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Supervisory Responsibility of Municipal Securities Principals and Municipal Securities Sales Principals
The Board has received questions concerning the appropriate allocation of supervisory responsibility between municipal securities principals and the new category of municipal securities sales principals. The Board recently amended its rule G-3 to permit a person associated with a securities firm whose activities with respect to municipal securities are limited to supervising sales to and purchases from customers to qualify as a "municipal securities sales principal" ("sales principal"). The Board also amended rules G-8 on recordkeeping, G-26 on the administration of customer accounts, and G-27 on supervision to permit securities firms to designate sales principals as responsible for certain supervisory functions insofar as they relate directly to transactions in municipal securities with customers.
In particular, rule G-27 concerning supervision requires municipal securities dealers to designate at least one municipal securities principal as responsible for supervising its municipal securities activities, including the municipal securities activities of branch offices or similar locations. In addition, rule G-27 permits the municipal securities dealer to designate a sales principal (e.g., a branch office manager) as responsible for the "direct supervision of sales to and purchases from customers." The rule also requires that a dealer adopt written supervisory procedures which, among other matters, reflect the delegation of supervisory authority to these personnel.
As a result of these amendments, in designating under rule G-27 one or more municipal securities principals as responsible for supervising the business and activities of the firm’s associated persons, a securities firm may choose to designate a qualified sales principal with limited responsibility for the direct supervision of sales to and purchases from customers. If so, the firm’s written supervisory procedures may allocate responsibility to a sales principal for reviewing and approving (to the extent that they relate to sales to and purchases from customers) the suitability of the opening of, and transactions in, customer accounts, the handling of customer complaints and other correspondence, and other matters permitted by Board rule to be reviewed or approved by a sales principal. A municipal securities principal, however, must be responsible for directly supervising the firm’s other municipal securities activities such as underwriting, trading, and pricing of inventories.
With respect to the relationship between a sales principal and the designated municipal securities principal, Board rule G-27 provides that a branch office manager who acts as the sales principal for his office will be responsible for the municipal securities sales activities under his direct supervision. Rule G-27 also provides that a designated municipal securities principal will be responsible for all municipal securities activities of the branch office including those that may be under the direct supervision of a sales principal. However, the branch office manager, under the particular organizational structure of a firm, may be responsible to some other designated supervisor for the discharge of his other duties.
Syndicate Records: Participations
Syndicate records: participations. This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 24, 1981 concerning certain of the requirements of Board rule G-8(a)(viii) regarding syndicate records to be maintained by managers of underwritings of new issues of municipal securities.
You note that this provision requires, in pertinent part, that,
[w]ith respect to each syndicate..., records shall be maintained ... showing ... the name and percentage of participation of each member of the syndicate or account...
You inquire whether this provision necessitates the designation of an actual percentage or decimal participation, or, alternatively,
whether a listing of the ... dollar participation [of each member] ... along with [the] aggregate par value of the syndicate meets the requirement ... of the Rule.
The rule should not be construed to require in all cases an indication of a numerical percentage for each member's participation, if other information from which a numerical percentage can easily be determined is set forth. The method you propose, showing the par value amount of the member's participation, is certainly acceptable for purposes of compliance with this provision of the rule. MSRB interpretation of December 8, 1981.
Records of Original Entry: Unit System
Records of original entry: unit system. This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 20, 1981 concerning compliance with certain of the provisions of Board rule G-8 through the use of a "unit system" method of recordkeeping. In your letter you indicate that the bank wishes to maintain the record of original entry required under rule G-8(a)(i) in the form of a collection of duplicate copies of confirmations filed in transaction settlement date order; in addition, you enclose a copy of the confirmation form used by the bank. You inquire whether maintaining the record in this manner would be satisfactory for purposes of the rule.
In a July 29, 1977 interpretive notice on rule G-8 the Board stated:
Under rule G-8, records may be maintained in a variety of ways, including a unit system of recordkeeping. In such a system, records are kept in the form of a group of documents or related groups of documents....
A unit system of recordkeeping is an acceptable system for purposes of rule G-8 if the information required to be shown is clearly and accurately reflected and there is an adequate basis for audit. This would require in most instances that each record in a unit system be arranged in appropriate sequence, whether chronological or numerical, and fully integrated into the over-all recordkeeping system for purposes of posting to general ledger accounts.
Therefore, the type of recordkeeping system you propose may be used for purposes of compliance with rule G-8 if (1) the records show, in a clear and accurate fashion, all of the information that is required to be shown, and (2) the records are maintained in a form that provides an adequate basis for audit by bank employees or examiners. It is my understanding that recordkeeping systems similar to that which you propose have been inspected by banking regulatory authorities during examinations of other bank municipal securities dealer departments, and have been found to meet these two criteria.
In your letter you indicate that the confirmation form used by your bank "contains all the information needed" to meet the recordkeeping requirement. Our review of your form indicates that this is not the case. The rule requires the record of original entry to contain
an itemized daily record of all purchases and sales of municipal securities, all receipts and deliveries of municipal securities (including bond or note numbers and, if the securities are in registered form, an indication to such effect), all receipts and disbursements of cash with respect to transactions in municipal securities, [and] all other debits and credits pertaining to transactions in municipal securities ... The records of original entry shall show the name or other designation of the account for which each such transaction was effected (whether effected for the account of such municipal securities broker or municipal securities dealer, the account of a customer, or otherwise), the description of the securities, the aggregate par value of the securities, the dollar price or yield and aggregate purchase or sale price of the securities, accrued interest, the trade date, and the name or other designation of the person from whom purchased or received or to whom sold or delivered.
The confirmation form you enclosed does not appear to provide a space for notation of "the name or other designation of the account for which [the] transaction was effected." This information is distinct from "the name or other designation of the person from whom purchased ... or to whom sold ..." (which would appear in the "name and address" portion of your form) and requires an indication of the account, whether it be the bank's trading inventory or portfolio, or the contra-principal on an agency transaction, in which the securities were held prior to a sale or will be held subsequent to a purchase. For example, if the bank sells $100,000 par value securities from its trading account to "Mr. Smith", the record of original entry would reflect that this transaction was effected for the account of the [bank's] trading account. A subsequent sale of these securities effected as agent for the customer would be reflected on the record of original entry as for the account of "Mr. Smith."
I note also that, in addition to a record of purchase and sale transactions (which could easily be maintained in the form of duplicate copies of confirmations), the record of original entry must contain information about transactions cleared on the date of the record as well as cash disbursements and receipts. Your letter does not indicate how your bank would comply with these latter requirements. As you may be aware, other banks using unit recordkeeping systems use additional copies of the confirmation as "clearance" records, with information on receipts and deliveries of securities and movements of cash noted on these copies. These "clearance" records are then aggregated with the purchase and sale records to form a complete record of original entry.
In summary, the method of maintaining a record of original entry which your bank proposes can be used to comply with the requirements of the rule. Certain aspects of the information required by the rule are not contained on the document you propose to use, however, and provision would have to be made for inclusion of these items in the records before the system you propose would be satisfactory for compliance with the rule's requirements. MSRB interpretation of November 24, 1981.
Syndicate records. I am writing in response to your letters of October 2 and October 19, 1981 concerning a particular recordkeeping arrangement used by an NASD-member firm in connection with its underwriting activities. In your letters you indicate that the firm conducts its underwriting activities from its main office and four regional branch office "commitment centers," with the committing branch offices authorized to commit to underwriting new issues on the firm's behalf. You inquire whether the firm is in compliance with the Board's recordkeeping and record retention rules if it maintains only part of the records on its underwritings in the main office. Correspondence from a field examiner attached to your letters indicates that the committing branch office originating a particular underwriting maintains all of the records with respect to such underwriting. The majority of these records are the original copies; the copies of confirmations, good faith checks, and syndicate settlement checks maintained at the committing branch office are duplicates of original records maintained at the firm's main office.
Rule G-9(d) requires that books and records shall be maintained and preserved in an easily accessible place for two years and shall be available for ready inspection by the proper regulatory authorities. The fact that the member firm does not maintain all records with respect to all of its underwriting activities in a single location does not contravene these provisions of Board rule G-9. Rule G-9 would permit the arrangement described in your letters, whereby a firm maintains copies of all of the records pertaining to a particular underwriting in the office responsible for that underwriting.
Thank you for your prompt assistance in providing the additional information we needed in order to respond to your inquiry. MSRB interpretation of October 21, 1981.
Settlement of Syndicate Accounts
Settlement of syndicate accounts. This is in response to your letter of July 28, 1981, suggesting that requirements analogous to those placed on syndicate managers in rule G-12(j) be imposed on syndicate members who must remit their share of syndicate losses to their syndicate managers. You state that syndicate members frequently do not remit their losses to the manager in a timely fashion and that such a requirement would establish an "equitable balance between the interests of syndicate members and syndicate managers."
Rule G-12(j) provides:
Final settlement of a syndicate or similar account formed for the purchase of securities shall be made within 60 days following the date all securities have been delivered by the syndicate or account manager to the syndicate or account members.
The rule is not expressly limited to money payments by syndicate managers, but broadly requires that final settlement shall be made within 60 days following the date the manager delivers the securities to the syndicate members. Thus, the rule requires syndicate members to remit their share of syndicate losses to the syndicate manager within the 60-day period set forth in the rule. Since a syndicate member cannot remit his share of losses until he is apprised by the syndicate manager of the amount of his share, a member should remit his share of the losses to the manager within a reasonable period of time after receiving the syndicate accounting required by rule G-11(h). MSRB interpretation of September 28, 1981.
Yield Disclosure Requirements for Purchases from Customers
Certain amendments to Board rule G-15 on customer confirmations became effective on December 1, 1980. Among other matters, these amendments require that customer confirmations of transactions effected on the basis of dollar price, including confirmations of purchases from customers, set forth certain yield information concerning the transaction. Confirmations of dollar price transactions in non-callable securities, or in callable securities traded at prices below par, must set forth the yield to maturity resulting from the dollar price. Confirmations of dollar price transactions in securities which have been called or prerefunded must show the yield to the maturity date established by the call or prerefunding. Confirmations of transactions in callable securities traded at dollar prices in excess of par are exempt from yield disclosure requirements until October 1, 1981; after that date such confirmations must show the lowest of the yield to premium call, yield to par option, or yield to maturity resulting from such dollar price.
Since the effective date of these amendments, the Board has received several inquiries as to whether all confirmations of purchases from customers, including purchases effected at a price derived from a yield price less a spread or concession, must show the yield resulting from the actual unit dollar price of the transaction.
The Board is of the view that all confirmations of purchasers from customers (except for purchases at par) must set forth the net or effective yield resulting from the actual unit dollar price of the transaction. The yield disclosure on confirmations of purchases from customers is intended to provide customers with a means of assessing the merits of alternative investment strategies (such as different possible reinvestment transactions) and the merits of the particular transaction being confirmed. The Board believes that the disclosure of the net or effective yield (i.e., that derived from the actual unit dollar price of the transaction) best serves these purposes.
 Confirmations of transactions effected at a dollar price of par ("100") continue to be exempt from any yield disclosure requirements.
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board has recently received inquiries concerning the provisions of rule G-12(h)(iii) regarding close-out procedures in the event of a firm's liquidation. The Board has been advised that a SIPC trustee has been appointed in connection with the liquidation of a general securities firm with which certain municipal securities brokers and dealers have uncompleted transactions in municipal securities, and that the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc., have notified their respective members that they may institute "immediate" close-out procedures on open transactions with the firm in liquidation. In accordance with a previous understanding between the Board and the NASD, the NASD has also advised municipal securities brokers and dealers that, pursuant to rule G-12(h)(iii), they may execute "immediate" close-outs on open transactions in municipal securities.
Rule G-12(h)(iii) provides:
Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent brokers, dealers or municipal securities dealers from closing out transactions as directed by a ruling of a national securities exchange, a registered securities by a ruling of a national securities exchange, a registered securities association or an appropriate regulatory agency issued in connection with the liquidation of a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer.
Therefore, in the event that a national securities exchange or registered securities association makes a ruling that close-outs may be effected "immediately" on transactions with a firm in liquidation, municipal securities brokers and dealers may take such action. In these circumstances, a purchasing dealer seeking to execute such a close-out need not follow the procedures for initiation of a close-out procedure, nor is the dealer required to wait the prescribed time periods prior to executing the close-out notice. Similarly, a selling dealer need not attempt delivery prior to using the procedure for close-outs by sellers. In both cases dealers may proceed to execute the close-out immediately--that is, the purchasing dealer may immediately "buy in" the securities in question for the account and liability of the firm in liquidation (or utilize one of the other options available for execution of the close-out), and a selling dealer may immediately "sell out" the subject securities. Notification of the execution of the close-out should be provided in accordance with the normal procedure.
Dealers executing close-outs in these circumstances should advise the trustee of the firm in liquidation of their actions in closing out these transactions. If proceeds from the close-out execution are due to the firm in liquidation, they should be remitted to the trustee. Requests for payment of amounts due on close-out executions should also be sent to the trustee; the trustee will resolve these claims in the course of the liquidation.
The Board also notes that dealers having open transactions with a firm in liquidation may, but are not required to, execute "immediate" close-outs in these circumstances. If individual dealers wish to attempt some other means of completing these transactions, such as seeking to complete a transaction with the liquidated firm's other contra-side, they may do so.
Blanket consent. This is in response to your April 7, 1981, letter asking whether, consistent with rule G-23(d)(ii), a municipal securities dealer acting as a financial advisor to an issuer may obtain from the issuer prospective approval to participate in any and all new issues the issuer may sell on a competitive basis at some future date.
Rule G-23(d)(ii) provides that a municipal securities dealer which is acting as a financial advisor may not acquire or participate in the distribution of a new issue unless
if such issue is to be sold by the issuer at competitive bid the issuer has consented in writing to such acquisition or participation.
The rule is designed to minimize the "prima facie" conflict of interest that exists when a municipal securities professional acts as both financial advisor and underwriter with respect to the same issue. Rule G-23(d) speaks in terms of "a new issue" and the implication is that consent should be obtained on an issue-by-issue basis.
The Board believes that such a reading of the rule is consistent with the rule’s rationale—that an issuer should have an opportunity to consider whether, under the particular circumstances of an offering, the financial advisor’s potential conflict of interest is sufficient to warrant not consenting to its participation in the sale. The Board has concluded that an unrestricted consent would not afford an issuer such an opportunity and, accordingly, has determined that such a consent would not satisfy the requirements of rule G-23(d)(ii). MSRB interpretation of July 30, 1981.
Disclosure of Pricing: Accrued Interest
Disclosure of pricing: accrued interest. This is in response to your request by telephone for an interpretation of Board rule G-15 which requires that a municipal securities dealer provide to his customer, at or prior to completion of a transaction, a written confirmation containing certain general information including the amount of accrued interest. Specifically, you have asked whether the rule permits a municipal securities dealer, in using one confirmation to confirm transactions in several different municipal securities of one issuer, to disclose the amount of accrued interest for the bonds as an aggregate figure. You have advised us that, typically, such a confirmation will show other items of information required by the rule such as yield and dollar price, separately for each issue.
Rule G-15 was adopted by the Board to assure that confirmations of municipal securities transactions provide investors with certain fundamental information concerning transactions. The Board believes that disclosure of accrued interest as an aggregate sum does not permit investors to determine easily from the confirmation the amount of accrued interest attributable to each security purchased, but rather necessitates the performance of several computations. It, thus, would be more difficult for an investor to determine whether the information concerning accrued interest is correct if the information is presented in aggregate form.
Such a result is inconsistent with the purposes of rule G-15. Accordingly, the Board has concluded that, under rule G-15, the amount of accrued interest must be shown for each issue of bonds to which the customer confirmation relates. MSRB interpretation of July 27, 1981.
Yield disclosures. This letter is in response to your inquiry of April 14, 1981 concerning the application of the yield disclosure requirements of Board rule G-15 to a particular transaction effected by your firm. As I indicated to you in my letter of May 9, 1981, the Board was unable to consider your inquiry at its April meeting, and, accordingly, deferred the matter to its July meeting. At that meeting the Board took up your question and authorized my sending you this answer to your inquiry. While we realize that the matter is now moot with respect to the particular transaction about which you were writing, we assume that this question may arise again with respect to future transactions.
In your April 14 letter you inquired concerning a recent sale of new issue securities to a customer. You indicated that the firm had sold all twenty maturities of the new issue to a customer. This sale had been effected at the same premium dollar price for all maturities, and the customer had been advised of the average life of the issue and the yield to the average life. You inquired whether the final money confirmation of this sale should show "one dollar price ... and one yield to the average life," or the dollar price and each of the yields to the twenty different maturities of the issue.
Rule G-15(a)(viii)(B)[*] requires that customer confirmations of transactions in noncallable securities effected on the basis of a dollar price set forth the dollar price and the resulting yield to maturity. In the situation you describe, it would be difficult to conclude that the rule would permit the confirmation to show only a "yield to the average life," omitting any yield to maturity information. Although the "yield to the average life" would provide the customer with some indication of the return on his or her investment, the customer could easily make the mistake of assuming that this would be the yield on all of the securities, and not realize that it is the result of differing yields, with lower yields on the short-term maturities and higher yields on the long-term ones. The Board believes that disclosure of each of the yields to the twenty maturities of the issue would provide the customer with much more accurate information concerning the return on his or her investments. Accordingly, the Board concludes that, in a transaction of this type, the final money confirmation(s) should set forth each of the yields. MSRB interpretation of July 27, 1981.
 Although you did not indicate this, we assume that all of these securities are noncallable.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5)(b)]
Letters of Credit
Letters of credit. This is in response to your April 9, 1981, letter asking whether Board rule G-22, regarding control relationships, and G-23, regarding financial advisory agreements, would apply if a bank’s issuance of a letter of credit were contingent upon its being named underwriter or manager for the issue, or if a bank issuing a letter of credit retained authority to require an issuer, in effect, to call the securities.
Rule G-22 provides that
a control relationship with respect to a municipal security shall be deemed to exist if a broker, dealer, or municipal securities dealer (or a bank or other person of which the broker, dealer, or municipal securities dealer is a department or division) controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the issuer of the security or a person other than the issuer who is obligated, directly or indirectly, with respect to debt service on the security.
The existence of a control relationship is a question of fact to be determined from the entire situation. Most recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission suggested that, for purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a registered broker-dealer would be deemed to be controlled by a person or entity who, among other things, has the ability to direct or cause the direction of management or the policies of the broker-dealer. Based upon the above, it is questionable whether a bank that conditions the issuance of a letter of credit upon being named an underwriter or upon a tie-in deposit arrangement should be deemed to control the issuer. Similarly, it does not appear that a bank that retains discretion under a letter of credit to cause the trustee to call the whole issue has a control relationship with the issuer.
You also ask whether under Board rule G-23 a financial advisory relationship is created if a bank conditions the issuance of a letter of credit upon being named an underwriter or upon obtaining a tie-in deposit arrangement. Under rule G-23, a financial advisory relationship is deemed to exist when a municipal securities professional provides, or enters into an agreement to provide, financial advisory services to, or on behalf of, an issuer with respect to a new issue of securities regarding such matters as the structure, timing or terms of the issue, in return for compensation or for the expectation of compensation. It does not appear that rule G-23 would apply in your example since the bank is not providing financial advisory or consulting services with respect to the structure, timing or other substantive terms of the issue. MSRB interpretation of July 27, 1981.
Contents of Advertisement: Put Options
Contents of advertisement: put options. Your letter dated June 15, 1981, has been referred to me for response. In your letter you mention our previous conversation regarding the appropriate definition of "put bonds", which definition your firm would like to use in advertisements offering such securities for sale. You request confirmation of the Board’s views concerning the aspects of the "put option" feature on these securities that would be appropriate to cover in such a definition.
The type of "put option" issue with which the Board is familiar, and which we discussed, has a provision in the indenture which permits the holder of the securities to tender or "put" the securities back to the issuer on specified dates at par. This feature typically commences six (or more) years after the date of issuance, is exercisable only once annually (on an interest payment date), and is exercisable only upon the provision of irrevocable prior notice to the issuer (typically three or more months before the exercise date).
If I remember our conversation correctly, you indicated that the firm wished to describe a security of this type in an advertisement as having a "put option" feature, available once annually, permitting redemption of the securities at par. I suggested that, while the items of information you detailed were appropriate, it might also be advisable to mention in the advertisement the "prior notice" requirement under the option exercise procedure. It would also be helpful to make clear the irrevocable nature of such notice.
If the content of your definition of the "put option" feature goes beyond the items we discussed (for example, by indicating that the "put option" is secured by a bank letter of credit, additional disclosures might also be appropriate. MSRB interpretation of July 13, 1981.
Syndicate Settlement Practice Violations Noted
The Board continues to be concerned about industry compliance with certain of the requirements of Board rules G-11, "Sales of New Issue Municipal Securities During the Underwriting Period," and G-12, "Uniform Practice," with respect to the settlement of syndicate accounts. Board rule G-11(g)[*] requires, among other matters, that syndicate managers provide to members at the time of settlement of a syndicate account a detailed statement of the expenses incurred by the syndicate. Rule G-12(j) requires that settlement of a syndicate account and distribution of any profit due to members be made within 60 days of delivery of the syndicate's securities. In addition, rule G-12(i) requires that good faith deposits be returned within two business days of settlement with an issuer, and rule G-12(k) requires that sales credits designated by a customer be distributed within 30 days following delivery of the securities [by the issuer to the syndicate].
The Board has from time to time received complaints from industry members concerning certain managers' non-compliance with these requirements. These persons allege that certain managers unduly delay the sending of syndicate settlement checks and other disbursements, and furnish settlement statements that provide little or no detail about the nature of the expenses incurred by the syndicate. These persons have also, on occasion, furnished to the Board copies of syndicate statements which illustrate clearly these managers' failure to provide the requisite information and to meet the time requirement for these disbursements. The Board has referred each of these complaints to the appropriate regulatory agency for investigation and appropriate action.
The Board wishes to emphasize strongly the need for compliance with these provisions. The Board continues to be of the view that the time periods and other requirements of the rules, which were arrived at after considerable deliberation, are fair and reasonable. The Board believes that failure to comply with these provisions is inexcusable. The Board does not accept the rationale offered by some, that the difficulties in obtaining bills for syndicate expenses justify these undue delays; the Board believes that it is incumbent upon managers to assure that such bills are received and processed in timely fashion, to permit compliance with the rule. The Board strongly urges syndicate managers who have failed to comply with these requirements to bring their practices into compliance with the requirements of the rules.
The Board also is communicating these views to the enforcement organizations and stressing its concern with respect to compliance with these provisions. It strongly urges all syndicate members to notify the appropriate enforcement organization of any violations by managers of these provisions.
 The rule contemplates that the statement will set forth a detailed breakdown of expenses into specified categories, such as advertising, printing, legal, computer services, packaging and handling, etc. The statement may include an item for miscellaneous expenses, provided that the amount shown under such an item is not disproportionately large in relation to other items of expense shown and includes only items of expense which cannot be easily categorized elsewhere in the statement.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-11(h)]
NOTE: Revised to reflect subsequent amendments.
"Finders" of Potential Issuers
"Finder" of potential issuers. This responds to your letter of May 14, 1981 requesting our advice concerning the application of the qualification provisions of rule G-3 to a person employed by a municipal securities broker or dealer whose activities are limited solely to acting as a "finder" of potential issuers. Based upon the facts contained in your letter, and assuming that such person is not providing financial advisory or consultant services for issuers, it would appear that he or she is not performing functions, which are enumerated in rule G-3(a), the performance of which would require qualification as a municipal securities principal or a municipal securities representative. MSRB interpretation of June 24, 1981.
Registered Municipal Securities Dealer
Registered municipal securities dealer. Your letter dated February 11, 1981 has been referred to me for response.
In your letter you state that [the firm] "has had no transactions in municipal securities since a trade on September 13, 1979." You note that according to rule A-14 of the Board relating to annual fees, a fee . . . is payable for each fiscal year in which the municipal securities broker or municipal securities dealer conducts business. You conclude that "[s]ince we did not conduct any business during the last fiscal year (10/1/79-9/30/80) it would appear that [the firm] should be entitled to a refund" for the fiscal year ending October, 1980, and should not be liable for payment of the annual fee for the fiscal year ending October, 1981.
The purpose of the annual fee imposed by rule A-14 is to defray the costs of the Board's communications with those firms which are qualified to do a municipal securities business. There is no threshold level of municipal securities business which triggers liability for payment of the annual fee. Rather, the fee is imposed on all brokers and dealers who are registered as municipal securities brokers with the S.E.C. Since [the firm] is registered as a municipal securities dealer, it is liable for payment of the annual fee imposed by rule A-14 for the fiscal year ending October 1981.
If your firm no longer intends to do a municipal securities business, rule A-15 of the Board provides a procedure for withdrawal from registration as a municipal securities dealer. Withdrawal from registration would, of course, enable your firm to avoid paying annual fees to the Board. However, at such time as your firm resumes any municipal securities business, it would be required to pay the initial and annual fees imposed by rules A-12 and A-14, respectively. MSRB interpretation of June 11, 1981
Debriefing of Examination Candidates
Board rule G-3 sets forth standards of qualifications for municipal securities brokers and municipal securities dealers and their associated persons, including examination requirements for municipal securities principals, municipal securities financial and operations principals, municipal securities sales principals, and municipal securities representatives.
In order to assure that its examinations constitute valid tests of the qualifications of persons who take them, the Board has instituted various procedures, in the question writing as well as the administration phases, which are designed to preserve the confidentiality of the examinations. In addition, on one occasion the Board found it necessary to take legal action, alleging copyright violations, against a securities training school which had used in its training material questions and answers that appeared to have been taken from questions contained in Board qualification examinations.
The Board wishes to point out that the practice of "debriefing" persons who have taken a municipal securities qualifications examination (i.e. requesting or encouraging such persons to reveal the contents of the examinations) may not only give rise to an infringement of the Board's copyright but would, if engaged in by members of the municipal securities industry, constitute a violation of the Board's rules. In this regard, rule G-3(g) [*] provides that no person associated with a municipal securities broker or municipal securities dealer shall (i) disclose to any person any question on any municipal securities qualification examination or the answers to any such questions, (ii) engage in any activity inconsistent with the confidential nature of any such qualification examination or its purpose as a test of the qualifications of persons taking such examination, or (iii) knowingly sign a false certification concerning any such qualification examination.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-3(e)]
Confirmation Disclosure: Put Option Bonds
Confirmation disclosure: put option bonds. This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 6, 1981, requesting further clarification of the application of Board rules to municipal securities with "put option" or "tender option" features. In your letter you note that I had previously indicated that, in some circumstances, Board rules would require inter-dealer and customer confirmations to set forth a yield to the "put option" date, designated as such. You suggest that presentation of this information on confirmations would require reprogramming of many computerized confirmation-processing systems, and you inquire whether the Board intends that
dealers should possess the capability to "price to the put" and [to] indicate the appropriate yield in their confirmation systems[.]
In my previous letter of April 24, 1981, I advised that Board rules G-12(c), on inter-dealer confirmations, and G-15, on customer confirmations, would require the following with respect to transactions in securities with "put option" features:
(1) If the transaction is effected on the basis of a yield price, the confirmation must state the yield at which the transaction was effected and the resulting dollar price. The dollar price must be computed to the maturity date, since, in most instances, these securities will not have call features. If the securities do have a refunding call feature, the requirement for pricing to the lowest of the premium call, par option, or maturity would obtain.
(2) If the transaction is effected on the basis of a dollar price, the confirmation must state the dollar price, and, in the case of a customer confirmation, the resulting yield to maturity. If the securities have a call feature, the customer confirmation would state the yield to premium call or the yield to par option in lieu of the yield to maturity, if either is lower than the yield to maturity.
In neither case does the rule require the presentation of a yield or a dollar price computed to the "put option" date as a part of the standard confirmation processing. Further, the Board does not at this time plan to adopt any requirement for a calculation of yield or dollar price to the lower of the put option or maturity dates, comparable to the calculation requirement involving call features. I would therefore have to respond to your inquiry by stating that the Board does not at this time intend to require, as an aspect of standard confirmation processing, that dealers have the capability to "price to the put."
In your May 6 letter you quote a paragraph from my previous correspondence, which stated the following:
If the parties explicitly agree that the transaction is effected at a yield to the "put option" date, then such yield may be shown on the confirmation, 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.
As this paragraph indicates, in some circumstances the parties to a particular transaction may agree between themselves 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 that fashion. In such circumstances, the yield to the "put option" date is the "yield at which [the] transaction was effected" and must be disclosed as such; it must also be identified in order to evidence the agreement of the parties that the transaction is priced in this fashion. However, since the sale of securities on the basis of a yield to the "put option" is at the discretion of the parties to the transaction, and is a special circumstance requiring a mutual agreement of such parties, I suggest that the reprogramming you mention would be necessary only if your bank elects to treat securities with "put option" features in this special fashion. Further, given the fact that these would be exceptional transactions, and would require special handling at the time of trade itself (viz., the conclusion of the mutual agreement concerning the pricing), I suggest that manual processing of these transactions on an "exception" basis appears to be a viable alternative to the reprogramming. MSRB interpretation of May 11, 1981.
Confirmation Disclosure: Put Option Bonds
Confirmation disclosure: put option bonds. This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of March 17, 1981, with respect to "put option" or "tender option" features on certain new issues of municipal securities. In your letter you note that an increasing number of issues with "put option" features are being brought to market, and you inquire concerning the application of the Board’s rules to these securities.
The issues of this type with which we are familiar have a "put option" or "tender option" feature permitting the holder of securities of an issue to sell the securities back to the trustee of the issue at par. The "put" or "tender option" privilege normally becomes available a stated number of years (e.g., six years) after issuance, and is available on stated dates thereafter (e.g., once annually, on an interest payment date). The holder of the securities must usually give several months prior notice to the trustee of his intention to exercise the "put option."
Most Board rules will, of course, apply to "put option" issues as they would to any other municipal security. As you recognize in your letter, the only requirements raising interpretive questions appear to be the requirements of rules G-12 and G-15 concerning confirmations. These present two interpretive issues: (1) does the existence of the "put option" have to be disclosed and if so, how, and (2) should the "put option" be used in the computation of yield and dollar price.
Both rules require 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 would therefore have to indicate the existence of the "put option," 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.
The requirements of the rules differ with respect to disclosure of yields and dollar prices. Rule G-12, which governs inter-dealer confirmations, requires such confirmations to set forth 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 premium 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 premium call, price to par option, or price to maturity)
Rule G-15 requires customer confirmations to contain yield and dollar price as follows:
(A) 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 premium call, price to par option, or price to maturity. In cases in which the dollar price is calculated to premium call or par option, this must be stated, and the call or option date and price used in the calculation must be shown.
(B) 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 premium call, yield to par option, or yield to maturity shall be shown; provided, however, that yield information for transactions in callable securities effected at a dollar price in excess of par, other than transactions in securities which have been called or prerefunded, is not required to be shown until October 1, 1981.
(C) for transactions at par, the dollar price shall be shown[.]
Therefore, with respect to transactions in "put option" securities effected on the basis of dollar price, rule G-12 requires that confirmations simply set forth the dollar price. Rule G-15 requires that confirmations of such transactions set forth the dollar price and the yield to maturity resulting from such dollar price. With respect to transactions effected on the basis of yield, both rules require that the confirmations set forth the yield at which the transaction was effected and the resulting dollar price. Unless the parties otherwise agree, the yield should be computed to the maturity date when deriving the dollar price. If the parties explicitly agree that the transaction is effected at a yield to the "put option" date, then such yield may be shown on the confirmation, 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.
Since the exercise of the "put option" is at the discretion of the holder of the securities, and not, as in the case of a call feature, at the discretion of someone other than the holder, the Board concludes that the presentation of a yield to maturity on the confirmation, and the computation of yield prices to the maturity date, is appropriate, and accords with the goal of advising the purchaser of the minimum assured yield on the transaction. The Board further believes that the ability of the two parties to a transaction to agree to price the transaction to the "put option" date, should they so desire, provides sufficient additional flexibility in applying the rules to transactions in "put option" securities. MSRB interpretation of April 24, 1981.
Agency Transaction: Pricing
Agency transaction: pricing. This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of March 17, 1981 concerning the appropriate method of disclosing remuneration on agency transactions. In your letter you indicate that the bank wishes to use one of the following two legends, as appropriate, in disclosing such remuneration:
1) "Commission: Agency Fee $ ... per $1,000 of par value included in/deducted from net price to customer;" or
2) "Commission: Concession received from broker/dealer $ ... per $1,000 of par value."
You inquire whether these legends, indicating the amount of remuneration on a "dollars per bond" basis, are satisfactory for purposes of rule G-15.
Rule G-15(b)[*] requires that
[i]f the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer is effecting a transaction as agent for the customer or as agent for both the customer and another person, the confirmation shall set forth ... the source and amount of any commission or other remuneration received or to be received by the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer in connection with the transaction.
As you are aware, the Board has previously interpreted this provision to require that an aggregate dollar amount be shown. The Board adopted this position due to its belief that many customers would find it difficult to interpret the meaning of a statement disclosing the remuneration as a percentage of par value or a unit profit per bond, or to relate this information to the "total dollar amount of [the] transaction" required to be shown under G-15(a)(xi)[†].
Accordingly, we are unable to conclude that disclosure of the remuneration in the manner in which you suggest would be satisfactory for purposes of the rule. The total dollar amount of the remuneration should be set forth on the confirmation. MSRB interpretation of April 23, 1981.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(1)(e)]
[†] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(6)(a)]
Indemnity agreement. This is in response to your letter dated March 18, 1981, regarding your client's (the "Bank") proposal to sell participations in industrial development bonds to one or more unit investment trusts or closed-end investment company (the "trust"), which bonds would be insured against default by the American Municipal Bond Assurance Corporation (AMBAC). Specifically you ask whether an agreement by the Bank to indemnify AMBAC to the extent of 25 percent of any losses suffered in the event of default would violate Board rule G-25(b) which generally prohibits a municipal securities dealer from guaranteeing a customer against loss in municipal securities transactions.
As you note in your letter, the Board has taken the position that a municipal securities bank dealer issuing a letter of credit which is publicly disclosed and for the benefit of all holders of the security would not violate the provisions of rule G-25(b). You state that the Bank’s agreement to indemnify AMBAC would be disclosed to and, at least indirectly would be for the benefit, of all investors.
Based upon the facts contained in your letter, it appears that the proposed agreement would not be prohibited by rule G-25(b). MSRB interpretation of March 26, 1981.
Financial Advisory Relationship: Identity of Issuer
Financial advisory relationship: identity of issuer. This is in response to your letter of February 27, 1981, asking whether a dealer bank which is retained by the Board of Water Governors of a water utility owned by City X to provide advice regarding the structure, timing, and terms of a new issue of mortgage revenue bonds to be issued by City X has entered into a financial advisory agreement for purposes of rule G-23. You note that the bonds would be sold at a competitive underwriting and payable from the revenues of the water utility.
Under rule G-23, a financial advisory relationship is deemed to exist when a broker, dealer, or municipal securities dealer renders or enters into an agreement to render financial advisory services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a new issue or issues of municipal securities. Based solely upon the facts contained in your letter, it appears that the Board of Water Commissioners is a political subdivision of City X. It further appears that the Board of Water Governors entered into the financial advisory agreement for the specific purpose of obtaining advice regarding the new issue of bonds on behalf of the City. Thus, the fact that City X, rather than the Board of Water Governors, actually will issue the bonds would not itself support a conclusion that the financial advisory agreement is not subject to the provisions of rule G-23. MSRB interpretation of March 13, 1981.
Disclosure of Underwriting Spread
Disclosure of underwriting spread. As you know, Board rule G-32 provides that a dealer selling new issue municipal securities must furnish its customers with certain information at or prior to sending final money confirmations. Under subparagraph (a)(ii) of the rule, in the case of a negotiated sale, the dealer must furnish certain specified information about the underwriting arrangements, including the "underwriting spread." The Board has interpreted this provision to require that the gross spread (i.e., the difference between the initial reoffering prices and the amount paid to the issuer) be shown. The Board has also indicated that the gross spread may be expressed either in dollars or in points per bond.
The Board recently issued an interpretation of rule G-32(a)(ii) to the effect that the underwriting spread may be expressed either as a total amount or as a listing of the components of the gross spread. Thus, for example, the following disclosure would meet the requirements of the rule:
Application of Proceeds
Construction Costs .............................................................$120,000,000
Legal expenses ..........................................................................200,000
Printing and Miscellaneous expenses......................................... ..300,000
Principal amount of bonds ....................................................123,000,000
Should you have any questions concerning this interpretation, please call me. MSRB interpretation of March 9, 1981.
Note: The above letter refers to the text of rule G-32 as in effect prior to amendments effective on August 30, 1985.
 If a dealer expresses the underwriting spread as a listing of the components of the gross spread, that portion of the proceeds which represents compensation to the underwriters must, in the Board's view, be clearly identified as such. Thus, use of the terms "underwriter's discount" or "net to underwriters" would be acceptable; the term "bond discount," however, is confusing and is, therefore, inappropriate.
Letters of Credit
Letters of credit. This is in response to your letter dated August 1, 1980, requesting the Board’s views on the application of rule G-25 to bank standby letters of credit issued in connection with new issues of securities which the dealer department of the bank intends to underwrite. Specifically, you have asked our views on whether such transactions would violate rule G-25(b), which generally prohibits a municipal securities dealer from guaranteeing a customer against loss in municipal securities transactions.
For the reasons discussed below, rule G-25(b) would not prohibit a municipal securities bank dealer from issuing a letter of credit which is publicly disclosed and for the benefit of all holders of the security.
Rule G-25(b) is an antimanipulation rule which is primarily designed to prevent a municipal securities dealer from artificially stimulating the market in a security, for example, by "parking" it with a customer who has assumed no market risk. It does not appear that the issuance of a fully disclosed letter of credit provided by a bank dealer for the benefit of all bondholders could be used to serve a market manipulative purpose, even though the letter would also serve to protect the bank’s own customers. Generally, such letters of credit protect bondholders from particular risks of loss, such as the inability of the issuer to make payments of principal or interest. Bondholders are not protected from general market risks, however, and, like all bona fide purchasers of securities, they incur gains or losses as the market price of the bonds fluctuates. Moreover, unlike the situation contemplated by rule G-25 which addresses guarantees made by dealers to their customers, the bondholders for whose benefit a letter of credit is issued would not necessarily have a customer relationship with the bank dealer issuing the letter. MSRB interpretation of March 6, 1981.
“Wooden tickets.” This is in response to your letter of February 4, 1981 asking whether the practice of a broker-dealer using “wooden tickets” is prohibited by Board rule G-17. According to your letter, this practice refers to the mailing of confirmations of sales to customers who, in fact, have not placed orders to purchase securities. Thereafter, if any customer objects, stating that it never authorized the transaction, the sale is canceled. You state that, in some cases, customers accept the transaction and make payment.
The Board has determined that the practice by a municipal securities dealer of knowingly issuing confirmations of sales to customers who have not placed orders to purchase the bonds is a deceptive, dishonest, and unfair practice under rule G-17. MSRB interpretation of March 3, 1981.
Financial Advisory Relationship: Blanket Agreement
Financial advisory relationship: blanket agreement. I refer to your letter of December 4, 1980 and a subsequent conversation regarding the application of rule G-23(d) to the participation by your client, a municipal securities dealer, in the underwriting of securities to be issued by the County referred to in your letter (the "County").
Rule G-23(d) provides in pertinent part that no municipal securities dealer "that has a financial advisory relationship with respect to a new issue of municipal securities shall acquire as principal ... from the issuer all or any portion of such issue ..." unless the dealer complies with certain specified provisions of the rule. You indicate that your client has a financial advisory agreement with the County which provides that your client will furnish financial advisory services from time to time at the County’s request. You state, however, that your client was not requested to furnish financial advisory services with respect to the particular issue of securities which the County now proposes to sell and was selected by the County after responding to an advertisement for underwriters. You request our concurrence in your opinion that a financial advisory relationship with respect to the proposed new issue does not exist.
For purposes of the rule, a financial advisory relationship is deemed to exist when a "municipal securities dealer renders or enters into an agreement to render financial advisory or consultant services to or on behalf of an issuer with respect to a new issue or issues of municipal securities ..." (emphasis added). Therefore, where a dealer has entered into a blanket agreement to render financial advisory services, a financial advisory relationship with respect to a particular issue of securities may be presumed to exist despite the fact that the municipal securities dealer does not furnish any financial advice concerning such issue. Whether or not your client has a financial advisory relationship with respect to the proposed new issue referred to in your letter is a factual question which we are not in a position to resolve. Therefore, we are unable to concur in your opinion. MSRB interpretation of January 5, 1981.