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Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:
Notice of Interpretation Concerning Priority of Orders for New Issue Securities: Rule G-17
Rule Number:

This interpretive notice was revoked on October 12, 2010. See Interpretation on Priority of Orders for Securities in a Primary Offering under Rule G-17 (October 12, 2010)

The Board is concerned about reports that senior syndicate managers may not always be mindful of principles of fair dealing in allocations of new issue securities. In particular, the Board believes that the principles of fair dealing require that customer orders should receive priority over similar dealer or certain dealer-related account[1] orders, to the extent that this is feasible and consistent with the orderly distribution of new issue securities.

Rule G-11(e) requires syndicates to establish priority provisions and, if such priority provisions may be changed, to specify the procedure for making changes. The rule also permits a syndicate to allow the senior manager, on a case-by-case basis, to allocate securities in a manner other than in accordance with the priority provisions if the senior manager determines in its discretion that it is in the best interests of the syndicate. Senior managers must furnish this information, in writing, to the syndicate members. Syndicate members must promptly furnish this information, in writing, to others upon request. This requirement was adopted to allow prospective purchasers to frame their orders to the syndicate in a manner that would enhance their ability to obtain securities since the syndicate’s allocation procedures would be known.

The Board understands that senior managers must balance a number of competing interests in allocating new issue securities. In addition, a senior manager must be able quickly to determine when it is appropriate to allocate away from the priority provisions and must be prepared to justify its actions to the syndicate and perhaps to the issuer. While it does not appear necessary or appropriate at this time to restrict the ability of syndicates to permit managers to allocate securities in a manner different from the priority provisions, the Board believes senior managers should ensure that all allocations, even those away from the priority provisions, are fair and reasonable and consistent with principles of fair dealing under rule G-17.[2] Thus, in the Board’s view, customer orders should have priority over similar dealer orders or certain dealer-related account orders to the extent that this is feasible and consistent with the orderly distribution of new issue securities. Moreover, the Board suggests that syndicate members alert their customers to the priority provisions adopted by the syndicate so that their customers are able to place their orders in a manner that increases the possibility of being allocated securities.


[1] A dealer-related account includes a municipal securities investment portfolio, arbitrage account or secondary trading account of a syndicate member, a municipal securities investment trust sponsored by a syndicate member, or an accumulation account established in connection with such a municipal securities investment trust.

[2] Rule G-17 provides that:

[i]n 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.

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:
Notice of Interpretation on Escrowed-to-Maturity Securities: Rules G-17, G-12 and G-15

The Board is concerned that the market for escrowed-to-maturity securities has been disrupted by uncertainty whether these securities may be called pursuant to optional redemption provisions. Accordingly, the Board has issued the following interpretations of rule G-17, on fair dealing, and rules G-12(c) and G-15(a), on confirmation disclosure, concerning escrowed-to-maturity securities. The interpretations are effective immediately.

Background

Traditionally, the term escrowed-to-maturity has meant that such securities are not subject to optional redemption prior to maturity. Investors and market professionals have relied on this understanding in their purchases and sales of such securities. Recently, certain issuers have attempted to call escrowed-to-maturity securities. As a result, investors and market professionals considering transactions in escrowed-to-maturity securities must review the documents for the original issue, for any refunding issue, as well as the escrow agreement and state law, to determine whether any optional redemption provisions apply. In addition, the Board understands that there is uncertainly as to the fair market price of such securities which may cause harm to investors.

On March 17, 1987, the Board sent letters to the Public Securities Association, the Government Finance Officers Association and the National Association of Bond Lawyers expressing its concern. The Board stated that it is essential that issuers, when applicable, expressly note in official statements and defeasance notices relating to escrowed-to-maturity securities whether they have reserved the right to call such securities. It stated that the absence of such express disclosure would raise concerns whether the issuer’s disclosure documents adequately explain the material features of the issue and would severely damage investor confidence in the municipal securities market. Although the Board has no rulemaking authority over issuers, it advised brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (dealers) that assist issuers in preparing disclosure documents for escrowed-to-maturity securities to alert these issuers of the need to disclose whether they have reserved the right to call the securities since such information is material to a customer’s investment decision about the securities and to the efficient trading of such securities.

Application of Rule G-17 on Fair Dealing

In the intervening months since the Board’s letter, the Board has continued to receive inquiries from market participants concerning the callability of escrowed-to-maturity securities. Apparently, some dealers now are describing all escrowed-to-maturity securities as callable and there is confusion how to price such securities. In order to avoid confusion with respect to issues that might be escrowed-to-maturity in the future, the Board is interpreting rule G-17, on fair dealing,[1] to require that municipal securities dealers that assist in the preparation of refunding documents as underwriters or financial advisors alert issuers of the materiality of information relating to the callability of escrowed-to-maturity securities. Accordingly, such dealers must recommend that issuers clearly state when the refunded securities will be redeemed and whether the issuer reserves the option to redeem the securities prior to their maturity.

Application of Rules G-12(c) and G-15(a) on Confirmation Disclosure of Escrowed-to-Maturity Securities

Rules G-12(c)(vi)(E) and G-15(a)(iii)(E)[*] require dealers to disclose on inter-dealer and customer confirmations, respectively, whether the securities are "called" or "prerefunded," the date of maturity which has been fixed by the call notice, and the call price. The Board has stated that this paragraph would require, in the case of escrowed-to-maturity securities, a statement to that effect (which would also meet the requirement to state "the date of maturity which has been fixed") and the amount to be paid at redemption. In addition, rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(a)(i)(E)[†] require dealers to note on confirmations if securities are subject to redemption prior to maturity (callable).

The Board understands that dealers traditionally have used the term escrowed-to-maturity only for non-callable advance refunded issues the proceeds of which are escrowed to original maturity date or for escrowed-to-maturity issues with mandatory sinking fund calls. To avoid confusion in the use of the term escrowed-to-maturity, the Board has determined that dealers should use the term escrowed-to-maturity to describe on confirmations only those issues with no optional redemption provisions expressly reserved in escrow and refunding documents. Escrowed-to-maturity issues with no optional or mandatory call features must be described as "escrowed-to-maturity." Escrowed-to-maturity issues subject to mandatory sinking fund calls must be described as "escrowed-to-maturity" and "callable." If an issue is advance refunded to the original maturity date, but the issuer expressly reserves optional redemption features, the security should be described on confirmations as "escrowed (or prerefunded) to [the actual maturity date]" and "callable."[2]

The Board believes that the use of different terminology to describe advance refunded issues expressly subject to optional calls will better alert dealers and customers to this important aspect of certain escrowed issues.[3]


 

[1] Rule G-17 states that "[i]n 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."

[2] This terminology also would be used for any issue prerefunded to a call date, with an earlier optional call expressly reserved.

[3] The Board believes that, because of the small number of advance refunded issues that expressly reserve the right of the issuer to call the issue pursuant to an optional redemption provision, confirmation systems should be able to be programmed for use of the new terminology without delay.

[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(3)(a). See also current rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(3)(b).]

[†] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(2)(a).]

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
Associated Person on Issuer Governing Body
Rule Number:

Rule G-22, Rule D-11

Associated person on issuer governing body. This will respond to your letter to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board concerning rule G-22 on disclosure of control relationships. You ask whether the rule requires a dealer to disclose to customers that an associated person of the dealer is a member of a five-person town council that issued the securities.

Rule G-22(c) states that a dealer may not effect a customer transaction in a municipal security with respect to which the dealer has a control relationship, unless the dealer discloses to the customer the nature of the control relationship prior to executing the transaction. Section (a) of rule G-22 defines a control relationship to exist with respect to a security if the dealer controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the issuer of the security. This includes any control relationship with an associated person of the dealer.1 Whether a control relationship exists in a particular case is a factual question. The Board, however, previously has stated that:

A control relationship with respect to a municipal security does not necessarily exist if an associated person of a securities professional is a member of the governing body or acts as an officer of the issuer of the security. However, if the associated person in fact controls the issuer, rule G-22 does apply. For example, rule G-22 applies if the associated person is the chairman of an issuing authority and, in that capacity, actually makes the decision on behalf of the issuing authority to issue securities. The rule does not apply if the associated person as chairman does not make that decision and does not have the authority alone to make the decision, or if the decision is made by a governing body of which he is only one of several members.2

MSRB interpretation of June 25, 1987.


1 Rule D-11 states that references to “brokers”, “dealers”, “municipal securities dealers”, and “municipal securities brokers” also mean associated persons, unless the context indicates otherwise.

 

2 Notice of Approval of Fair Practice Rules, October 24, 1978, at 6.

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
Contract Sheets
Rule Number:

Rule G-8, Rule G-9

Contract sheets. This will respond to your letter of May 28, 1987, and confirm our telephone conversation of the same date concerning recordkeeping of “contract sheets.” You ask whether dealers are required by Board rules G-8 and G-9 to maintain records of “contract sheets” of municipal securities transactions.

Rule G-8(a)(ix) requires dealers to maintain records of all confirmations of purchases and sales of municipal securities, including inter-dealer transactions. Rule G-12(f), in certain instances, requires inter- dealer transactions to be compared through an automated comparison system operated by a clearing  agency registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, rather than by physical confirmations.[1] These automated comparison systems generate “contract  sheets” to each party of a trade, which confirm the existence and the terms of the transaction.

This will confirm my advice to you that such contract sheets are deemed to be confirmations of transactions for purposes of rule G-8(a)(ix). Thus, dealers are required to include contract sheets in their records of confirmations and, under rule G-9(b)(v), are required to maintain these records for no less than three years.[2] MSRB interpretation of June 25, 1987.

 


[1] Rule G-12(c) governs the content of and procedures for sending physical confirmations.

[2] You also ask about the interpretation of rules 17a-3 and 17a-4 under the Securities Exchange Act. The Board is not authorized to interpret these Securities and Exchange Commission rules. You may wish to contact the SEC for guidance on this matter.

 

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
Time of Receipt and Execution of Orders
Rule Number:

Rule G-8, Rule G-30

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.[1] 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.


[1] See [Rule G-8 Interpretation –] Interpretive Notice on Recordkeeping (July 29, 1977) [reprinted in MSRB Rule Book].

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
Supervisory Structure
Rule Number:

Rule G-3, Rule G-27

Supervisory structure.  This is in response to your letter of December 31, 1986 and our subsequent telephone conversation. You note that there has been a recent reorganization within your bank. As a consequence, you, as the head of the dealer department, now will report to the bank officer who also is in charge of the trust department and the bank's investment portfolio, rather than directly to the bank's president as had been the case. You ask whether this arrangement might constitute a conflict of interest under trust regulations or otherwise under Board rules.

Board rule G-27 places an obligation upon a dealer to supervise its municipal securities activities. It requires a dealer to accomplish this objective by designating individuals with supervisory responsibility for municipal securities activities and requires the dealer to adopt written supervisory procedures to this end. The rule does not specify how a dealer should structure its supervisory procedures, provided that the dealer adopts an organizational structure which meets the intent of the rule. You should review your dealer's written supervisory procedures to ensure that they provide for the appropriate delegation of supervisory responsibilities, given the reorganization within the bank.

You noted that the individual to whom you will be reporting is presently qualified as a municipal securities representative but not as a municipal securities principal. Board rule G-3(a)(i)[*] defines a municipal securities principal as an associated person of a securities firm or bank dealer who is directly engaged in the management, direction or supervision of municipal securities activities. If, under the new reorganization, this individual will be designated with day-to-day responsibility for the management, direction or supervision of the municipal securities activities of the dealer, then he must be qualified as a municipal securities principal.

Finally, trust regulations are governed by the appropriate banking law and not by Board rules. Consequently, any concerns that you may have with respect to possible conflicts of interest with trust regulations should be directed to the appropriate bank regulatory agency. MSRB interpretation of March 11, 1987.

 


 

[*] [Currently codified at rule G-3(b)(i).]

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:
Notice of Interpretation Requiring Dealers to Submit to Arbitration as a Matter of Fair Dealing
Rule Number:

Rule G-17, Rule G-35

Section 2 of the Board’s Arbitration Code, rule G-35, requires all dealers to submit to arbitration at the instance of a customer or another dealer. From time to time, a dealer will refuse to submit to arbitration or will delay or even refuse to make payment of an award. Such acts constitute violations of rule G-35. The Board believes that it is a violation of rule G-17, on fair dealing, for a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer or its associated persons to fail to submit to arbitration as required by Rule G-35, or to fail to comply with the procedures therein, including the production of documents, or to fail to honor an award of arbitrators unless a timely motion to vacate the award has been made according to applicable law.[1]


 

[1] A party typically has 90 days to seek judicial review of an arbitration award; after that the award cannot be challenged. Challenges to arbitration awards are heard only in limited, egregious circumstances such as fraud or collusion on the part of the arbitrators.

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
"Municipal Securities Principal" Defined
Rule Number:

Rule G-3

"Municipal Securities Principal" defined. This is in response to your letter of January 28, 1987, and subsequent telephone conversations with the Board's staff, requesting an interpretation of Board rule G-3(a)(i)[*], the definition of the term "Municipal Securities Principal". You ask whether an individual, who has day-to-day responsibility for directing the municipal underwriting activities of a firm, must be qualified as a municipal securities principal. You suggest that such activity seems to meet the definition of a municipal securities principal, namely, an individual who is "directly engaged in the management, direction or supervision of. . .underwriting . . .of municipal securities." You note that this individual has the authority to make underwriting commitments in the name of the firm, but that the firm's president is designated with supervisory responsibility for this individual's underwriting activity. Also, you indicated that this individual does not have supervisory responsibility for any other representative.

Your request for an interpretation was referred to a Committee of the Board which has responsibility for professional qualification matters. The Committee concluded that the individual you describe would not be required to qualify as a municipal securities principal, provided that her responsibilities are limited to directing the day-to-day underwriting activities of the dealer, and provided that these responsibilities are carried out within policy guidelines established by the dealer and under the direct supervision of a municipal securities principal. The Committee is also of the opinion that commitment authority alone is not indicative of principal activity, but rather is inherent in the underwriting activities of a municipal securities representative. MSRB interpretation of February 27, 1987.

 


 

[*][Currently codified at rule G-3(b)(i)]

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
Disqualification of Municipal Securities Principals
Rule Number:

Rule G-3

Disqualification of municipal securities principals. In our recent telephone conversation you asked whether the Board has interpreted rule G-3(c)(iv)[*] as to the qualification status of a municipal securities principal in circumstances where the bank dealer, with which the individual is associated, fails to effect a municipal security transaction for a period of two or more years. You proposed that, if there are no municipal securities transactions for the principal to supervise, the individual would not be considered to be "acting as a municipal securities principal" and, consequently, the individual's qualification as a municipal securities principal would lapse after a two-year period of such inactivity.

The Board has considered a similar situation and given an interpretation in the matter. It reaffirmed the interpretation that an individual whose responsibilities no longer include supervision of municipal securities activities probably will not be able to remain adequately informed in the supervisory and compliance matters of concern to municipal securities principals, and that continuing association with a municipal securities dealer, in a capacity other than that of a municipal securities principal, is not sufficient to maintain qualification as a municipal securities principal. However, the Board also concluded that it did not intend this interpretation of rule G-3(c)(iv)[*] to mean that a dealer must necessarily effect transactions in municipal securities in order for its municipal securities principal to maintain such qualification. The Board noted that the definition of a municipal securities principal not only includes supervision of trading or sales, but of other municipal securities activities as well. Consequently, the Board determined that the qualification of a municipal securities principal should not automatically terminate because the individual is associated with a municipal securities broker or dealer which has not effected a municipal securities transaction in two or more years, but that to maintain such qualification the individual must demonstrate clearly that:

--the municipal securities broker or dealer was engaged in municipal securities activity during this period (e.g., determinations of suitability involving municipal securities, recommendations to customers, advertising, financial advisory activity with respect to municipal issuers); and

--the individual in question had been designated with supervisory responsibility for such municipal securities activities during this period.

MSRB interpretation of January 15, 1987

 


 

[*] [Currently codified at rule G-3(b)(ii)(C)]

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Letters
Publication date:
Cold Calling
Rule Number:

Rule G-3

Cold calling. This is in response to your letter regarding the application of rule G-3, concerning professional qualifications, to non-qualified individuals contacting institutional investors. You refer to the Board’s December 21, 1984  notice stating that non-qualified individuals making “cold calls” to individuals and introducing the services offered by a municipal securities dealer, prequalifying potential customers or suggesting the purchase of securities must be qualified as a municipal securities representative. You ask whether a non-qualified individual may make a “cold call” to an institutional portfolio manager solely for the purpose of introducing the name of the municipal securities dealer to the portfolio manager and to inquire as to the type of securities in which it invests. You state that the individual or individuals making the calls would be specifically instructed not to discuss the purchase or sale of any specific security.

Board rule G-3(a)(iii)[*] defines municipal securities representative activities to include any activity which involves communication with public investors regarding the sale of municipal securities but exempts activities that are solely clerical or ministerial. As you noted, in December 1984, the Board issued an interpretation of rule G-3 which states that individuals who solicit new account business are not engaging in clerical or ministerial activities but rather are communicating with public investors regarding the sale of municipal securities and thus are engaging in municipal securities representative activities which require such individuals to be qualified as representatives under the Board’s rules. Examples of solicitation of new account business stated in the notice included “cold calls” to individuals during which the non-qualified individual introduces the services offered by the dealers, prequalified potential customers, or suggests the purchase of specific securities currently being offered by a municipal securities dealer. An individual who introduces the name of the municipal securities dealer and inquires as to the type of securities in which a portfolio manager invests would be communicating with the public in an attempt to prequalify potential customers and thus must be qualified as a municipal securities representative. MSRB interpretation of January 5, 1987.

 

[*] [Currently codified at rule G-3(a)(i).]