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Confirmation Disclosure and Prevailing Market Price Guidance: Frequently Asked Questions
(First published July 12, 2017)
Effective May 14, 2018, amendments to MSRB Rule G-15 require dealers to disclose additional information on retail customer confirmations for a specified class of principal transactions, including the dealer’s mark-up or mark-down as determined from the prevailing market price (PMP) of the security. Dealers generally also are required to disclose on retail customer confirmations the time of execution and a security-specific URL to the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website. Related amendments to Rule G-30, on prices and commissions, provide guidance on determining the PMP for the purpose of calculating a dealer’s mark-up or mark-down and for other Rule G-30 determinations.
Also, effective May 14, 2018, amendments to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 2232 create similar confirmation disclosure requirements for other areas of the fixed income markets. Among other things, the FINRA amendments require dealers to determine their disclosed mark-ups and mark-downs from the PMP of the security that is traded, in accordance with existing guidance under FINRA Rule 2121.
Below are answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the confirmation disclosure requirements under Rule G-15 and related PMP guidance under Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06 (also referred to as the “waterfall” guidance or analysis). While these FAQs address MSRB rules only, FINRA has also issued guidance for the FINRA rules applicable to agency and corporate bonds. The MSRB and FINRA worked together to produce this guidance. While each has published its own version to refer to MSRB and FINRA rules and materials, respectively, the versions are materially the same and reflect the organizations’ coordinated approach to enhanced confirmation disclosure for debt securities. To the extent the MSRB and FINRA offer different guidance based on differences between the markets for corporate, agency and municipal securities, those differences are discussed in the context of the relevant question and answer.
During the implementation period, the MSRB will continue to work with dealers on questions related to the confirmation disclosure requirements and PMP guidance. Dealers are encouraged to contact the MSRB to suggest additional topics or questions for inclusion in the FAQs. Accordingly, the MSRB may add to, update or revise this guidance. The most recent date for the content of an answer will be clearly marked.
For ease of reference, unless otherwise noted, the term “mark-up” refers both to mark-ups applied to sales to customers and mark-downs applied to purchases from customers, and the term “contemporaneous cost” refers both to contemporaneous cost in the context of sales to customers and contemporaneous proceeds in the context of purchases from customers.
Section 1: When Mark-Up Disclosure Is Required
1.1 When does Rule G-15 require mark-up disclosure?
A dealer is required to disclose on a customer confirmation the mark-up on a transaction in municipal securities with a non-institutional customer if the dealer also executes one or more offsetting principal transaction(s) on the same trading day as the customer transaction in an aggregate trading size that meets or exceeds the size of the customer trade. A non-institutional customer is a customer with an account that is not an institutional account, as defined in MSRB Rule G-8(a)(xi).
As noted during the MSRB’s confirmation disclosure rulemaking process, any intentional delay of a customer execution to avoid triggering the mark-up disclosure requirements may violate Rule G-18, on best execution, and Rule G-17, on conduct of municipal securities and municipal advisory activities.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 7 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 3-4 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
1.2 Is mark-up disclosure required only where the sizes of same-day customer and principal trades offset each other?
Yes. Mark-up disclosure is required only where a customer trade offsets a same-day principal trade in whole or in part. For example, if a dealer purchased 100 bonds at 9:30 a.m., and then, as principal, satisfied three non-institutional customer buy orders for 50 bonds each in the same security on the same trading day without making any other purchases of the bonds that day, mark-up disclosure would be required only on two of the three customer purchases, since one of the trades would need to be satisfied out of the dealer’s prior inventory rather than offset by the dealer’s same-day principal transaction.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 4; 7-8 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 3-4 (November 14, 2016); Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 4 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
1.2.1 Are position moves between separate desks within a firm considered “transactions” for purposes of determining whether a dealer has offsetting transactions that trigger a mark-up disclosure requirement?
No. Mark-up disclosure is triggered under Rule G-15 when a customer trade is offset by one or more “transactions.” For purposes of the rule, the MSRB considers a “transaction” to entail a change of beneficial ownership between parties. Accordingly, if a retail desk within a dealer acquires bonds through a position move from another desk within the same firm and then sells those bonds to a non-institutional customer, the dealer is required to provide the customer with mark-up disclosure only if the dealer bought the bonds in one or more offsetting transactions on the same trading day as the sale to the customer (subject to the exceptions discussed in Question 1.7).
(March 19, 2018)
1.3 When are trades executed by a dealer’s affiliate relevant for determining whether the mark-up disclosure requirements are triggered?
If a dealer’s offsetting principal trade is executed with a dealer affiliate and did not occur at arm’s length, the dealer is required to “look through” to the time and terms of the affiliate’s trade with a third party to determine whether mark-up disclosure is triggered under Rule G-15. On the other hand, if the dealer’s transaction with its affiliate is an arms-length transaction, the dealer would treat that transaction as any other offsetting transaction (i.e., the dealer would not “look through” to the time and terms of the arms-length transaction).
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 9‑10; 23; 26 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
1.4 What is considered an “arms-length transaction” when considering whether a dealer must “look through” to the time and terms of an affiliate’s trade?
The term “arms-length transaction” is defined in Rule G-15(a)(vi)(I) to mean a transaction that was conducted through a competitive process in which non-affiliate firms could also participate, and where the affiliate relationship did not influence the price paid or proceeds received by the dealer. The MSRB has noted that as a general matter, it expects the competitive process used in an arms-length transaction to be one in which non-affiliates have frequently participated. In other words, the MSRB would not view a process, like a request for pricing protocol or posting of bids and offers, as competitive if non-affiliates responded to requests or otherwise participated in only isolated or limited circumstances.
Factors that may be relevant to a dealer’s determination that a transaction with an affiliate was conducted at arm’s length include, but are not limited to: counterparty anonymity during the competitive process to the time of execution; the presence of other competitive bids or offers, in addition to the affiliate's, in the competitive process; contemporaneous market activity in the same or a similar security (or securities) which is used to evaluate the relative competitiveness of bids or offers received during a competitive process; and a lack of preferential arrangements between the affiliates concerning, or based on, the handling of orders between them. The MSRB notes that no one of these factors is necessarily determinative on its own.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 9 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
1.5 If a dealer has an exclusive agreement with a non-affiliated dealer under which it always purchases its securities from, or always sells its securities to, that non-affiliate, would the “look through” requirements apply when the dealer transacts with the non-affiliate?
No. The “look through” applies only to certain transactions between affiliated dealers. Under Rule G-15, a “look through” is required when the dealer’s offsetting transaction is with an affiliate and is not an “arms-length transaction.” A transaction with a non-affiliate would not meet these conditions, so a “look through” would not be required. The MSRB notes that dealers should continue to evaluate the terms and circumstances of any such arrangements in light of other MSRB rules and guidance, including best execution. In evaluating these terms and circumstances, dealers should consider whether they diminish the reliability and utility of mark-up disclosure to investors.
(July 12, 2017)
1.6 Does the mark-up disclosure requirement in Rule G-15 apply to transactions that involve a dealer and a registered investment adviser?
No. To trigger the mark-up disclosure requirement in Rule G-15, a dealer must execute a trade with a non-institutional customer. Under the rule, registered investment advisers are institutional customers; accordingly, mark-up disclosure is not required when dealers transact with registered investment advisers. This is the case even where the registered investment adviser with whom the dealer transacted later allocates all or a portion of the securities to a retail account or where the transaction is executed directly for a retail account if the investment adviser has discretion over the transaction. The MSRB notes that this answer is specific to the mark-up disclosure requirement in Rule G-15; it is not intended to alter any other obligations.
(July 12, 2017)
1.7 Are there any exceptions to the mark-up disclosure trigger requirements?
Yes. There are three exceptions. First, disclosure is not required for transactions in municipal fund securities. Second, mark-up disclosure is not necessarily triggered by principal trades that a dealer executes on a trading desk that is functionally separate from a trading desk that executes customer trades, provided the dealer maintains policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the functionally separate trading desk had no knowledge of the customer trades. For example, the exception allows an institutional desk within a dealer to service an institutional customer without necessarily triggering the disclosure requirement for an unrelated trade performed by a separate retail desk within the dealer. Third, disclosure is not required for transactions that are list offering price transactions, as defined in paragraph (d)(vii)(A) of Rule G-14 RTRS Procedures.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 10 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
1.8 May dealers voluntarily provide mark-up disclosure on additional transactions that do not trigger mandatory disclosure?
Yes. In disclosing this information on a voluntary basis, dealers should be mindful of any applicable MSRB rules. For example, while mark-up disclosure is voluntary for trades that are not triggered by the relevant provisions of Rule G-15, the process for determining the PMP according to Rule G-30 applies in all cases. In addition, to avoid customer confusion, voluntary disclosure should also follow the same format and labeling requirements applicable to mandatory disclosure.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13 n. 27 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
1.9 In arrangements involving clearing dealers and introducing or correspondent dealers, who is responsible for mark-up disclosure?
The introducing or correspondent dealer bears the ultimate responsibility for compliance with the disclosure requirements under Rule G-15. Although an introducing or correspondent dealer may use the assistance of a clearing dealer, as it may use other third-party service providers subject to due diligence and oversight, the introducing or correspondent dealer remains ultimately responsible for compliance.
(July 12, 2017)
Section 2: Content and Format of Mark-Up Disclosure
2.1 What information must be included when dealers provide mark-up disclosure on a confirmation?
When mark-up disclosure is provided on a customer confirmation, Rule G-15 requires firms to express the disclosed mark-up as both a total dollar amount and a percentage amount of PMP. The mark-up should be calculated and disclosed as the total amount per transaction; disclosure of the per bond dollar amount of mark-up (e.g., $9.45 per bond) would not satisfy the requirement to disclose the total dollar amount of the transaction mark-up.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 12 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
2.2 Where is mark-up disclosure required to be located on a confirmation?
For printed confirmations, Rule G-15(a)(i)(E) requires the mark-up disclosure to be located on the front of the customer confirmation. For electronic confirmations, the disclosure should appear in a naturally visible place. Because the rule requires mark-up disclosure to be on the confirmation itself, the inclusion of a link on the customer confirmation that a customer could click to obtain his or her mark-up disclosure would not satisfy the requirements of Rule G-15.
(July 12, 2017)
2.3 May dealers use explanatory language to provide context for mark-up disclosure?
Yes. Dealers may include accompanying language to explain mark-up related concepts, or a dealer’s particular methodology for calculating mark-ups according to MSRB guidance (or to note the availability of information about the methodology upon request), provided such statements are accurate and not misleading. However, dealers may not label mark-ups as “estimated” or “approximate” figures, or use other such labels. These types of qualifiers risk diminishing the utility of the disclosure and of the dealer’s own determination of the security’s PMP and mark-up charged, and otherwise risk diminishing the value to retail investors of the disclosure.
MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 11-12 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
2.4 If a dealer encounters a situation where a mark-up is negative (i.e., the dealer sold to the customer at a price lower than the PMP), may it choose to disclose a mark-up of zero instead?
The MSRB believes that negative mark-ups will be very infrequent; however, if such a case arises, a dealer may not disclose a mark-up of zero where the mark-up is not, in fact, zero. Dealers should disclose the mark-up that they calculate based on their determination of PMP consistent with Rule G-30. As an alternative to disclosing a negative mark-up, dealers are permitted to disclose “N/A” in the mark-up/mark-down field if the confirmation also includes a brief explanation of the “N/A” disclosure and the reason it has been provided. Dealers also have the flexibility to provide an explanation for trades with disclosed negative or zero mark-ups as well, consistent with Question 2.3 above.
(July 12, 2017)
2.5 How many decimal places should dealers use when disclosing the mark-up as a percentage amount?
Dealers should disclose the percentage amount rounded to at least two decimal places (e.g., hundredths of a percent). For example, if a dealer charged a $120 mark-up on a 10-bond transaction where the PMP was 99, the mark-up percentage should be disclosed to at least the hundredth of a percentage point, as 1.21% (as opposed to 1.2% or 1%). However, if a dealer charged a $100 mark-up on a 10-bond transaction where the PMP was 100, the mark-up percentage could be disclosed as 1.00% or 1%.
(March 19, 2018)
Section 3: Determining Prevailing Market Price
3.1 How should dealers determine PMP to calculate mark-ups?
Dealers must calculate mark-ups from a municipal security’s PMP, consistent with Rule G-30 and the supplementary material thereunder, particularly Supplementary Material .06 (sometimes referred to as the “waterfall” guidance or analysis). Under the applicable standard of “reasonable diligence” (discussed below), dealers may rely on reasonable policies and procedures to facilitate PMP determination, provided the policies and procedures are consistent with Rule G-30 and are consistently applied.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 12 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.2 Does the PMP guidance in Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06 apply for mark-up (and mark-down) disclosure purposes under Rule G-15 and for fair pricing purposes under Rule G-30?
Yes. Dealers should read the guidance in Supplementary Material .06 together with Rule G-30 and all the other supplementary material thereto. For example, while Supplementary Material .06 provides guidance in determining the PMP, Supplementary Material .01(a) explains that dealers must exercise “reasonable diligence” in establishing the market value of a security, and Supplementary Material .01(d) states that dealer compensation on a principal transaction with a customer is determined from the PMP of the security, as described in Supplementary Material .06. Read as a whole, Rule G-30 requires dealers to use reasonable diligence to determine the PMP of a municipal security in accordance with Supplementary Material .06. This standard applies for mark-up disclosure purposes under Rule G-15 and for fair pricing purposes under Rule G-30.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 25; 28 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 9-11 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
3.2.1 Does the functionally separate trading desk exception apply for purposes of determining the PMP of a security?
No. As explained in the rule filing, this exception “would only apply to determine whether or not the [mark-up] disclosure requirement has been triggered; it does not change the dealer’s requirements relating to the calculation of its mark-up or mark-down under Rule G-30.”
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at n. 20 (September 1, 2016)
(March 19, 2018)
3.3 When reading the PMP guidance in Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06, what does the language in parentheses mean?
Unless the context requires otherwise, language in parentheses that is not preceded by an “i.e.,” or “e.g.,” within sentences refers to scenarios where a dealer is charging a customer a mark-down. Thus, for example, in the phrase, “contemporaneous dealer purchases (sales) in the municipal security in question from (to) institutional accounts,” the terms “(sales)” and “(to)” apply where a dealer is charging a customer a mark-down.
(July 12, 2017)
3.4 When should dealers determine PMP and calculate the mark-up to be disclosed on a confirmation?
The MSRB recognizes that dealers may employ different processes for generating customer confirmations such that this may occur at the end of the day, or during the day for firms that use real-time, intra-day confirmation generation processes. Therefore, although the objective must always be to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction, different dealers may consistently conduct the analysis to make that determination at different times. Specifically, dealers may base their mark-up calculations for confirmation disclosure purposes on the information they have available to them (based on the exercise of reasonable diligence) at the time they systematically input relevant transaction information into the systems they use to generate confirmations.
This means that a dealer that systematically inputs the information at the time of trade may determine the PMP—and therefore, the mark-up—at the same time (even if the confirmation itself is not printed until the end of day). On the other hand, if a dealer systematically inputs such information at the end of the day, the dealer must use the information available to the dealer at that time to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction—and, therefore, the mark-up.
The timing of the determination must be applied consistently across all transactions in municipal securities (e.g., the dealer may not enter information into its systems at the time of trade and determine the PMP at the time of trade for some trades but at the end of the day for others).
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 24 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 10 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.4.1 May a dealer determine PMP between the time of trade and the end of the day?
Yes. The MSRB recognizes that firms may employ different processes for generating customer confirmations, and dealers are not limited to determining PMP for purposes of confirmation disclosure only at the times provided as examples in Question 3.4 (i.e., the time of trade or the end of the day). While the objective must always be to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction, as noted above in Question 3.4, PMP may be determined for disclosure purposes when a firm systematically enters the information into its confirmation generation system, based on information that is reasonably available to it at that time. Accordingly, a dealer may determine PMP at various times, including at the time of the trade, at the end of the day, or at times in between, provided the dealer does so according to reasonable, consistently applied policies and procedures and does not “cherry pick” favorable data.
(March 19, 2018)
3.4.2 May a dealer determine PMP at the time of trade (or at some other time before the end of the day) and wait until later in the day to analyze which trades triggered the disclosure requirement?
Yes. A dealer may determine PMP, enter the PMP information into a confirmation generation system, and later populate the mark-up field only on confirmations of trades that trigger disclosure. The MSRB would expect in such cases that the PMP determination would not be subject to change when the dealer performs the trigger analysis later in the day, other than for a reasonable exception review process (as discussed in Question 3.8.1). In all cases, dealers must follow consistently applied policies and procedures and may not “cherry pick” favorable data. Dealers are reminded that when determining PMP, they must use the information reasonably available to them at the time of the PMP determination and that the objective is always to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction.
(March 19, 2018)
3.4.3 What is considered a confirmation generation system, for purposes of the guidance on when dealers may determine PMP for disclosure purposes?
As noted above in Question 3.4, the MSRB recognizes that dealers may employ different processes for generating customer confirmations. For purposes of this guidance, the MSRB would consider a dealer to enter information systematically into a confirmation generation system when it stores the information in a location that is part of the confirmation generation process. The MSRB expects that the stored PMP information would not be subject to change, other than for a reasonable exception review process (as discussed in Question 3.8.1). The MSRB also expects that a dealer will clearly explain in its policies and procedures its confirmation generation process, including the timing and role of each material step in the process.
(March 19, 2018)
3.5 Once dealers determine PMP and input relevant information into their confirmation generation systems, would they be required to cancel and correct a confirmation to revise a disclosed mark-up if later events might contribute to a different PMP determination?
No. The disclosure must be accurate, based on the dealer’s exercise of reasonable diligence, as of the time the dealer systematically inputs the information into its systems to generate the disclosure. Once the dealer has input the information into its confirmation generation systems, the MSRB does not expect dealers to send revised confirmations solely based on the occurrence of a subsequent transaction or event that would otherwise be relevant to PMP determination under Rule G-30. On a voluntary basis, dealers may correct a confirmation, pursuant to reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 24 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.5.1 If a dealer corrects the price to a customer or determines that, at the time the dealer systematically entered the information into its systems to generate the mark-up disclosure, the PMP was inaccurate, must the dealer send a corrected confirmation that reflects a corrected mark-up disclosure and price?
Yes. Consistent with Question 3.5, dealers are not required to cancel and correct a confirmation to revise a disclosed mark-up solely based on the occurrence of a subsequent transaction or event that would otherwise be relevant to PMP determination under Rule G-30. However, if the dealer corrects the price to the customer or determines that a PMP was inaccurate at the time it was systematically entered into the dealer’s confirmation generation system, the dealer must send a confirmation that reflects an accurate mark-up and price.
(March 19, 2018)
3.6 May dealers engage third-party vendors to perform some or all of the steps required to fulfill the mark-up disclosure requirements?
Yes. Dealers may engage third-party service providers to facilitate mark-up disclosure consistent with Rules G-15 and G-30. For example, dealers that wish to perform most of the steps of the waterfall internally may choose to use the services of a vendor at the economic models level of the waterfall. Other dealers may wish to use the services of a vendor to perform most or all of the steps of the waterfall. In either case, the dealers retain the responsibility for ensuring the PMP is determined in accordance with Rule G-30 and that the mark-up is disclosed in compliance with Rule G-15 and must exercise due diligence and oversight over their third-party relationships.
As a policy matter, the MSRB does not endorse or approve the use of any specific vendors.
MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 8 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.7 May dealers use a third-party evaluated pricing service as an economic model at the final step of the waterfall?
Yes. However, before doing so, the dealer should have a reasonable basis for believing the third-party pricing service’s pricing methodologies produce evaluated prices that reflect actual prevailing market prices. A dealer would not have a reasonable basis for such a belief, for example, where a periodic review of the evaluated prices provided by the pricing service frequently (over the course of multiple trades) reveals a substantial difference between the evaluated prices and the prices at which actual transactions in the relevant securities occurred. In choosing to use evaluated prices from any pricing service, a dealer should assess, among other things, the quality of the evaluated prices provided by the service and the extent to which the service determines its evaluated prices on an intra-day basis.
To be clear, dealers are not required to use such pricing services at this stage of the waterfall analysis. Rather, third-party evaluated pricing services are only one type of economic model. Other types of economic models may include internally developed models such as a discounted cash flow model or a reasonable and consistent methodology to be used in connection with an applicable index or benchmark. Dealers are reminded that when using an internally developed model, the dealer must be able to provide information that the dealer used on the day of the transaction to develop the pricing information (i.e., the data that was input and the data that the model generated and the dealer used to arrive at the PMP).
MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 8 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
3.8 May dealers use or rely on automated systems to determine PMP?
Yes. While dealers are not required to automate the PMP determination and mark-up disclosure, they may choose to do so, provided they (and/or their vendors) do so consistent with Rule G-30 and Rule G-15, and all other applicable rules. The MSRB has provided guidance in several areas during the rulemaking process to facilitate automation for firms that choose to employ it. First, as noted above in Question 3.4, dealers are permitted on certain conditions to determine PMP on an intra-day basis (e.g., at the time of trade), allowing dealers that generate confirmations intra-day to continue to do so. Second, as noted in Question 3.1 and discussed throughout this guidance, the MSRB has acknowledged that dealers may develop policies and procedures that rely on reasonable, objective criteria to apply the PMP guidance in Supplementary Material .06 at a systematic level. Consistent with the reasonable policies and procedures approach, the MSRB further recognized during the rulemaking process that reasonable policies and procedures could result in different firms making different PMP determinations for the same security. (The MSRB would expect, however, that the consistent application of policies and procedures within a dealer would result in different traders or desks arriving at PMP determinations that are substantially the same under comparable facts and circumstances.)
MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 7-8 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.8.1 May dealers adopt a reasonable exception review process to evaluate PMP determinations?
Yes. As a general matter, the MSRB expects that dealers will employ supervisory review processes that consider, among other things, the reliability of their (or their vendors’) PMP determinations. To review reliability, a dealer might review PMP determinations that result in mark-ups that exceed pre-determined thresholds, and it also might compare PMP determinations with some other measure of market value to ascertain whether the PMP determinations fall outside pre-established ranges.
In cases where a dealer reviews PMP determinations before the associated trade confirmations are sent, dealers may correct PMP determinations to promote more accurate mark-up calculations, provided they do so according to reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures. As a general matter, however, the MSRB expects that it will be rare for a dealer to correct the PMP of a security based on exception reporting, and documentation in such situations will be paramount. To prevent “cherry picking,” the dealer’s policies and procedures should be specific in describing the PMP review process and the conditions under which the dealer may show that a PMP was erroneous (e.g., the PMP determination was based on an isolated transaction, or a PMP determined through the use of an economic model did not reflect recent news about the security). If a dealer determines that a PMP is erroneous, it must correct it consistent with Rule G-30, and it must do so using the information reasonably available to it at the time it makes the correction.
There may also be cases where a dealer’s exception review process results in corrected customer trade prices. For example, a dealer may review a trade where the mark-up exceeded a pre-determined threshold and the PMP was determined correctly. Dealers may refer to Question 3.5.1 in these cases.
(March 19, 2018)
3.9 May dealers develop objective criteria to automatically determine whether a trade is “contemporaneous” for purposes of establishing a presumptive PMP at the first step of the waterfall analysis?
Yes. Dealers may establish an objective set of criteria to determine whether a trade is contemporaneous, provided the objective criteria are established based on the exercise of reasonable diligence. For example, dealers could define an objective period of time as a default proxy for determining whether the trade is contemporaneous. Dealers could also define criteria to consider other relevant factors, such as whether intervening trades by other firms occurred at prices sufficiently different than the dealer’s trade to suggest that the dealer’s trade no longer reasonably reflects the current market price for the security, or whether changes in interest rates or the credit quality of the security, or news reports were significant enough to reasonably change the PMP of the security.
Given the different trading characteristics of different municipal securities, and relevant court and SEC case law applicable to debt securities in general, it likely would not be reasonable for a dealer’s policies and procedures to determine categorically that all transactions that occur outside of a specified time frame are not “contemporaneous.” Accordingly, dealers should include in their policies and procedures an opportunity to review and override the automatic application of default proxies (e.g., by reconsidering the application for transactions identified through reasonable exception reporting and specifying designated time intervals (or market events) after which such proxies will be reviewed).
(July 12, 2017)
3.10 Since Rule G-15 adopts a same-day trigger standard for mark-up disclosure, would it be reasonable to assume a same-day standard for determining whether trades are contemporaneous for purposes of determining PMP under Rule G-30?
The MSRB notes that the determination of whether mark-up disclosure is required under Rule G-15 is distinct from the determination of whether a transaction is contemporaneous under the waterfall analysis. The PMP guidance under Rule G-30 provides that a dealer’s cost is considered contemporaneous if the transaction occurs close enough in time to the subject transaction that it would reasonably be expected to reflect the current market price for the municipal security. While same-day transactions may often be contemporaneous according to this meaning, the MSRB has not set forth a specific time-period that is categorically contemporaneous. As noted above in Question 3.9, the MSRB would expect that dealers developing objective criteria for this purpose would base the determination of such criteria on the exercise of reasonable diligence.
(July 12, 2017)
3.11 How should dealers determine their contemporaneous cost if they have multiple contemporaneous purchases?
Dealers may rely on reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures that employ methodologies to establish PMP where they have multiple contemporaneous principal trades. For example, a dealer could employ consistently an average weighted price or a last price methodology. Such methodologies could further account for the type of principal trade, giving greater weight to principal trades with other dealers than to principal trades with customers.
MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 12-13 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.12 What is the next step in the analysis, when determining contemporaneous cost or proceeds, if a dealer has no contemporaneous transactions with another dealer?
Where the dealer has no contemporaneous cost or proceeds, as applicable, from an inter-dealer transaction, the dealer must then consider whether it has contemporaneous cost or proceeds, as applicable, from a customer transaction. Note that, because the dealer’s contemporaneous cost or proceeds from a customer transaction will also include the mark-up or mark-down charged in that transaction, the dealer should adjust its contemporaneous cost or proceeds from that customer transaction to account for the mark-up or mark-down included in the price. In these instances, the difference between the dealer’s “adjusted contemporaneous cost or proceeds” (the dealer’s contemporaneous cost or proceeds in the customer transaction, adjusted by the mark-up or mark-down) and the price to its customer is equal to the mark-up (or mark-down) to be disclosed on customer confirmations under Rule G-15. The MSRB has noted that this approach allows the dealer to avoid “double counting” in the mark-up and mark-down it discloses to each customer. For example, if a dealer buys 100 bonds from Customer A at a price of 98 and immediately sells 100 of the same bonds to Customer B at a price of 100, the dealer may apportion the mark-up and mark-down paid by each customer. Assuming for illustration that the dealer determines the PMP in accordance with the waterfall guidance to be 99, then the dealer would disclose to Customer A a total dollar amount mark-down of $1,000, also expressed as 1.01% of PMP, and it would disclose to Customer B a total dollar amount mark-up of $1,000, also expressed as 1.01% of PMP.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 21 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
3.13 May dealers adjust their contemporaneous cost to reflect what they believe to be a more accurate PMP, or their role taking risk to provide liquidity?
Dealers may adjust their contemporaneous cost only in one case: where a dealer’s offsetting trades that trigger disclosure under Rule G-15 are both customer transactions (discussed above at Question 3.12). Other adjustments to reflect the size or side of market for a dealer’s contemporaneous cost are not permitted.
(July 12, 2017)
3.14 May dealers apportion their expected aggregate monthly fees—for example to access an alternative trading system (ATS) or other trading platform—to individual contemporaneous transactions to be included in their contemporaneous costs?
No. For any given mark-up on a transaction, Supplementary Material .06 requires dealers to look first to their contemporaneous cost as incurred. The MSRB does not believe it would be consistent with Rule G-30 for dealers to consider an estimated apportionment of a future charge to be part of the specific cost they incurred in a contemporaneous transaction.
(July 12, 2017)
3.15 In determining contemporaneous cost, may dealers include transaction fees—for example to access an ATS or other trading platform—that were included in the price they paid?
Yes, provided the transaction fee is reflected in the price of the contemporaneous trade that is reported to EMMA, consistent with MSRB rules and guidance on pricing, trade reporting and fees. The MSRB will monitor and adjust this guidance as needed if it determines that pricing practices change in a way that diminishes the utility and reliability of mark-up disclosure.
(July 12, 2017)
3.16 May a dealer treat its own contemporaneous transaction as “isolated” and therefore disregard it when determining PMP?
No. Under Supplementary Material .06, isolated transactions or isolated quotations generally will have little or no weight or relevance in establishing PMP. The guidance also specifically provides that, in the municipal market, an “off-market” transaction may qualify as an isolated transaction. Through cross-references, Supplementary Material .06 makes clear that a dealer may deem a transaction or quotation at the hierarchy of pricing factors or similar-securities level of the waterfall to be isolated. However, the concept of “isolated” transactions or quotations does not apply to a dealer’s contemporaneous cost, which presumptively determines PMP.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 19; 21 (September 1, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.17 Supplementary Material .06 notes that changes in interest rates may allow a dealer to overcome the presumption that its own contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP. Does this refer only to formal policy interest rate changes, or does it also contemplate market changes in interest rates?
It refers to any change in interest rates, whether the change is caused by formal policy decisions or market events. However, Supplementary Material .06 notes that a dealer may overcome the presumption that its contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP based on a change in interest rates only in instances where they have changed after the dealer’s transaction to a degree that such change would reasonably cause a change in municipal securities pricing.
(July 12, 2017)
3.18 Supplementary Material .06 notes that changes in the credit quality of the municipal security may allow a dealer to overcome the presumption that its own contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP. Does this refer only to formal credit rating changes, or does it also contemplate market changes in implied or observed credit spreads such as those due to market-wide credit spread volatility or anticipated changes in the credit quality of the individual issuer?
It refers to any changes to credit quality, with respect to that particular security or the particular issuer of that security, whether the change is caused by a formal ratings announcement or market events. Thus, for example, this could include changes in the guarantee or collateral supporting repayment as well as significant recent information concerning the issuer that is not yet incorporated in credit ratings (e.g., changes to ratings outlooks). However, Supplementary Material .06 notes that a dealer may overcome the presumption that its contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP based on a change in credit quality only in instances where it has changed significantly after the dealer’s transaction.
(July 12, 2017)
3.18.1 When considering inter-dealer trades at the hierarchy of pricing factors level of the waterfall analysis, if the only contemporaneous inter-dealer trades in the security are executed at the same time and involve a broker’s broker or an ATS, may a dealer choose to determine PMP by reference to the inter-dealer trade price which is reasonably likely to be on the opposite side of the market from the dealer seeking to determine PMP?
Yes. Consistent with the standard of reasonable diligence, dealers may adopt a reasonable approach to consistently choosing between or referring to multiple contemporaneous inter-dealer trades. If the only contemporaneous inter-dealer trades in the security are executed at the same time and involve a broker’s broker or an ATS in the security, it may be reasonable for the dealer seeking to determine PMP to do so by reference to the trade price which is reasonably likely to be on the opposite side of the market from the dealer seeking to determine PMP.
For example, assume that Dealer XYZ is selling a municipal security to a retail customer. Also, assume that the dealer lacks contemporaneous cost and that there are only two contemporaneous inter-dealer transactions in the security, and that both of those transactions occur at the exact same time and in the exact same trade amount. Additionally, both inter-dealer transactions are identified by an ATS special condition indicator on EMMA. One transaction is executed at a price of 113.618 and the other is executed at a price of 113.868. Assume further that the difference between these two ATS transaction prices is in the customary and typical range of the fee an ATS would charge for its services. In this case, it may be reasonable for Dealer XYZ to conclude that the transaction at 113.618 reflects a sale from a dealer to an ATS taking a principal position in the security, and that the transaction at 113.868 reflects a sale from that ATS to another dealer. Under these circumstances, Dealer XYZ may reasonably determine the PMP by reference to the transaction at 113.868, because the counterparty to the ATS in that transaction was purchasing the security and thus on the opposite side of the market from the side of Dealer XYZ in its customer trade.
(March 19, 2018)
3.19 May dealers adopt a reasonable default proxy where the waterfall guidance refers to trades between dealers and institutional accounts with which any dealer regularly effects transactions in the same security, if such information cannot be ascertained through reasonable diligence?
Yes. Consistent with the Rule G-30 standard of “reasonable diligence” in establishing the PMP of a municipal security, dealers reasonably may use objective criteria as a proxy for the elements of these steps of the waterfall that they cannot reasonably ascertain, such as whether a customer transaction involves an institutional customer and whether that institutional customer regularly trades in the same security with any dealer. A reasonable approach might assume that transactions at or above a $1,000,000 par amount involve institutional customers, since that size transaction is conventionally considered to be an institutional-sized transaction. In addition, because institutional investors transacting at or above this size threshold are typically sophisticated investors, the same size proxy might be used to assume that the institutional customer regularly transacts with a dealer in the same security.
(July 12, 2017)
3.19.1 May a dealer reasonably determine that new issue trade prices executed at list offering/takedown prices are not reflective of the PMP at the time of their execution?
Yes. Because new issues may be priced days before the transactions are executed and reported to RTRS, a dealer may, but is not required to, determine that new issue trades executed at list offering or takedown prices are not reflective of the PMP at the time of their execution. These transactions generally are denoted by a list offering price/takedown indicator on EMMA and in the MSRB Transaction Subscription Service. Market participants may also determine the list offering price by viewing the security’s home page (i.e., the Security Details page) on EMMA.
(March 19, 2018)
3.20 Can an “all-to-all” platform (i.e., one that allows non-dealers to participate) qualify as an inter-dealer mechanism at the step of the waterfall that refers to bids and offers for actively traded securities?
Yes, provided that the dealer determines that the prices available on an “all-to-all” platform are generally consistent with inter-dealer prices. Dealers should include in their policies and procedures how they will periodically review a platform’s activity to make such a determination.
(July 12, 2017)
3.21 When considering bid and offer quotations from an inter-dealer mechanism, how many inter-dealer mechanisms must a dealer check before considering the next category of factors under the waterfall analysis?
The obligation to determine PMP requires a dealer to use reasonable diligence. It does not require a dealer to seek out and consider every potentially relevant data point available in the market. With respect to this factor in the waterfall analysis, a dealer must only seek out and consider enough information to reasonably determine that there is no probative information to determine PMP before proceeding to the next category of factors.
(July 12, 2017)
3.22 In considering bids and offers for actively traded securities made through an inter-dealer mechanism, how can a dealer determine that transactions generally occur at the displayed quotations on the inter-dealer mechanism?
Consistent with the Rule G-30 standard of reasonable diligence and a reasonable policies and procedures approach, a dealer could request and assess from the platform relevant statistics and relevant information reasonably sufficient to conclude that the inter-dealer mechanism meets the applicable requirements under Supplementary Material .06. A dealer could then periodically request and assess updated statistics and relevant information to confirm that the inter-dealer mechanism continues to satisfy the requirements.
(July 12, 2017)
3.23 At the similar securities stage of the waterfall analysis, how can a dealer determine on a systematic basis that an inter-dealer quotation is “validated”?
Consistent with the standard of reasonable diligence and a reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures approach to the PMP determination, for example, a dealer could determine that a bid (offer) quotation is validated if it is quoted on an “inter-dealer mechanism” (including the all-to-all platforms that qualify, as discussed above). With respect to a dealer’s own bids or offers, dealers are reminded of their existing regulatory obligations under applicable MSRB rules regarding bona fide bids or offers and the requirement that any published quotations must be based on the dealer’s best judgment of the fair market value of the securities. See, e.g., Rule G-13 and MSRB Notice to Dealers That Use the Services of Broker’s Brokers (December 22, 2012). Dealers are also reminded that under Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06, isolated transactions or isolated quotations (including those that are off-market) generally will have little or no weight or relevance in establishing the PMP of a security.
Due to the lack of bid (offer) quotations for many municipal securities, under the waterfall analysis, dealers in the municipal securities market may not often find information from contemporaneous bid (offer) quotations in the municipal securities market.
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
3.24 May a dealer use the same process it uses to identify a “similar” security for best-execution purposes to identify “similar” securities for PMP purposes?
Yes. Assuming the dealer’s process for identifying “similar” securities for Rule G-18 best-execution purposes is reasonable and in compliance with Rule G-18, a dealer may rely on the same process in connection with identifying similar securities under Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06.
Alternatively, due to the different purposes of the “similar” security analysis for best-execution purposes as compared to PMP determination purposes, dealers reasonably may adopt a more restrictive approach to identifying “similar” securities for Rule G-30 than they may for Rule G-18. While the relevant part of the best-execution analysis under Rule G-18 seeks to identify the best market to address a customer’s order or inquiry by reference to another security, the relevant part of the waterfall analysis seeks to identify the PMP of one security by reference to another security. Further, Rule G-30 Supplementary Material .06 provides that, in order to qualify as a “similar” security, at a minimum, the municipal security should be sufficiently similar that a market yield for the subject security can be fairly estimated from the yield of the “similar” security. Due to the large number and diversity of municipal securities, the MSRB is of the view that, generally, if the prices or yields of a security would require an adjustment in order to account for differences between the security and the subject security, it would be reasonable for a dealer to determine that that security is not sufficiently “similar” to the subject security for purposes of Supplementary Material .06. To be clear, dealers have the flexibility to determine that a security that requires an immaterial adjustment in order to account for differences is sufficiently “similar” for these purposes, but they are not required to do so. This approach also is consistent with the MSRB’s view that, in order for a security to qualify as sufficiently “similar,” the security must be at least highly similar to the subject security with respect to nearly all the “similar” security factors listed in Rule G-30 Supplementary Material .06(b)(ii) that are relevant to the subject security.
Whichever approach a dealer chooses to apply, the dealer must apply that approach consistently across all municipal securities.
Due to the lack of active trading in many municipal securities and the above discussion regarding the identification of “similar” securities in the municipal securities market, under the waterfall analysis, dealers in the municipal securities market may not often find information from sufficiently similar securities as compared to dealers in other fixed income markets.
Because of the unique characteristics of the municipal securities market, the MSRB response to this question may differ from the FINRA interpretation under FINRA Rule 2121.
(July 12, 2017)
3.24.1 How many “similar” securities must a dealer consider at the “similar” securities stage of the waterfall analysis?
The obligation to determine PMP requires a dealer to use reasonable diligence. It does not require a dealer to seek out and consider every potentially relevant data point available in the market. At this point in the waterfall analysis, a dealer must only seek out and consider enough information to reasonably determine that it has identified the prevailing market price of the security (or that there is no probative information to determine PMP before proceeding to the next level). A dealer’s policies and procedures should explain the process for identifying similar securities (and, if relevant, how the dealer may adjust the prices or yields of identified similar securities). Because the reasonable diligence standard is often guided by industry norms, dealers should periodically revisit their policies and procedures to ensure that their established processes continue to remain reasonable.
Due to the unique characteristics of the municipal securities market, including the large number of issuers and the bespoke nature of many municipal securities, it is unlikely that the dealer will identify a substantial number of “similar” securities for many municipal securities. For example, it would be reasonable for a dealer to determine that a comparison security is not sufficiently “similar” to the subject security for purposes of Supplementary Material .06 if the prices or yields of the comparison security would require an adjustment in order to account for differences between that security and the subject security.
(March 19, 2018)
3.25 How is the “relative weight” provision in paragraphs (a)(v) (regarding the hierarchy of pricing factors) and (a)(vi) (regarding similar securities) of Supplementary Material .06 meant to be used in operation?
This provision is meant to be used when there is more than one comparison transaction or quotation within the categories specified in the hierarchy of pricing factors and when there is more than one comparison transaction or quotation within the similar securities level of the waterfall analysis. In these cases, a dealer may consider the facts and circumstances of the comparison transactions or quotations to determine the weight or degree of influence to attribute to a particular transaction or quotation. For example, a dealer might give greater weight to more recent (timely) comparison transactions or quotations. Similarly, to the extent a dealer considers comparison transactions or quotations in which the dealer is on the same side of the market as the dealer in the subject transaction (if known from dealer customer trade reports), a dealer might give relatively less weight or influence to such information in determining PMP than information from transactions or quotations in which the dealer was on the opposite side of the market from the dealer in the subject transaction.
Consistent with the standard of reasonable diligence and a reasonable policies and procedures approach to the PMP determination, a dealer may adopt a reasonable methodology that it will consistently apply when considering the facts and circumstances of comparison transactions or quotations and assigning relative weight to such transactions or quotations. For example, a dealer might employ an average weighted price methodology (if all relevant trade sizes are publicly available) or last price methodology, provided its policies and procedures called for the reasonable and consistent use of the methodology and did not ignore potentially relevant facts and circumstances, such as side of the market.
Due to the unique characteristics of the municipal securities market, the MSRB response to this question may differ from the FINRA interpretation under FINRA Rule 2121.
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
3.26 When dealers consider the hierarchy of pricing factors under Supplementary Material .06(a)(v), or similar securities factors under paragraph (a)(vi), may they consider the size of comparison transactions to determine their relative weight?
Yes. Paragraphs (a)(v) and (a)(vi) include a non-exhaustive list of facts and circumstances that may impact the “relative weight” of comparison transactions or quotations that may be considered at that point in the waterfall analysis. The MSRB believes it would be reasonable to consider the size of a comparison transaction when considering its relative weight.
(July 12, 2017)
3.27 What is an “applicable index” as that term is used at the “similar securities” level of Supplementary Material .06?
Supplementary Material .06 lists a number of non-exclusive factors that a dealer can look to in determining whether a security is sufficiently “similar” to the subject security. One of these factors is how comparably they trade over an applicable index or U.S. Treasury securities of a similar duration. The inclusion of the more general term “applicable index,” is intended to give dealers flexibility to consider, for example, commonly used municipal market bond indices, yield curves and benchmarks as these may be more relevant than data on Treasury securities (especially for tax-exempt bonds).
Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 5 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
3.28 Must dealers keep their PMP determination for each trade in their books and records?
The MSRB believes that dealers should keep records to demonstrate their compliance with Rule G-30, particularly where they have the evidentiary burden to demonstrate why a contemporaneous transaction was not the best measure of PMP for a given trade. The MSRB further notes that it would expect PMP documentation to be an important component of a firm’s system to supervise compliance with Rules G-15 and G-30.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 20 n. 39 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 8 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
3.29 Is there a difference between the PMP that is determined for mark-up disclosure purposes under Rule G-15 and for fair pricing purposes under Rule G-30?
As noted during the rulemaking process, the MSRB recognizes that by allowing dealers to determine PMP for mark-up disclosure purposes at the time of entry of information into systems for confirmation generation, a mark-up disclosed on a confirmation may not reflect subsequent trades that could be considered “contemporaneous” under Supplementary Material .06. However, the MSRB does not believe it is necessary to make a formal distinction between a PMP determined for disclosure purposes and a PMP determined for other regulatory purposes. Still, in connection with any post-transaction fair pricing review process, dealers should not disregard any new information relevant under Supplementary Material .06 that occurs after the mark-up determination (e.g., contemporaneous proceeds obtained after the customer transaction).
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 14; 25; 28 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 10 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
Section 4: Time of Execution and Security-Specific URL Disclosures
4.1 When must dealers disclose the time of execution on a customer confirmation?
Under Rule G-15, dealers must disclose the time of execution for all transactions, including principal and agency transactions. However, for transactions in municipal fund securities and transactions for an institutional account, as defined in Rule G-8(a)(xi), in lieu of disclosing the time of execution, dealers may instead include on the confirmation a statement that the time of execution will be furnished upon written request of the customer. This time-of-execution disclosure requirement is not limited to circumstances where mark-up disclosure is triggered; therefore, it is required even where mark-up disclosure is not.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13-14 (September 1, 2016); Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 4-5 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
4.2 How should the time of execution be disclosed?
Dealers have an obligation under Rule G-14, on reports of sales or purchases of municipal securities, to report the “time of trade” to the MSRB’s Real-Time Transaction Reporting System. In addition, dealers have an obligation under Rule G-8(a)(vii) to make and keep records of the time of execution of principal transactions in municipal securities. The time of execution for confirmation disclosure purposes is the same as the time of trade for Rule G-14 reporting purposes and the time of execution for purposes of Rule G-8(a)(vii), except that dealers should omit all seconds, without rounding to the minute, from the time-of-execution disclosure because the trade data displayed on EMMA does not include seconds.
Alternatively, if disclosure in this format is operationally challenging or burdensome for a dealer, a dealer may choose to disclose the seconds, again without rounding to the minute (e.g., a time of trade of 10:00:59 may be disclosed as 10:00:59 or 10:00). Additionally, because EMMA displays the time of trade in eastern standard time (EST), dealers may disclose on the customer confirmation the time of execution in either military time (as reported to RTRS under Rule G-14) or in traditional EST with an AM or PM indicator (e.g., a time of trade of 14:00:59 may be disclosed on a confirmation as 14:00:59, 14:00, 2:00:59 PM or 02:00 PM). The time-of-execution disclosure format used by a dealer should be consistent for all municipal securities transaction confirmations on which the disclosure is provided.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 14 n. 29 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 6 n. 11 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
4.3 When must dealers disclose a security-specific URL on a customer confirmation?
Under Rule G-15, dealers must disclose a security-specific URL, in a format specified by the MSRB as discussed below, for all non-institutional customer trades other than transactions in municipal fund securities, even where mark-up disclosure is not required. In the rare situations where there is no CUSIP assigned for a security that is subject to Rule G-15 at the time the dealer trades the security with a customer, the dealer is not required to include the security-specific URL on the customer confirmation.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13-14; 27; 35 (September 1, 2016); Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 4 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
4.4 What is the security-specific URL that must be disclosed?
The template for the URL that must be disclosed under Rule G-15 is: https://emma.msrb.org/cusip/[insert CUSIP number].  The URL is currently live and operational. Paper confirmations must include this URL with the security-specific CUSIP in print form; electronic confirmations must include the security-specific URL as a hyperlink to the web page.
MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 6 (November 14, 2016)
FINRA has provided its own security-specific URL template in its guidance.
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
4.5 Do dealers need to provide any other disclosure concerning the security-specific URL?
Yes. Dealers must include a brief description of the type of information that is available on the security-specific web page for the subject security, such as information about the prices of other transactions in the same security, the official statement and other disclosures for the security, ratings and other market data and educational material. To be clear, the disclosure does not need to describe with specificity all of the information available on the relevant web page. As described above, the description should be brief. Additionally, it only needs to describe enough information about the relevant web page that a reasonable investor would understand the type of information available on that page. For example, the following language would satisfy this obligation: “For more information about this security (including the official statement and trade and price history), visit [insert link]." Because this language is an example only, dealers may use other language to describe the content of the web page.
As a reminder, Rule G-15(a)(i)(E) requires all requirements to be clearly and specifically indicated on the front of the confirmation, subject to limited exceptions. Because the description of the type of information available on the security-specific web page is not listed as an exception, it must be on the front of the confirmation.
SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13; 27 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 6 n. 9 (November 14, 2016)
(July 12, 2017)
(Updated March 19, 2018)
4.6 Is disclosure of the time of execution or security-specific URL required for transactions that involve a dealer and a registered investment adviser?
No. Disclosure of the time of execution and security-specific URL is not required for transactions with an institutional customer. Under Rule G-15, a registered investment adviser is an institutional accountholder; accordingly, disclosure is not required for these transactions. This is the case even if the registered investment adviser with whom the dealer transacted later allocates all or a portion of the securities to a retail account or where the transaction is executed directly for a retail account if the investment adviser has discretion over the transaction. The MSRB notes that this answer is specific to the time-of-execution and security-specific URL disclosure requirements in Rule G-15; it is not intended to alter any other obligations.
(July 12, 2017)
 EMMA is a registered trademark of the MSRB.
 Prior to May 14, 2018, Supplementary Material .01(d) provides that dealer compensation on a principal transaction is considered to be a mark-up or mark-down that is computed from the inter-dealer market price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction. As of May 14, 2018, the reference to the prevailing “inter-dealer” price is amended to instead, as noted above, reference the “prevailing market price,” as described in Supplementary Material .06. Supplementary Material .06, which applies to customer transactions and not internal position movements, generally embodies the principle that the PMP of a security is generally the price at which dealers trade with one another. This underlying principle does not mean that dealers may avoid following the steps of the waterfall analysis in the specific order prescribed in Supplementary Material .06. However, it remains a useful principle that dealers may wish to consider in approaching certain unspecified aspects of the waterfall analysis. The MSRB’s responses to Questions 3.11, 3.12, 3.20 and 3.23, in part, are reflective of this underlying principle. Other answers, including those in response to Questions 3.9, 3.10, 3.21 and 3.25 are reflective of the MSRB’s longstanding “reasonable diligence” standard, discussed above.
 This example assumes that the dealer has identified that it has contemporaneous cost and proceeds at the time that it is determining the mark-up and mark-down to each customer. If this is not the case, however, because the dealer systematically inputs information into its systems for the generation of PMP at the time of trade, then there is a different result. For example, assume that the trade at 98 occurs at 10:00 AM, the trade at 100 occurs at 3:00 PM and these trades are contemporaneous. If the dealer systematically determines PMP at the time of trade, consistent with Question 3.4, at the time of the 10:00 AM trade, the dealer may simply proceed down the waterfall to determine the PMP for the security without the need to adjust that PMP. At the time of the 3:00 PM trade, however, the dealer should adjust its contemporaneous cost as described above to account for the mark-down included in the price.
 At the institutional transactions and quotations categories in the hierarchy of pricing factors level of the waterfall, generally, dealers consider information from only one side of the market, depending on whether the dealer is charging a mark-up or mark-down. However, pursuant to reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures, a dealer may consider information from transactions in which the dealer is on the other side of the market when reasonable to do so. For example, this may be reasonable where the dealer has identified no comparison transactions in which the dealer is on the opposite side of the market as the dealer in the subject transaction. In this case, the dealer may reasonably adjust the transaction price by an amount to account for the price at which that transaction might have occurred had it been a transaction in which the dealer was on the opposite side of the market from the dealer in the subject transaction. Also for example, where the dealer has identified comparison transactions on both sides of the market, the dealer reasonably may perform a similar adjustment (i.e., adjust a price from a transaction in which the dealer is on the same side of the market as the dealer in the subject transaction by an amount to account for the price at which that transaction might have occurred had it been a transaction in which the dealer was on the opposite side of the market from the dealer in the subject transaction). A dealer’s ability to consider such information may be particularly important in the municipal market in which securities often trade infrequently and in which dealers may often have such limited information available to them at the time of their PMP determination.
 The MSRB previously announced the URL template as: http://emma.msrb.org/cusip/[insert CUSIP number]. Accordingly, confirmations for dealers that began to program their confirmations in accordance with the previously announced URL template may begin with the http format, rather than the https format. The MSRB does not expect such dealers to reprogram the URLs provided on customer confirmations as the http format will continue to function and will automatically redirect to the more secure https site.
 As a reminder, for dealers that currently seek to satisfy their obligation to provide a copy of the official statement to customers under Rule G-32(a)(iii) by notifying customers of the availability of the official statement through EMMA, the provision of the link described in this set of FAQs would satisfy both the relevant Rule G-15 security-specific URL obligation and the Rule G-32(a)(iii), provided that, for purposes of Rule G-32(a)(iii), the URL address also is accompanied by the additional information described. For example, if a dealer included the sample description included in this question, the addition of the language “Copies of the official statement are also available from [insert dealer name] upon request” would satisfy both the Rule G-15 security-specific URL obligation and Rule G-32(a)(iii) obligations.
MSRB Reminds Firms of Their Sales Practice and Due Diligence Obligations when Selling Municipal Securities in the Secondary Market
Brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (dealers or firms) must fully understand the bonds they sell in order to meet their disclosure, suitability and pricing obligations under the rules of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) and federal securities laws. These obligations are not limited to firms involved in primary offerings. Dealers must also obtain, analyze and disclose all material facts about secondary market transactions that are known to the dealer, or that are reasonably accessible to the market through established industry sources.
Those sources include, among other things, official statements, continuing disclosures, trade data, and other information made available through the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access system (EMMA). Firms may also have a duty to obtain and disclose information that is not available through EMMA, if it is material and available through other public sources. The public availability of material information, through EMMA or otherwise, does not relieve a firm of its duty to disclose that information. Firms must also have reasonable grounds for determining that a recommendation is suitable based on information available from the issuer of the security or otherwise. Firms must also use this information to determine the prevailing market price of a security as the basis for establishing a fair price in a transaction with a customer. To meet these requirements, firms must perform an independent analysis of the bonds they sell, and may not rely solely on a bond’s credit rating.
Continuing disclosures made by issuers to the MSRB via EMMA are part of the information that dealers must obtain, disclose and consider in meeting their regulatory obligations. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently approved amendments to Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c2-12, governing continuing disclosures. Firms that sell municipal securities should review and, if necessary, update their procedures to reflect the amendments, which have a compliance date of December 1, 2010.
Background and Discussion
MSRB Disclosure, Suitability and Pricing Rules
MSRB Rule G-17 provides that, in the conduct of its municipal securities activities, each dealer must deal fairly with all persons and may not engage in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice. The MSRB has interpreted Rule G-17 to require a dealer, in connection with any transaction in municipal securities, to disclose to its customer, at or prior to the sale, all material facts about the transaction known by the dealer, as well as material facts about the security that are reasonably accessible to the market. This includes the obligation to give customers a complete description of the security, including a description of the features that likely would be considered significant by a reasonable investor and facts that are material to assessing the potential risks of the investment.
Such disclosures must be made at the “time of trade,” which the MSRB defines as at or before the point at which the investor and the dealer agree to make the trade. Rule G-17 applies to all sales of municipal securities, whether or not a transaction was recommended by a broker-dealer. This means that municipal securities dealers must disclose all information required to be disclosed by the rule even if the trade is self-directed.
MSRB Rule G-19 requires that a dealer that recommends a municipal securities transaction have reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable for the customer based upon information available from the issuer of the security or otherwise and the facts disclosed by, or otherwise known about, the customer.
MSRB Rule G-30 requires that dealers trade with customers at prices that are fair and reasonable, taking into consideration all relevant factors. The MSRB has stated that the concept of a “fair and reasonable” price includes the concept that the price must “bear a reasonable relationship to the prevailing market price of the security.” The impetus for the MSRB’s Real-time Transaction Reporting System (RTRS), which was implemented in January 2005, was to allow market participants to monitor market price levels on a real-time basis and thus assist them in identifying changes in market prices that may have been caused by news or market events. The MSRB now makes the transaction data reported to RTRS available to the public through EMMA.
In meeting these disclosure, suitability and pricing obligations, firms must take into account all material information that is known to the firm or that is available through “established industry sources,” including official statements, continuing disclosures, and trade data, much of which is now available through EMMA. Resources outside of EMMA may include press releases, research reports and other data provided by independent sources. Established industry sources can also include material event notices and other data filed with former nationally recognized municipal securities information repositories (NRMSIRs) before July 1, 2009. Therefore, firms should review their policies and procedures for obtaining material information about the bonds they sell to make sure they are reasonably designed to access all material information that is available, whether through EMMA or other established industry sources. The MSRB has also noted that the fact that material information is publicly available through EMMA does not relieve a firm of its duty to specifically disclose it to the customer at the time of trade, or to consider it in determining the suitability of a bond for a specific customer. Importantly, the dealer may not simply direct the customer to EMMA to fulfill its time-of-trade disclosure obligations under Rule G-17.
Amendments to Rule 15c2-12 Concerning Continuing Disclosure
Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c2-12 requires underwriters participating in municipal bond offerings that are subject to that rule to receive, review, and distribute official statements of issuers of primary municipal securities offerings, and prohibits underwriters from purchasing or selling municipal securities covered by the rule unless they have first reasonably determined that the issuer or an obligated person has contractually agreed to make certain continuing disclosures to the MSRB, including certain financial information and notice of certain events. The MSRB makes such disclosure public via EMMA.
Financial information to be disclosed under the rule consists of the following:
- Annual financial information updating the financial information in the official statement;
- Audited financial statements, if available and not included within the annual financial information; and
- Notices of failure to provide such financial information on a timely basis.
Currently, the rule enumerates the following as notice events, if material:
- Principal and interest payment delinquencies;
- Non-payment related defaults;
- Unscheduled draws on debt service reserves reflecting financial difficulties;
- Unscheduled draws on credit enhancements reflecting financial difficulties;
- Substitution of credit or liquidity providers or their failure to perform;
- Adverse tax opinions or events affecting the tax-exempt status of the security;
- Modifications to rights of security holders;
- Bond calls;
- Release, substitution or sale of property securing repayment of the securities; and
- Rating changes.
Rule 15c2-12(c) also prohibits any dealer from recommending the purchase or sale of a municipal security unless it has procedures in place that provide reasonable assurance that it will receive prompt notice of any event notice reported pursuant to the rule. Firms should review any applicable continuing disclosures made available through EMMA and other established industry sources and take such disclosures into account in undertaking its suitability and pricing determinations.
On May 26, 2010, the SEC amended the rule’s disclosure obligations, with a compliance date of December 1, 2010, to: (1) apply continuing disclosure requirements to new primary offerings of certain variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs); (2) add four new notice events; (3) remove the materiality standard for certain notice events; and (4) require that event notices be filed in a timely manner but no later than 10 business days after their occurrence. With respect to the tax status of the security, the rule has been broadened to require disclosure of adverse tax opinions, issuance by the IRS of proposed or final determinations of taxability and other material notices, and determinations or events affecting the tax status of the bonds (including a Notice of Proposed Issue). Firms that deal in municipal securities should familiarize themselves with these amendments, and, if necessary, modify their policies and procedures to incorporate this additional disclosure accordingly.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) noted in its Regulatory Notice 09-35 that, if a firm discovers through its Rule 15c2-12 procedures or otherwise that an issuer has failed to make filings required under its continuing disclosure agreements, the firm must take this information into consideration in meeting its disclosure obligations under MSRB Rule G-17 and in assessing the suitability of the issuer’s bonds under MSRB Rule G-19.
In order to meet their obligations under MSRB Rules G-17 and G-19, firms must analyze and disclose to customers the risks associated with the bonds they sell, including, but not limited to, the bond’s credit risk. A credit rating is a third-party opinion of the of the credit quality of a municipal security. While the MSRB generally considers credit ratings and rating changes to be material information for purposes of disclosure, suitability and pricing, they are only one factor to be considered, and dealers should not solely rely on credit ratings as a substitute for their own assessment of a bond’s credit risk.  Moreover, different agencies use different quantitative and qualitative criteria and methodologies to determine their rating opinions. Dealers should familiarize themselves with the rating systems used by rating agencies in order to understand and assess the relevance of a particular rating to the firm’s overall assessment of the bond.. With respect to credit or liquidity enhanced securities, the MSRB has stated that material information includes the following, if known to the dealer or if reasonably available from established industry sources: (i) the credit rating of the issue or lack thereof; (ii) the underlying credit rating or lack thereof, (iii) the identity of any credit enhancer or liquidity provider; and (iv) the credit rating of the credit provider and liquidity provider, including potential rating actions (e.g., downgrade). Additionally, material terms of the credit facility or liquidity facility should be disclosed (e.g., any circumstances under which a standby bond purchase agreement would terminate without a mandatory tender).
Other Material Information
In addition to a bond’s credit quality, firms must obtain, analyze and disclose other material information about a bond, including but not limited to whether the bond may be redeemed prior to maturity in-whole, in-part or in extraordinary circumstances, whether the bond has non-standard features that may affect price or yield calculations, whether the bond was issued with original issue discount or has other features that would affect its tax status, and other key features likely to be considered significant by a reasonable investor. For example, for VRDOs, auction rate securities or other securities for which interest payments may fluctuate, firms should explain to customers the basis on which periodic interest rate resets are determined. The MSRB has stated that firms should take particular care with respect to new products that may be introduced into the municipal securities market, existing products that may have complex structures that can differ materially from issue to issue, and outstanding securities that may trade infrequently, may be issued by less well-known issuers, or may have unusual features.
Firms are reminded that MSRB Rule G-27 requires firms to supervise their municipal securities business, and to ensure that they have adequate policies and procedures in place for monitoring the effectiveness of their supervisory systems. Specifically, firms must:
- Supervise the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the firm and associated persons to ensure compliance with all MSRB rules, the Exchange Act and the rules there under;
- Have adequate written supervisory procedures; and
- Implement supervisory controls to ensure that their supervisory procedures are adequate.
Rule G-27 requires that a firm’s supervisory procedures provide for the regular and frequent review and approval by a designated principal of customer accounts introduced or carried by the dealer in which transactions in municipal securities are effected, with such review being designed to ensure that transactions are in accordance with all applicable rules and to detect and prevent irregularities and abuses. Although the rule does not establish a specific procedure for ensuring compliance with the requirement to provide disclosures to customers pursuant to Rule G-17, firms should consider including in their procedures for reviewing accounts and transactions specific processes for documenting or otherwise ascertaining that such disclosures have been made.
Questions to Consider
Before selling any municipal bond, dealers should make sure that they fully understand the bonds they are selling in order to make adequate disclosure to customers under Rule G-17, to ensure that recommendations are suitable under Rule G-19, and to ensure that they are fairly priced under Rule G-30. Among other things, dealers should ask and be able to answer the following questions:
- What are the bond’s key terms and features and structural characteristics, including but not limited to its issuer, source of funding (e.g., general obligation or revenue bond), repayment priority, and scheduled repayment rate? (Much of this information will be in the Official Statement, which for many municipal bonds can be obtained by entering the CUSIP number in the MuniSearch box at www.emma.msrb.org). Be aware, however, data in the Official Statement may have been superseded by the issuer’s on-going disclosures.
Does information available through EMMA or other established industry sources indicate that an issuer is delinquent in its material event notice and other continuing disclosure filings? Delinquencies should be viewed as a red flag.
- What other public material information about the bond or its issuer is available through established industry sources other than EMMA?
- What is the bond’s rating? Has the issuer of the bond recently been downgraded? Has the issuer filed any recent default or other event notices, or has any other information become available through established industry sources that might call into question whether the published rating has been revised to take such event into consideration?
- Is the bond insured, or does it benefit from liquidity support, a letter of credit or is it otherwise supported by a third party? If so, check the credit rating of the bond insurer or other backing, and the bond’s underlying rating (without third party support). If supported by a third party, review the terms and conditions under which the third party support may terminate.
- How is it priced? Be aware that the price of a bond can be priced above or below its par value for many reasons, including changes in the creditworthiness of a bond's issuer and a host of other factors, including prevailing interest rates.
- How and when will interest on the bond be paid? Most municipal bonds pay semiannually, but zero coupon municipal bonds pay all interest at the time the bond matures. Variable rate bonds typically will pay interest more frequently, usually on a monthly basis in variable amounts.
- What is the bond’s tax status, under both state and federal laws? Is it subject to the Federal Alternate Minimum Tax? Is it fully taxable (e.g., Build America Bonds)?
- What are its call provisions? Call provisions allow the issuer to retire the bond before it matures. How would a call affect expected future income?
 MSRB Rule G-17 applies to all transactions in municipal securities, including those in both the primary and secondary market. MSRB Rule G-32 specifically addresses the delivery of the official statement in connection with primary offerings.
 See MSRB Notice 2009-42 (July 14, 2009).
 A dealer’s specific investor protection obligations, including its disclosure, fair practice and suitability obligations under Rules G-17 and G-19, may be affected by the status of an institutional investor as a Sophisticated Municipal Market Professional (“SMMP”). See Rule G-17 Interpretation – Notice Regarding the Application of MSRB Rules to Transactions with Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals (April 30, 2002).
 See MSRB Notice 2009-42, supra n.2.
 Rule G-18 requires that a dealer effecting an agency trade with a customer make a reasonable effort to obtain a price for the customer that is fair and reasonable in relation to prevailing market conditions.
 See MSRB Notice 2004-3 (January 26, 2004).
 Since July 1, 2009, material event notices are required to be filed through EMMA, which has replaced Bloomberg Municipal Repository; DPC DATA Inc.; Interactive Data Pricing and Reference Data, Inc.; and Standard & Poor’s Securities Evaluations, Inc. as the sole NRMSIR.
 The MSRB has also stated that providing adequate disclosure does not relieve a firm of its suitability obligations. See MSRB Notice 2007-17 (March 30, 2007).
 Rule G-32 does allow a dealer to satisfy its obligation to deliver an official statement to its customer during the primary offering disclosure period no later than the settlement of the transaction by advising the customer of how to obtain it on EMMA, unless the customer requests a paper copy. The delivery obligation under Rule G-32 is distinct from the duty to disclose material information under Rule G-17, which applies to all primary and secondary market transactions.
 Certain limited offerings, variable rate demand obligations, and small issues are exempt from Rule 15c2-12.
 “Obligated person” is defined as “any person, including an issuer of municipal securities, who is either generally or through an enterprise, fund or account of such person committed by contract or other arrangement to support payment of all, or part of the obligations of the municipal securities to be sold in the offering (other than providers of municipal bond insurance, letters of credit, or other liquidity facilities).”
 The new notice events are (1) tender offers, (2) bankruptcy, insolvency, receivership, or similar events, (3) consummation of mergers, consolidations, acquisitions, or asset sales, or entry into or termination of a definitive agreement related to do the same, if material, and (4) appointment of a successor or additional trustee or a change in the name of the trustee, if material.
 The amendments removed the materiality standard and require notices for the following events: (1) principal and interest payment delinquencies with respect to the securities being offered ; (2) unscheduled draws on debt service reserves reflecting financial difficulties; (3) unscheduled draws on credit enhancements reflecting financial difficulties; (4) substitution of credit or liquidity providers, or their failure to perform; (5) defeasances: and (6) rating changes. The amendments retained the materiality standard for the following events: (1) non-payment related defaults; (2) modifications to rights of security holders; (3) bond calls; and (4) release, substitution, or sale of property securing repayment of the securities.
 See MSRB Notice 2009-42, supra n.2. Ratings changes are reportable events under Rule 15c2-12.
 Not all municipal bonds are rated. While an absence of a credit rating is not, by itself, a determinant of low credit quality, it is a factor that the dealers should consider, and may warrant additional due diligence of the bond and its issuer by the dealer. In addition, MSRB Rule G-15 requires confirmation statements for customer trades in unrated municipal securities to disclose that the securities are not rated.
 See MSRB Notice 2009-42. The SEC has approved the MSRB’s proposal to require dealers to submit copies of credit enhancement and liquidity facility documents to EMMA pursuant to amended MSRB Rule G-34(c), which may increase the availability of such information to dealers. See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 62755, August 20, 2010 (File No. SR-MSRB-2010-02).
 See Notice Concerning Disclosure of Call Information to Customers of Municipal Securities, MSRB Interpretation of March 4, 1986.
 See Transactions in Municipal Securities With Non-Standard Features Affecting Price/Yield Calculations, MSRB Interpretation of June 12, 1995.
 See MSRB Notice 2005-01 (January 5, 2005); MSRB Notice 2009-41 (July 10, 2009).
 See MSRB Notice 2008-09 (February 19, 2008).
 See MSRB Notice 2009-42, supra n.2.
Bond Insurance Ratings - Application of MSRB Rules
Bond insurance companies recently have been subject to increased attention in the municipal securities market as a result of credit rating agency downgrades and ongoing credit agency reviews. Because of these recent events and the prominence of bond insurance in the municipal securities market, the MSRB is publishing this notice to review some of the investor protection rules applicable to brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) effecting transactions in insured municipal securities.
RULE G-17 AND TIME OF TRADE DISCLOSURE TO CUSTOMERS
One of the most important MSRB investor protection rules is Rule G-17, which requires dealers to deal fairly with all persons and prohibits deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practices. A long-standing interpretation of Rule G-17 is that a dealer transacting with a customer  must ensure that the customer is informed of all material facts concerning the transaction, including a complete description of the security. Disclosure of material facts to a customer under Rule G-17 may be made orally or in writing, but must be made at or prior to the time of trade. In general, a fact is considered “material” if there is a substantial likelihood that its disclosure would have been considered significant by a reasonable investor. As applied to customer transactions in insured municipal securities, the disclosures required under Rule G-17 include a description of the securities and identification of any bond insurance as well as material facts that relate to the credit rating of the issue. The disclosures required under Rule G-17 also may include material facts about the credit enhancement applicable to the issue.
March 2002 Notice
In a March 2002 Interpretative Notice, the MSRB provided specific guidance on the disclosure requirements of Rule G-17. The March 2002 Notice clarified that, in addition to the requirement to disclose material facts about a transaction of which the dealer is specifically aware, the dealer is responsible for disclosing any material fact that has been made available through sources such as the NRMSIR system, the Municipal Securities Information Library® (MSIL®) system, RTRS, rating agency reports and other sources of information relating to the municipal securities transaction generally used by dealers that effect transactions in the type of municipal securities at issue (collectively, “established industry sources”). The inclusion of “rating agency reports” within the list of “established industry sources” of information makes clear the Board’s view that information about the rating of a bond, or information from the rating agency about potential rating actions with respect to a bond, may be material information about the transaction. It follows that, where the issue’s credit rating is based in whole or in part on bond insurance, the credit rating of the insurance company, or information from the rating agency about potential rating actions with respect to the bond insurance company, may be material information about the transaction.
In addition to the actual credit rating of a municipal issue, “underlying” credit ratings are assigned by rating agencies to some municipal securities issues. An underlying credit rating is assigned to reflect the credit quality of an issue independent of credit enhancements such as bond insurance. The underlying rating (or the lack of an underlying rating) may be relevant to a transaction when the credit rating of the bond insurer is downgraded or is the subject of information from the rating agency about a potential rating action with respect to the insurance company. In order to ensure all required disclosures are made under Rule G-17, a dealer must take into consideration information on underlying credit ratings that is available in established industry sources (or information otherwise known to the dealer) and must incorporate such information when determining the material facts to be disclosed about the transaction.
April 2002 Notice on Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals
In a notice dated April 30, 2002, the MSRB provided additional guidance on Rule G-17 and other customer protection rules as they apply to transactions with a special class of institutional customers known as “Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals” (“SMMPs”). The April 2002 Notice provides a definition of SMMP, which includes critical elements such as the customer’s financial sophistication and access to established industry sources for municipal securities information. When a dealer has reasonable grounds for concluding that the institutional customer is an SMMP as defined in the April 2002 Notice, the institutional customer necessarily is already aware, or capable of making itself aware of, material facts found in the established industry sources. In addition, the customer in such cases is able to independently understand the significance of such material facts.
The April 2002 Notice provides that a dealer’s Rule G-17 obligation to affirmatively disclose material facts available from established industry sources is qualified to some extent in certain kinds of SMMP transactions. Specifically, when effecting nonrecommended, secondary market transactions, a dealer is not required to provide an SMMP with affirmative disclosure of the material facts that already exist in established industry sources. This differs from the general Rule G-17 requirement of disclosure, discussed above, and therefore may be relevant to dealers trading with SMMPs in insured municipal securities.
RULE G-19 AND SUITABILITY DETERMINATIONS
In addition to the customer disclosure obligations relating to bond insurance and credit ratings, dealers also should be aware of how suitability requirements of MSRB Rule G-19 relate to transactions in insured bonds that are recommended to customers. Rule G-19 provides that a dealer must consider the nature of the security as well as the customer’s financial status, tax status and investment objectives when making recommendations to customers. The dealer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable, based upon information available about the security and the facts disclosed by or otherwise known about the customer. Facts relating to the credit rating of a bond insurer may affect suitability determinations, particularly for customers that have conveyed to the dealer investment objectives relating to credit quality of investments. For example, if a customer has expressed the desire to purchase only “triple A” rated securities, recommendations to the customer should take into account information from rating agencies, including information about potential rating actions that may affect the future “triple A” status of the issue.
RULE G-30 AND FAIR PRICING REQUIREMENTS
Another important investor protection provision within MSRB rules is Rule G-30 on prices and commissions. Rule G-30 requires that, for principal transactions with customers, the dealer must ensure that the price of each transaction is fair and reasonable, taking into account all relevant factors. Dealers should consider the effect of ratings on the value of the securities involved in customer transactions, and should specifically consider the effect of information from rating agencies, both with respect to actual or potential changes in the underlying rating of a security and with respect to actual or potential changes in the rating of any bond insurance applicable to the security.
RULE G-15(a) AND CONFIRMATION DISCLOSURE
The content of information required to be included on customer confirmations of municipal securities transactions is set forth in MSRB Rule G-15(a). For securities with additional credit backing, such as bond insurance, the rule requires the confirmation to state “the name of any company or other person in addition to the issuer obligated, directly or indirectly, with respect to debt service.” Rule G-15(a) does not generally require that credit agency ratings be included on customer confirmations. However, if credit ratings are given on the confirmation, the ratings must be correct.
Meeting the disclosure requirements of Rule G-17 requires attention to the facts and circumstances of individual transactions as well as attention to the specific securities and customers that are involved in those transactions. In light of recent events affecting credit ratings of bond insurance companies, dealers may wish to review both the March 2002 Notice on Rule G-17 disclosure requirements and the April 2002 Notice on SMMP transactions to ensure compliance with the rule in the changing environment for bond insurance companies. In addition, dealers may wish to review how transactions in insured securities are being recommended, priced and confirmed to customers to ensure compliance with other MSRB investor protection rules.
 The word “customer,” as used in this notice, follows the definition in MSRB Rule D-9, which states that a “customer” is any person other than a broker, dealer, or municipal securities dealer acting in its capacity as such or an issuer in transactions involving the sale by the issuer of a new issue of its securities.
 See, e.g., Notice Concerning Disclosure of Call Information to Customers of Municipal Securities (March 4, 1986), MSRB Manual (CCH) para. 3591.
 Se e, e.g., Basic v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988).
 Interpretive Notice Regarding Rule G-17, on Disclosure of Material Facts, MSRB Notice (March 20, 2002) (hereinafter “March 2002 Notice”).
 The MSIL® system collects and makes available to the marketplace official statements and advance refunding documents submitted under MSRB Rule G-36, on the delivery of official statements, as well as certain secondary market material event disclosures provided by issuers under SEC Rule 15c2-12. Municipal Securities Information Library® and MSIL® are registered trademarks of the MSRB.
 The MSRB’s Real-Time Transaction Reporting System (“RTRS”) collects and makes available to the marketplace information regarding inter-dealer and dealer-customer transactions in municipal securities.
 See March 2002 Notice (emphasis added).
 The lack of a rating for a municipal issue does not necessarily imply that the credit quality of such an issue is inferior, but is information that should be taken into account when accessing material facts about a transaction in the security.
 Notice Regarding the Application of MSRB Rules to Transactions with Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals (April 30, 2002) (hereinafter “April 2002 Notice”). [This notice was revised effective July 9, 2012.]
 As with Rule G-17, the MSRB has provided specific qualifications with respect to how a dealer fulfills its suitability duties when making recommendations to SMMPs. These are described in the April 2002 Notice on SMMPs, discussed above.
 To assure that a dealer effecting a recommended transaction with a non-SMMP customer has the information needed about the customer to make its suitability determination, Rule G-19 requires the dealer to make reasonable efforts to obtain information concerning the customer’s financial status, tax status and investment objectives, as well as any other information reasonable and necessary in making the recommendation. The obligations arising under Rule G-19 in connection with a recommended transaction require a meaningful analysis, taking into consideration the information obtained about the customer and the security, which establishes the reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable. Such suitability determinations should be based on the appropriately weighted factors that are relevant in any particular set of facts and circumstances, which factors may vary from transaction to transaction. See Reminder of Customer Protection Obligations In Connection With Sales of Municipal Securities, MSRB Notice 2007-17 (May 30, 2007).
 The rule provides that, if there is more than one such obligor, the statement “multiple obligors” may be shown. If a security is unrated by a nationally recognized statistical rating organization, Rule G-15(a) requires dealers to disclose the fact that the security is unrated.
Commissions and Other Charges, Advertisements and Official Statements Relating to Municipal Fund Securities
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board ("MSRB") has received various inquiries regarding commissions, disclosures (including delivery of disclosure materials to the MSRB) and advertisements relating to municipal fund securities, particularly in connection with sales of interests in so-called Section 529 college savings plans. The nature of the commissions and other program fees that may exist with respect to municipal fund securities may differ significantly from such charges that typically may exist for traditional debt securities sold in the municipal securities market. In many cases, commissions and other fees may more closely resemble those charged in connection with investment company securities registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the "Investment Company Act"). Although commissions and fees charged by brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers ("dealers") effecting transactions in municipal fund securities are subject to MSRB rules, the nature and level of fees and charges collected by other parties in connection with such securities generally are not subject to regulation. However, under certain circumstances, a dealer selling municipal fund securities may be obligated to disclose to customers such fees and charges collected by other parties.
Amount of Dealer's Commissions or Service Charges
Rule G-30(b), on prices and commissions in agency transactions, prohibits dealers from selling municipal securities to a customer for a commission or service charge in excess of a fair and reasonable amount. In assessing the fairness and reasonableness of the commission or service charge, the rule permits the dealer to take into consideration all relevant factors, including the availability of the securities involved in the transaction, the expense of executing or filling the customer's order, the value of the services rendered by the dealer, and the amount of any other compensation received or to be received by the dealer in connection with the transaction. The MSRB has received inquiries as to whether the sales charge schedule set out in Rule 2830 of the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. ("NASD") applies to or otherwise is indicative of the levels of commissions and other fees that dealers may charge in connection with sales of municipal fund securities.
MSRB rules, not those of the NASD, apply to sales by dealers of municipal securities, including municipal fund securities. NASD Rule 2830 provides that no member firm may offer or sell shares in investment companies registered under the Investment Company Act if the sales charges are excessive. The NASD rule then sets forth various levels of aggregate sales charges to which member firms must conform, depending upon the nature of the investment company's sales charges, in order to ensure that such sales charges are not deemed excessive. The MSRB notes that the NASD derives its authority for the sales charge provisions of Rule 2830 from Section 22(b)(1) of the Investment Company Act, which expressly exempts such provisions from the limitation that Section 15A(b)(6) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act") places on the NASD's ability to adopt rules that "impose any schedule or fix rates of commissions, allowances, discounts, or other fees to be charged by its members." In sharp contrast, no exemption exists from the limitations that Section 15B(b)(2)(C) of the Exchange Act places on the MSRB's ability to adopt rules that "impose any schedule or fix rates of commissions, allowances, discounts, or other fees to be charged by municipal securities brokers or municipal securities dealers."The MSRB believes that it could not, by rule or interpretation, in effect impose such a schedule for the sale of municipal fund securities.
Nonetheless, the MSRB believes that the charges permitted by the NASD under its Rule 2830 in connection with the sale of registered investment company securities may, depending upon the facts and circumstances, be a significant factor in determining whether a dealer selling municipal fund securities is charging a commission or other fee that is fair and reasonable. For example, the MSRB believes that charges for municipal fund securities transactions in excess of those permitted for comparable mutual fund shares under NASD Rule 2830 may be presumed to not meet the fair and reasonable standard under MSRB rule G-30(b), although the totality of the facts and circumstances relating to a particular transaction in municipal fund securities may rebut such presumption. Further, depending upon the specific facts and circumstances, a sales charge for a transaction in a municipal fund security that would be deemed in compliance with NASD Rule 2830 if charged in connection with a transaction in a substantially identical registered investment company security often will be in compliance with rule G-30(b).
However, the NASD schedule is not dispositive nor is it always the principal factor in determining compliance with rule G-30. The MSRB believes that the factors enunciated in rule G-30(b) and other relevant factors must be given due weight in determining whether a commission is fair and reasonable. These factors include, but are not limited to, the value of the services rendered by the dealer and the amount of any other compensation received or to be received by the dealer in connection with the transaction from other sources (such as the issuer). A dealer may not exclusively rely on the fact that its commissions fall within the NASD schedule, particularly where commission levels in the marketplace for similar municipal fund securities sold by other dealers providing similar levels of services are generally substantially lower than those charged by such dealer, taking into account any other compensation.
Disclosure of Program Fees and Charges of Other Parties
MSRB rules do not explicitly require disclosure by dealers of fees and charges received by other parties to a transaction. These can include, among other things, administrative fees of the issuer, investment adviser and other parties payable from trust assets or directly by the customer. However, depending upon the facts and circumstances, certain MSRB rules may have the practical effect of requiring some level of disclosure of such fees and charges to the extent that they are material. For example, rule G-32(a)(i) generally obligates the dealer to provide an official statement to its customer in connection with sales of municipal fund securities. Although MSRB rules do not govern the content of the disclosures included by the issuer in the official statement, the MSRB believes that an official statement prepared by an issuer of municipal fund securities that is in compliance with Exchange Act Rules 10b-5 and 15c2-12 generally would provide disclosure of any fees or other charges imposed in connection with such securities that are material to investors. The MSRB further believes that, in most respects, the disclosures provided by the issuer in the official statement would provide the dealer with the type of information it is required to disclose to customers under the MSRB's fair dealing rule, rule G-17.
Dealer advertisements of municipal fund securities must comply with the requirements of rule G-21. This rule prohibits dealers from publishing advertisements concerning municipal securities which they know or have reason to know are materially false or misleading. The MSRB has previously stated that any use of historical yields in an advertisement would be subject to this prohibition. Thus, a dealer advertisement of municipal fund securities that refers to yield typically would require a description of the nature and significance of the yield shown in the advertisement in order to assure that such advertisement is not false or misleading. Further, depending upon the facts and circumstances, a dealer may be required to disclose information regarding a fee or other charge relating to municipal fund securities that may have a material effect on such advertised yield, to the extent that such disclosure is necessary to ensure that the advertisement is not materially false or misleading with respect to such yield.
The MSRB understands that advertisements and other sales material relating to registered investment company securities are, depending upon the nature of the advertisement, subject to the requirements of Securities Act Rule 156, on investment company sales literature, Securities Act Rule 482, on advertising by an investment company as satisfying requirements of section 10, and NASD Rule 2210, on communications with the public (including IM-2210-3, on use of rankings in investment companies advertisements and sales literature), among others. The MSRB notes that both Securities Act Rule 156(a) and NASD Rule 2210(d)(1)(A) include general standards for advertisements that are substantially the same as the standard set forth in MSRB rule G-21. As a result, the MSRB believes that a dealer advertisement of municipal fund securities that would be compliant with Securities Act Rules 156 and 482 if such securities were registered investment company securities also would be in compliance with MSRB rule G-21. Further, the MSRB believes that a dealer advertisement of municipal fund securities that would be compliant with NASD Rule 2210 and IM-2210-3 if such securities were registered investment company securities also would be in compliance with MSRB rule G-21.
Submission of Official Statements to the MSRB
Dealers selling municipal fund securities are subject to the requirement under rule G-36 that they submit copies of the official statement, together with completed Form G-36(OS), to the MSRB. In some cases, a dealer that has been engaged by an issuer of municipal fund securities to serve as its primary distributor ("primary distributor") has in turn entered into relationships with one or more other dealers to provide further channels for distribution. These other dealers may include dealers that effect transactions directly with customers ("selling dealers") or dealers that provide "wholesale" distribution services but do not effect transactions directly with customers ("intermediary dealers").
The MSRB believes that, regardless of whether a formal syndicate or similar account has been formed among a primary distributor, the selling dealers and any intermediary dealers in a multi-tiered distribution system for a particular offering of municipal fund securities, the primary distributor for such offering has the responsibility set forth in rule G-36(f) to undertake all actions required under the provisions of rule G-36 and the corresponding recordkeeping requirements under rule G-8(a)(xv). These obligations include, but are not limited to, the submission of official statements (including amendments and updates) and completed Form G-36(OS) to the MSRB on a timely basis. The MSRB further believes that any selling or intermediary dealers for such offering that might be considered underwriters of the securities may rely upon the primary distributor to undertake these actions to the same extent as if they had in fact formed an underwriting syndicate as described in rule G-36(f).
 Section 529 college savings plans are higher education savings plan trusts established by states under section 529(b) of the Internal Revenue Code as "qualified state tuition programs" through which individuals make investments for the purpose of accumulating savings for qualifying higher education costs of beneficiaries.
 Municipal fund securities are exempt from the registration and other provisions of the Investment Company Act.
 Rule G-21 defines advertisement as any material (other than listings of offerings) published or designed for use in the public, including electronic, media or any promotional literature designed for dissemination to the public, such as notices, circulars, reports, market letters, form letters, telemarketing scripts or reprints or excerpts of the foregoing. The term does not apply to official statements but does apply to abstracts or summaries of official statements, offering circulars and other similar documents prepared by dealers.
G-30 Differential Re-Offering Prices
Differential re-offering prices. This is in response to your letter in which you ask us to provide interpretive guidance on MSRB rules G-21, G-30 and G-32 in the context of a proposed new system (the "System") to be established by your client (the "Company") for pricing and distribution of primary market municipal securities to retail investors. You provide a description of the System, including a discussion of incremental changes through various versions of the System. We have included below a brief summary of the MSRB's understanding of certain key features of the System that may be relevant in responding to your questions. This should not be construed as meaning that the MSRB has "approved" the System, or even reviewed the System description which you provided, except for the limited purpose of addressing your specific questions on the three rules noted above. The MSRB expresses no views and has not considered whether the System as you describe it, or whether a broker-dealer using the System, would be in compliance with MSRB rules or other applicable law, rules or regulations, beyond the specific statements set forth herein on these three rules.
As you describe it, the System consists of an internet-based electronic primary market order matching process that will provide (1) electronic notices ("Electronic Notices") to registered representatives at subscribing broker-dealer firms and (2) an ability to establish a range of acceptable reoffering prices for each order of primary market municipal securities. Registered representatives will provide to the System profiles ("Retail Inquiries") that describe the features of municipal securities that the registered representative's customers wish to purchase. The System will then automatically advise the registered representatives of the availability for purchase of a new municipal security issue that matches the Retail Inquiry by sending an Electronic Notice by fax or e-mail. The Company intends to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a broker-dealer prior to charging subscription fees for the services provided by the System. We understand that, for purposes of the System, a retail investor is characterized solely by the size of the order, rather than by the identity of an investor as a retail or institutional customer.
Municipal securities available for purchase through the System will be sold using a structure that establishes a range of acceptable retail reoffering prices. For each new issue, the underwriter and the issuer will establish a maximum and minimum yield and a maximum and minimum price to be entered into the System. For all Retail Inquiries that match the basic parameters of the issue (e.g., maturity, rating, state of issuer), the System will send an Electronic Notice to each registered representative that adjusts the price to include the least of the registered representative's desired mark-up, the maximum mark-up established by the registered representative's broker-dealer firm, or the maximum issue mark-up established by the underwriter. In the System's initial stages, a registered representative may place an order for amounts up to $500,000 to purchase the securities upon receiving an Electronic Notice. You note that use of the System will permit sales of municipal securities of the same maturity and order size to different buyers at different prices.
You state that you believe that the business and operating plan for the System will be in compliance with all published MSRB rules and that broker-dealers subscribing to the System will not violate any MSRB rules by virtue of their use of the System. You request clarification regarding the applicability of certain provisions of rules G-21, G-30 and G-32 to broker-dealers using the System. As noted above, the MSRB cannot provide an "approval" of a proposed system or of its use by broker-dealers. We can, however, provide some guidance regarding your specific rule-related interpretive requests. Since the application of rules to particular factual situations is, by its nature, fundamentally dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances, you should be cognizant of the precise nature of our guidance and of the potential for seemingly small factual variances resulting in different conclusions regarding compliance with our rules.
Rule G-30, on Prices and Commissions
You ask us whether we view use of the System by broker-dealers to establish a range of reoffering prices (instead of a single reoffering price) as compliant with the requirement under rule G-30, on prices and commissions, that municipal securities prices be fair and reasonable. We cannot provide you with assurance that under all circumstances prices charged to customers by broker-dealers using the System will comply with rule G-30. However, the following discussion should provide some guidance in assessing whether broker-dealers using the System will be able to comply with rule G-30.
Rule G-30(a) provides that no broker-dealer shall sell municipal securities to a customer in a principal transaction except at a price that is fair and reasonable, taking into consideration all relevant factors. The rule cites, as relevant factors, the best judgment of the broker-dealer as to the fair market value of the securities at the time of the transaction, the expense involved in effecting the transaction, the fact that the broker-dealer is entitled to a profit, and the total dollar amount of the transaction. In addition, the MSRB has identified a number of other factors which might be relevant in determining the fairness and reasonableness of prices in municipal securities transactions. These additional factors include, but are not limited to, the availability of the security in the market, the price or yield of the security, the maturity of the security, and the nature of the professional's business. The MSRB firmly believes that the resulting yield to the customer is the most important factor in determining the fairness and reasonableness of a price in any given transaction. The MSRB previously has stated that such yield should be comparable to the yield on other securities of comparable quality, maturity, coupon rate, and block size then available in the market.
Although a comparative yield assessment is the most important factor in determining whether a transaction price is fair and reasonable, rule G-30 states that other facts and circumstances of a specific transaction may also enter into the final determination of whether the transaction price is fair and reasonable. Thus, rule G-30 clearly contemplates the possibility that, depending upon the facts and circumstances of two contemporaneous transactions in identical securities, both transactions may be priced in compliance with rule G-30 even though the prices are not identical. It is not possible to state a specific percentage of variance between prices on contemporaneous transactions that would create a presumption of a violation of rule G-30 with respect to the higher priced transaction since a number of different factors may be relevant to the individual transactions. However, the degree to which price variances may occur without raising the presumption of a rule G-30 violation generally would parallel the level of variance in the relevant factors under rule G-30 from transaction to transaction in the same security. For example, a large difference in the par value of two transactions could potentially justify a larger price difference than would a small difference in the par value of the two transactions.
The MSRB has stated that, although rule G-30 does not specifically mention new issue offering prices which may be set by the syndicate or the issuer, compliance with rule G-30 in this context also is determined by whether the price of a municipal security is fair and reasonable, taking into account all relevant factors. As noted above, a comparative yield assessment is the most important factor in determining the fairness and reasonableness of a transaction price. Although it is the ultimate responsibility of the broker-dealer effecting a transaction with a customer to ensure that the price is in compliance with rule G-30, the issuer and underwriter may help broker-dealers using the System to avoid possible violations of rule G-30 by carefully reviewing the ranges of yields and prices entered by the underwriter into the System to ensure that the net yield to customers would be comparable to that of similar securities regardless of where within the established ranges a transaction is executed by a broker-dealer using the System.
Rule G-32, on Disclosures in Connection with New Issues
You provide us with a sample of proposed language to be included in the official statement for new issue municipal securities to be sold using the System. This language indicates the lowest price at which any of the securities in the new issue are offered and also indicates a range of maximum prices at which the securities are offered based on various lot sizes of the securities sold in a particular transaction. The language further states that, subject to the practices of each broker-dealer firm in the selling group, investors may have purchased the securities at prices lower than those shown in the range of maximum prices included in the official statement. Finally, the language provides a specific dollar amount representing the total compensation paid to the underwriter as representative of the selling group. You ask us whether inclusion of such language in the official statement by issuers using the System complies with rule G-32.
Rule G-32(a)(ii) provides that, in connection with new issue municipal securities purchased by the underwriter in a negotiated sale, any broker-dealer selling such securities to a customer must deliver to the customer by no later than settlement information regarding, among other things, the underwriting spread and the initial offering price for each maturity in the issue, including maturities that are not reoffered. The MSRB has stated that the obligation to disclose the underwriting spread requires that the broker-dealer disclose the difference between the initial offering price of the new issue and the amount paid by the underwriter to the issuer, expressed either in dollars or points per bond. The MSRB has prohibited broker-dealers from merely disclosing to customers the offering prices and amount paid to the issuer and describing how the underwriting spread can be calculated from these figures. The MSRB has stated that initial offering prices may be expressed either in terms of dollar price or yield.
The MSRB recognizes that disclosure of initial offering prices and underwriting spread is more complicated in circumstances where securities of the same maturity may be offered at a number of different prices, as compared to the typical situation where each maturity is stated to be offered at a single price. The MSRB believes that, under these circumstances, the initial offering prices and underwriting spread may be expressed as a range of values.
In expressing the initial offering prices as a range of values, broker-dealers must ensure that the prices at which the securities are initially offered to customers will fall within the expressed range. At the same time, the MSRB believes that the disclosure of a range of prices must not be misleading to customers. For example, a range that implies that a market may exist at prices where in fact no transactions are likely to occur could be misleading. In addition, a range that includes prices that are not fair and reasonable for purposes of rule G-30 could mislead customers with regard to what would in fact constitute a fair and reasonable price. These and other practices arising in connection with the disclosure of a range of initial offering prices could constitute violations of rule G-17 and would not satisfy the disclosure obligation under rule G-32. Broker-dealers are cautioned, when using a range to disclose initial offering prices, to make such range as narrow as reasonably possible in order to avoid violations of rules G-17 and G-32. For example, if broker-dealers have established discrete price ranges for specific securities within the issue (e.g., separate maturities) or for specific types of transactions (e.g., different lot sizes), they should include such discrete ranges in the disclosure made to customers. The initial offering price range must be expressed either in terms of dollar prices or yields.
In expressing the underwriting spread as a range of values, the range must be no broader than would be obtained by calculating the lowest possible spread based on all of the lowest initial offering price values and the highest possible spread based on all of the highest initial offering price values. This range should be further refined based on specific information available to the broker-dealer (e.g., minimum or maximum spreads agreed to between the issuer and the underwriter, fixed components of the gross spread, known levels of transactions at particular prices, etc.). Broker-dealers may show this spread range either as a range of a total amount or as a listing of the components of the spread range. If components of the spread range are listed, that portion of the range which represents compensation to the underwriter must be clearly identified as such. The spread range must be expressed either in dollars or points per bond.
Rule G-21, on Advertising
You state that you do not believe that Electronic Notices constitute advertisements within the meaning of rule G-21, which sets forth certain requirements with respect to advertisements of municipal securities. An advertisement is defined as any material (other than listings of offerings) published or designed for use in the public, including electronic, media or any promotional literature designed for dissemination to the public, including any notice, circular, report, market letter, form letter, telemarketing script or reprint or excerpt of the foregoing. The rule covers communications that are intended to reach a broad segment of the public rather than individually tailored communications between two specific parties and communications between broker-dealers. Thus, if the use of Electronic Notices is limited in the manner you describe in your letter, it appears that such Electronic Notices would not constitute advertisements within the meaning of rule G-21. However, we express no opinion as to whether Electronic Notices might constitute advertisements if they were to be disseminated to investors.
* * * * * * * * * *
I must emphasize once again that the guidance provided in this letter cannot be considered an "approval" of the System. Further, this guidance cannot be considered to provide or imply that broker-dealers using the System will, under all circumstances, be in compliance with the rules discussed herein. Nor can this guidance be considered to provide or imply that the operation of the System or the use of the System by broker-dealers is in compliance with any other rules of the MSRB or the laws, rules or regulations of any other entity. MSRB interpretation of December 11, 2001.
 In the case of an agency transaction, rule G-30 prohibits a broker-dealer from selling a municipal security to a customer for a commission or service charge in excess of a fair and reasonable amount, taking into consideration all relevant factors. In addition, rule G-18, on execution of transactions, requires that a broker-dealer in an agency transaction make a reasonable effort to obtain a price for the customer that is fair and reasonable in relation to prevailing market conditions. Since we understand that broker-dealers that use the System ultimately will effect transactions with their customers on a principal basis, we do not address potential compliance issues with respect to agency transactions arising under rules G-18 and G-30.
 With respect to total dollar amount of a transaction, the MSRB has stated that, to the extent that institutional transactions are often larger than retail transactions, this factor may enter into the fair and reasonable pricing of retail versus institutional transactions. See Rule G-30 Interpretive Letter - Factors in pricing, November 29, 1993, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 163 (the "Pricing Letter").
 See Rule G-30 Interpretation - Republication of September 1980 Report on Pricing, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 161 (the "Pricing Report").
 Of course, the existence of a variance in the prices of two contemporaneous sale transactions in the same security would be less likely to raise a presumption that the higher priced transaction violates rule G-30 if the yields for both transactions are generally higher than for most other comparable securities in the market.
 See Pricing Letter. It is worth noting that the rules of the National Association of Securities Dealers regarding fixed-price offerings do not apply to transactions in municipal securities. The MSRB is not aware of any law or regulation which purports to require fixed-price offerings for new issue municipal securities. See Rule G-11 Interpretive Letter - Fixed-price offerings, March 16, 1984, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 60.
 The net yield to a customer is based on actual money paid by the customer, including the effect of any remuneration paid to the broker-dealer, other than certain miscellaneous transaction fees. See Rule G-15 Interpretation - Notice Concerning Flat Transaction Fees, June 13, 2001, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 114; Rule G-15 Interpretation - Notice Concerning Confirmation Disclosure of Miscellaneous Transaction Charges, May 14, 1990, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 113.
 This information may be disclosed in the official statement if it is delivered to the customer in a timely manner at or prior to settlement. This information may also be provided in a separate written statement.
 Spread may be shown as a single figure or as a listing of the components of the spread. If components are listed, the portion of the proceeds representing compensation to the underwriter must be clearly identified as such. See Rule G-32 Interpretation - Notice Regarding the Disclosure Obligations of Brokers, Dealers and Municipal Securities Dealers in Connection with New Issue Municipal Securities Under Rule G-32, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 166 (the "Disclosure Notice"); Rule G-32 Interpretive Letter - Disclosure of underwriting spread, March 9, 1981, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 173.
 See Disclosure Requirements for New Issue Securities: Rule G-32, MSRB Reports, Vol. 7, No. 2 (March 1987) at 11.
 See Disclosure Notice; Rule G-32 Interpretive Letter - Disclosures in connection with new issues, December 22, 1993, MSRB Rule Book (July 1, 2001) at 174.
 Rule G-17 requires broker-dealers to deal fairly with all persons and not to engage in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice.
 Of course, if the new issue has been fully sold and all initial offering prices are known at the time the disclosure information is prepared, an exact amount rather than a range should be used in disclosing the underwriting spread.
Disclosure obligations. This is in response to your letters dated March 18, 1998 and March 31, 1998 in which you present an example where a dealer advertises a specific municipal security which it knows, or has reason to know, is subject to a material adverse circumstance such as a technical default. You ask whether a dealer is obligated to include disclosure information indicating that a bond is subject to additional risk in order to avoid publishing a false or misleading advertisement as prohibited by rule G-21(c). The Board reviewed your letters and has authorized this response.
Section (c) of rule G-21 provides, among other things, that no dealer shall publish any advertisement concerning municipal securities which such dealer knows or has reason to know is materially false or misleading. The Board has previously interpreted the rule as not requiring that any specific statements or information be included in an advertisement but that any statement or information that is included must not be materially false or misleading. Thus, if a dealer makes a statement in an advertisement that explicitly or implicitly refers to the soundness or safety of an investment in the municipal securities described in the advertisement, such dealer must include any information necessary to ensure that the advertisement is not materially false or misleading with respect to the soundness or safety of such investment. The rule establishes a general ethical standard that provides the enforcement agencies with the flexibility that is needed to evaluate advertisements in light of what information is printed and how the information physically is presented. Thus, the enforcement agencies should continue to evaluate advertisements on a case-by-case basis to make a determination whether any such advertisements, in fact, are misleading.
You also ask whether the relative specificity of any such disclosure obligation that may exist depends on the level of detail provided about the municipal security. As stated above, rule G-21 does not require that any specific statements or information be included in an advertisement but that any statement or information that is included must not be materially false or misleading. Thus, the nature and extent of any disclosures or other explanatory statements that must be included in an advertisement is dependent upon the substance and form of the information presented in the advertisement.
The Board wishes to emphasize that the enforcement agencies should remain cognizant of certain other rules of the Board that may be relevant in evaluating whether a dealer's advertisement and such dealer's interactions with customers or potential customers that arise as a result of such advertisement are in conformity with Board rules. Thus, depending upon the facts and circumstances, an advertisement for a particular municipal security that on its face conforms with the requirements of rule G-21 may nonetheless be violative of rule G-17, the Board's fair dealing rule, if, for example, the advertisement is designed as a “bait-and-switch” mechanism that attracts potential customers interested in an advertised security that the dealer is not in a legitimate position to sell (because of its unavailability, unsuitability or otherwise) for the primary purpose of creating a captive audience for the offering of other securities. In addition, a dealer that in fact sells the municipal securities that are described in its advertisement must fulfill its obligations under rule G-19, on suitability, and rule G-30, on pricing. MSRB interpretation of May 21, 1998.
 “Advertisement” is defined in rule G-21 as any material (other than listings of offerings) published or designed for use in the public, including electronic, media, or any promotional literature designed for dissemination to the public, including any notice, circular, report, market letter, form letter, telemarketing script or reprint or excerpt of the foregoing. The term does not apply to preliminary official statements or official statements, but does apply to abstracts or summaries of official statements, offering circulars and other such similar documents prepared by dealers.
 Rule G-17 requires each dealer, in the conduct of its municipal securities business, to deal fairly with all persons and prohibits the dealer from engaging in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice.
Time of Receipt and Execution of Orders
Time of receipt and execution of orders. This is in response to your March 3, 1987 letter regarding the application of rule G-8, on recordkeeping, to [name deleted]'s (the “Bank”) procedure on time stamping of municipal securities order tickets. You note that it is the Bank's policy to indicate on order tickets the date and time of receipt of the order and the date and time of execution of the order. You note, however, that when the order and execution occur simultaneously, it is your procedure to time stamp the order ticket once. You ask for Board approval of this policy.
Rule G-8(a)(vi) provides in pertinent part for a “memorandum of each agency order . . . showing the date and time of receipt of the order . . . and the date of execution and to the extent feasible, the time of execution . . .” Rule G-8(a)(vii) includes a similar requirement for principal transactions with customers. As noted in a Board interpretive notice on recordkeeping, the phrase “to the extent feasible” is intended to require municipal securities professionals to note the time of execution of each transaction except in extraordinary circumstances when it might be impossible to determine the exact time of execution. However, even in those unusual situations, the rule requires that at least the approximate time be noted. This rule parallels SEC rule 17a-3(a)(6) and (7) on recordkeeping.
Thus, rule G-8(a)(vi) and (vii) required agency and principal orders to be time stamped upon receipt and upon execution. The requirement is designed to allow the dealer and the appropriate examining authority to determine whether the dealer has complied with rule G-18, on execution of transactions, and rule G-30, on pricing. Rule G-18 states that when a dealer is “executing a transaction in municipal securities for or on behalf of a customer as an agent, it shall make a reasonable effort to obtain a price for the customer that is fair and reasonable in relation to prevailing market conditions.” Rule G-30(a) states that a dealer shall not effect a principal transaction with a customer except at a fair and reasonable price, taking into consideration all relevant factors including the fair market value of the securities at the time of the transaction. It is impossible to determine what the prevailing market conditions were at the time of the execution of the order if the date and time of execution are not recorded. In addition, it is important to time stamp the receipt and execution of an order so that a record can be maintained of when the order is executed.
Thus, even when the order and execution occur simultaneously, rule G-8 requires that two time stamps be included on order tickets. MSRB interpretation of April 20, 1987.
 See [Rule G-8 Interpretation –] Interpretive Notice on Recordkeeping (July 29, 1977) [reprinted in MSRB Rule Book].
Disclosure of Pricing: Calculating the Dollar Price of Partially Prerefunded Bonds
Disclosure of pricing: calculating the dollar price of partially prerefunded bonds. This is in response to your March 21, 1986 letter concerning the application of Board rules to the description of municipal securities provided at or prior to the time of trade and the application of rules G-12(c) and G-15(a) on calculating the dollar price of partially prerefunded bonds with mandatory sinking fund calls.
You describe an issue, due 10/1/13. Mandatory sinking fund calls for this issue begin 10/1/05 and end 10/1/13. Recently, a partial refunding took place which prerefunds the 2011, 2012 and 2013 mandatory sinking fund requirements totalling $11,195,000 (which is 43.6% of the issue) to 10/1/94 at 102. The certificate numbers for the partial prerefunding will not be chosen until 30 days prior to the prerefunded date. Thus, a large percentage of the bonds are prerefunded and all the bonds will be redeemed by 10/1/10 because the 2011, 2012, and 2013 maturities no longer exist.
You note that the bonds should be described as partially prerefunded to 10/1/94 with a 10/1/10 maturity. Also, you state that the price of these securities should be calculated to the cheapest call, in this case, the partial prerefunded date of 10/1/94 at 102. You add that there is a 9½ point difference in price between calculating to maturity and to the partially prerefunded date.
You note that the descriptions you have seen on various brokers' wires do not accurately describe these securities and a purchaser of these bonds would not know what they bought if the purchase was based on current descriptions. You ask the Board to address the description and calculation problems posed by this issue.
Your letter was referred to a Committee of the Board which has responsibility for interpreting the Board's fair practice rules. That Committee has authorized this response.
Board rule G-17 provides that
In the conduct of its municipal securities business, each broker, dealer, and municipal securities dealer shall deal fairly with all persons and shall not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice.
In regard to inter-dealer transactions, the items of information that professionals must exchange at or prior to the time of trade are governed by principles of contract law and essentially are those items necessary adequately to describe the security that is the subject of the contract. As a general matter, these items of information do not encompass all material facts, but should be sufficient to distinguish the security from other similar issues. The Board has interpreted rule G-17 to require dealers to treat other dealers fairly and to hold them to the prevailing ethical standards of the industry.  The rule also prohibits dealers from knowingly misdescribing securities to another dealer. 
Board rules G-12(c) and G-15(a) require that
where a transaction is effected on a yield basis, the dollar price shall be calculated to the lowest of price to call, price to par option, or price to maturity ...
In addition, for customer confirmations, rule G-15(a) requires that
for transactions effected on the basis of dollar price, ... the lowest of the resulting yield to call, yield to par option, or yield to maturity shall be shown....
These provisions also require, in cases in which the resulting dollar price or yield shown on the confirmation is calculated to call or par option, that this must be stated and the call or option date and price used in the calculation must be shown. The Board has determined that, for purposes of making this computation, only "in-whole" calls should be used.  This requirement reflects the longstanding practice of the municipal securities industry that a price calculated to an "in-part" call, for example, a partial prerefunding date, is not adequate because, depending on the probability of the call provision being exercised and the portion of the issue subject to the call provision, the effective yield based on the price to a partial prerefunding date may not bear any relation to the likely return on the investment.
These provisions of Rules G-12(c) and G-15(a) apply, however, only when the parties have not specified that the bonds are priced to a specific call date. In some circumstances, the parties to a particular transaction may agree that the transaction is effected on the basis of a yield to a particular date, e.g., a partial prerefunding date, and that the dollar price will be computed in this fashion. If that is the case, the yield to this agreed upon date must be included on confirmations as the yield at which the transaction was effected and the resulting dollar price computed to that date, together with a statement that it is a "yield to [date]." In an August 1979 interpretive notice on pricing of callable securities, the Board stated that, under rule G-30, a dealer pricing securities sold to a customer on the basis of a yield to a specified call feature should take into account the possibility that the call feature may not be exercised. 
Accordingly, the price to be paid by the customer should reflect this possibility, and the resulting yield to maturity should bear a reasonable relationship to yields on securities of similar quality and maturity. Failure to price securities in such a manner may constitute a violation of rule G-30 since the price may not be "fair and reasonable" in the event the call feature is not exercised. The Board also noted that the fact that a customer in these circumstances may realize a yield in excess of the yield at which the transaction was effected does not relieve a municipal securities dealer of its responsibilities under rule G-30.
Accordingly, the calculation of the dollar price of a transaction in the securities you describe, unless the parties have agreed otherwise, should be made to the lowest of price to the first in-whole call, par option, or maturity. While the partial prerefunding effectively redeems the issue by 10/1/10, the stated maturity of the bond is 10/1/13 and, subject to the parties agreeing to price to 10/1/10, the stated maturity date should be used. MSRB interpretation of May 15, 1986.
 In addition, the Board has interpreted this rule to require that, in connection with the purchase from or sale of a municipal security to a customer, at or before execution of the transaction, a dealer must disclose all material facts concerning the transaction which could affect the customer's investment decision, including a complete description of the security, and not omit any material facts which would render other statements misleading.
 While the Board does not have any specific disclosure requirements applicable to dealers at the time of trade, a dealer is free to disclose any unique aspect of an issue. For example, in the issue described above, a dealer may decide to disclose the "effective" maturity date of 2010, as well as the stated maturity date of 2013.
 See [Rule G-15 Interpretation - Notice Concerning Pricing to Call], December 10, 1980 ... at ¶ 3571.
 See [Rule G-30 Interpretation - Interpretive Notice on Pricing of Callable Securities] August 10, 1979 ... at ¶ 3646.
Callable Securities: Pricing to Mandatory Sinking Fund Calls
Callable securities: pricing to mandatory sinking fund calls. This is in response to your February 21, 1986 letter concerning the application of rule G-15(a) regarding pricing to prerefunded bonds with mandatory sinking fund calls.
You give the following example:
Bonds, due 7/1/10, are prerefunded to 7/1/91 at 102. There are $17,605,000 of these bonds outstanding. However, there is a mandatory sinking fund which will operate to call $1,000,000 of these bonds at par every year from 7/1/86 to 7/1/91. The balance ($11,605,000) then will be redeemed 7/1/91 at 102. If this bond is priced to the 1991 prerefunded date in today's market at a 6.75 yield, the dollar price would be approximately 127.94. However, if this bond is called 7/1/86 at 100 and a customer paid the above price, his/her yield would be a minus 52 percent (-52%) on the called portion.
You state that the correct way to price the bond is to the 7/1/86 par call at a 5% level which equates to an approximate dollar price of 102.61. The subsequent yield to the 7/1/91 at 102 prerefunded date would be 12.33% if the bond survived all the mandatory calls to that date. You note that a June 8, 1978, MSRB interpretation states, "the calculation of dollar price to a premium call or par option date should be to that date at which the issuer may exercise an option to call the whole of a particular issue or, in the case of serial bonds, a particular maturity, and not to the date of a call in-part." You believe, however, that, as the rule is presently written, dealers are leaving themselves open for litigation from customers if bonds, which are trading at a premium, are not priced to the mandatory sinking fund call. You ask that the Board review this interpretation.
Your letter was referred to a Committee of the Board which has responsibility for interpreting the Board's fair practice rules. That Committee has authorized this response.
Rule G-15(a)(i)(I)[*] requires that on customer confirmations the yield and dollar price for the transaction be disclosed as the price (if the transaction is done on a yield basis) or yield (if the transaction is done on the basis of the dollar price) calculated to the lowest price or yield to call, to par option, or to maturity. The provision also requires, in cases in which the resulting dollar price or yield shown on the confirmation is calculated to call or par option, that this must be stated and the call or option date and price used in the calculation must be shown. The Board has determined that, for purposes of making this computation, only "in-whole" calls should be used. This requirement reflects the longstanding practice of the municipal securities industry that a price calculated to an "in-part" call, such as a sinking fund call, is not adequate because, depending on the probability of the call provision being exercised and the portion of the issue subject to the call provision, the effective yield based on the price to a sinking fund date may not bear any relation to the likely return on the investment.
Rule G-15(a)(i)(I)[*] applies, however, only when the parties have not specified that the bonds are priced to a specific call date. In some circumstances, the parties to a particular transaction may agree that the transaction is effected on the basis of a yield to a particular date, e.g. put option date, and that the dollar price will be computed in this fashion. If that is the case, the yield to this agreed upon date must be included on confirmations as the yield at which the transaction was effected and the resulting dollar price computed to that date, together with a statement that it is a "yield to [date]." In an August 1979 interpretive notice on pricing of callable securities, the Board stated that, under rule G-30, a dealer pricing securities on the basis of a yield to a specified call feature should take into account the possibility that the call feature may not be exercised. Accordingly, the price to be paid by the customer should reflect this possibility, and the resulting yield to maturity should bear a reasonable relationship to yields on securities of similar quality and maturity. Failure to price securities in such a manner may constitute a violation of rule G-30 since the price may not be "fair and reasonable" in the event the call feature is not exercised. The Board also noted that the fact that a customer in these circumstances may realize a yield in excess of the yield at which the transaction was effected does not relieve a municipal securities dealer of its responsibilities under rule G-30.
Accordingly, the calculation of the dollar price of a transaction in the securities in your example, unless the parties have agreed otherwise, should be made to the prerefunded date. Of course, under rule G-17 on fair dealing, dealers must explain to customers the existence of sinking fund calls at the time of trade. The sinking fund call, in addition, should be disclosed on the confirmation by an indication that the securities are "callable." The fact that the securities are prerefunded also should be noted on the confirmation. MSRB Interpretation of April 30, 1986.
 See [Rule G-15 Interpretation - Notice Concerning Pricing to Call], December 10, 1980 at ¶ 3571.
 See [Rule G-30 Interpretation - Interpretive Notice on Pricing of Callable Securities], August 10, 1979 ... at ¶ 3646.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5)]
Retroactive Price Adjustment for Early Redemption
Retroactive price adjustment for early redemption. This is in response to your letter dated January 15, 1986, regarding the application of Board rules to a plan to guarantee a minimum return to customers who purchase certain municipal securities. You note that many [state deleted] municipalities issue General Obligation Temporary Notes with maturities of approximately one year. The municipalities also reserve the right to redeem at par any or all of the notes at any time prior to maturity. Historically, few notes are actually redeemed prior to their stated maturity.
You state that, acting as a municipal securities dealer, you desire to bid on these notes with the intent of selling them to your customers. The notes would be sold at a premium to generate trading profits. Because the notes can be redeemed by the issuer at any time at par, it is conceivable that someone who pays a premium for the notes could incur an actual return on their investment that is extremely small - even negative.
You ask whether, under Board rules, a municipal securities dealer may sell notes as described above, with the provision that if the notes are redeemed by the issuer prior to maturity, the dealer will adjust the original purchase price retroactively to provide a minimum return to the purchaser for the time held. The minimum return would be negotiated with the purchaser and confirmed in writing at the time of purchase from the dealer. You cite the following example:
The XYZ Bank, a municipal securities dealer, purchases from the City of Anywhere, $100,000 par value of its 6% General Obligation Temporary Notes, dated 1-1-86, maturing 1-1-87 at par, redeemable at anytime at the option of the issuer.
The XYZ Bank sells the notes to its customer, the ABC Bank, for settlement 1-1-86 to yield 5.75%. Can the XYZ bank agree that if the notes are redeemed prior to maturity by the issuer, it will adjust the original price at which the ABC Bank purchased the notes to provide a minimum return of at least 5% for the time held?
Board rule G-25(b) generally prohibits a municipal securities dealer from guaranteeing a customer against loss. Under the rule, put options and repurchase agreements are not deemed to be guarantees against loss if their terms are provided in writing to the customer with or on the confirmation of the transaction and recorded in accordance with rule G-8(a)(v). The rule is anti-manipulative in purpose and was designed, in part, to prevent a dealer from artificially stimulating the market in a security by selling securities to customers who assume no market risk. In addition, rule G-25(c) prohibits a municipal securities dealer from sharing, directly or indirectly, in the profits or losses of a transaction in municipal securities with or for a customer. Finally, rule G-30 requires municipal securities dealers to effect transactions with customers at fair and reasonable prices, taking into consideration, among other matters, the price of securities of comparable quality.
The arrangement you pose may be viewed as a guarantee against loss because the dealer would guarantee the customer a minimum return on his investment. In addition, the arrangement may be viewed as a sharing of loss arising from the customer's transaction because the dealer would participate in any loss sustained by the customer when it retroactively readjusts the price of the securities downward to grant the customer the promised return. Finally, rule G-30, on prices and commissions, requires that the price charged the customer for the securities at the time of sale, without taking into account any readjustment to the price at some future date, must be fair. MSRB interpretation of January 31, 1986.
Notice Concerning the Application of Board Rules to Put Option Bonds
The Board has received a number of inquiries from municipal securities brokers and dealers regarding the application of the Board’s rules to transactions in put option bonds. Put option or tender option bonds on new issue securities are obligations which grant the bondholder the right to require the issuer (or a specified third party acting as agent for the issuer), after giving required notice, to purchase the bonds, usually at par (the "strike price"), at a certain time or times prior to maturity (the "expiration date(s)") or upon the occurrence of specified events or conditions. Put options on secondary market securities also are coming into prominence. These instruments are issued by financial institutions and permit the purchaser to sell, after giving required notice, a specified amount of securities from a specified issue to the financial institution on certain expiration dates at the strike price. Put options generally are backed by letters of credit. Secondary market put options often are sold as an attachment to the security, and subsequently are transferred with that security. Frequently, however, the put option may be sold separately from that security and re-attached to other securities from the same issue.
Of course, the Board’s rules apply to put option bonds just as they apply to all other municipal securities. The Board, however, has issued a number of interpretive letters on the specific application of its rules to these types of bonds. These interpretive positions are reviewed below.
Fair Practice Rules
1. Rule G-17
Board rule G-17, regarding fair dealing, imposes an obligation on persons selling put option bonds to customers to disclose adequately all material information concerning these securities and the put features at the time of trade. In an interpretive letter on this issue, the Board responded to the question whether a dealer who had previously sold put option securities to a customer would be obligated to contact that customer around the time the put option comes into effect to remind the customer that the put option is available. The Board stated that no Board rule would impose such an obligation on the dealer.
In addition, the Board was asked whether a dealer who purchased from a customer securities with a put option feature at the time of the put option exercise date at a price significantly below the put exercise price would be in violation of any Board rules. The Board responded that such dealer may well be deemed to be in violation of Board rules G-17 on fair dealing and G-30 on prices and commissions.
2. Rule G-25(b)
Board rule G-25(b) prohibits brokers, dealers, and municipal securities dealers from guaranteeing or offering to guarantee a customer against loss in municipal securities transactions. Under the rule, put options are not deemed to be guarantees against loss if their terms are provided in writing to the customer with or on the confirmation of the transaction and recorded in accordance with rule G-8(a)(v). Thus, when a municipal securities dealer is the issuer of a secondary market put option on a municipal security, the terms of the put option must be included with or on customer confirmations of transactions in the underlying security. Dealers that sell bonds subject to put options issued by an entity other than the dealer would not be subject to this disclosure requirement.
Confirmation Disclosure Rules
1. Description of Security
Rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(a)(i)(E)[*] require inter-dealer and customer confirmations to set forth
a description of the securities, including… if the securities are… subject to redemption prior to maturity, an indication to such effect.
Confirmations of transactions in put option securities, therefore, would have to indicate the existence of the put option (e.g., by including the designation "puttable" on the confirmation), much as confirmations concerning callable securities must indicate the existence of the call feature. The confirmation need not set forth the specific details of the put option feature.
Rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(a)(i)(E)[†] also require confirmations to contain
a description of the securities including at a minimum… if necessary for a materially complete description of the securities, the name of any company or other person in addition to the issuer obligated, directly or indirectly, with respect to debt service…
The Board has stated that a bank issuing a letter of credit which secures a put option feature on an issue is "obligated… with respect to debt service" on such issue. Thus, the identity of the bank issuing the letter of credit securing the put option also must be indicated on the confirmation.
Finally, rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(a)(i)(E)[‡] requires that dealer and customer confirmations contain a description of the securities including, among other things, the interest rate on the bonds. The Board has interpreted this provision as it pertains to certain tender option bonds with adjustable tender fees to require that the net interest rate (i.e., the current effective interest rate taking into account the tender fee) be disclosed in the interest rate field and that dealers include elsewhere in the description field of the confirmation the stated interest rate with the phrase "less fee for put."
2. Yield Disclosure
Board rule G-12(c)(v)(I) requires that inter-dealer confirmations include the
yield at which transaction was effected and resulting dollar price, except in the case of securities which are traded on the basis of dollar price or securities sold at par, in which event only dollar price need be shown (in cases in which securities are priced to call or to par option, this must be stated and the call or option date and price used in the calculation must be shown, and where a transaction is effected on a yield basis, the dollar price shall be calculated to the lowest of price to call, price to par option, or price to maturity);
Rule G-15(a)(i)(I)[#] requires that customer confirmations include information on yield and dollar price as follows:
(1) for transactions effected on a yield basis, the yield at which transaction was effected and the resulting dollar price shall be shown. Such dollar price shall be calculated to the lowest of price to call, price to par option, or price to maturity.
(2) for transactions effected on the basis of dollar price, the dollar price at which transaction was effected, and the lowest of the resulting yield to call, yield to par option, or yield to maturity shall be shown.
(3) for transactions at par, the dollar price shall be shown.
In cases in which the resulting dollar price or yield shown on the confirmation is calculated to call or par option, this must be stated, and the call or option date and price used in the calculation must be shown.
Neither of these rules requires the presentation of a yield or a dollar price computed to the put option date as a part of the standard confirmation process. In many circumstances, however, the parties to a particular transaction may agree that the transaction is effected on the basis of a yield to the put option date, and that the dollar price will be computed in this fashion. If that is the case, the yield to the put date must be included on confirmations as the yield at which the transaction was effected and the resulting dollar price computed to the put date, together with a statement that it is a "yield to the [date] put option" and an indication of the date the option first becomes available to the holder. The requirement for transactions effected on a yield basis of pricing to the lowest of price to call, price to par option or price to maturity, applies only when the parties have not specified the yield on which the transaction is based.
In addition, in regard to transactions in tender option bonds with adjustable tender fees, even if the transaction is not effected on the basis of a yield to the tender date, dealers must include the yield to the tender date since an accurate yield to maturity cannot be calculated for these securities because of the yearly adjustment in tender fees.
In a recent interpretive letter, the Board responded to an inquiry whether, in three situations, the delivery of securities subject to put options could be rejected. The Board responded that, in the first situation in which securities subject to a "one time only" put option were purchased for settlement prior to the option expiration date but delivered after the option expiration date, such delivery could be rejected since the securities delivered were no longer "puttable" securities. In the second situation in which securities subject to a "one time only" put option were purchased for settlement prior to the option expiration date and delivered prior to that date, but too late to permit the recipient to satisfy the conditions under which it could exercise the option (e.g., the trustee is located too far away for the recipient to be able to present the physical securities by the expiration date), the Board stated that there might not be a basis for rejecting delivery, since the bonds delivered were "puttable" bonds, depending on the facts and circumstances of the delivery. A purchasing dealer who believed that it had incurred some loss as a result of the delivery would have to seek redress in an arbitration proceeding.
Finally, in the third situation, securities which were the subject of a put option exercisable on a stated periodic basis (e.g., annually) were purchased for settlement prior to the annual exercise date so that the recipient was unable to exercise the option at the time it anticipated being able to do so. The Board stated that this delivery could not be rejected since "puttable" bonds were delivered. A purchasing dealer who believed that it had incurred some loss as a result of the delivery would have to seek redress in an arbitration proceeding.
 See [Rule G-17 Interpretive Letter - Put option bonds: safekeeping, pricing,] MSRB interpretation of February 18, 1983.
 Rule G-8(a)(v) requires dealers to record, among other things, oral or written put options with respect to municipal securities in which such municipal securities broker or dealer has any direct or indirect interest, showing the description and aggregate par value of the securities and the terms and conditions of the option.
 See [Rule G-12 Interpretive Letter - Confirmation disclosure: put option bonds,] MSRB interpretation of April 24, 1981.
 See [Rule G-15 Interpretive Letter - Securities description: securities backed by letters of credit,] MSRB interpretation of December 2, 1982.
 See [Rule G-12 Interpretive Letter - Confirmation disclosure: tender option bonds with adjustable tender fees,] MSRB interpretation of March 5, 1985.
 See [Rule G-12 Interpretive Letter - Confirmation disclosure: put option bonds,] MSRB interpretation of April 24, 1981.
 See fn. 5.
 See [Rule G-12 Interpretive Letter - Delivery requirements: put option bonds,] MSRB interpretation of February 27, 1985.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(2)(a). See also current rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(2)(b).]
[†] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(1)(b).]
[‡] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(4). See also current rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(4)(c).]
[#] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5). See also current rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5)(c)(vi)(D).]
[Name deleted] the ("Dealer") is an underwriter of industrial revenue bonds. It underwrites on average three or four issues per month and sells them almost entirely on a retail basis to individual investors. The coupon rates are fixed at current market levels. The bonds are then offered to the public at par. Official statements are provided to investors, fully disclosing all pertinent information and making clear note of the fact that the initial offering price of par may be changed without prior notice.
Recently, interest rates dropped significantly during the two or three-week time period needed for the Dealer to sell out a bond issue. This caused the offering price of the fixed rate municipal bonds to rise above the initial offering price stated in the official statement. All of this occurred before the closing of the syndicate account. You ask specifically whether, under the Board's rules, it is permissible to raise the offering price of municipal bonds which are part of a new issue above the initial price before the close of the underwriting period.
Board rule G-11 generally requires syndicates to establish priorities for different categories of orders and requires that certain disclosures be made to syndicate members which are intended to assure that allocations are made in accordance with those priorities. The rule also requires that the manager provide account information to syndicate members in writing. The Board has described rule G-11 as a "disclosure rule" designed to provide information to new issue participants so that they can understand and evaluate syndicate practices. The rule does not, however, dictate what those practices must be. Thus, rule G-11 does not require that the offering price of new issue municipal securities remain fixed through the underwriting period. The Board considered the issue of fixed-price offerings when it formulated rule G-11 and again when the Public Securities Association, in 1981, asked the Board to consider the adoption of rules governing the granting of concessions in new issues of municipal securities. Since the kind of fixed-price offering system developed for corporate securities has not been the primary means of distributing municipal securities and in light of industry concerns that any such proposed regulations could unnecessarily restrict prices and increase the borrowing costs for municipal issues, the Board determined not to adopt any rules addressing the issue. 
Finally, we know of no laws or regulations which purport to require fixed-price offerings for new issue municipal securities, and the NASD's rules in this area do not apply to transactions in municipal securities. Of course, Board rule G-30, on prices and commissions, prohibits a dealer from buying municipal securities for its own account from a customer or selling municipal securities for its own account to a customer at an aggregate price unless that price is reasonable taking into consideration all relevant factors. MSRB interpretation of March 16, 1984.
 For a fuller explanation of the Board's review of G-11 in this area, See Notice Concerning Board Determination Not to Adopt Concession Rules, [MSRB Reports, Vol. 2, No. 5 (July 1982) at 7].
 See NASD Rules of Fair Practice, Article II, Section 1, subsection (m) [currently codified as NASD Rule 114].
Application of Board Rules to Transactions in Municipal Securities Subject to Secondary Market Insurance or Other Credit Enhancement Features
It has come to the Board’s attention that insurance companies are offering to insure whole maturities of issues of municipal securities outstanding in the secondary market. The Board understands that municipal securities professionals must apply for the insurance which, once issued, will remain in effect for the life of the security. The Board further understands that other credit enhancement devices also may be developed for secondary market issues.
The Board wishes to remind the industry of the application of rule G-17, the Board’s fair dealing rule, in connection with transactions with customers in securities that are subject to secondary market insurance or other credit enhancement devices or in securities for which arrangements for such insurance or device have been initiated. The Board is of the view that facts, for example, that a security has been insured or arrangements for insurance have been initiated, that will affect the market price of the security are material and must be disclosed to a customer at or before execution of a transaction in the security. In addition, the Board believes that a dealer should advise a customer if evidence of insurance or other credit enhancement feature must be attached to the security for effective transference of the insurance or device.
The Board also wishes to remind the industry that under rule G-13, concerning quotations, all quotations relating to municipal securities made by a dealer must be based on the dealer’s best judgment of the fair market value of the securities at the time the quotation is made. Offers to buy securities that are insured or otherwise have a credit enhancement feature, or for which arrangements for insurance or other credit enhancement have been initiated, must comply with rule G-13. Similarly, the prices at which these securities are purchased or sold by a municipal securities dealer must be fair and reasonable to its customers under Board rule G-30 on prices and commissions.
 Rule G-17 provides:
In the conduct of its municipal securities business, each broker, dealer, and municipal securities dealer shall deal fairly with all persons and shall not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice.
 The Board has adopted amendments to rule G-15 which, among other things, require that deliveries to customers of insured securities be accompanied by some evidence of the insurance.
Put Option Bonds: Safekeeping, Pricing
Put option bonds: safekeeping, pricing. I am writing in response to your recent letter regarding issues of municipal securities with put option or tender option features, under which a holder of the securities may put the securities back to the issuer or an agent of the issuer at par on certain stated dates. In your letter you inquire generally as to the confirmation disclosure requirements applicable to such securities. You also raise several questions regarding a dealer’s obligation to advise customers of the existence of the put option provision at times other than the time of sale of the securities to the customer.
Your letter was referred to a committee of the Board which has responsibility for interpreting the Board’s confirmation rules, among other matters. That committee has authorized my sending you the following response.
Both rules G-12(c) and G-15, applicable to inter-dealer and customer confirmations respectively, require that confirmations of transactions in securities which are subject to put option or tender option features must indicate that fact (e.g., through inclusion of the designation “puttable” on the confirmation). the date on which the put option feature first comes into effect need be stated on the confirmation only if the transaction is effected on a yield basis and the parties to the transaction specifically agree that the transaction dollar price should be computed to that date. In the absence of such an agreement, the put date need not be stated on the confirmation, and any yield disclosed should be a yield to maturity.
Of course, municipal securities brokers and dealers selling to customers securities with put option or tender option features are obligated to disclose adequately the special characteristics of these securities at the time of trade. The customer therefore should be advised of information about the put option or tender option feature at this time.
In your letter you inquire whether a dealer who had previously sold securities with a put option or tender option feature to a customer would be obliged to contact that customer around the time the put option comes into effect to remind the customer that the put option is available. You also ask whether such an obligation would exist if the dealer held the securities in safekeeping for the customer. The committee can respond, of course, only in terms of the requirements of Board rules; the committee noted that no Board rule would impose such an obligation on the dealer.
In your letter you also ask whether a dealer who purchased from a customer securities with a put option or tender option feature at the time of the put option exercise date at a price significantly below the put exercise price would be in violation of any Board rules. The committee believes that such a dealer might well be deemed to be in violation of Board rules G-17 on fair dealer and G-30 on prices and commissions. MSRB interpretation of February 18, 1983.