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Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
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Interpretive Notice Concerning the Application of MSRB Rule G-17 to Underwriters of Municipal Securities
Rule Number:

Rule G-17

Under Rule G-17 of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), brokers, dealers, and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) must, in the conduct of their municipal securities activities, deal fairly with all persons and must not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice. This rule is most often cited in connection with duties owed by dealers to investors; however, it also applies to their interactions with other market participants, including municipal entities[1] such as states and their political subdivisions that are issuers of municipal securities (“issuers”).

The MSRB has previously observed that Rule G-17 requires dealers to deal fairly with issuers.[2] With the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,[3] the MSRB was expressly directed by Congress to protect municipal entities. Accordingly, in 2012, the MSRB provided additional interpretive guidance that addressed how Rule G-17 applies to dealers acting in the capacity of underwriters in the municipal securities transactions described therein (the “2012 Interpretive Notice”).[4]

This notice supersedes the MSRB’s 2012 Interpretive Notice, dated August 2, 2012, concerning the application of Rule G-17 to underwriters of municipal securities, as well as the related implementation guidance, dated July 18, 2012, and frequently-asked questions, dated March 25, 2013 (the “prior guidance”).[5] The prior guidance will remain applicable to underwriting relationships commencing prior to March 31, 2021. Underwriters will be subject to the amended guidance provided by this notice for all of their underwriting relationships beginning on or after that date. For purposes of this notice, an underwriting relationship is considered to have begun at the time the delivery of the first disclosure is triggered as described under “Timing and Manner of Disclosures” below (i.e., the earliest stages of an underwriter’s relationship with an issuer with respect to an issue, such as in a response to a request for proposal or in promotional materials provided to an issuer).

Applicability of the Notice

Except where a competitive underwriting is specifically mentioned, this notice applies to negotiated underwritings only.[6] This notice does not apply to a dealer acting as a primary distributor in a continuous offering of municipal fund securities, such as interests in 529 savings plans and Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) programs. It does not apply to selling group members. This notice does not address a dealer’s duties when the dealer is serving as an advisor to a municipal entity. This notice applies to a primary offering of a new issue of municipal securities that is placed with investors by a dealer serving as placement agent, although certain disclosures may be omitted as described below.

The fair practice duties outlined in this notice are those duties that a dealer owes to a municipal entity when the dealer underwrites a new issue of municipal securities. This notice does not set out the underwriter’s fair-practice duties to other parties to a municipal securities financing (e.g., conduit borrowers). The MSRB notes, however, that Rule G-17 does require that an underwriter deal fairly with all persons in the course of the dealer’s municipal securities activities. What actions are considered fair will, of necessity, be dependent on the nature of the relationship between a dealer and such other parties, the particular actions undertaken, and all other relevant facts and circumstances. Although this notice does not address what an underwriter’s fair-dealing duties may be with respect to other parties, it may serve as one of many bases for an underwriter to consider how to establish appropriate policies and procedures for ensuring that it meets such fair-practice obligations, in light of its relationship with such other participants and their particular roles.

The examples discussed in this notice are illustrative only and are not meant to encompass all obligations of dealers to municipal entities under Rule G-17. Furthermore, when municipal entities are customers[7] of dealers, they are subject to the same protections under MSRB rules, including Rule G‑17, that apply to other customers.[8] The MSRB notes that an underwriter has a duty of fair dealing to investors in addition to its duty of fair dealing to issuers. An underwriter also has a duty to comply with other MSRB rules as well as other federal and state securities laws.

Basic Fair Dealing Principle

As noted above, Rule G-17 precludes a dealer, in the conduct of its municipal securities activities, from engaging in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice with any person, including an issuer. The rule contains an anti-fraud prohibition. Thus, an underwriter must not misrepresent or omit the facts, risks, potential benefits, or other material information about municipal securities activities undertaken with a municipal issuer. However, Rule G-17 does not merely prohibit deceptive conduct on the part of the dealer; it also establishes a general duty of a dealer to deal fairly with all persons (including, but not limited to, issuers), even in the absence of fraud.

Role of Underwriters and Conflicts of Interest

In negotiated underwritings, underwriters’ Rule G-17 duty to deal fairly with an issuer requires certain disclosures to the issuer in connection with an issue or proposed issue of municipal securities, as provided below.[9]

  • The disclosures discussed under “Disclosures Concerning the Underwriters’ Role” and “Disclosures Concerning Underwriters’ Compensation” (the “standard disclosures”) must be provided by the sole underwriter or the syndicate manager[10] to the issuer as described below.
  • The disclosures discussed under “Required Disclosures to Issuers” (the “transaction-specific disclosures”) must be provided to the issuer by the underwriter who has recommended a financing structure or product to the issuer as described below.[11]
  • The disclosures discussed under “Other Conflicts Disclosures” (the “dealer-specific disclosures”) must be provided by the sole underwriter or each underwriter in a syndicate (as applicable) as described below.[12]

Disclosures Concerning the Underwriter’s Role.  The sole underwriter or the syndicate manager[13] must disclose to the issuer that:

   (i)    Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board Rule G-17 requires an underwriter to deal fairly at all times with both issuers and investors;
 
  (ii)   the underwriter’s primary role is to purchase securities with a view to distribution in an arm’s-length commercial transaction with the issuer and it has financial and other interests that differ from those of the issuer;[14]
 
  (iii)   unlike a municipal advisor, the underwriter does not have a fiduciary duty to the issuer under the federal securities laws and is, therefore, not required by federal law to act in the best interests of the issuer without regard to its own financial or other interests;[15]
 
  (iv)   the issuer may choose to engage the services of a municipal advisor with a fiduciary obligation to represent the issuer’s interests in the transaction;
 
  (v)   the underwriter has a duty to purchase securities from the issuer at a fair and reasonable price, but must balance that duty with its duty to sell municipal securities to investors at prices that are fair and reasonable; and
 
  (vi)   the underwriter will review the official statement for the issuer’s securities in accordance with, and as part of, its responsibilities to investors under the federal securities laws, as applied to the facts and circumstances of the transaction.[16]

Underwriters also must not recommend that issuers not retain a municipal advisor. Accordingly, underwriters may not discourage issuers from using a municipal advisor or otherwise imply that the hiring of a municipal advisor would be redundant because the sole underwriter or underwriting syndicate can provide the services that a municipal advisor would.

Disclosure Concerning the Underwriters’ Compensation. The sole underwriter or syndicate manager must disclose to issuers whether underwriting compensation will be contingent on the closing of a transaction. Sole underwriters or syndicate managers must also disclose that compensation that is contingent on the closing of a transaction or the size of a transaction presents a conflict of interest, because it may cause underwriters to recommend a transaction that is unnecessary or to recommend that the size of a transaction be larger than is necessary.

Other Conflicts Disclosures. The sole underwriter or each underwriter in a syndicate must also, when and if applicable, disclose other dealer-specific actual material conflicts of interest and potential material conflicts of interest,[17] including, but not limited to, the following:

   (i)    any payments described below under “Conflicts of Interest/Payments to or from Third Parties”;[18]
 
  (ii)   any arrangements described below under “Conflicts of Interest/Profit-Sharing with Investors”;
 
  (iii)   the credit default swap disclosures described below under “Conflicts of Interest/Credit Default Swaps”; and
 
  (iv)   any incentives for the underwriter to recommend a complex municipal securities financing and other associated conflicts of interest (as described below under “Required Disclosures to Issuers”).[19]

These categories of conflicts of interest are not mutually exclusive and, in some cases, a specific conflict may reasonably be viewed as falling into two or even more categories. An underwriter making disclosures of dealer-specific conflicts of interest to an issuer should concentrate on making them in a complete and understandable manner and need not necessarily organize them according to the categories listed above, particularly if adhering to a strict categorization process might interfere with the clarity and conciseness of disclosures.

Where there is a syndicate, each underwriter in the syndicate has a duty to provide its dealer-specific disclosures to the issuer. In general, dealer-specific disclosures for one dealer cannot be satisfied by disclosures made by another dealer (e.g., the syndicate manager) because such disclosures are, by their nature, not uniform, and must be prepared by each dealer. However, a syndicate manager may deliver each of the dealer-specific disclosures to the issuer as part of a single package of disclosures, as long as it is clear to which dealer each disclosure is attributed. An underwriter in the syndicate is not required to notify an issuer if it has determined that it does not have any dealer-specific disclosures to make. However, the obligation to provide dealer-specific disclosures includes material conflicts of interest arising after the time of engagement with the issuer, as noted below.

Timing and Manner of Disclosures.  The standard disclosures, transaction-specific disclosures, and dealer-specific disclosures must be made in writing to an official of the issuer identified by the issuer as a primary contact for that issuer for the receipt of the foregoing disclosures. In the absence of such identification, an underwriter may make such disclosures in writing to an official of the issuer that the underwriter reasonably believes has the authority to bind the issuer by contract with the underwriter and that, to the knowledge of the underwriter, is not a party to a disclosed conflict.[20] If provided within the same document as the dealer-specific disclosures and/or transaction-specific disclosures, the standard disclosures must be identified clearly as such and provided apart from the other disclosures (e.g., in an appendix).

Disclosures must be made in a clear and concise manner designed to make clear to such official the subject matter of such disclosures and their implications for the issuer in accordance with the following timelines.

  • A sole underwriter or syndicate manager must make the standard disclosure concerning the arm’s-length nature of the underwriter-issuer relationship at the earliest stages of the underwriter’s relationship with the issuer with respect to an issue (e.g., in a response to a request for proposals or in promotional materials provided to an issuer).[21]
  • A sole underwriter or syndicate manager must make the other standard disclosures regarding the underwriter’s role and compensation at or before the time the underwriter is engaged to perform underwriting services (e.g., in an engagement letter), not solely in a bond purchase agreement.
  • An underwriter must make the dealer-specific disclosures at or before the time the underwriter has been engaged to perform the underwriting services.[22] Thereafter, an underwriter must make any applicable dealer-specific disclosures discovered or arising after being engaged as an underwriter as soon as practicable after being discovered and with sufficient time for the issuer to fully evaluate any such conflict and its implications.[23]
  • An underwriter who recommends a financing structure or product to an issuer must make the transaction-specific disclosures in sufficient time before the execution of a commitment by an issuer (which may include a bond purchase agreement) relating to the financing, and with sufficient time to allow the issuer to fully evaluate the features of the financing.

Unless directed otherwise by an issuer, an underwriter may update selected portions of disclosures previously provided so long as such updates clearly identify the additions or deletions and are capable of being read independently of the prior disclosures.[24]

Acknowledgement of Disclosures. When delivering a disclosure, the underwriter must attempt to receive written acknowledgement[25] from an official of the issuer identified by the issuer as a primary contact for the issuer’s receipt of the foregoing disclosures.[26] In the absence of such identification, an underwriter may seek acknowledgement from an official of the issuer whom the underwriter reasonably believes has the authority to bind the issuer by contract with the underwriter and that, to the knowledge of the underwriter, is not party to a disclosed conflict. This notice does not specify the particular form of acknowledgement, but may include, for example, an e-mail read receipt.[27] An underwriter may proceed with a receipt of a written acknowledgement that includes an issuer’s reservation of rights or other self-protective language. If the official of the issuer agrees to proceed with the underwriting engagement after receipt of the disclosures but will not provide written acknowledgement of receipt, the underwriter responsible for making the requisite disclosure may proceed with the engagement after documenting with specificity why it was unable to obtain such written acknowledgement. Additionally, an underwriter must be able to produce evidence (including, for example, by automatic e-mail delivery receipt) that the disclosures were delivered with sufficient time for evaluation by the issuer before proceeding with the transaction. An issuer’s written acknowledgement of the receipt of disclosure is not dispositive of whether such disclosures were made with an appropriate amount of time. The analysis of whether disclosures were provided with sufficient time for an issuer’s review is based on the totality of the facts and circumstances.

Representations to Issuers

All representations made by underwriters to issuers in connection with municipal securities underwritings, whether written or oral, must be truthful and accurate and must not misrepresent or omit material facts. Underwriters must have a reasonable basis for the representations and other material information contained in documents they prepare and must refrain from including representations or other information they know or should know is inaccurate or misleading. For example, in connection with a certificate signed by the underwriter that will be relied upon by the issuer or other relevant parties to an underwriting (e.g., an issue price certificate), the dealer must have a reasonable basis for the representations and other material information contained therein.[28] In addition, an underwriter’s response to an issuer’s request for proposals or qualifications must fairly and accurately describe the underwriter’s capacity, resources, and knowledge to perform the proposed underwriting as of the time the proposal is submitted and must not contain any representations or other material information about such capacity, resources, or knowledge that the underwriter knows or should know to be inaccurate or misleading.[29] Matters not within the personal knowledge of those preparing the response (e.g., pending litigation) must be confirmed by those with knowledge of the subject matter. An underwriter must not represent that it has the requisite knowledge or expertise with respect to a particular financing if the personnel that it intends to work on the financing do not have the requisite knowledge or expertise.

Required Disclosures to Issuers

Many municipal securities are issued using financing structures that are routine and well understood by the typical municipal market professional, including most issuer personnel that have the lead responsibilities in connection with the issuance of municipal securities. For example, absent unusual circumstances or features, the typical fixed rate offering may be presumed to be well understood. Nevertheless, in the case of issuer personnel that the underwriter reasonably believes lack the requisite knowledge or experience to fully understand or assess the implications of a financing structures or products recommended by an underwriter, the underwriter making such recommendation must provide disclosures on the material aspects of such financing structures or product that it recommends (i.e., the “transaction-specific disclosures”).[30]

In some cases, issuer personnel responsible for the issuance of municipal securities would not be well positioned to fully understand or assess the implications of a recommended financing structure in its totality, because it is structured in a unique, atypical, or otherwise complex manner or incorporates unique, atypical, or otherwise complex features or products (a “complex municipal securities financing”).[31] Examples of complex municipal securities financings include, but are not limited to, variable rate demand obligations (“VRDOs”), financings involving derivatives (such as swaps), and financings in which interest rates are benchmarked to an index (such as LIBOR, SIFMA, or SOFR).[32] When a recommendation regarding a complex municipal securities financing structure has been made by an underwriter in a negotiated offering,[33] the underwriter making the recommendation has an obligation under Rule G-17 to communicate more particularized transaction-specific disclosures than those that may be required in the case of the recommendation of routine financing structures or products.[34] The underwriter making the recommendation must also disclose the material financial characteristics of the complex municipal securities financing, as well as the material financial risks of the financing that are known to the underwriter and reasonably foreseeable at the time of the disclosure.[35] It must also disclose any incentives for the recommendation of the complex municipal securities financing and other associated material conflicts of interest.[36] Such disclosures must be made in a fair and balanced manner based on principles of fair dealing and good faith.

The level of transaction-specific disclosure required may vary according to the issuer’s knowledge or experience with the proposed financing structure or similar structures, capability of evaluating the risks of the recommended financing structure or product, and financial ability to bear the risks of the recommended financing structure or product, in each case based on the reasonable belief of the underwriter.[37] Consequently, the level of transaction-specific disclosure to be provided to a particular issuer also can vary over time. In all events, the underwriter must disclose any incentives for the recommendation of the complex municipal securities financing and other associated conflicts of interest.

As previously mentioned, the transaction-specific disclosures must be made in writing to an official of the issuer identified by the issuer as a primary contact for the issuer for the receipt of such disclosures, or, in the absence of such identification, an underwriter may make such disclosures in writing to an issuer official whom the underwriter reasonably believes has the authority to bind the issuer by contract with the underwriter(s), and that, to the knowledge of the underwriter delivering the disclosure, is not a party to a disclosed conflict: (i) in sufficient time before the execution of a contract with the underwriter to allow the official to evaluate the recommendation (including consultation with any of its counsel or advisors) and (ii) in a manner designed to make clear to such official the subject matter of such disclosures and their implications for the issuer.

The disclosures concerning a complex municipal securities financing must address the specific elements of, and/or relevant products incorporated, into the recommended financing structure, rather than being general in nature.[38] An underwriter making a Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation to an issuer cannot satisfy its fair dealing obligations by providing an issuer a single document setting out general descriptions of the various financing structures and/or products that may be recommended from time to time to various issuer clients that would effectively require issuer personnel to discover which disclosures apply to a particular recommendation and to the particular circumstances of that issuer. Underwriters can create, in anticipation of making such a recommendation, individualized descriptions, with appropriate levels of detail, of the material financial characteristics and risks for each of the various complex municipal securities financing structures and/or products (including any typical variations) they may recommend from time to time to various issuer clients, with such standardized descriptions serving as the base for more particularized disclosures for the specific complex financing the underwriter recommends to particular issuers.[39] In making a recommendation, an underwriter could incorporate, to the extent applicable, any refinements to the base description needed to fully describe the material financial features and risks unique to that financing.[40]

If the underwriter who has made a recommendation does not reasonably believe that the official to whom the disclosures are addressed is capable of independently evaluating the disclosures, the underwriter must make additional efforts reasonably designed to inform the official or its employees or agent. The underwriter also must make an independent assessment that such disclosures are appropriately tailored to the issuer’s level of sophistication.

Underwriter Duties in Connection with Issuer Disclosure Documents

Underwriters often play an important role in assisting issuers in the preparation of disclosure documents, such as preliminary official statements and official statements.[41] These documents are critical to the municipal securities transaction, because investors rely on the representations contained in such documents in making their investment decisions. Moreover, investment professionals, such as municipal securities analysts and ratings services, rely on the representations in forming an opinion regarding the credit. A dealer’s duty to have a reasonable basis for the representations it makes, and other material information it provides, to an issuer and to ensure that such representations and information are accurate and not misleading, as described above, extends to representations and information provided by the underwriter in connection with the preparation by the issuer of its disclosure documents (e.g., cash flows).

Underwriter Compensation and New Issue Pricing

Excessive Compensation. An underwriter’s compensation for a new issue (including both direct compensation paid by the issuer and other separate payments, values, or credits received by the underwriter from the issuer or any other party in connection with the underwriting), in certain cases and depending upon the specific facts and circumstances of the offering, may be so disproportionate to the nature of the underwriting and related services performed as to constitute an unfair practice with regard to the issuer that it is a violation of Rule G-17. Among the factors relevant to whether an underwriter’s compensation is disproportionate to the nature of the underwriting and related services performed, are the credit quality of the issue, the size of the issue, market conditions, the length of time spent structuring the issue, and whether the underwriter is paying the fee of the underwriter’s counsel or any other relevant costs related to the financing.

Fair Pricing. The duty of fair dealing under Rule G-17 includes an implied representation that the price an underwriter pays to an issuer is fair and reasonable, taking into consideration all relevant factors, including the best judgment of the underwriter as to the fair market value of the issue at the time it is priced.[42] In general, a dealer purchasing bonds in a competitive underwriting for which the issuer may reject any and all bids will be deemed to have satisfied its duty of fairness to the issuer with respect to the purchase price of the issue as long as the dealer’s bid is a bona fide bid (as defined in MSRB Rule G‑13)[43] that is based on the dealer’s best judgment of the fair market value of the securities that are the subject of the bid. In a negotiated underwriting, the underwriter has a duty under Rule G-17 to negotiate in good faith with the issuer. This duty includes the obligation of the dealer to ensure the accuracy of representations made during the course of such negotiations, including representations regarding the price negotiated and the nature of investor demand for the securities (e.g., the status of the order period and the order book). If, for example, the dealer represents to the issuer that it is providing the “best” market price available on the new issue, or that it will exert its best efforts to obtain the “most favorable” pricing, the dealer may violate Rule G-17 if its actions are inconsistent with such representations.[44]

Conflicts of Interest

Payments to or from Third Parties. In certain cases, compensation received by an underwriter from third parties, such as the providers of derivatives and investments (including affiliates of an underwriter), may color the underwriter’s judgment and cause it to recommend products, structures, and pricing levels to an issuer when it would not have done so absent such payments. The MSRB views the failure of an underwriter to disclose to the issuer the existence of payments, values, or credits received by an underwriter in connection with its underwriting of the new issue from parties other than the issuer, and payments made by the underwriter in connection with such new issue to parties other than the issuer (in either case including payments, values, or credits that relate directly or indirectly to collateral transactions integrally related to the issue being underwritten), to be a violation of an underwriter’s obligation to the issuer under Rule G-17.[45] For example, it would be a violation of Rule G-17 for an underwriter to compensate an undisclosed third party in order to secure municipal securities business. Similarly, it would be a violation of Rule G-17 for an underwriter to receive undisclosed compensation from a third party in exchange for recommending that third party’s services or product to an issuer, including business related to municipal securities derivative transactions. This notice does not require that the amount of such third-party payments be disclosed. The underwriter must also disclose to the issuer whether it has entered into any third-party arrangements for the marketing of the issuer’s securities.

Profit-Sharing with Investors. Arrangements between the underwriter and an investor purchasing new issue securities from the underwriter (including purchases that are contingent upon the delivery by the issuer to the underwriter of the securities) according to which profits realized from the resale by such investor of the securities are directly or indirectly split or otherwise shared with the underwriter also would, depending on the facts and circumstances (including in particular if such resale occurs reasonably close in time to the original sale by the underwriter to the investor), constitute a violation of the underwriter’s fair dealing obligation under Rule G-17.[46] Such arrangements could also constitute a violation of Rule G‑25(c), which precludes a dealer from sharing, directly or indirectly, in the profits or losses of a transaction in municipal securities with or for a customer. An underwriter should carefully consider whether any such arrangement, regardless of whether it constitutes a violation of Rule G-25(c), may evidence a potential failure of the underwriter’s duty with regard to new issue pricing described above.

Credit Default Swaps. The issuance or purchase by a dealer of credit default swaps for which the reference is the issuer for which the dealer is serving as underwriter, or an obligation of that issuer, may pose a conflict of interest, including a dealer-specific conflict of interest, because trading in such municipal credit default swaps has the potential to affect the pricing of the underlying reference obligations, as well as the pricing of other obligations brought to market by that issuer. Rule G-17 requires, therefore, that a dealer disclose the fact that it engages in such activities to the issuers for which it serves as underwriter. Activities with regard to credit default swaps based on baskets or indexes of municipal issuers that include the issuer or its obligation(s) need not be disclosed, unless the issuer or its obligation(s) represents more than 2% of the total notional amount of the credit default swap or the underwriter otherwise caused the issuer or its obligation(s) to be included in the basket or index.

Retail Order Periods

Rule G-17 requires an underwriter that has agreed to underwrite a transaction with a retail order period to, in fact, honor such agreement.[47]A dealer that wishes to allocate securities in a manner that is inconsistent with an issuer’s requirements must not do so without the issuer’s consent. In addition, Rule G-17 requires an underwriter that has agreed to underwrite a transaction with a retail order period to take reasonable measures to ensure that retail clients are bona fide. An underwriter that knowingly accepts an order that has been framed as a retail order when it is not (e.g., a number of small orders placed by an institutional investor that would otherwise not qualify as a retail customer) would violate Rule G-17 if its actions are inconsistent with the issuer’s expectations regarding retail orders. In addition, a dealer that places an order that is framed as a qualifying retail order but in fact represents an order that does not meet the qualification requirements to be treated as a retail order (e.g., an order by a retail dealer without “going away” orders[48] from retail customers, when such orders are not within the issuer’s definition of “retail”) violates its Rule G-17 duty of fair dealing. The MSRB will continue to review activities relating to retail order periods to ensure that they are conducted in a fair and orderly manner consistent with the intent of the issuer and the MSRB’s investor protection mandate.

Dealer Payments to Issuer Personnel

Dealers are reminded of the application of MSRB Rule G-20, on gifts, gratuities, and non-cash compensation, and Rule G-17, in connection with certain payments made to, and expenses reimbursed for, issuer personnel during the municipal bond issuance process.[49]  These rules are designed to avoid conflicts of interest and to promote fair practices in the municipal securities market.

Dealers should consider carefully whether payments they make in regard to expenses of issuer personnel in the course of the bond issuance process, including in particular, but not limited to, payments for which dealers seek reimbursement from bond proceeds or issuers, comport with the requirements of Rule G‑20. For example, a dealer acting as a financial advisor or underwriter may violate Rule G-20 by paying for excessive or lavish travel, meal, lodging and entertainment expenses in connection with an offering (such as may be incurred for rating agency trips, bond closing dinners, and other functions) that inure to the personal benefit of issuer personnel and that exceed the limits or otherwise violate the requirements of the rule.[50] 

 

[1] For purposes of this notice, the term “municipal entity” is used as defined by Section 15B(e)(8) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), 17 CFR 240.15Ba1-1(g), and other rules and regulations thereunder.

[2] See Reminder Notice on Fair Practice Duties to Issuers of Municipal Securities, MSRB Notice 2009-54 (September 29, 2009); Rule G-17 Interpretive Letter – Purchase of new issue from issuer, MSRB interpretation of December 1, 1997, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book (“1997 Interpretation”).

[3] Pub. L. No. 111-203 § 975, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010).

[4] See Interpretive Notice Concerning the Application of MSRB Rule G-17 to Underwriters of Municipal Securities (Aug. 2, 2012) (superseded upon the effective date of this notice as described below).

[5] See MSRB Notice 2012-38 (July 18, 2012); MSRB Notice 2013-08 (Mar. 25, 2013).

[6] The MSRB has always viewed competitive offerings narrowly to mean new issues sold by the issuer to the underwriter on the basis of the lowest price bid by potential underwriters – that is, the fact that an issuer publishes a request for proposals and potential underwriters compete to be selected based on their professional qualifications, experience, financing ideas, and other subjective factors would not be viewed as representing a competitive offering for purposes of this notice. In light of this meaning of the term “competitive underwriting,” it should be clear that, although most of the examples relating to misrepresentations and fairness of financial aspects of an offering consist of situations that would only arise in a negotiated offering, Rule G-17 should not be viewed as allowing an underwriter in a competitive underwriting to make misrepresentations to the issuer or to act unfairly in regard to the financial aspects of the new issue.

[7] MSRB Rule D-9 defines the term “customer” as follows: “Except as otherwise specifically provided by rule of the Board, the term ‘Customer’ shall mean any person other than a broker, dealer, or municipal securities dealer acting in its capacity as such or an issuer in transactions involving the sale by the issuer of a new issue of its securities.”

[8] See MSRB Reminds Firms of Their Sales Practice and Due Diligence Obligations When Selling Municipal Securities in the Secondary Market, MSRB Notice 2010-37 (September 20, 2010).

[9] For purposes of this notice, underwriters are only required to provide written disclosure of their applicable conflicts and are not required to make any written disclosures on the part of issuer personnel or any other parties to the transaction as part of the standard disclosures, dealer-specific disclosures, or the transaction-specific disclosures.

[10] For purposes of this notice, the term “syndicate manager” refers to the lead manager, senior manager, or bookrunning manager of the syndicate. In circumstances where an underwriting syndicate is formed, only that single syndicate manager is obligated to make the standard disclosures under this notice. In the event that there are joint-bookrunning senior managers, only one of the joint-bookrunning senior managers would be obligated under this notice to make the standard disclosures. Unless otherwise agreed to, such as pursuant to an agreement among underwriters, the joint-bookrunning senior manager responsible for maintaining the order book of the syndicate would be responsible for providing the standard disclosures. Notwithstanding the fair dealing obligation of a syndicate manager to deliver the standard disclosures under this notice, nothing herein would prohibit an underwriter from making a disclosure in order to, for example, comply with another regulatory or statutory obligation.

[11] Where an underwriting syndicate is formed, the syndicate manager has the sole responsibility hereunder for providing the standard disclosures. Consistent with this obligation placed on the syndicate manager, only the syndicate manager must maintain and preserve records of the standard disclosures in accordance with MSRB rules. Further, the MSRB acknowledges that an underwriter may not know if a syndicate will form at the time that certain disclosures are sent. In instances in which an underwriter has provided a standard disclosure prior to or concurrent with the formation of a syndicate, it shall suffice that the then-underwriter (later syndicate manager) has delivered a standard disclosure, and no affirmative statement is necessary that a disclosure is being made on behalf of any existing or future syndicate members for the syndicate manager to have met its fair dealing obligations in this regard. Notwithstanding the obligation of a syndicate manager to deliver the standard disclosures, nothing herein would prohibit, or should be construed as prohibiting, another underwriter from delivering a standard disclosure in order to, for example, comply with another regulatory or statutory obligation.

[12] Each underwriter, whether a sole underwriter, syndicate manager, or other member of the underwriting syndicate, has a fair dealing obligation under this notice to deliver transaction-specific disclosures where such underwriter has made a recommendation to an issuer regarding a financing structure or product. The fair dealing obligation to deliver such a transaction-specific disclosure, includes, but is not limited to, determining the level of disclosure required based on the type of financing structure or product recommended and a reasonable belief of the issuer’s knowledge and experience regarding that particular type of financing structure or product. In such cases, as further discussed below, a sole underwriter, syndicate manager, or other member of the underwriting syndicate who has not made such a recommendation would not need to deliver transaction-specific disclosures in order to meet its fair dealing obligation under this notice.

[13] See also note 30 infra.

[14] As a threshold matter, the disclosures delivered by an underwriter to an issuer must not be inaccurate or misleading, and nothing in this notice should be construed as requiring an underwriter to make a disclosure to an issuer that is false. For example, in a private placement where a dealer acting as an agent to place securities on behalf of an issuer does not take a principal position (including not taking a “riskless principal” position) in the securities being placed, the standard disclosure relating to an “arm’s length” relationship may be inapplicable and in such case may be omitted due to the agent-principal relationship between the dealer and issuer that commonly gives rise to other duties as a matter of common law or another statutory or regulatory regime – whether termed as a fiduciary or other obligation of trust. See Exchange Act Release No. 66927 (May 4, 2012), 77 FR 27509 (May 10, 2012) (SR-MSRB-2011-09). In certain other contexts, depending on the specific facts and circumstances, a dealer acting as an underwriter may take on, either through an agency arrangement or other purposeful understanding, a fiduciary relationship with the issuer. In such case, it would be appropriate for an underwriter to omit those disclosures deemed inapplicable as a result of such relationship.

A dealer acting as a placement agent in the primary offering of a new issuance of municipal securities should also consider how the scope of its activities may interact with the registration and record-keeping requirements for municipal advisors adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) under Section 15B of the Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. 78o-4), including the application of the exclusion from the definition of “municipal advisor” applicable to a dealer acting as an underwriter pursuant to Exchange Act Rule 15Ba1-1(d)(2)(i). See Registration of Municipal Advisors, Exchange Act Release No. 70462 (September 20, 2013), 78 FR 67467 (hereinafter, the “MA Rule Adopting Release”), at 67515 – 67516 (November 12, 2013) (available at http://www.sec.gov/rules/final/2013/34-70462.pdf) (stating: “The Commission does not believe that the underwriter exclusion should be limited to a particular type of underwriting or a particular type of offering. Therefore, if a registered broker-dealer, acting as a placement agent, performs municipal advisory activities that otherwise would be considered within the scope of the underwriting of a particular issuance of municipal securities as discussed [therein], the broker-dealer would not have to register as a municipal advisor.”); see also the MA Rule Adopting Release, 78 FR at 67513 – 67514 (discussing activities within and outside the scope of serving as an underwriter of a particular issuance of municipal securities for purposes of the underwriter exclusion).

[15] Id.

[16] In many private placements, as well as in certain other types of new issue offerings, no official statement may be produced, so that, to the extent that such an offering occurs without the production of an official statement, a dealer would not be required to disclose its role with regard to the review of an official statement.

[17] For purposes hereof, a potential material conflict of interest must be disclosed if, but only if, it is reasonably likely to mature into an actual material conflict of interest during the course of the transaction between the issuer and the underwriter.

[18] The third-party payments to which the disclosure standard would apply are those that give rise to actual material conflicts of interest or potential material conflicts of interest only.

[19] The specific standard with respect to complex financings does not obviate a dealer’s fair dealing obligation to disclose the existence of payments, values, or credits received by the underwriter or of other material conflicts of interest in connection with any negotiated underwriting, whether it be complex or routine.

[20] Absent red flags, an underwriter may reasonably rely on a written statement from an issuer official that he or she is not a party to a disclosed conflict. The reasonableness of an underwriter’s reliance on such a written statement will depend on all the relevant facts and circumstances, including the facts revealed in connection with the underwriter’s due diligence in regards to the transaction generally or in determining whether the underwriter itself has any actual material conflicts of interest or potential material conflicts of interest that must be disclosed.

[21] See also note 30 infra.

[22] In offerings where a syndicate is formed, the disclosure obligation for an underwriter to make its dealer-specific disclosures is triggered – if any such actual material conflicts of interest or potential material conflicts of interest must be so disclosed – when such underwriter becomes engaged as a member of the underwriting syndicate (except with regard to conflicts discovered or arising after such co-managing underwriter has been engaged). Consistent with the obligation of sole underwriters and syndicate managers, each underwriter in the syndicate must make any applicable dealer-specific disclosures discovered or arising after being engaged as an underwriter in the syndicate as soon as practicable after being discovered and with sufficient time for the issuer to fully evaluate such a conflict and its implications.

[23] For example, an actual material conflict of interest or potential material conflict of interest may not be present until an underwriter has recommended a particular financing structure. In that case, the disclosure must be provided in sufficient time before the execution of a contract with the underwriter to allow the issuer official to fully evaluate the recommendation, as described under “Required Disclosures to Issuers.”

[24] The MSRB acknowledges that not all transactions proceed along the same timeline or pathway. The timeframes expressed herein should be viewed in light of the overarching goals of Rule G-17 and the purposes that the disclosures are intended to serve as further described in this notice. The various timeframes set out in this notice are not intended to establish strict, hair-trigger tripwires resulting in mere technical rule violations, so long as an underwriter acts in substantial compliance with such timeframes and meets the key objectives for providing disclosure under the notice. Nevertheless, an underwriter’s fair dealing obligation to an issuer in particular facts and circumstances may demand prompt adherence to the timelines set out in this notice. Stated differently, if an underwriter does not timely deliver a disclosure and, as a result, the issuer: (i) does not have clarity throughout all substantive stages of a financing regarding the roles of its professionals, (ii) is not aware of conflicts of interest promptly after they arise and well before the issuer effectively becomes fully committed – either formally (e.g., through execution of a contract) or informally (e.g., due to having already expended substantial time and effort ) – to completing the transaction with the underwriter, and/or (iii) does not have the information required to be disclosed with sufficient time to take such information into consideration and, thereby, to make an informed decision about the key decisions on the financing, then the underwriter generally will have violated its fair-dealing obligations under Rule G-17, absent other mitigating facts and circumstances.

[25] An underwriter delivering a disclosure in order to meet a fair dealing obligation must obtain (or attempt to obtain) proper acknowledgement. When there is an underwriting syndicate, only the syndicate manager, as the dealer responsible for delivering the standard disclosures to the issuer, must obtain (or attempt to obtain) proper acknowledgement from the issuer for such disclosures.

[26] Absent red flags, and subject to an underwriter’s ability to reasonably rely on a representation from an issuer official that he or she has the authority to bind the issuer by contract with the underwriter, an underwriter may reasonably rely on a written delegation by an authorized issuer official in, among other things, the issuer’s request for proposals to another issuer official to receive and acknowledge receipt of a disclosure. The reasonableness of an underwriter’s reliance upon an issuer’s representation as to these matters will depend on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, including the facts revealed in connection with the underwriter’s due diligence in regards to the transaction generally.

[27] For purposes of this notice, the term “e-mail read receipt” means an automatic response generated by a recipient issuer official confirming that an e-mail has been opened. While an e-mail read receipt may generally be an acceptable form of an issuer’s written acknowledgement under this notice, an underwriter may not rely on such an e-mail read receipt as an issuer’s written acknowledgement where such reliance is unreasonable under all of the facts and circumstances, such as where the underwriter is on notice that the issuer official to whom the e-mail is addressed has not in fact received or opened the e-mail.

[28] The need for underwriters to have a reasonable basis for representations and other material information provided to issuers extends to the reasonableness of assumptions underlying the material information being provided. If an underwriter would not rely on any statements made or information provided for its own purposes, it should refrain from making the statement or providing the information to the issuer, or should provide any appropriate disclosures or other information that would allow the issuer to adequately assess the reliability of the statement or information before relying upon it. Further, underwriters should be careful to distinguish statements made to issuers that represent opinion rather than factual information and to ensure that the issuer is aware of this distinction.

[29] As a general matter, a response to a request for proposal should not be treated as merely a sales pitch without regulatory consequence, but instead should be treated with full seriousness that issuers have the expectation that representations made in such responses are true and accurate.

[30] In the circumstance where a dealer proposing to act as an underwriter in a negotiated offering recommends a financing structure or product prior to the time at which an underwriting syndicate is formed, such dealer shall have the same obligations to make any applicable standard disclosures, as if it were a sole underwriter or syndicate manager for purposes of the obligations described under “Required Disclosure to the Issuer” (e.g., to make the standard disclosure concerning the arm’s-length nature of the underwriter-issuer relationship at the earliest stages of the underwriter’s relationship with the issuer with respect to an issue), including complying with corresponding requirements to maintain and preserve records.

[31] If a complex municipal securities financing consists of an otherwise routine financing structure that incorporates a unique, atypical, or complex element or product and the issuer personnel have knowledge or experience with respect to the routine elements of the financing, the disclosure of material risks and characteristics may be limited to those relating to such specific element or product and any material impact such element or product may have on other features that would normally be viewed as routine.

[32] Respectively, the London Inter-bank Offered Rate (i.e., “LIBOR”), the SIFMA Municipal Swap Index (i.e., “SIFMA”), and Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”). The MSRB notes that its references to LIBOR, SIFMA, and SOFR are illustrative only and non-exclusive. Any financings involving a benchmark interest rate index may be complex, particularly if an issuer is unlikely to fully understand the components of that index, its material risks, or its possible interaction with other indexes.

[33] For purposes of determining when an underwriter recommends a financing structure in a negotiated offering or recommends a complex municipal securities financing in a negotiated offering (a “Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation”), the MSRB’s guidance on the meaning of “recommendation” for dealers in MSRB Notice 2014-07: SEC Approves MSRB Rule G-47 on Time-of-Trade Disclosure Obligations, MSRB Rules D-15 and G-48 on Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals, and Revisions to MSRB Rule G-19 on Suitability of Recommendations and Transactions (March 12, 2014) is applicable by analogy. For example, whether an underwriter has made a Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation is not susceptible to a bright line definition but turns on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation. An important factor in determining whether a Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation has been made is whether – given its content, context, and manner of presentation— a particular communication from an underwriter to an issuer regarding a financing structure or product reasonably would be viewed as a call to action or reasonably would influence an issuer to engage in a such a financing structure or product deemed a complex municipal securities financing structure. In general, the more individually tailored the underwriter’s communication is to a specific issuer about a complex municipal securities financing structure, the greater the likelihood that the communication reasonably would be viewed as a Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation.

[34] An underwriter must make reasonable judgments regarding whether it has recommended a financing structure or product to an issuer and whether a particular financing structure or product recommended by the underwriter to the issuer is complex, understanding that the fact that a structure or product has become relatively common in the market does not reduce its complexity. Not all negotiated offerings involve a recommendation by the underwriter(s), such as where a sole underwriter merely executes a transaction already structured by the issuer or its municipal advisor.

[35] For example, when a Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation for a VRDO is made, the underwriter who recommends a VRDO should inform the issuer of the risk of interest rate fluctuations and material risks of any associated credit or liquidity facilities (e.g., the risk that the issuer might not be able to replace the facility upon its expiration and might be required to repay the facility provider over a short period of time). As an additional example, if the underwriter recommends that the issuer swap the floating rate interest payments on the VRDOs to fixed rate payments under a swap, the underwriter must disclose the material financial risks (including market, credit, operational, and liquidity risks) and material financial characteristics of the recommended swap (e.g., the material economic terms of the swap, the material terms relating to the operation of the swap, and the material rights and obligations of the parties during the term of the swap), as well as the material financial risks associated with the VRDO. Such disclosure should be sufficient to allow the issuer to assess the magnitude of its potential exposure as a result of the complex municipal securities financing. Such disclosures must also inform the issuer that there may be accounting, legal, and other risks associated with the swap and that the issuer should consult with other professionals concerning such risks. If the underwriter who has made a Complex Municipal Financing Securities Recommendation is affiliated with the swap dealer proposed to be the executing swap dealer, the underwriter may satisfy its disclosure obligation with respect to the swap if such disclosure has been provided to the issuer by the affiliated swap dealer or the issuer’s swap or other financial advisor that is independent of such underwriter and the swap dealer, as long as the underwriter has a reasonable basis for belief in the truthfulness and completeness of such disclosure. If the issuer decides to enter into a swap with another dealer, the underwriter is not required to make disclosures with regard to that swap product under this notice. The MSRB notes that a dealer who recommends a swap or security-based swap to a municipal entity may also be subject to rules of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission or those of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

[36] For example, a conflict of interest may exist when the underwriter who makes a Complex Municipal Securities Financing Recommendation to an issuer is also the provider, or an affiliate of the provider, of a swap used by an issuer to hedge a municipal securities offering or when an underwriter receives compensation from a swap provider for recommending the swap. See also “Conflicts of Interest/Payments to or from Third Parties” herein.

[37] Even a financing in which the interest rate is benchmarked to an index that is commonly used in the municipal marketplace (e.g., SIFMA) may be complex to an issuer that does not understand the components of that index or its possible interaction with other indexes.

[38] See note 19 supra.

[39] Page after page of complex legal jargon in small print would not be consistent with an underwriter’s fair dealing obligation under this notice.

[40] Underwriters should be able to leverage such materials for internal training and risk management purposes.

[41] Underwriters that assist issuers in preparing official statements must remain cognizant of their duties under federal securities laws. With respect to primary offerings of municipal securities, the SEC has noted, “By participating in an offering, an underwriter makes an implied recommendation about the securities.” See Exchange Act Release No. 26100 (Sept. 22, 1988) (proposing Exchange Act Rule 15c2-12) at text following fn. 70. The SEC has stated that “this recommendation itself implies that the underwriter has a reasonable basis for belief in the truthfulness and completeness of the key representations made in any disclosure documents used in the offerings.” Furthermore, pursuant to Exchange Act Rule 15c2-12(b)(5), an underwriter may not purchase or sell municipal securities in most primary offerings unless the underwriter has reasonably determined that the issuer or an obligated person has entered into a written undertaking to provide certain types of secondary market disclosure and has a reasonable basis for relying on the accuracy of the issuer’s ongoing disclosure representations. Exchange Act Release No. 34961 (Nov. 10, 1994) (adopting continuing disclosure provisions of Exchange Act Rule 15c2-12) at text following fn. 52.

[42]The MSRB has previously observed that whether an underwriter has dealt fairly with an issuer for purposes of Rule G-17 is dependent upon all of the facts and circumstances of an underwriting and is not dependent solely on the price of the issue. See MSRB Notice 2009-54 (Sept. 29, 2009) and the 1997 Interpretation (note 2 supra). See also “Retail Order Periods” herein.

[43] Rule G-13(b)(iii) provides: “For purposes of subparagraph (i), a quotation shall be deemed to represent a ‘bona fide bid for, or offer of, municipal securities’ if the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer making the quotation is prepared to purchase or sell the security which is the subject of the quotation at the price stated in the quotation and under such conditions, if any, as are specified at the time the quotation is made.”

[44]See 1997 Interpretation (note 2 supra).

[45] See also “Required Disclosures to Issuers” herein.

[46] Underwriters should be mindful that, depending on the facts and circumstances, such an arrangement may be inferred from a purposeful but not otherwise justified pattern of transactions or other course of action, even without the existence of a formal written agreement.

[47]See MSRB Interpretation on Priority of Orders for Securities in a Primary Offering under Rule G-17, MSRB interpretation of October 12, 2010, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book. The MSRB also reminds underwriters of previous MSRB guidance on the pricing of securities sold to retail investors. See Guidance on Disclosure and Other Sales Practice Obligations to Individual and Other Retail Investors in Municipal Securities, MSRB Notice 2009-42 (July 14, 2009).

[48] In general, a “going away” order is an order for new issue securities for which a customer is already conditionally committed. See Exchange Act Release No. 62715, File No. SR-MSRB-2009-17 (August 13, 2010).

[50]See In the Matter of RBC Capital Markets Corporation, Exchange Act Release No. 59439 (Feb. 24, 2009) (settlement in connection with broker-dealer alleged to have violated MSRB Rules G-20 and G‑17 for payment of lavish travel and entertainment expenses of city officials and their families associated with rating agency trips, which expenditures were subsequently reimbursed from bond proceeds as costs of issuance); In the Matter of Merchant Capital, L.L.C., Exchange Act Release No. 60043 (June 4, 2009) (settlement in connection with broker-dealer alleged to have violated MSRB rules for payment of travel and entertainment expenses of family and friends of senior officials of issuer and reimbursement of the expenses from issuers and from proceeds of bond offerings).

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:
Confirmation Disclosure and Prevailing Market Price Guidance: Frequently Asked Questions
Rule Number:

(First published July 12, 2017)

Effective May 14, 2018, amendments to MSRB Rule G-15 require dealers to disclose additional information on retail customer confirmations for a specified class of principal transactions, including the dealer’s mark-up or mark-down as determined from the prevailing market price (PMP) of the security. Dealers generally also are required to disclose on retail customer confirmations the time of execution and a security-specific URL to the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website.[1] Related amendments to Rule G-30, on prices and commissions, provide guidance on determining the PMP for the purpose of calculating a dealer’s mark-up or mark-down and for other Rule G-30 determinations.

 

Also, effective May 14, 2018, amendments to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 2232 create similar confirmation disclosure requirements for other areas of the fixed income markets. Among other things, the FINRA amendments require dealers to determine their disclosed mark-ups and mark-downs from the PMP of the security that is traded, in accordance with existing guidance under FINRA Rule 2121.

 

Below are answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the confirmation disclosure requirements under Rule G-15 and related PMP guidance under Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06 (also referred to as the “waterfall” guidance or analysis). While these FAQs address MSRB rules only, FINRA has also issued guidance for the FINRA rules applicable to agency and corporate bonds. The MSRB and FINRA worked together to produce this guidance. While each has published its own version to refer to MSRB and FINRA rules and materials, respectively, the versions are materially the same and reflect the organizations’ coordinated approach to enhanced confirmation disclosure for debt securities. To the extent the MSRB and FINRA offer different guidance based on differences between the markets for corporate, agency and municipal securities, those differences are discussed in the context of the relevant question and answer.

 

During the implementation period, the MSRB will continue to work with dealers on questions related to the confirmation disclosure requirements and PMP guidance. Dealers are encouraged to contact the MSRB to suggest additional topics or questions for inclusion in the FAQs. Accordingly, the MSRB may add to, update or revise this guidance. The most recent date for the content of an answer will be clearly marked.

 

For ease of reference, unless otherwise noted, the term “mark-up” refers both to mark-ups applied to sales to customers and mark-downs applied to purchases from customers, and the term “contemporaneous cost” refers both to contemporaneous cost in the context of sales to customers and contemporaneous proceeds in the context of purchases from customers.

 

Section 1:  When Mark-Up Disclosure Is Required

1.1 When does Rule G-15 require mark-up disclosure?

A dealer is required to disclose on a customer confirmation the mark-up on a transaction in municipal securities with a non-institutional customer if the dealer also executes one or more offsetting principal transaction(s) on the same trading day as the customer transaction in an aggregate trading size that meets or exceeds the size of the customer trade. A non-institutional customer is a customer with an account that is not an institutional account, as defined in MSRB Rule G-8(a)(xi).

As noted during the MSRB’s confirmation disclosure rulemaking process, any intentional delay of a customer execution to avoid triggering the mark-up disclosure requirements may violate Rule G-18, on best execution, and Rule G-17, on conduct of municipal securities and municipal advisory activities.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 7 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 3-4 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

1.2  Is mark-up disclosure required only where the sizes of same-day customer and principal trades offset each other?

Yes. Mark-up disclosure is required only where a customer trade offsets a same-day principal trade in whole or in part. For example, if a dealer purchased 100 bonds at 9:30 a.m., and then, as principal, satisfied three non-institutional customer buy orders for 50 bonds each in the same security on the same trading day without making any other purchases of the bonds that day, mark-up disclosure would be required only on two of the three customer purchases, since one of the trades would need to be satisfied out of the dealer’s prior inventory rather than offset by the dealer’s same-day principal transaction.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 4; 7-8 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 3-4 (November 14, 2016); Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 4 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

1.2.1  Are position moves between separate desks within a firm considered “transactions” for purposes of determining whether a dealer has offsetting transactions that trigger a mark-up disclosure requirement?

No. Mark-up disclosure is triggered under Rule G-15 when a customer trade is offset by one or more “transactions.”  For purposes of the rule, the MSRB considers a “transaction” to entail a change of beneficial ownership between parties. Accordingly, if a retail desk within a dealer acquires bonds through a position move from another desk within the same firm and then sells those bonds to a non-institutional customer, the dealer is required to provide the customer with mark-up disclosure only if the dealer bought the bonds in one or more offsetting transactions on the same trading day as the sale to the customer (subject to the exceptions discussed in Question 1.7).

(March 19, 2018)

1.3  When are trades executed by a dealer’s affiliate relevant for determining whether the mark-up disclosure requirements are triggered?

If a dealer’s offsetting principal trade is executed with a dealer affiliate and did not occur at arm’s length, the dealer is required to “look through” to the time and terms of the affiliate’s trade with a third party to determine whether mark-up disclosure is triggered under Rule G-15. On the other hand, if the dealer’s transaction with its affiliate is an arms-length transaction, the dealer would treat that transaction as any other offsetting transaction (i.e., the dealer would not “look through” to the time and terms of the arms-length transaction).

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 9­‑10; 23; 26 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

1.4  What is considered an “arms-length transaction” when considering whether a dealer must “look through” to the time and terms of an affiliate’s trade?

The term “arms-length transaction” is defined in Rule G-15(a)(vi)(I) to mean a transaction that was conducted through a competitive process in which non-affiliate firms could also participate, and where the affiliate relationship did not influence the price paid or proceeds received by the dealer. The MSRB has noted that as a general matter, it expects the competitive process used in an arms-length transaction to be one in which non-affiliates have frequently participated. In other words, the MSRB would not view a process, like a request for pricing protocol or posting of bids and offers, as competitive if non-affiliates responded to requests or otherwise participated in only isolated or limited circumstances.

Factors that may be relevant to a dealer’s determination that a transaction with an affiliate was conducted at arm’s length include, but are not limited to: counterparty anonymity during the competitive process to the time of execution; the presence of other competitive bids or offers, in addition to the affiliate's, in the competitive process; contemporaneous market activity in the same or a similar security (or securities) which is used to evaluate the relative competitiveness of bids or offers received during a competitive process; and a lack of preferential arrangements between the affiliates concerning, or based on, the handling of orders between them. The MSRB notes that no one of these factors is necessarily determinative on its own.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 9 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

1.5  If a dealer has an exclusive agreement with a non-affiliated dealer under which it always purchases its securities from, or always sells its securities to, that non-affiliate, would the “look through” requirements apply when the dealer transacts with the non-affiliate?

No. The “look through” applies only to certain transactions between affiliated dealers. Under Rule G-15, a “look through” is required when the dealer’s offsetting transaction is with an affiliate and is not an “arms-length transaction.” A transaction with a non-affiliate would not meet these conditions, so a “look through” would not be required. The MSRB notes that dealers should continue to evaluate the terms and circumstances of any such arrangements in light of other MSRB rules and guidance, including best execution. In evaluating these terms and circumstances, dealers should consider whether they diminish the reliability and utility of mark-up disclosure to investors.

(July 12, 2017)

1.6  Does the mark-up disclosure requirement in Rule G-15 apply to transactions that involve a dealer and a registered investment adviser?

No. To trigger the mark-up disclosure requirement in Rule G-15, a dealer must execute a trade with a non-institutional customer. Under the rule, registered investment advisers are institutional customers; accordingly, mark-up disclosure is not required when dealers transact with registered investment advisers. This is the case even where the registered investment adviser with whom the dealer transacted later allocates all or a portion of the securities to a retail account or where the transaction is executed directly for a retail account if the investment adviser has discretion over the transaction. The MSRB notes that this answer is specific to the mark-up disclosure requirement in Rule G-15; it is not intended to alter any other obligations.

(July 12, 2017)

1.7  Are there any exceptions to the mark-up disclosure trigger requirements?

Yes. There are three exceptions. First, disclosure is not required for transactions in municipal fund securities. Second, mark-up disclosure is not necessarily triggered by principal trades that a dealer executes on a trading desk that is functionally separate from a trading desk that executes customer trades, provided the dealer maintains policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the functionally separate trading desk had no knowledge of the customer trades. For example, the exception allows an institutional desk within a dealer to service an institutional customer without necessarily triggering the disclosure requirement for an unrelated trade performed by a separate retail desk within the dealer. Third, disclosure is not required for transactions that are list offering price transactions, as defined in paragraph (d)(vii)(A) of Rule G-14 RTRS Procedures.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 10 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

1.8  May dealers voluntarily provide mark-up disclosure on additional transactions that do not trigger mandatory disclosure?

Yes. In disclosing this information on a voluntary basis, dealers should be mindful of any applicable MSRB rules. For example, while mark-up disclosure is voluntary for trades that are not triggered by the relevant provisions of Rule G-15, the process for determining the PMP according to Rule G-30 applies in all cases. In addition, to avoid customer confusion, voluntary disclosure should also follow the same format and labeling requirements applicable to mandatory disclosure.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13 n. 27 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

1.9  In arrangements involving clearing dealers and introducing or correspondent dealers, who is responsible for mark-up disclosure?

The introducing or correspondent dealer bears the ultimate responsibility for compliance with the disclosure requirements under Rule G-15. Although an introducing or correspondent dealer may use the assistance of a clearing dealer, as it may use other third-party service providers subject to due diligence and oversight, the introducing or correspondent dealer remains ultimately responsible for compliance.

(July 12, 2017)

Section 2:  Content and Format of Mark-Up Disclosure

2.1  What information must be included when dealers provide mark-up disclosure on a confirmation?

When mark-up disclosure is provided on a customer confirmation, Rule G-15 requires firms to express the disclosed mark-up as both a total dollar amount and a percentage amount of PMP. The mark-up should be calculated and disclosed as the total amount per transaction; disclosure of the per bond dollar amount of mark-up (e.g., $9.45 per bond) would not satisfy the requirement to disclose the total dollar amount of the transaction mark-up.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 12 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

2.2  Where is mark-up disclosure required to be located on a confirmation?

For printed confirmations, Rule G-15(a)(i)(E) requires the mark-up disclosure to be located on the front of the customer confirmation. For electronic confirmations, the disclosure should appear in a naturally visible place. Because the rule requires mark-up disclosure to be on the confirmation itself, the inclusion of a link on the customer confirmation that a customer could click to obtain his or her mark-up disclosure would not satisfy the requirements of Rule G-15.

(July 12, 2017)

2.3  May dealers use explanatory language to provide context for mark-up disclosure?

Yes. Dealers may include accompanying language to explain mark-up related concepts, or a dealer’s particular methodology for calculating mark-ups according to MSRB guidance (or to note the availability of information about the methodology upon request), provided such statements are accurate and not misleading. However, dealers may not label mark-ups as “estimated” or “approximate” figures, or use other such labels. These types of qualifiers risk diminishing the utility of the disclosure and of the dealer’s own determination of the security’s PMP and mark-up charged, and otherwise risk diminishing the value to retail investors of the disclosure.

MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 11-12 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

2.4  If a dealer encounters a situation where a mark-up is negative (i.e., the dealer sold to the customer at a price lower than the PMP), may it choose to disclose a mark-up of zero instead?

The MSRB believes that negative mark-ups will be very infrequent; however, if such a case arises, a dealer may not disclose a mark-up of zero where the mark-up is not, in fact, zero. Dealers should disclose the mark-up that they calculate based on their determination of PMP consistent with Rule G-30. As an alternative to disclosing a negative mark-up, dealers are permitted to disclose “N/A” in the mark-up/mark-down field if the confirmation also includes a brief explanation of the “N/A” disclosure and the reason it has been provided. Dealers also have the flexibility to provide an explanation for trades with disclosed negative or zero mark-ups as well, consistent with Question 2.3 above.

(July 12, 2017)

2.5  How many decimal places should dealers use when disclosing the mark-up as a percentage amount?

Dealers should disclose the percentage amount rounded to at least two decimal places (e.g., hundredths of a percent). For example, if a dealer charged a $120 mark-up on a 10-bond transaction where the PMP was 99, the mark-up percentage should be disclosed to at least the hundredth of a percentage point, as 1.21% (as opposed to 1.2% or 1%). However, if a dealer charged a $100 mark-up on a 10-bond transaction where the PMP was 100, the mark-up percentage could be disclosed as 1.00% or 1%.

(March 19, 2018)

Section 3:  Determining Prevailing Market Price

3.1  How should dealers determine PMP to calculate mark-ups?

Dealers must calculate mark-ups from a municipal security’s PMP, consistent with Rule G-30 and the supplementary material thereunder, particularly Supplementary Material .06 (sometimes referred to as the “waterfall” guidance or analysis). Under the applicable standard of “reasonable diligence” (discussed below), dealers may rely on reasonable policies and procedures to facilitate PMP determination, provided the policies and procedures are consistent with Rule G-30 and are consistently applied.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 12 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.2  Does the PMP guidance in Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06 apply for mark-up (and mark-down) disclosure purposes under Rule G-15 and for fair pricing purposes under Rule G-30?

Yes. Dealers should read the guidance in Supplementary Material .06 together with Rule G-30 and all the other supplementary material thereto. For example, while Supplementary Material .06 provides guidance in determining the PMP, Supplementary Material .01(a) explains that dealers must exercise “reasonable diligence” in establishing the market value of a security, and Supplementary Material .01(d) states that dealer compensation on a principal transaction with a customer is determined from the PMP of the security, as described in Supplementary Material .06. Read as a whole, Rule G-30 requires dealers to use reasonable diligence to determine the PMP of a municipal security in accordance with Supplementary Material .06.[2] This standard applies for mark-up disclosure purposes under Rule G-15 and for fair pricing purposes under Rule G-30.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 25; 28 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 9-11 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

3.2.1  Does the functionally separate trading desk exception apply for purposes of determining the PMP of a security?

No. As explained in the rule filing, this exception “would only apply to determine whether or not the [mark-up] disclosure requirement has been triggered; it does not change the dealer’s requirements relating to the calculation of its mark-up or mark-down under Rule G-30.”

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at n. 20 (September 1, 2016)

(March 19, 2018)

3.3  When reading the PMP guidance in Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06, what does the language in parentheses mean?

Unless the context requires otherwise, language in parentheses that is not preceded by an “i.e.,” or “e.g.,” within sentences refers to scenarios where a dealer is charging a customer a mark-down. Thus, for example, in the phrase, “contemporaneous dealer purchases (sales) in the municipal security in question from (to) institutional accounts,” the terms “(sales)” and “(to)” apply where a dealer is charging a customer a mark-down.

(July 12, 2017)

3.4  When should dealers determine PMP and calculate the mark-up to be disclosed on a confirmation?

The MSRB recognizes that dealers may employ different processes for generating customer confirmations such that this may occur at the end of the day, or during the day for firms that use real-time, intra-day confirmation generation processes. Therefore, although the objective must always be to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction, different dealers may consistently conduct the analysis to make that determination at different times. Specifically, dealers may base their mark-up calculations for confirmation disclosure purposes on the information they have available to them (based on the exercise of reasonable diligence) at the time they systematically input relevant transaction information into the systems they use to generate confirmations.

This means that a dealer that systematically inputs the information at the time of trade may determine the PMP—and therefore, the mark-up—at the same time (even if the confirmation itself is not printed until the end of day). On the other hand, if a dealer systematically inputs such information at the end of the day, the dealer must use the information available to the dealer at that time to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction—and, therefore, the mark-up.

The timing of the determination must be applied consistently across all transactions in municipal securities (e.g., the dealer may not enter information into its systems at the time of trade and determine the PMP at the time of trade for some trades but at the end of the day for others).

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 24 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 10 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.4.1  May a dealer determine PMP between the time of trade and the end of the day? 

Yes. The MSRB recognizes that firms may employ different processes for generating customer confirmations, and dealers are not limited to determining PMP for purposes of confirmation disclosure only at the times provided as examples in Question 3.4 (i.e., the time of trade or the end of the day). While the objective must always be to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction, as noted above in Question 3.4, PMP may be determined for disclosure purposes when a firm systematically enters the information into its confirmation generation system, based on information that is reasonably available to it at that time. Accordingly, a dealer may determine PMP at various times, including at the time of the trade, at the end of the day, or at times in between, provided the dealer does so according to reasonable, consistently applied policies and procedures and does not “cherry pick” favorable data.

(March 19, 2018)

3.4.2  May a dealer determine PMP at the time of trade (or at some other time before the end of the day) and wait until later in the day to analyze which trades triggered the disclosure requirement?

Yes. A dealer may determine PMP, enter the PMP information into a confirmation generation system, and later populate the mark-up field only on confirmations of trades that trigger disclosure. The MSRB would expect in such cases that the PMP determination would not be subject to change when the dealer performs the trigger analysis later in the day, other than for a reasonable exception review process (as discussed in Question 3.8.1). In all cases, dealers must follow consistently applied policies and procedures and may not “cherry pick” favorable data. Dealers are reminded that when determining PMP, they must use the information reasonably available to them at the time of the PMP determination and that the objective is always to determine the price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction.

(March 19, 2018)

3.4.3  What is considered a confirmation generation system, for purposes of the guidance on when dealers may determine PMP for disclosure purposes?

As noted above in Question 3.4, the MSRB recognizes that dealers may employ different processes for generating customer confirmations. For purposes of this guidance, the MSRB would consider a dealer to enter information systematically into a confirmation generation system when it stores the information in a location that is part of the confirmation generation process. The MSRB expects that the stored PMP information would not be subject to change, other than for a reasonable exception review process (as discussed in Question 3.8.1). The MSRB also expects that a dealer will clearly explain in its policies and procedures its confirmation generation process, including the timing and role of each material step in the process.

(March 19, 2018)

3.5  Once dealers determine PMP and input relevant information into their confirmation generation systems, would they be required to cancel and correct a confirmation to revise a disclosed mark-up if later events might contribute to a different PMP determination?

No. The disclosure must be accurate, based on the dealer’s exercise of reasonable diligence, as of the time the dealer systematically inputs the information into its systems to generate the disclosure. Once the dealer has input the information into its confirmation generation systems, the MSRB does not expect dealers to send revised confirmations solely based on the occurrence of a subsequent transaction or event that would otherwise be relevant to PMP determination under Rule G-30. On a voluntary basis, dealers may correct a confirmation, pursuant to reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 24 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.5.1 If a dealer corrects the price to a customer or determines that, at the time the dealer systematically entered the information into its systems to generate the mark-up disclosure, the PMP was inaccurate, must the dealer send a corrected confirmation that reflects a corrected mark-up disclosure and price?

Yes. Consistent with Question 3.5, dealers are not required to cancel and correct a confirmation to revise a disclosed mark-up solely based on the occurrence of a subsequent transaction or event that would otherwise be relevant to PMP determination under Rule G-30. However, if the dealer corrects the price to the customer or determines that a PMP was inaccurate at the time it was systematically entered into the dealer’s confirmation generation system, the dealer must send a confirmation that reflects an accurate mark-up and price.

(March 19, 2018)

3.6  May dealers engage third-party vendors to perform some or all of the steps required to fulfill the mark-up disclosure requirements?

Yes. Dealers may engage third-party service providers to facilitate mark-up disclosure consistent with Rules G-15 and G-30. For example, dealers that wish to perform most of the steps of the waterfall internally may choose to use the services of a vendor at the economic models level of the waterfall. Other dealers may wish to use the services of a vendor to perform most or all of the steps of the waterfall. In either case, the dealers retain the responsibility for ensuring the PMP is determined in accordance with Rule G-30 and that the mark-up is disclosed in compliance with Rule G-15 and must exercise due diligence and oversight over their third-party relationships.

As a policy matter, the MSRB does not endorse or approve the use of any specific vendors.

MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 8 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.7  May dealers use a third-party evaluated pricing service as an economic model at the final step of the waterfall?

Yes. However, before doing so, the dealer should have a reasonable basis for believing the third-party pricing service’s pricing methodologies produce evaluated prices that reflect actual prevailing market prices. A dealer would not have a reasonable basis for such a belief, for example, where a periodic review of the evaluated prices provided by the pricing service frequently (over the course of multiple trades) reveals a substantial difference between the evaluated prices and the prices at which actual transactions in the relevant securities occurred. In choosing to use evaluated prices from any pricing service, a dealer should assess, among other things, the quality of the evaluated prices provided by the service and the extent to which the service determines its evaluated prices on an intra-day basis.

To be clear, dealers are not required to use such pricing services at this stage of the waterfall analysis. Rather, third-party evaluated pricing services are only one type of economic model. Other types of economic models may include internally developed models such as a discounted cash flow model or a reasonable and consistent methodology to be used in connection with an applicable index or benchmark. Dealers are reminded that when using an internally developed model, the dealer must be able to provide information that the dealer used on the day of the transaction to develop the pricing information (i.e., the data that was input and the data that the model generated and the dealer used to arrive at the PMP).

MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 8 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

3.8  May dealers use or rely on automated systems to determine PMP?

Yes. While dealers are not required to automate the PMP determination and mark-up disclosure, they may choose to do so, provided they (and/or their vendors) do so consistent with Rule G-30 and Rule G-15, and all other applicable rules. The MSRB has provided guidance in several areas during the rulemaking process to facilitate automation for firms that choose to employ it. First, as noted above in Question 3.4, dealers are permitted on certain conditions to determine PMP on an intra-day basis (e.g., at the time of trade), allowing dealers that generate confirmations intra-day to continue to do so. Second, as noted in Question 3.1 and discussed throughout this guidance, the MSRB has acknowledged that dealers may develop policies and procedures that rely on reasonable, objective criteria to apply the PMP guidance in Supplementary Material .06 at a systematic level. Consistent with the reasonable policies and procedures approach, the MSRB further recognized during the rulemaking process that reasonable policies and procedures could result in different firms making different PMP determinations for the same security. (The MSRB would expect, however, that the consistent application of policies and procedures within a dealer would result in different traders or desks arriving at PMP determinations that are substantially the same under comparable facts and circumstances.)

MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 7-8 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.8.1 May dealers adopt a reasonable exception review process to evaluate PMP determinations?

Yes. As a general matter, the MSRB expects that dealers will employ supervisory review processes that consider, among other things, the reliability of their (or their vendors’) PMP determinations. To review reliability, a dealer might review PMP determinations that result in mark-ups that exceed pre-determined thresholds, and it also might compare PMP determinations with some other measure of market value to ascertain whether the PMP determinations fall outside pre-established ranges.

In cases where a dealer reviews PMP determinations before the associated trade confirmations are sent, dealers may correct PMP determinations to promote more accurate mark-up calculations, provided they do so according to reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures. As a general matter, however, the MSRB expects that it will be rare for a dealer to correct the PMP of a security based on exception reporting, and documentation in such situations will be paramount. To prevent “cherry picking,” the dealer’s policies and procedures should be specific in describing the PMP review process and the conditions under which the dealer may show that a PMP was erroneous (e.g., the PMP determination was based on an isolated transaction, or a PMP determined through the use of an economic model did not reflect recent news about the security). If a dealer determines that a PMP is erroneous, it must correct it consistent with Rule G-30, and it must do so using the information reasonably available to it at the time it makes the correction.

There may also be cases where a dealer’s exception review process results in corrected customer trade prices. For example, a dealer may review a trade where the mark-up exceeded a pre-determined threshold and the PMP was determined correctly. Dealers may refer to Question 3.5.1 in these cases.

(March 19, 2018)

3.9  May dealers develop objective criteria to automatically determine whether a trade is “contemporaneous” for purposes of establishing a presumptive PMP at the first step of the waterfall analysis?

Yes. Dealers may establish an objective set of criteria to determine whether a trade is contemporaneous, provided the objective criteria are established based on the exercise of reasonable diligence. For example, dealers could define an objective period of time as a default proxy for determining whether the trade is contemporaneous. Dealers could also define criteria to consider other relevant factors, such as whether intervening trades by other firms occurred at prices sufficiently different than the dealer’s trade to suggest that the dealer’s trade no longer reasonably reflects the current market price for the security, or whether changes in interest rates or the credit quality of the security, or news reports were significant enough to reasonably change the PMP of the security.

Given the different trading characteristics of different municipal securities, and relevant court and SEC case law applicable to debt securities in general, it likely would not be reasonable for a dealer’s policies and procedures to determine categorically that all transactions that occur outside of a specified time frame are not “contemporaneous.” Accordingly, dealers should include in their policies and procedures an opportunity to review and override the automatic application of default proxies (e.g., by reconsidering the application for transactions identified through reasonable exception reporting and specifying designated time intervals (or market events) after which such proxies will be reviewed).

(July 12, 2017)

3.10  Since Rule G-15 adopts a same-day trigger standard for mark-up disclosure, would it be reasonable to assume a same-day standard for determining whether trades are contemporaneous for purposes of determining PMP under Rule G-30?

The MSRB notes that the determination of whether mark-up disclosure is required under Rule G-15 is distinct from the determination of whether a transaction is contemporaneous under the waterfall analysis. The PMP guidance under Rule G-30 provides that a dealer’s cost is considered contemporaneous if the transaction occurs close enough in time to the subject transaction that it would reasonably be expected to reflect the current market price for the municipal security. While same-day transactions may often be contemporaneous according to this meaning, the MSRB has not set forth a specific time-period that is categorically contemporaneous. As noted above in Question 3.9, the MSRB would expect that dealers developing objective criteria for this purpose would base the determination of such criteria on the exercise of reasonable diligence.

(July 12, 2017)

3.11  How should dealers determine their contemporaneous cost if they have multiple contemporaneous purchases?

Dealers may rely on reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures that employ methodologies to establish PMP where they have multiple contemporaneous principal trades. For example, a dealer could employ consistently an average weighted price or a last price methodology. Such methodologies could further account for the type of principal trade, giving greater weight to principal trades with other dealers than to principal trades with customers.

MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 12-13 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.12  What is the next step in the analysis, when determining contemporaneous cost or proceeds, if a dealer has no contemporaneous transactions with another dealer?

Where the dealer has no contemporaneous cost or proceeds, as applicable, from an inter-dealer transaction, the dealer must then consider whether it has contemporaneous cost or proceeds, as applicable, from a customer transaction. Note that, because the dealer’s contemporaneous cost or proceeds from a customer transaction will also include the mark-up or mark-down charged in that transaction, the dealer should adjust its contemporaneous cost or proceeds from that customer transaction to account for the mark-up or mark-down included in the price. In these instances, the difference between the dealer’s “adjusted contemporaneous cost or proceeds” (the dealer’s contemporaneous cost or proceeds in the customer transaction, adjusted by the mark-up or mark-down) and the price to its customer is equal to the mark-up (or mark-down) to be disclosed on customer confirmations under Rule G-15. The MSRB has noted that this approach allows the dealer to avoid “double counting” in the mark-up and mark-down it discloses to each customer. For example, if a dealer buys 100 bonds from Customer A at a price of 98 and immediately sells 100 of the same bonds to Customer B at a price of 100, the dealer may apportion the mark-up and mark-down paid by each customer. Assuming for illustration that the dealer determines the PMP in accordance with the waterfall guidance to be 99, then the dealer would disclose to Customer A a total dollar amount mark-down of $1,000, also expressed as 1.01% of PMP, and it would disclose to Customer B a total dollar amount mark-up of $1,000, also expressed as 1.01% of PMP.[3]

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 21 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

3.12.1  May dealers adopt a reasonable default proxy or process to apportion the mark-up and mark-down on contemporaneous customer buy and sell transactions, as contemplated in Question 3.12? 
Yes. As explained in Question 3.12, the purpose of adjusting a dealer’s contemporaneous cost or proceeds in the case of contemporaneous customer buy and sell transactions is to arrive at a more accurate indication of the PMP of the securities, for example, by avoiding “double counting” in the mark-up and mark-down disclosed. Consistent with this goal, as an alternative to the process described in Question 3.12, dealers may adopt a reasonable default proxy or process to apportion the amount of the total mark-up and mark-down charged on contemporaneous customer transactions. Such proxy or process should be based upon and not inconsistent with a reasonable review of the typical mark-ups and mark-downs actually charged in the dealer’s municipal securities transactions. For example, assume that, based upon a review of the actual mark-ups and mark-downs charged on a dealer’s municipal securities transactions, a dealer determines that its mark-ups on municipal securities transactions are typically larger than its mark-downs by a quantifiable amount. The dealer may use such information to develop a consistently applied apportionment methodology—for example, by consistently apportioning x% of the total mark-up and mark-down to the customer buy transaction and y% of the total mark-up and mark-down to the sale transaction. If such a default proxy or process is adopted, a dealer should be mindful to review its continued appropriateness over time in a manner that is consistent with the dealer’s ongoing supervisory and compliance obligations.

(June 10, 2020)

3.13  May dealers adjust their contemporaneous cost to reflect what they believe to be a more accurate PMP, or their role taking risk to provide liquidity?

Dealers may adjust their contemporaneous cost only in one case: where a dealer’s offsetting trades that trigger disclosure under Rule G-15 are both customer transactions (discussed above at Question 3.12). Other adjustments to reflect the size or side of market for a dealer’s contemporaneous cost are not permitted.

(July 12, 2017)

3.14  May dealers apportion their expected aggregate monthly fees—for example to access an alternative trading system (ATS) or other trading platform—to individual contemporaneous transactions to be included in their contemporaneous costs?

No. For any given mark-up on a transaction, Supplementary Material .06 requires dealers to look first to their contemporaneous cost as incurred. The MSRB does not believe it would be consistent with Rule G-30 for dealers to consider an estimated apportionment of a future charge to be part of the specific cost they incurred in a contemporaneous transaction.

(July 12, 2017)

3.15  In determining contemporaneous cost, may dealers include transaction fees—for example to access an ATS or other trading platform—that were included in the price they paid?

Yes, provided the transaction fee is reflected in the price of the contemporaneous trade that is reported to EMMA, consistent with MSRB rules and guidance on pricing, trade reporting and fees. The MSRB will monitor and adjust this guidance as needed if it determines that pricing practices change in a way that diminishes the utility and reliability of mark-up disclosure.

(July 12, 2017)

3.16  May a dealer treat its own contemporaneous transaction as “isolated” and therefore disregard it when determining PMP?

No. Under Supplementary Material .06, isolated transactions or isolated quotations generally will have little or no weight or relevance in establishing PMP. The guidance also specifically provides that, in the municipal market, an “off-market” transaction may qualify as an isolated transaction. Through cross-references, Supplementary Material .06 makes clear that a dealer may deem a transaction or quotation at the hierarchy of pricing factors or similar-securities level of the waterfall to be isolated. However, the concept of “isolated” transactions or quotations does not apply to a dealer’s contemporaneous cost, which presumptively determines PMP.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 19; 21 (September 1, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.17  Supplementary Material .06 notes that changes in interest rates may allow a dealer to overcome the presumption that its own contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP. Does this refer only to formal policy interest rate changes, or does it also contemplate market changes in interest rates?

It refers to any change in interest rates, whether the change is caused by formal policy decisions or market events. However, Supplementary Material .06 notes that a dealer may overcome the presumption that its contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP based on a change in interest rates only in instances where they have changed after the dealer’s transaction to a degree that such change would reasonably cause a change in municipal securities pricing.

(July 12, 2017)

3.18  Supplementary Material .06 notes that changes in the credit quality of the municipal security may allow a dealer to overcome the presumption that its own contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP. Does this refer only to formal credit rating changes, or does it also contemplate market changes in implied or observed credit spreads such as those due to market-wide credit spread volatility or anticipated changes in the credit quality of the individual issuer?

It refers to any changes to credit quality, with respect to that particular security or the particular issuer of that security, whether the change is caused by a formal ratings announcement or market events. Thus, for example, this could include changes in the guarantee or collateral supporting repayment as well as significant recent information concerning the issuer that is not yet incorporated in credit ratings (e.g., changes to ratings outlooks). However, Supplementary Material .06 notes that a dealer may overcome the presumption that its contemporaneous cost is the best measure of PMP based on a change in credit quality only in instances where it has changed significantly after the dealer’s transaction.

(July 12, 2017)

3.18.1 When considering inter-dealer trades at the hierarchy of pricing factors level of the waterfall analysis, if the only contemporaneous inter-dealer trades in the security are executed at the same time and involve a broker’s broker or an ATS, may a dealer choose to determine PMP by reference to the inter-dealer trade price which is reasonably likely to be on the opposite side of the market from the dealer seeking to determine PMP?

Yes. Consistent with the standard of reasonable diligence, dealers may adopt a reasonable approach to consistently choosing between or referring to multiple contemporaneous inter-dealer trades. If the only contemporaneous inter-dealer trades in the security are executed at the same time and involve a broker’s broker or an ATS in the security, it may be reasonable for the dealer seeking to determine PMP to do so by reference to the trade price which is reasonably likely to be on the opposite side of the market from the dealer seeking to determine PMP.

For example, assume that Dealer XYZ is selling a municipal security to a retail customer. Also, assume that the dealer lacks contemporaneous cost and that there are only two contemporaneous inter-dealer transactions in the security, and that both of those transactions occur at the exact same time and in the exact same trade amount. Additionally, both inter-dealer transactions are identified by an ATS special condition indicator on EMMA. One transaction is executed at a price of 113.618 and the other is executed at a price of 113.868. Assume further that the difference between these two ATS transaction prices is in the customary and typical range of the fee an ATS would charge for its services. In this case, it may be reasonable for Dealer XYZ to conclude that the transaction at 113.618 reflects a sale from a dealer to an ATS taking a principal position in the security, and that the transaction at 113.868 reflects a sale from that ATS to another dealer. Under these circumstances, Dealer XYZ may reasonably determine the PMP by reference to the transaction at 113.868, because the counterparty to the ATS in that transaction was purchasing the security and thus on the opposite side of the market from the side of Dealer XYZ in its customer trade.

(March 19, 2018)

3.19 May dealers adopt a reasonable default proxy where the waterfall guidance refers to trades between dealers and institutional accounts with which any dealer regularly effects transactions in the same security, if such information cannot be ascertained through reasonable diligence?

Yes. Consistent with the Rule G-30 standard of “reasonable diligence” in establishing the PMP of a municipal security, dealers reasonably may use objective criteria as a proxy for the elements of these steps of the waterfall that they cannot reasonably ascertain, such as whether a customer transaction involves an institutional customer and whether that institutional customer regularly trades in the same security with any dealer. A reasonable approach might assume that transactions at or above a $1,000,000 par amount involve institutional customers, since that size transaction is conventionally considered to be an institutional-sized transaction. In addition, because institutional investors transacting at or above this size threshold are typically sophisticated investors, the same size proxy might be used to assume that the institutional customer regularly transacts with a dealer in the same security.

(July 12, 2017)

3.19.1 May a dealer reasonably determine that new issue trade prices executed at list offering/takedown prices are not reflective of the PMP at the time of their execution?

Yes. Because new issues may be priced days before the transactions are executed and reported to RTRS, a dealer may, but is not required to, determine that new issue trades executed at list offering or takedown prices are not reflective of the PMP at the time of their execution. These transactions generally are denoted by a list offering price/takedown indicator on EMMA and in the MSRB Transaction Subscription Service. Market participants may also determine the list offering price by viewing the security’s home page (i.e., the Security Details page) on EMMA.

(March 19, 2018)

3.20  Can an “all-to-all” platform (i.e., one that allows non-dealers to participate) qualify as an inter-dealer mechanism at the step of the waterfall that refers to bids and offers for actively traded securities?

Yes, provided that the dealer determines that the prices available on an “all-to-all” platform are generally consistent with inter-dealer prices. Dealers should include in their policies and procedures how they will periodically review a platform’s activity to make such a determination.

(July 12, 2017)

3.21  When considering bid and offer quotations from an inter-dealer mechanism, how many inter-dealer mechanisms must a dealer check before considering the next category of factors under the waterfall analysis?

The obligation to determine PMP requires a dealer to use reasonable diligence. It does not require a dealer to seek out and consider every potentially relevant data point available in the market. With respect to this factor in the waterfall analysis, a dealer must only seek out and consider enough information to reasonably determine that there is no probative information to determine PMP before proceeding to the next category of factors.

(July 12, 2017)

3.22  In considering bids and offers for actively traded securities made through an inter-dealer mechanism, how can a dealer determine that transactions generally occur at the displayed quotations on the inter-dealer mechanism?

Consistent with the Rule G-30 standard of reasonable diligence and a reasonable policies and procedures approach, a dealer could request and assess from the platform relevant statistics and relevant information reasonably sufficient to conclude that the inter-dealer mechanism meets the applicable requirements under Supplementary Material .06. A dealer could then periodically request and assess updated statistics and relevant information to confirm that the inter-dealer mechanism continues to satisfy the requirements.

(July 12, 2017)

3.23  At the similar securities stage of the waterfall analysis, how can a dealer determine on a systematic basis that an inter-dealer quotation is “validated”?

Consistent with the standard of reasonable diligence and a reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures approach to the PMP determination, for example, a dealer could determine that a bid (offer) quotation is validated if it is quoted on an “inter-dealer mechanism” (including the all-to-all platforms that qualify, as discussed above). With respect to a dealer’s own bids or offers, dealers are reminded of their existing regulatory obligations under applicable MSRB rules regarding bona fide bids or offers and the requirement that any published quotations must be based on the dealer’s best judgment of the fair market value of the securities. See, e.g., Rule G-13 and MSRB Notice to Dealers That Use the Services of Broker’s Brokers (December 22, 2012). Dealers are also reminded that under Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06, isolated transactions or isolated quotations (including those that are off-market) generally will have little or no weight or relevance in establishing the PMP of a security.

Due to the lack of bid (offer) quotations for many municipal securities, under the waterfall analysis, dealers in the municipal securities market may not often find information from contemporaneous bid (offer) quotations in the municipal securities market.

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

3.24  May a dealer use the same process it uses to identify a “similar” security for best-execution purposes to identify “similar” securities for PMP purposes?

Yes. Assuming the dealer’s process for identifying “similar” securities for Rule G-18 best-execution purposes is reasonable and in compliance with Rule G-18, a dealer may rely on the same process in connection with identifying similar securities under Rule G-30, Supplementary Material .06.

Alternatively, due to the different purposes of the “similar” security analysis for best-execution purposes as compared to PMP determination purposes, dealers reasonably may adopt a more restrictive approach to identifying “similar” securities for Rule G-30 than they may for Rule G-18. While the relevant part of the best-execution analysis under Rule G-18 seeks to identify the best market to address a customer’s order or inquiry by reference to another security, the relevant part of the waterfall analysis seeks to identify the PMP of one security by reference to another security. Further, Rule G-30 Supplementary Material .06 provides that, in order to qualify as a “similar” security, at a minimum, the municipal security should be sufficiently similar that a market yield for the subject security can be fairly estimated from the yield of the “similar” security. Due to the large number and diversity of municipal securities, the MSRB is of the view that, generally, if the prices or yields of a security would require an adjustment in order to account for differences between the security and the subject security, it would be reasonable for a dealer to determine that that security is not sufficiently “similar” to the subject security for purposes of Supplementary Material .06. To be clear, dealers have the flexibility to determine that a security that requires an immaterial adjustment in order to account for differences is sufficiently “similar” for these purposes, but they are not required to do so. This approach also is consistent with the MSRB’s view that, in order for a security to qualify as sufficiently “similar,” the security must be at least highly similar to the subject security with respect to nearly all the “similar” security factors listed in Rule G-30 Supplementary Material .06(b)(ii) that are relevant to the subject security.

Whichever approach a dealer chooses to apply, the dealer must apply that approach consistently across all municipal securities.

Due to the lack of active trading in many municipal securities and the above discussion regarding the identification of “similar” securities in the municipal securities market, under the waterfall analysis, dealers in the municipal securities market may not often find information from sufficiently similar securities as compared to dealers in other fixed income markets.

Because of the unique characteristics of the municipal securities market, the MSRB response to this question may differ from the FINRA interpretation under FINRA Rule 2121.

(July 12, 2017)

3.24.1 How many “similar” securities must a dealer consider at the “similar” securities stage of the waterfall analysis?

The obligation to determine PMP requires a dealer to use reasonable diligence. It does not require a dealer to seek out and consider every potentially relevant data point available in the market. At this point in the waterfall analysis, a dealer must only seek out and consider enough information to reasonably determine that it has identified the prevailing market price of the security (or that there is no probative information to determine PMP before proceeding to the next level). A dealer’s policies and procedures should explain the process for identifying similar securities (and, if relevant, how the dealer may adjust the prices or yields of identified similar securities). Because the reasonable diligence standard is often guided by industry norms, dealers should periodically revisit their policies and procedures to ensure that their established processes continue to remain reasonable.

Due to the unique characteristics of the municipal securities market, including the large number of issuers and the bespoke nature of many municipal securities, it is unlikely that the dealer will identify a substantial number of “similar” securities for many municipal securities. For example, it would be reasonable for a dealer to determine that a comparison security is not sufficiently “similar” to the subject security for purposes of Supplementary Material .06 if the prices or yields of the comparison security would require an adjustment in order to account for differences between that security and the subject security.

(March 19, 2018)

3.25  How is the “relative weight” provision in paragraphs (a)(v) (regarding the hierarchy of pricing factors) and (a)(vi) (regarding similar securities) of Supplementary Material .06 meant to be used in operation?

This provision is meant to be used when there is more than one comparison transaction or quotation within the categories specified in the hierarchy of pricing factors and when there is more than one comparison transaction or quotation within the similar securities level of the waterfall analysis. In these cases, a dealer may consider the facts and circumstances of the comparison transactions or quotations to determine the weight or degree of influence to attribute to a particular transaction or quotation. For example, a dealer might give greater weight to more recent (timely) comparison transactions or quotations. Similarly, to the extent a dealer considers comparison transactions or quotations in which the dealer is on the same side of the market as the dealer in the subject transaction (if known from dealer customer trade reports),[4] a dealer might give relatively less weight or influence to such information in determining PMP than information from transactions or quotations in which the dealer was on the opposite side of the market from the dealer in the subject transaction.

Consistent with the standard of reasonable diligence and a reasonable policies and procedures approach to the PMP determination, a dealer may adopt a reasonable methodology that it will consistently apply when considering the facts and circumstances of comparison transactions or quotations and assigning relative weight to such transactions or quotations. For example, a dealer might employ an average weighted price methodology (if all relevant trade sizes are publicly available) or last price methodology, provided its policies and procedures called for the reasonable and consistent use of the methodology and did not ignore potentially relevant facts and circumstances, such as side of the market.

Due to the unique characteristics of the municipal securities market, the MSRB response to this question may differ from the FINRA interpretation under FINRA Rule 2121.

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

3.26  When dealers consider the hierarchy of pricing factors under Supplementary Material .06(a)(v), or similar securities factors under paragraph (a)(vi), may they consider the size of comparison transactions to determine their relative weight?

Yes. Paragraphs (a)(v) and (a)(vi) include a non-exhaustive list of facts and circumstances that may impact the “relative weight” of comparison transactions or quotations that may be considered at that point in the waterfall analysis. The MSRB believes it would be reasonable to consider the size of a comparison transaction when considering its relative weight.

(July 12, 2017)

3.27  What is an “applicable index” as that term is used at the “similar securities” level of Supplementary Material .06?

Supplementary Material .06 lists a number of non-exclusive factors that a dealer can look to in determining whether a security is sufficiently “similar” to the subject security. One of these factors is how comparably they trade over an applicable index or U.S. Treasury securities of a similar duration. The inclusion of the more general term “applicable index,” is intended to give dealers flexibility to consider, for example, commonly used municipal market bond indices, yield curves and benchmarks as these may be more relevant than data on Treasury securities (especially for tax-exempt bonds).

Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 5 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

3.28  Must dealers keep their PMP determination for each trade in their books and records?

The MSRB believes that dealers should keep records to demonstrate their compliance with Rule G-30, particularly where they have the evidentiary burden to demonstrate why a contemporaneous transaction was not the best measure of PMP for a given trade. The MSRB further notes that it would expect PMP documentation to be an important component of a firm’s system to supervise compliance with Rules G-15 and G-30.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 20 n. 39 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 8 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

3.29  Is there a difference between the PMP that is determined for mark-up disclosure purposes under Rule G-15 and for fair pricing purposes under Rule G-30?

As noted during the rulemaking process, the MSRB recognizes that by allowing dealers to determine PMP for mark-up disclosure purposes at the time of entry of information into systems for confirmation generation, a mark-up disclosed on a confirmation may not reflect subsequent trades that could be considered “contemporaneous” under Supplementary Material .06. However, the MSRB does not believe it is necessary to make a formal distinction between a PMP determined for disclosure purposes and a PMP determined for other regulatory purposes. Still, in connection with any post-transaction fair pricing review process, dealers should not disregard any new information relevant under Supplementary Material .06 that occurs after the mark-up determination (e.g., contemporaneous proceeds obtained after the customer transaction).

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 14; 25; 28 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 10 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

Section 4:  Time of Execution and Security-Specific URL Disclosures

4.1  When must dealers disclose the time of execution on a customer confirmation?

Under Rule G-15, dealers must disclose the time of execution for all transactions, including principal and agency transactions. However, for transactions in municipal fund securities and transactions for an institutional account, as defined in Rule G-8(a)(xi), in lieu of disclosing the time of execution, dealers may instead include on the confirmation a statement that the time of execution will be furnished upon written request of the customer. This time-of-execution disclosure requirement is not limited to circumstances where mark-up disclosure is triggered; therefore, it is required even where mark-up disclosure is not.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13-14 (September 1, 2016); Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 4-5 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

4.2  How should the time of execution be disclosed?

Dealers have an obligation under Rule G-14, on reports of sales or purchases of municipal securities, to report the “time of trade” to the MSRB’s Real-Time Transaction Reporting System. In addition, dealers have an obligation under Rule G-8(a)(vii) to make and keep records of the time of execution of principal transactions in municipal securities. The time of execution for confirmation disclosure purposes is the same as the time of trade for Rule G-14 reporting purposes and the time of execution for purposes of Rule G-8(a)(vii), except that dealers should omit all seconds, without rounding to the minute, from the time-of-execution disclosure because the trade data displayed on EMMA does not include seconds.

Alternatively, if disclosure in this format is operationally challenging or burdensome for a dealer, a dealer may choose to disclose the seconds, again without rounding to the minute (e.g., a time of trade of 10:00:59 may be disclosed as 10:00:59 or 10:00). Additionally, because EMMA displays the time of trade in eastern standard time (EST), dealers may disclose on the customer confirmation the time of execution in either military time (as reported to RTRS under Rule G-14) or in traditional EST with an AM or PM indicator (e.g., a time of trade of 14:00:59 may be disclosed on a confirmation as 14:00:59, 14:00, 2:00:59 PM or 02:00 PM). The time-of-execution disclosure format used by a dealer should be consistent for all municipal securities transaction confirmations on which the disclosure is provided.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 14 n. 29 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 6 n. 11 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

4.3  When must dealers disclose a security-specific URL on a customer confirmation?

Under Rule G-15, dealers must disclose a security-specific URL, in a format specified by the MSRB as discussed below, for all non-institutional customer trades other than transactions in municipal fund securities, even where mark-up disclosure is not required. In the rare situations where there is no CUSIP assigned for a security that is subject to Rule G-15 at the time the dealer trades the security with a customer, the dealer is not required to include the security-specific URL on the customer confirmation.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13-14; 27; 35 (September 1, 2016); Amendment No. 1 to SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 4 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

4.4  What is the security-specific URL that must be disclosed?

The template for the URL that must be disclosed under Rule G-15 is:  https://emma.msrb.org/cusip/[insert CUSIP number]. [5] The URL is currently live and operational. Paper confirmations must include this URL with the security-specific CUSIP in print form; electronic confirmations must include the security-specific URL as a hyperlink to the web page.

MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 6 (November 14, 2016)

FINRA has provided its own security-specific URL template in its guidance.

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

4.5  Do dealers need to provide any other disclosure concerning the security-specific URL?

Yes. Dealers must include a brief description of the type of information that is available on the security-specific web page for the subject security, such as information about the prices of other transactions in the same security, the official statement and other disclosures for the security, ratings and other market data and educational material. To be clear, the disclosure does not need to describe with specificity all of the information available on the relevant web page. As described above, the description should be brief. Additionally, it only needs to describe enough information about the relevant web page that a reasonable investor would understand the type of information available on that page. For example, the following language would satisfy this obligation: “For more information about this security (including the official statement and trade and price history), visit [insert link]."[6]  Because this language is an example only, dealers may use other language to describe the content of the web page.

As a reminder, Rule G-15(a)(i)(E) requires all requirements to be clearly and specifically indicated on the front of the confirmation, subject to limited exceptions. Because the description of the type of information available on the security-specific web page is not listed as an exception, it must be on the front of the confirmation.

SR-MSRB-2016-12 Proposed Rule Change to MSRB Rules G-15 and G-30, at 13; 27 (September 1, 2016); MSRB Response to Comments on SR-MSRB-2016-12, at 6 n. 9 (November 14, 2016)

(July 12, 2017)

(Updated March 19, 2018)

4.6 Is disclosure of the time of execution or security-specific URL required for transactions that involve a dealer and a registered investment adviser?

No. Disclosure of the time of execution and security-specific URL is not required for transactions with an institutional customer. Under Rule G-15, a registered investment adviser is an institutional accountholder; accordingly, disclosure is not required for these transactions. This is the case even if the registered investment adviser with whom the dealer transacted later allocates all or a portion of the securities to a retail account or where the transaction is executed directly for a retail account if the investment adviser has discretion over the transaction. The MSRB notes that this answer is specific to the time-of-execution and security-specific URL disclosure requirements in Rule G-15; it is not intended to alter any other obligations.

(July 12, 2017)


[1] EMMA is a registered trademark of the MSRB.

[2] Prior to May 14, 2018, Supplementary Material .01(d) provides that dealer compensation on a principal transaction is considered to be a mark-up or mark-down that is computed from the inter-dealer market price prevailing at the time of the customer transaction. As of May 14, 2018, the reference to the prevailing “inter-dealer” price is amended to instead, as noted above, reference the “prevailing market price,” as described in Supplementary Material .06. Supplementary Material .06, which applies to customer transactions and not internal position movements, generally embodies the principle that the PMP of a security is generally the price at which dealers trade with one another. This underlying principle does not mean that dealers may avoid following the steps of the waterfall analysis in the specific order prescribed in Supplementary Material .06. However, it remains a useful principle that dealers may wish to consider in approaching certain unspecified aspects of the waterfall analysis. The MSRB’s responses to Questions 3.11, 3.12, 3.20 and 3.23, in part, are reflective of this underlying principle. Other answers, including those in response to Questions 3.9, 3.10, 3.21 and 3.25 are reflective of the MSRB’s longstanding “reasonable diligence” standard, discussed above.

[3] This example assumes that the dealer has identified that it has contemporaneous cost and proceeds at the time that it is determining the mark-up and mark-down to each customer. If this is not the case, however, because the dealer systematically inputs information into its systems for the generation of PMP at the time of trade, then there is a different result. For example, assume that the trade at 98 occurs at 10:00 AM, the trade at 100 occurs at 3:00 PM and these trades are contemporaneous. If the dealer systematically determines PMP at the time of trade, consistent with Question 3.4, at the time of the 10:00 AM trade, the dealer may simply proceed down the waterfall to determine the PMP for the security without the need to adjust that PMP. At the time of the 3:00 PM trade, however, the dealer should adjust its contemporaneous cost as described above to account for the mark-down included in the price.

[4] At the institutional transactions and quotations categories in the hierarchy of pricing factors level of the waterfall, generally, dealers consider information from only one side of the market, depending on whether the dealer is charging a mark-up or mark-down. However, pursuant to reasonable and consistently applied policies and procedures, a dealer may consider information from transactions in which the dealer is on the other side of the market when reasonable to do so. For example, this may be reasonable where the dealer has identified no comparison transactions in which the dealer is on the opposite side of the market as the dealer in the subject transaction. In this case, the dealer may reasonably adjust the transaction price by an amount to account for the price at which that transaction might have occurred had it been a transaction in which the dealer was on the opposite side of the market from the dealer in the subject transaction. Also for example, where the dealer has identified comparison transactions on both sides of the market, the dealer reasonably may perform a similar adjustment (i.e., adjust a price from a transaction in which the dealer is on the same side of the market as the dealer in the subject transaction by an amount to account for the price at which that transaction might have occurred had it been a transaction in which the dealer was on the opposite side of the market from the dealer in the subject transaction). A dealer’s ability to consider such information may be particularly important in the municipal market in which securities often trade infrequently and in which dealers may often have such limited information available to them at the time of their PMP determination.

[5] The MSRB previously announced the URL template as: http://emma.msrb.org/cusip/[insert CUSIP number]. Accordingly, confirmations for dealers that began to program their confirmations in accordance with the previously announced URL template may begin with the http format, rather than the https format. The MSRB does not expect such dealers to reprogram the URLs provided on customer confirmations as the http format will continue to function and will automatically redirect to the more secure https site.

[6] As a reminder, for dealers that currently seek to satisfy their obligation to provide a copy of the official statement to customers under Rule G-32(a)(iii) by notifying customers of the availability of the official statement through EMMA, the provision of the link described in this set of FAQs would satisfy both the relevant Rule G-15 security-specific URL obligation and the Rule G-32(a)(iii), provided that, for purposes of Rule G-32(a)(iii), the URL address also is accompanied by the additional information described. For example, if a dealer included the sample description included in this question, the addition of the language “Copies of the official statement are also available from [insert dealer name] upon request” would satisfy both the Rule G-15 security-specific URL obligation and Rule G-32(a)(iii) obligations.