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Supervisory Procedures Relating to Indirect Contributions: Conference Accounts and 527 Organizations
Supervisory procedures relating to indirect contributions: conference accounts and 527 organizations. This is in response to your request for confirmation that donations to segregated conference accounts of organizations such as the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and Republican Governors Association (RGA) do not constitute contributions to an official of an issuer within the meaning of Rule G-37(b) without an intent to use the conference accounts as a device for contributing to the election activities of individual governors or other officials of issuers. You describe both organizations as independent, voluntary political organizations constituted under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities. You note that the organizations’ activities have the primary purpose of influencing gubernatorial elections but also seek to conduct policy conferences and workshops to help their members and other interested parties to understand and participate in public policy questions that confront state governments. You state that all Democratic governors are members of the DGA and all Republican governors are members of the RGA.
You further note that each organization has a wide variety of accounts into which it receives funds from individuals, organizations and other entities, with some accounts used to provide financial support to gubernatorial candidates and other accounts (including conference accounts) used exclusively to fund policy conferences. You state that the conference accounts are segregated from accounts that provide financial support to gubernatorial candidates and that neither organization permits transfers of funds from their conference accounts to any of their other accounts, including their administrative accounts. You represent that both organizations follow a standard practice of honoring any request by a donor to place donated funds in a conference account and that they have further committed to provide, upon a donor’s request, written confirmation prior to accepting a donation that the donated funds will be allocated to the conference account.
The MSRB cannot provide confirmation regarding the status under Rule G-37 of payments to any particular organization or account of such organization as such a determination requires an analysis of, among other things, the specific facts and circumstances of each individual payment, the written supervisory procedures of the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”), and the efforts of the dealer to enforce such procedures. However, this letter reviews guidance previously provided by the MSRB that may assist you in undertaking such an analysis.
Under Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, contributions to officials of an issuer by a dealer, a municipal finance professional (“MFP”) of the dealer, or a political action committee (“PAC”) controlled by the dealer or an MFP can result in the dealer being banned from municipal securities business with such issuer for a period of two years. Section (d) of Rule G-37 provides, in part, that no dealer or MFP shall, directly or indirectly, through or by any other person or means, do any act which would result in a violation of the ban on municipal securities business.
The MSRB has previously provided guidance regarding the potential for payments made to political parties, PACs or others to constitute indirect contributions to issuer officials for purposes of Rule G-37(d). In guidance published in 1996, the MSRB stated that a dealer would violate Rule G-37 by doing municipal securities business with an issuer after providing money to any person or entity when the dealer knows that such money will be given to an official of an issuer who could not receive such a contribution directly from the dealer without triggering the rule’s prohibition on municipal securities business. Further, depending on the specific facts and circumstances, a payment to a PAC or political party that is soliciting funds for the purpose of supporting a limited number of issuer officials might result in the same prohibition on municipal securities business as would a contribution made directly to an issuer official. In such circumstances, dealers should inquire of the PAC or political party how any funds received from the dealer would be used.
In 2005, the MSRB published guidance on dealers’ written supervisory procedures under Rule G-27, on supervision, relating to compliance with Rule G-37(d). The MSRB noted that each dealer must adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that neither the dealer nor its MFPs are using payments to political parties and non-dealer controlled PACs to contribute indirectly to an official of an issuer. Please note that the scope of Rule G-37(d) is not limited to the use of political parties and PACs as possible conduits for indirect contributions to issuer officials and, therefore, the need for such supervisory procedures would apply in connection with dealer and MFP payments to other types of political organizations as well, including but not limited to organizations constituted under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code.
The 2005 guidance on supervisory procedures included examples of certain provisions that dealers might include in their written supervisory procedures to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d). The MSRB stated that such examples are not exclusive and are only suggestions, and that each dealer is required to evaluate its own circumstances and develop written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37(d). Thus, a dealer need not include the specific supervisory procedures described in the 2005 guidance in order to meet its obligation under Rule G-27(c) so long as the dealer in fact has, and enforces, other written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of the municipal securities activities of the dealer and its associated persons are in compliance with Rule G-37(d).
The MSRB also has stated that payments to “housekeeping,” “conference” or “overhead” accounts of political parties are not safe harbors under Rule G-37 and that a dealer’s written supervisory procedures designed to ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d) must take into account such payments. The MSRB noted that “preemptive” instructions accompanying payments to housekeeping accounts of political parties stating that such payments are not to be used for the benefit of one or a limited number of issuer officials are not considered sufficient to meet the dealer’s obligations with regard to ensuring that the payment is not being made to circumvent the requirements of Rule G-37. Although payments to housekeeping, conference or overhead accounts are not safe harbors and preemptive instructions are not by themselves sufficient to establish compliance with Rule G-37(d), procedures permitting payments to political parties and other political organizations only if made to these types of accounts and/or requiring preemptive instructions regarding the use of such payments may be elements in a supervisory program that, together with other appropriate procedures, could adequately ensure compliance with Rule G-37(d), depending on the specific facts and circumstances. MSRB Interpretation of December 21, 2006.
 MFPs may make certain de minimis contributions to issuer officials without triggering the ban on business.
 See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.4 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.
 See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.5 (August 6, 1996), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.
 See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.7 (September 22, 2005) (“Q&A-III.7”), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.
 See Q&A-III.7.
 See Rule G-37 Question and Answer No. III.8 (September 22, 2005), reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.
No comments available.
Customer Protection Obligations Relating to the Marketing of 529 College Savings Plans
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) is publishing this interpretation to ensure that brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) effecting transactions in the 529 college savings plan market fully understand their fair practice and disclosure duties to their customers.
Basic Customer Protection Obligation
At the core of the MSRB’s customer protection rules is Rule G-17, which provides that, in the conduct of its municipal securities activities, each dealer shall deal fairly with all persons and shall not engage in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice. The rule encompasses two basic principles: an anti-fraud prohibition similar to the standard set forth in Rule 10b-5 adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and a general duty to deal fairly even in the absence of fraud. All activities of dealers must be viewed in light of these basic principles, regardless of whether other MSRB rules establish specific requirements applicable to such activities.
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 of the securities to the customer (the “time of trade”), 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 duty applies to any dealer transaction in a 529 college savings plan interest regardless of whether the transaction has been recommended by the dealer.
Many states offer favorable state tax treatment or other valuable benefits to their residents in connection with investments in their own 529 college savings plan. In the case of sales of out-of-state 529 college savings plan interests to a customer, the MSRB views Rule G-17 as requiring a dealer to make, at or prior to the time of trade, additional disclosures that:
(i) depending upon the laws of the home state of the customer or designated beneficiary, favorable state tax treatment or other benefits offered by such home state for investing in 529 college savings plans may be available only if the customer invests in the home state’s 529 college savings plan;
(ii) any state-based benefit offered with respect to a particular 529 college savings plan should be one of many appropriately weighted factors to be considered in making an investment decision; and
(iii) the customer should consult with his or her financial, tax or other adviser to learn more about how state-based benefits (including any limitations) would apply to the customer’s specific circumstances and also may wish to contact his or her home state or any other 529 college savings plan to learn more about the features, benefits and limitations of that state’s 529 college savings plan.
This disclosure obligation is hereinafter referred to as the “out-of-state disclosure obligation.”
The out-of-state disclosure obligation may be met if the disclosure appears in the program disclosure document, so long as the program disclosure document has been delivered to the customer at or prior to the time of trade and the disclosure appears in the program disclosure document in a manner that is reasonably likely to be noted by an investor. A presentation of this disclosure in the program disclosure document in close proximity and with equal prominence to the principal presentation of substantive information regarding other federal or state tax-related consequences of investing in the 529 college savings plan, and the inclusion of a reference to this disclosure in close proximity and with equal prominence to each other presentation of information regarding state tax-related consequences of investing in the 529 college savings plan, would be deemed to satisfy this requirement.
The MSRB has no authority to mandate inclusion of any particular items in the issuer’s program disclosure document. Dealers who wish to rely on the program disclosure document for fulfillment of the out-of-state disclosure obligation are responsible for understanding what is included within the program disclosure document of any 529 college savings plan they market and for determining whether such information is sufficient to meet this disclosure obligation. Notwithstanding any of the foregoing, disclosure through the program disclosure document as described above is not the sole manner in which a dealer may fulfill its out-of-state disclosure obligation. Thus, if the issuer has not included this information in the program disclosure document in the manner described, inclusion in the program disclosure document in another manner may nonetheless fulfill the dealer’s out-of-state disclosure obligation so long as disclosure in such other manner is reasonably likely to be noted by an investor. Otherwise, the dealer would remain obligated to disclose such information separately to the customer under Rule G-17 by no later than the time of trade.
If the dealer proceeds to provide information to an out-of-state customer about the state tax or other benefits available through such customer’s home state, Rule G-17 requires that the dealer ensure that the information is not false or misleading. For example, a dealer would violate Rule G-17 if it were to inform a customer that investment in the 529 college savings plan of the customer’s home state did not provide the customer with any state tax benefit even though such a state tax benefit is in fact available. Furthermore, a dealer would violate Rule G-17 if it were to inform a customer that investment in the 529 college savings plan of another state would provide the customer with the same state tax benefits as would be available if the customer were to invest in his or her home state’s 529 college savings plan even though this is not the case. Dealers should make certain that information they provide to their customers, whether provided under an affirmative disclosure obligation imposed by MSRB rules or in response to questions from customers, is correct and not misleading.
Dealers are reminded that this out-of-state disclosure obligation is in addition to their general obligation under Rule G-17 to disclose to their customers at or prior to the time of trade all material facts known by dealers about the 529 college savings plan interests they are selling to their customers, as well as material facts about such 529 college savings plan that are reasonably accessible to the market. Further, dealers are reminded that disclosures made to customers as required under MSRB rules with respect to 529 college savings plans do not relieve dealers of their suitability obligations—including the obligation to consider the customer’s financial status, tax status and investment objectives—if they have recommended investments in 529 college savings plans.
Under Rule G-19, a dealer that recommends to a customer a transaction in a security must have reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable, based upon information available from the issuer of the security or otherwise and the facts disclosed by or otherwise known about the customer. To assure that a dealer effecting a recommended transaction with a non-institutional customer has the information needed about the customer to make its suitability determination, the rule 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. Dealers are reminded that the obligation arising under Rule G-19 in connection with a recommended transaction requires a meaningful analysis, taking into consideration the information obtained about the customer and the security, that 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. Pursuant to Rule G-27(c), dealers must have written supervisory procedures in place that are reasonably designed to ensure compliance with this Rule G-19 obligation to undertake a suitability analysis in connection with every recommended transaction, and dealers must enforce these procedures to ensure that such meaningful analysis does in fact occur in connection with the dealer’s recommended transactions.
In the context of a recommended transaction relating to a 529 college savings plan, the MSRB believes that it is crucial for dealers to remain cognizant of the fact that these instruments are designed for a particular purpose and that this purpose generally should match the customer’s investment objective. For example, dealers should bear in mind the potential tax consequences of a customer making an investment in a 529 college savings plan where the dealer understands that the customer’s investment objective may not involve use of such funds for qualified higher education expenses. Dealers also should consider whether a recommendation is consistent with the customer’s tax status and any customer investment objectives materially related to federal or state tax consequences of an investment.
Furthermore, investors generally are required to designate a specific beneficiary under a 529 college savings plan. The MSRB believes that information known about the designated beneficiary generally would be relevant in weighing the investment objectives of the customer, including (among other things) information regarding the age of the beneficiary and the number of years until funds will be needed to pay qualified higher education expenses of the beneficiary. The MSRB notes that, since the person making the investment in a 529 college savings plan retains significant control over the investment (e.g., may withdraw funds, change plans, or change beneficiary, etc.), this person is appropriately considered the customer for purposes of Rule G-19 and other MSRB rules. As noted above, information regarding the designated beneficiary should be treated as information relating to the customer’s investment objective for purposes of Rule G-19.
In many cases, dealers may offer the same investment option in a 529 college savings plan sold with different commission structures. For example, an A share may have a front-end load, a B share may have a contingent deferred sales charge or back-end load that reduces in amount depending upon the number of years that the investment is held, and a C share may have an annual asset-based charge. A customer’s investment objective—particularly, the number of years until withdrawals are expected to be made—can be a significant factor in determining which share class would be suitable for the particular customer.
Rule G-19(e), on churning, prohibits a dealer from recommending transactions to a customer that are excessive in size or frequency, in view of information known to such dealer concerning the customer’s financial background, tax status and investment objectives. Thus, for example, where the dealer knows that a customer is investing in a 529 college savings plan with the intention of receiving the available federal tax benefit, such dealer could, depending upon the facts and circumstances, violate rule G-19(e) if it were to recommend roll-overs from one 529 college savings plan to another with such frequency as to lose the federal tax benefit. Even where the frequency does not imperil the federal tax benefit, roll-overs recommended year after year by a dealer could, depending upon the facts and circumstances (including consideration of legitimate investment and other purposes), be viewed as churning. Similarly, depending upon the facts and circumstances, where a dealer recommends investments in one or more plans for a single beneficiary in amounts that far exceed the amount that could reasonably be used by such beneficiary to pay for qualified higher education expenses, a violation of rule G-19(e) could result.
Other Sales Practice Principles
Dealers must keep in mind the requirements under Rule G-17—that they deal fairly with all persons and that they not engage in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice—when considering the appropriateness of day-to-day sales-related activities with respect to municipal fund securities, including 529 college savings plans. In some cases, certain sales-related activities are governed in part by specific MSRB rules, such as Rule G-19 (as described above) and Rule G-30(b), on commissions. Other activities may not be explicitly addressed by a specific MSRB rule. In either case, the general principles of Rule G-17 always apply.
In particular, dealers must ensure that they do not engage in transactions primarily designed to increase commission revenues in a manner that is unfair to customers under Rule G-17. Thus, in addition to being a potential violation of Rule G-19 as discussed above, recommending a particular share class to a customer that is not suitable for that customer, or engaging in churning, may also constitute a violation of Rule G-17 if the recommendation was made for the purpose of generating higher commission revenues. Also, where a dealer offers investments in multiple 529 college savings plans, consistently recommending that customers invest in the one 529 college savings plan that offers the dealer the highest compensation may, depending on the facts and circumstances, constitute a violation of Rule G-17 if the recommendation of such 529 college savings plan over the other 529 college savings plans offered by the dealer does not reflect a legitimate investment-based purpose.
Further, recommending transactions to customers in amounts designed to avoid commission discounts (i.e., sales below breakpoints where the customer would be entitled to lower commission charges) may also violate Rule G-17, depending upon the facts and circumstances. For example, a recommendation that a customer make two smaller investments in separate but nearly identical 529 college savings plans for the purposes of avoiding a reduced commission rate that would be available upon investing the full amount in a single 529 college savings plan, or that a customer time his or her multiple investments in a 529 college savings plan so as to avoid being able to take advantage of a lower commission rate, in either case without a legitimate investment-based purpose, could violate Rule G-17.
With respect to sales incentives, the MSRB has previously interpreted Rule G-20, relating to gifts, gratuities and non-cash compensation, to require a dealer that sponsors a sales contest involving representatives who are not employed by the sponsoring dealer to have in place written agreements with these representatives. In addition, the general principles of Rule G-17 are applicable. Thus, if a dealer or any of its associated persons engages in any marketing activities that result in a customer being treated unfairly, or if the dealer or any of its associated persons engages in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice in connection with such marketing activities, Rule G-17 could be violated. The MSRB believes that, depending upon the specific facts and circumstances, a dealer may violate Rule G-17 if it acts in a manner that is reasonably likely to induce another dealer or such other dealer’s associated persons to violate the principles of Rule G-17 or other MSRB customer protection rules, such as Rule G-19 or Rule G-30. Dealers are also reminded that Rule G-20 establishes standards regarding incentives for sales of municipal securities, including 529 college savings plan interests, that are substantially similar to those currently applicable to sales of mutual fund shares under NASD rules.
a document or set of documents prepared by an issuer of municipal securities or its representatives that is complete as of the date delivered to the Participating Underwriter(s) and that sets forth information concerning the terms of the proposed issue of securities; information, including financial information or operating data, concerning such issuers of municipal securities and those other entities, enterprises, funds, accounts, and other persons material to an evaluation of the Offering; and a description of the undertakings to be provided pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(i), paragraph (d)(2)(ii), and paragraph (d)(2)(iii) of this section, if applicable, and of any instances in the previous five years in which each person specified pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of this section failed to comply, in all material respects, with any previous undertakings in a written contract or agreement specified in paragraph (b)(5)(i) of this section.
Section (b) of that rule requires that the participating underwriter of an offering review a “deemed-final” official statement and contract to receive the final official statement from the issuer. See Rule D-12 Interpretation – Interpretation Relating to Sales of Municipal Fund Securities in the Primary Market, January 18, 2001, published in MSRB Rule Book, for a discussion of the applicability of Rule 15c2-12 to offerings of 529 college savings plans.
 Although Rule G-17 does not dictate the precise manner in which material facts must be disclosed to the customer at or prior to the time of trade, dealers must ensure that such disclosure is effectively provided to the customer in connection with the specific transaction and cannot merely rely on the inclusion of a disclosure in general advertising materials.
 The MSRB has previously stated that most situations in which a dealer brings a municipal security to the attention of a customer involve an implicit recommendation of the security to the customer, but determining whether a particular transaction is in fact recommended depends on an analysis of all the relevant facts and circumstances. See Rule G-19 Interpretive Letter – Recommendations, February 17, 1998, published in MSRB Rule Book. The MSRB also has provided guidance on recommendations in the context of on-line communications in Rule G-19 Interpretation – Notice Regarding Application of Rule G-19, on Suitability of Recommendations and Transactions, to Online Communications, September 25, 2002, published in MSRB Rule Book.
 Rule G-8(a)(xi)(F) requires that dealers maintain records for each customer of such information about the customer used in making recommendations to the customer.
 Although certain factors relating to recommended transactions in 529 college savings plans are discussed in this notice, whether such enumerated factors or any other considerations are relevant in connection with a particular recommendation is dependent upon the facts and circumstances. The factors that may be relevant with respect to a specific transaction in a 529 college savings plan generally include the various considerations that would be applicable in connection with the process of making suitability determinations for recommendations of any other type of security.
 See Section 529(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. State tax laws also may result in certain adverse consequences for use of funds other than for educational costs.
 The MSRB understands that investors may change designated beneficiaries and therefore amounts in excess of what a single beneficiary could use ultimately might be fully expended by additional beneficiaries. The MSRB expresses no view as to the applicability of federal tax law to any particular plan of investment and does not interpret its rules to prohibit transactions in furtherance of legitimate tax planning objectives, so long as any recommended transaction is suitable.
 The MSRB has previously provided guidance on dealer commissions in Rule G-30 Interpretation – Interpretive Notice on Commissions and Other Charges, Advertisements and Official Statements Relating to Municipal Fund Securities, December 19, 2001, published in MSRB Rule Book. The MSRB believes that Rule G-30(b), as interpreted in this 2001 guidance, should effectively maintain dealer charges for 529 college savings plan sales at a level consistent with, if not lower than, the sales loads and commissions charged for comparable mutual fund sales.
 See Rule G-20 Interpretive Letter – Authorization of sales contests, June 25, 1982, published in MSRB Rule Book.
No comments available.
No comments available.
Comments on MSRB Notice 2006-19 (July 27, 2006)
- American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law: Letter from Edward J. Sullivan, Chair, dated October 9, 2006
- American Governmental Financial Services Company: Letter from Robert W. Doty, President, dated September 15, 2006
- Automatic Data Processing, Inc.: Letter from Gerard F. Scavelli, Senior Vice President & General Manager, dated September 15, 2006
- Bernardi Securities, Inc.: Letter from Eric Bederman, Chief Compliance Officer, dated August 7, 2006
- Bond Market Association: Letter from Leslie M. Norwood, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, dated September 15, 2006
- brokersXpress, LLC: Letter from Blaine Schwartz, President & CCO, dated September 15, 2006
- College Savings Plans Network: Letter from Jackie T. Williams, Chair, dated September 22, 2006
- Commerce Bancshares, Inc.: Letter from Michael A. Dardis, Manager of Trust and Investment Products Compliance, dated September 13, 2006
- Digital Assurance Certification LLC: Letter from Paula Stuart, Chief Executive Officer, dated September 29, 2006
- DPC DATA Inc.: Letter from Peter J. Schmitt, Chief Executive Officer, dated September 13, 2006
- Edward D. Jones & Co., LP: Letter from Robert Beck, Principal, Municipal Bonds, dated September 13, 2006
- First Southwest Company: Letter from Richard A. DeLong, Senior Vice President, Municipal Trading and Underwriting, dated September 15, 2006
- Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson, Inc.: Letter from Robert J. Stracks, Counsel, dated September 14, 2006
- Investment Company Institute: Letter from Elizabeth R. Krentzman, General Counsel, dated September 14, 2006
- J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, Inc.: Letter from Ronald J. Dieckman, Senior Vice President, Director of Public Finance/Municipals, dated August 4, 2006
- Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.: Letter from Jerry L. Chapman, Managing Director, Municipal Product Manager, dated August 31, 2006
- Municipal Advisory Council of Texas: Letter from Gary P. Machak, Chairman, dated September 14, 2006
- National Association of Bond Lawyers: Letter from Walter J. St. Onge III, President, dated September 14, 2006
- National Federation of Municipal Analysts: Letter from Eric Friedland, Chairman, dated September 15, 2006
- Regional Municipal Operations Association: Letter from Thomas Sargant, President, dated September 27, 2006
- Securities Industry Association: Letter from Elizabeth Varley, Vice-President and Director of Retirement Policy, and Michael D. Udoff, Vice-President, Associate General Counsel and Secretary, dated September 20, 2006
- Standard & Poor’s CUSIP Service Bureau: Letter from Gerard Faulkner, Director – CUSIP Operations, dated September 15, 2006
- Stone, Daniel E.: Letter dated September 2, 2006
- TRB Associates: Letter from Ruth D. Brod, Consultant, dated September 14, 2006
- UBS Securities LLC: Letter from Terry L. Atkinson, Managing Director, dated September 15, 2006
- UMB Bank, N.A.: Letter from James C. Thompson, Divisional Executive Vice President, Investment Banking Division, dated September 14, 2006
- USAA Investment Management Company: Letter from Eileen M. Smiley, Vice President and Assistant Secretary, dated September 15, 2006
- Wells Fargo Institutional Brokerage & Sales: Letter from John McCune, President, dated September 14, 2006
- Zions Bank Public Finance: E-mail from Eric Pehrson, Vice President, dated September 8, 2006
The Definition of Solicitation Under Rules G-37 and G-38
Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board ("MSRB") Rule G-38, on solicitation of municipal securities business, defines "solicitation" as any direct or indirect communication with an issuer for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. This definition is important for purposes of determining whether payments made by a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer ("dealer") to persons who are not affiliated persons of the dealer are prohibited under Rule G-38. In addition, the definition is central to determining whether communications by dealer personnel would result in such personnel being considered municipal finance professionals ("MFPs") of the dealer for purposes of Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. This notice provides interpretive guidance relating to the status of certain types of communications as solicitations for purposes of Rules G-37 and G-38.
Purpose of Communication
The concept of solicitation under Rules G-37 and G-38 includes as a central element the notion that the communication occurs with the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. The determination of whether a particular communication is a solicitation is dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances relating to such communication. As a general proposition, any communication made under circumstances reasonably calculated to obtain or retain municipal securities business for the dealer may be considered a solicitation unless the circumstances otherwise indicate that the communication does not have the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. This notice provides examples of circumstances in which a communication may or may not be considered a solicitation. These examples are illustrative only and are not the only instances in which a solicitation may be deemed to have or have not occurred.
Limited Communications with Issuer Representative
If an issuer representative asks an affiliated person of a dealer whether the dealer has municipal securities capabilities, such affiliated person generally would not be viewed as having solicited municipal securities business if he or she provides a limited affirmative response, together with either providing the issuer representative with contact information for an MFP of the dealer or informing the issuer representative that dealer personnel who handle municipal securities business will contact him or her. Similarly, if an issuer representative is discussing governmental cash flow management issues with an affiliated person of a dealer who concludes, in his or her professional judgment, that an appropriate means of addressing the issuer's needs may be through an issue of municipal securities, the affiliated person generally would not be viewed as having solicited business if he or she provides a limited communication to the issuer representative that such alternative may be appropriate, together with either providing the issuer representative with contact information for an MFP or informing the issuer representative that dealer personnel who handle municipal securities business will contact him or her.
In the examples above, if the affiliated person receives compensation such as a finder's or referral fee for such business or if the affiliated person engages in other activities that could be deemed a solicitation with respect to such business (for example, attending presentations of the dealer's municipal finance capabilities or responding to a request for proposals), the affiliated person generally would be viewed as having solicited the municipal securities business. The MSRB has long regarded receipt of a finder's fee for bringing municipal securities business to the dealer and activities such as attending presentations to issuer personnel of the dealer's municipal finance capabilities or responding to issuer requests for proposals as presumptively constituting solicitations of municipal securities business and does not view this notice as altering such presumption.
The MSRB understands that an affiliated person of a dealer may provide information to potential clients and others regarding the general capabilities of the dealer through either oral or written communications. Any such communication that is not made with the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business would not be considered a solicitation. Thus, depending upon the specific facts and circumstances, a communication that merely lists the significant business lines of a dealer without further descriptive information and which does not give the dealer's municipal securities practice a place of prominence within such listing generally would not be considered a solicitation unless the facts and circumstances indicate that it was aimed at obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. To the extent that a communication, such as a dealer brochure or other promotional materials, contains more than a mere listing of business lines, such as brief descriptions of each business line (including its municipal securities capabilities), determining whether such communication is a solicitation depends upon whether the facts and circumstances indicate that it was undertaken for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. The nature of the information provided and the manner in which it is presented are relevant factors to consider. Although no single factor is necessarily controlling in determining whether a communication was undertaken for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business, the following considerations, among others, may often be relevant: (i) whether the municipal securities practice is the only business line included in the communication that would reasonably be of interest to an issuer representative; (ii) whether the portions of the communication describing the dealer's municipal securities capabilities are designed to garner more attention than other portions describing different business lines; (iii) whether the communication contains quantitative or qualitative information on the nature or extent of the dealer's municipal securities capabilities that is promotional in nature (e.g., quantitative or qualitative rankings, claims of expertise, identification of specific transactions, language associated with "puffery," etc.); and (iv) whether the dealer is currently seeking to obtain or retain municipal securities business from the issuer.
Communications that are incidental to undertaking tasks to complete municipal securities business for which the dealer has already been engaged generally would not be solicitations. For example, if a dealer has engaged an independent contractor as a cash flow consultant to provide expert services on a negotiated underwriting for which the dealer has already been selected and the contractor communicates with the issuer on cash flow matters relevant to the financing, such communication would not be a solicitation under Rule G-38. Similarly, if a dealer has already been selected to serve as the underwriter for an airport financing and a non-MFP affiliated person of the dealer who normally works on airline corporate matters is used to provide his or her expertise to complete the financing, communications in this regard by the affiliated person with the issuer would not be a solicitation under Rule G-38. In addition, the fact that the work product of persons such as those described above may be used by MFPs of the dealer in their solicitation activities would not make the producer of the work product a solicitor unless such person personally presents his or her work to the issuer in connection with soliciting the municipal securities business.
Communications with Conduit Borrowers
The MSRB understands that dealers often work closely with private entities on their capital and other financing needs. In many cases, this work may evolve into a conduit borrowing through a conduit issuer. Although the ultimate obligor on such a financing is the private entity, if the dealer acts as underwriter for a financing undertaken through a conduit issuer on other than a competitive bid basis, it is engaging in municipal securities business for purposes of Rule G-37. The selection of the underwriter for such a financing frequently is made by the conduit borrower. While in many cases conduit issuers have either formal procedures or an informal historical practice of accepting the dealer selected by the conduit borrower, some conduit issuers may set minimum standards that dealers must meet to qualify to underwrite a conduit issue, and other conduit issuers may have a slate of dealers selected by the conduit issuer from which the conduit borrower chooses the underwriter for its issue. Still other conduit issuers may defer to the conduit borrower's selection of lead underwriter but may require the underwriting syndicate to include additional dealers selected by the issuer or selected by the conduit borrower from a slate of issuer-approved underwriters, often with the purpose of ensuring participation by local dealers or historically disadvantaged dealers. A smaller number of conduit issuers retain more significant control over which dealers act as underwriters, either by making the selection for the conduit borrower or by considering the conduit borrower's selection to be merely a suggestion which in some cases the conduit issuer does not follow. However, in virtually all cases, the conduit issuer will maintain ultimate power to control which dealer underwrites a conduit issue since the conduit issuer has discretion to withhold its agreement to issue the securities through any particular dealer.
From a literal perspective, any communication by a dealer with a conduit borrower that is intended to cause the borrower to select the dealer to serve as underwriter for a conduit issue could be considered a solicitation of municipal securities business. This is because the conduit borrower eventually communicates its selection of the dealer to act as underwriter to the conduit issuer for approval. This series of communications would, by its terms, constitute an indirect communication by the dealer through the conduit borrower to the conduit issuer for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business.
However, the MSRB believes that a dealer's communication with a conduit borrower generally should not be deemed an indirect solicitation of the issuer unless a reasonable nexus can be established between the making of contributions to officials of the conduit issuer within the meaning of Rule G-37 and the selection of the underwriter for such conduit financing. A determination of whether such a reasonable nexus could exist depends on the specific facts and circumstances.
Further, if an affiliated person of a dealer who is providing investment banking services and corporate financing advice to a private company concludes, in his or her professional judgment, that an appropriate financing alternative may be a conduit financing, a limited communication to the company by the affiliated person that such financing alternative may be appropriate, together with the provision to the company of contact information for an MFP of the dealer, generally would not be presumed to be a solicitation. Alternatively, the affiliated person could inform the company that dealer personnel who handle municipal securities business will contact it. In addition, if a dealer has already been selected by the conduit borrower to serve as the underwriter for a conduit financing and a non-MFP affiliated person of the dealer communicates with the conduit borrower in furtherance of the financing, such communications by the affiliated person would not be a solicitation under Rule G-38.
Communications by Non-Affiliated Professionals
So long as non-affiliated persons providing legal, accounting, engineering or other professional services in connection with specific municipal securities business are not being paid directly or indirectly by a dealer for communicating with an issuer for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business for the dealer (i.e., they are paid solely for their provision of legal, accounting, engineering or other professional services with respect to the business), they would not become subject to Rule G-38. Dealers are reminded that the term "payment" as used in Rules G-37 and G-38 refers to anything of value and can, depending on the specific facts and circumstances, include quid pro quo arrangements whereby a non-affiliated person solicits municipal securities business for the dealer in exchange for being hired by the dealer to provide other unrelated services.
 The term "affiliated person" is defined in Rule G-38(b)(ii).