itself is the customer and must be treated as such for recordkeeping and other regulatory purposes.  For discussion of a similar situation, see “Interpretive Notice on Recordkeeping” dated July 29, 1977.