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Rule D-15

Sophisticated Municipal Market Professional

Rule

The term “sophisticated municipal market professional” or “SMMP” is defined by three essential requirements: the nature of the customer; a determination of sophistication by the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”); and an affirmation by the customer; as specified below.

(a) Nature of the Customer. The customer must be:

(1) a bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or registered investment company;

(2) an investment adviser registered either with the Commission under Section 203 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or with a state securities commission (or any agency or office performing like functions); or

(3) any other person or entity with total assets of at least $50 million.

(b) Dealer Determination of Customer Sophistication. The dealer must have a reasonable basis to believe that the customer is capable of evaluating investment risks and market value independently, both in general and with regard to particular transactions and investment strategies in municipal securities.

(c) Customer Affirmation. The customer must affirmatively indicate that it:

(1) is exercising independent judgment in evaluating:

(A) the recommendations of the dealer;

(B) the quality of execution of the customer’s transactions by the dealer; and

(C) the transaction price for non-recommended secondary market agency transactions as to which (i) the dealer’s services have been explicitly limited to providing anonymity, communication, order matching and/or clearance functions and (ii) the dealer does not exercise discretion as to how or when the transactions are executed; and

(2) has timely access to material information that is available publicly through established industry sources as defined in Rule G-47(b)(i) and (ii).

Supplementary Material

.01 Reasonable Basis Analysis. As part of the reasonable basis analysis, the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer should consider the amount and type of municipal securities owned or under management by the customer.

.02 Customer Affirmation. The customer affirmation may be given either orally or in writing, and may be given on a trade-by-trade basis, a type-of-transaction basis, a type-of-municipal-security basis (e.g., general obligation, revenue, variable rate), or an account-wide basis.

No Compliance Resources for this rule
Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:

Application of MSRB Rules to Transactions in Managed Accounts

Background

Representatives of brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (collectively, “dealers”) have increasingly inquired about the application of certain Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) rules to managed accounts in which a registered investment adviser (“RIA”) is exercising discretion to buy and sell municipal securities on behalf of the account holder. Specifically, dealers have asked whether, with respect to these transactions, they are expected to:
 

1) Provide the time-of-trade disclosures required by MSRB Rule G-47 to the ultimate investor, who is the account holder (i.e., the RIA’s client), particularly if the dealer does not know the identity of the investor; and

2) Obtain a customer affirmation from such an investor for purposes of qualifying the person, separately, as a sophisticated municipal market professional (“SMMP”) under MSRB Rule D-15, and owing the modified obligations under MSRB Rule G-48, on transactions with SMMPs, if the RIA is itself an SMMP.[1]
 

 

 

This notice provides background information on the relevant rules, analyzes the questions presented and provides interpretive guidance in response.

Relevant Rules

The principal rules relevant to these interpretive questions are Rules G-47, D-15, and G‑48.

 

MSRB Rule G-47 – Time of Trade Disclosure

Rule G-47 sets forth the general time-of-trade disclosure obligation applicable to dealers. Specifically, pursuant to Rule G-47, a dealer cannot sell municipal securities to a customer, or purchase municipal securities from a customer, without disclosing to the customer, at or prior to the time of trade, all material information known about the transaction and material information about the security that is reasonably accessible to the market. The rule applies regardless of whether the transaction is unsolicited or recommended, occurs in a primary offering or the secondary market, and is a principal or agency transaction. The disclosure can be made orally or in writing.

 

Information is “material” if there is a substantial likelihood that the information would be considered important or significant by a reasonable investor in making an investment decision. The rule defines “reasonably accessible to the market” as information that is made available publicly through “established industry sources.”[2] Finally, the rule defines “established industry sources” as including EMMA, rating agency reports, and other sources of information generally used by dealers that effect transactions in the type of municipal securities at issue. Under these standards, “material information” encompasses a complete description of the security, which includes a description of the features that would likely be considered significant by a reasonable investor, and facts that are material to assessing potential risks of the investment.

 

MSRB Rule D-15 – Sophisticated Municipal Market Professional

Rule D-15 defines the set of customers that may be SMMPs” as (1) a bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or registered investment company; (2) an RIA; or (3) any other person or entity with total assets of at least $50 million. To qualify as an SMMP under the rule, the dealer must have a reasonable basis to believe the customer is capable of independently evaluating investment risks and market value, in general and with respect to particular transactions and investment strategies in municipal securities. In addition, the customer is required to affirm that it is exercising independent judgment in evaluating the quality of execution of the customer’s transactions by the dealer. Further, the customer is required to affirm that it is exercising independent judgment in evaluating the transaction price in non-recommended agency secondary market transactions where the dealer’s services are explicitly limited to providing anonymity, communication, order matching and/or clearance functions, and the dealer does not exercise discretion as to how or when the transactions are executed. Finally, the customer is required to affirm that it has timely access to “material information” available publicly from “established industry sources” as those terms are defined in Rule G-47. The customer affirmation may be given orally or in writing, and may be given on a transaction-by-transaction basis, a type-of-municipal security basis, an account-wide basis or a type-of-transaction basis.

 

Importantly, the definition of SMMP under Rule D-15 is not self-executing, nor are the contingencies for its application solely controlled by the dealer. Rather, classification as an SMMP requires the customer to make the affirmation noted above. Consequently, any customer, even if otherwise qualifying as an SMMP, could choose not to make the affirmation in order to obtain the benefits of those obligations that otherwise would be modified (e.g., best execution). Overall, the customer affirmation requirement is designed to ensure that SMMPs have affirmatively and knowingly agreed to forgo certain protections under MSRB rules.

 

MSRB Rule G-48 – Transactions with Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals

Rule G-48 addresses modified obligations of dealers when dealing with SMMPs. It relieves dealers of the time-of-trade disclosure obligation under Rule G-47 for information reasonably accessible to the market, the pricing obligations under MSRB Rule G-30 under certain circumstances,[3] the customer-specific suitability obligation under MSRB Rule G-19,[4] certain obligations with respect to the dissemination of quotations under MSRB Rule G-13,[5] and the best-execution obligation under Rule G-18.[6]

 

Interpretive Guidance

The rules referenced above, including Rule G-48 on certain modified obligations, are, or relate to the application of, various investor/customer protections. As such, a threshold approach to the interpretive questions is to focus on who the dealer’s customer is, and, thus, to whom the dealer owes these protections when an RIA has full discretion over investor clients’ accounts.

 

According to past guidance, there are facts and circumstances under which the MSRB considers the RIA, and not the underlying investors, to be the dealer’s customer. When an independent investment adviser (including an RIA) purchases securities from one dealer and instructs that dealer to make delivery of the securities to other dealers where the investment adviser’s clients have accounts, and the identities of individual account holders are not given to the delivering dealer, the investment adviser is the customer of the dealer and must be treated as such for recordkeeping and other regulatory purposes.[7] Accordingly, in those scenarios, the dealer does not have any customer obligations to the underlying investors.

 

Even if the underlying investors are, or are considered to be, customers of the dealer, the MSRB interprets Rule G-48 to mean, under certain circumstances, that the obligations modified by that rule are modified with respect to the underlying investors, as well as the RIA that is an SMMP. Specifically, when an investor has granted an RIA full discretion to act on the investor’s behalf for all transactions in an account, the RIA has effectively become that investor for purposes of the application of Rule G-48 when engaging in transactions with the dealer. Therefore, if that RIA is an SMMP, to whom the dealers’ obligations are modified under Rule G-48, then, for purposes of complying with the rules addressed in Rule G-48, the dealer should not be required to satisfy any greater or additional obligations with respect to the ultimate investor who holds that account. When the MSRB included RIAs in the set of customers that may be SMMPs, it was, of course, aware that RIAs typically act on behalf of third-party clients. It would have been anomalous for Rule G-48 to modify the dealers’ obligations to an RIA that is an SMMP, only essentially to re-impose them on the dealer with respect to the underlying investors who have given the RIA full discretion to act on their behalf.

 

This interpretation, under which dealer obligations to certain investors would be modified, is supported by the existence (where the conditions of the interpretation are met) of substantially similar federal and/or state obligations. For example, RIAs registered with the SEC are subject to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) and the rules thereunder, including a fiduciary duty extending to all services undertaken on behalf of clients.[8] Obligations flowing from the fiduciary duty, include, but are not limited to, the requirements to: 

  • Provide full disclosure of material facts, including conflicts of interest and disciplinary events and precarious financial condition;[9]
  • Give suitable advice;[10]
  • Have a reasonable basis for recommendations;[11] and
  • Meet best-execution obligations.[12]

These and other investor protections provided by the regulatory regime under the Advisers Act reduce the need for the similar investor protections provided by time-of-trade disclosure, customer-specific suitability, best execution and the other obligations required by MSRB rules but modified under Rule G-48.[13] Additionally, where an investor has affirmatively and in writing authorized the RIA to exercise full discretion in the investor’s account, the investor has delegated decision-making authority over what to buy and sell in the account. Finally, the MSRB notes that, where the RIA is an SMMP, the RIA has affirmed and the dealer has a reasonable basis to believe that the RIA has the sophistication to obviate the need for the protections flowing from the obligations modified under Rule G-48, which the MSRB believes is also indicative of the RIA’s ability to provide similar protections to its clients when a dealer is not required to do so. When combining the investor protections afforded by substantially similar federal or state regulatory requirements for RIAs, the full discretionary power affirmatively provided to an RIA, and the RIA’s status as an SMMP, there is sufficient protection afforded to the account holders, who are the RIA’s clients, and, therefore, for purposes of the application of the rules modified by Rule G-48, dealers do not owe these underlying account holders any greater or additional obligations than those which apply to the RIA.[14]

 


[1] Although the specific inquiries focused on the applicability of Rule G-47, MSRB Rule G-18, on best execution, and the exemption from Rule G-18 when executing transactions for or with an SMMP, this interpretive guidance applies to all the modified obligations under Rule G‑48, as discussed herein.

[2] The public availability of material information through the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) system, or other established industry sources, does not relieve dealers of their disclosure obligations, and dealers may not satisfy the disclosure obligation by directing customers to established industry sources or through disclosure in general advertising materials.

[3] The pricing obligations under Rule G-30 are modified only when the transactions are non-recommended secondary market agency transactions; the dealer’s services with respect to the transactions have been explicitly limited to providing anonymity, communication, order matching, and/or clearance functions; and the dealer does not exercise discretion as to how or when the transactions are executed.

[4] The customer-specific suitability obligation requires that a dealer have a reasonable basis to believe that the recommendation is suitable for a particular customer based on that customer’s investment profile. See Supplementary Material .05(b) to Rule G-19. Rule G-48 does not relieve dealers of the obligations regarding reasonable-basis and quantitative suitability. See Supplementary Material .05(a) and (c) to Rule G-19.

[5] As modified by Rule G‑48, if a dealer is disseminating a quotation on behalf of an SMMP, the dealer shall have no reason to believe the quotation does not represent a bona fide bid for, or offer of, municipal securities, or that the price stated in the quotation is not based on the best judgment of the fair market value of the securities of the SMMP, and no dealer shall knowingly misrepresent a quotation relating to municipal securities made by any SMMP.

[6] Under Rule G-18, in any transaction for or with a customer or a customer of another dealer, a dealer must use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best market for the subject security and buy or sell in that market so that the resultant price to the customer is as favorable as possible under prevailing market conditions.

[7] See MSRB Notice 2003-20 (May 23, 2003); Interpretive Notice on Recordkeeping (Jul. 29, 1977).

[8] See SEC Study on Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers (January 2011) at 21 (“The Supreme Court has construed Advisers Act Section 206(1) and (2) as establishing a federal fiduciary standard governing the conduct of advisers.”) (“IA-BD Study”). See also SEC v. Capital Gains Research Bureau, Inc., 375 U.S. 180, 194 (1963); Transamerica Mortgage Advisors, Inc., 444 U.S. 11, 17 (1979) (“[T]he Act’s legislative history leaves no doubt that Congress intended to impose enforceable fiduciary obligations.”).

[9] See IA-BD Study at 22 (“[A]n adviser must fully disclose to its clients all material information that is intended ‘to eliminate, or at least expose, all conflicts of interest which might incline an investment adviser—consciously or unconsciously—to render advice which was not disinterested.’”).

[10] “To fulfill the obligation, an adviser must make a reasonable determination that the investment advice provided is suitable for the client based on the client’s financial situation and investment objectives.” Id. at 27-28.

[11] “[A]n investment adviser has ‘a duty of care requiring it to make a reasonable investigation to determine that it is not basing its recommendations on materially inaccurate or incomplete information.’” Id. at 28.

[12] For accounts in which investment advisers exercise discretion, they generally have the responsibility to select dealers to execute client trades. Id. “In meeting this obligation, an adviser must seek to obtain the execution of transactions for each of its clients in such a manner that the client’s total cost or proceeds in each transaction are the most favorable under the circumstances.” Id. “An investment adviser should ‘periodically and systematically’ evaluate the execution it is receiving for clients.” Id. at 29.

[13] The MSRB also believes that state rules and regulations for investment advisers offer similar protections that support the MSRB’s interpretations here. Although the requirements are not uniform, “[s]tates generally impose requirements upon state-registered investment advisers that are similar to those under the Advisers Act.” Id. at 85. See also Scott J. Lederman, Hedge Fund Regulation (2d Ed.), Ch. 17. State Advisory Regulation, 17-3 (Nov. 2012) (“State securities regulators generally impose requirements on state-registered advisers that are similar to those found in the Advisers Act. However, state regulation often contains additional requirements not found at the federal level.”).

[14] The MSRB notes that implicit in this interpretation is the expectation of dealers’ compliance with all existing recordkeeping requirements associated with the various conditions for the interpretation’s applicability.

Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:

Implementation Guidance on MSRB Rule G-18, on Best Execution

(As updated February 7, 2019)

Background

MSRB Rule G-18, establishing the first best-execution rule for transactions in municipal securities, became effective March 21, 2016. The best-execution rule requires brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (dealers) to use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best market for the subject security and buy or sell in that market so that the resultant price to the customer is as favorable as possible under prevailing market conditions. Related amendments to MSRB Rule G‑48, on transactions with sophisticated municipal market professionals (SMMPs), and to MSRB Rule D-15, on the definition of an SMMP, exempt transactions with SMMPs from the best-execution rule. This implementation guidance provides answers to frequently asked questions about the best-execution rule and the SMMP exemption.

Use of This Document

The MSRB is providing in this document general implementation guidance on certain aspects of new Rule G-18 and amended Rules G-48 and D-15 (rules) in a question-and-answer format. This guidance is designed to support compliance with the best-execution rule and the SMMP exemption.[1] The answers are not considered rules and have neither been approved nor disapproved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The MSRB may update these questions and answers periodically, and any updates will include appropriate references to dates of new or modified questions and answers.

Questions and Answers Concerning Best Execution and the Exemption for Transactions with Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals:  Rules G-18, G-48 and D-15

I. Best-Execution Standard – General

I.1: Reasonable Diligence

Q: What do dealers need to do to use reasonable diligence when selling (purchasing) municipal securities out of (into) their inventory to (from) customers[2] who are not sophisticated municipal market professionals (SMMPs)?[3]

A: Overview of Best-Execution Standard. Section (a) of MSRB Rule G-18, on best execution, requires dealers, in any transaction for or with a customer or a customer of another dealer, to use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best market for the subject security and to buy or sell in that market so that the resultant price to the customer is as favorable as possible under prevailing market conditions. This obligation applies to transactions in which the dealer is acting as agent and transactions in which the dealer is acting as principal.[4] Section (a) includes a non-exhaustive list of factors that dealers must consider when exercising this diligence, which includes: the character of the market for the security (e.g., price, volatility, and relative liquidity), the size and type of transaction, the number of markets checked, the information reviewed to determine the current market for the subject security or similar securities, the accessibility of quotations, and the terms and conditions of the customer’s inquiry or order, including any bids or offers, that result in the transaction, as communicated to the dealer. A dealer must make every effort to execute a customer transaction promptly,[5] but the determination as to whether a firm exercised reasonable diligence necessarily involves a “facts and circumstances” analysis, and actions that in one instance may meet a dealer’s best-execution obligation may not satisfy that obligation under another set of circumstances. The rule is designed to complement existing fair and reasonable pricing standards and improve execution quality for retail investors in municipal securities, while promoting fair competition among dealers and improving market efficiency.

Policies and Procedures. As explained during the rulemaking process for the best-execution rule, dealers can use reasonable diligence in ascertaining the best market for a security by using sound policies and procedures and periodically reviewing and improving them. Indeed, paragraph .08 of the Supplementary Material requires the development of policies and procedures reasonably designed to achieve best execution. Paragraph .08 requires dealers to conduct, at a minimum, annual reviews of their policies and procedures for determining the best available market, assessing whether they are reasonably designed to achieve best execution, taking into account the quality of the executions the dealer is obtaining under its current policies and procedures, changes in market structure, new entrants, the availability of additional pre-trade and post-trade data, and the availability of new technologies, and to make promptly any necessary modifications of their policies and procedures in light of those reviews.[6] In short, a dealer can comply with the requirement to use reasonable diligence by developing, following and maintaining policies and procedures that are themselves reasonably designed.

Rule G-18 is designed to provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate the diverse population of dealers, which can adopt policies and procedures to be reasonably related to the nature of their business, including the level of sales and trading activity and the type of customer transactions at issue, and to allow dealers to evidence that they had used reasonable diligence in a manner that is different than that used by other dealers. However, in developing policies and procedures, dealers should consider reviewing and including in their policies and procedures the existing practices of their trading operations, existing best practices within the municipal securities market (particularly those used by similarly-situated dealers), existing best practices in the corporate debt securities market with respect to compliance with FINRA Rule 5310, which requires, among other things, best execution for transactions in corporate debt securities, and any other practices they believe to be relevant. By way of example, if similarly-situated dealers in the municipal securities market typically take certain steps when purchasing municipal securities from a customer, dealers should consider whether their written policies and procedures should provide for those steps to be taken on a consistent and systematic basis.

As explained during the rulemaking process for Rule G-18, the rule is generally substantively consistent with FINRA Rule 5310, with specific tailoring to the characteristics of the municipal securities market. This substantive consistency is in recognition of the efficiencies to be gained from harmonized regulation in similar areas of the fixed income markets. Significantly, the core standard of reasonable diligence in Rule G‑18(a) is stated in identical terms to the core standard in FINRA Rule 5310; however, portions of the list of factors that are considered in determining whether a firm has used reasonable diligence are different. As a result, and also in the interests of harmonized regulation, steps by a dealer that meet the reasonable diligence standard under FINRA Rule 5310 generally will be considered to meet the reasonable diligence standard under Rule G-18 in circumstances that are substantially the same. However, dealers should consider whether any additional or different steps may need to be taken to address provisions in Rule G-18 that are tailored specifically for transactions in municipal securities.

(November 20, 2015) 

I.2: Best Price

Q: Does the term “best execution” (as it relates to municipal securities) mean every trade at a particular point in time must match the best price to have occurred within a short time thereafter?

A: As stated in paragraph .01 of the Supplementary Material to MSRB Rule G-18, “[t]he principal purpose of [the] rule is to promote, for customer transactions, dealers’ use of reasonable diligence,” and a “failure to have actually obtained the most favorable price possible will not necessarily mean that the dealer failed to use reasonable diligence.” A trade occurring shortly after a transaction at a materially more favorable price with no significant change in market conditions or the credit worthiness of the security, however, could indicate a lack of reasonable diligence on the part of the dealer or the utilization of inadequate procedures. Such occurrences would suggest that dealers should consider, as part of their periodic review of their procedures, the inclusion of additional markets when handling future customer orders or inquiries.

(November 20, 2015) 

I.3: Documentation

Q: How do dealers document reasonable diligence in compliance with the best-execution standard and does documentation need to be made for each and every transaction?

A: The issue of documentation of dealers’ compliance with MSRB Rule G-18 arises in at least three areas. First, the rule requires dealers to have written policies and procedures for compliance with the rule. Second, dealers should consider documenting their periodic reviews of their written policies and procedures and the results of those reviews. Third, dealers should consider documenting their adherence to their policies and procedures generally, and paragraph .06 of the Supplementary Material specifically requires documentation of compliance with their policies and procedures with respect to securities with limited quotations or pricing information.[7] The documentation dealers should consider in the third area necessarily would depend on the content of the policies and procedures that the dealer determines to adopt. Only by way of example, recognizing this dependence on the content of the policies and procedures, a dealer could use records providing information displayed on an alternative trading system and reviewed by a trader prior to execution, records of periodic observation of traders, notations by traders and/or records of pre- and/or post-trade reviews.[8] However, these are, again, only examples of documentation methods, and Rule G-18 is designed to provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate the diverse population of dealers, which can adopt policies and procedures to be reasonably related to the nature of their business, including the level of sales and trading activity and the type of customer transactions at issue, and to allow dealers to demonstrate that they had used reasonable diligence in a manner that is different than that used by other dealers. Given this flexibility, some firms may choose to document their adherence to their policies and procedures on a transaction-by-transaction basis, but the MSRB recognizes that there may be reasonable alternative approaches that would satisfy the requirements of MSRB rules and be sufficient to demonstrate compliance.

(November 20, 2015) 

I.4: Extreme Market Conditions

Q: How do extreme market conditions affect dealers’ best-execution obligations?

A: In the potential event of extreme market conditions impacting the trading of municipal securities (e.g., a shortage of liquidity and divergent prices during periods of significant ratings changes, interest rate movements or other market-wide events) dealers should consider establishing and implementing procedures that are designed to preserve the continued execution of customers’ orders in a manner that is consistent with their best-execution obligations while also recognizing and limiting their exposure to extraordinary market risk. Dealers should consider the following guidelines when evaluating their best-execution procedures during extreme market conditions: 

  • The treatment of customer orders must remain fair, consistent and reasonable.
  • To the extent that a dealer’s order-handling procedures are different during extreme market conditions, it should disclose to its customers the differences in the procedures from normal market conditions and the circumstances in which it may generally activate these procedures.[9]
  • Activation of procedures designed to respond to extreme market conditions may be implemented only when warranted by market conditions. Excessive activation of modified procedures on the grounds of extreme market conditions could raise best-execution concerns. Accordingly, dealers should document the basis for activation of their modified procedures. 

Ultimately, it necessarily involves a facts and circumstances analysis to determine whether actions taken by dealers during extreme market conditions are consistent with the duty of best execution, but the MSRB recognizes that market conditions are an important factor in dealers’ best-execution determinations.

(November 20, 2015)

II. Best-Execution Standard – Applicability

II.1: Applicability to Introducing Dealers

Q: Do introducing dealers that execute and clear trades through other dealers have best-execution obligations to their customers?

A: Yes. MSRB Rule G-18 applies to any transaction in a municipal security for or with a customer or a customer of another dealer, without any exception for orders that are routed to another dealer. Paragraph .08(b) of the Supplementary Material to the rule, however, provides that “[a] dealer that routes its customers’ transactions to another dealer that has agreed to handle those transactions as agent or riskless principal for the customer (e.g., a clearing firm or other executing dealer) may rely on that other dealer’s periodic reviews [of its written policies and procedures] as long as the results and rationale of the review are fully disclosed to the dealer and the dealer periodically reviews how the other dealer’s review is conducted and the results of the review.” Under this provision, introducing dealers may rely on the best-execution policies and procedures of their clearing firms or other executing dealers, all of which are subject to their own best-execution obligations under the rule. An introducing dealer, however, is not relieved of its obligations to establish written policies and procedures of its own. For example, such an introducing dealer’s policies and procedures could provide for the reliance on another dealer’s policies and procedures and periodic reviews by the introducing dealer of the other dealer’s reviews of its policies and procedures.

(November 20, 2015) 

II.2: Inter-Dealer Trades

Q: Do trades between broker-dealers have to comply with the best-execution standard?

A: No. MSRB Rule G-18 applies to any transaction for or with a customer or a customer of another dealer. Paragraph .05 of the Supplementary Material to Rule G-18 provides that “[a] dealer’s duty to provide best execution in any transaction ‘for or with’ ‘a customer of another dealer’ does not apply in instances when the other dealer is simply executing a customer transaction against the dealer’s quote,”... and “[a] dealer’s duty to provide best execution to customer orders received from other dealers arises only when an order is routed from another dealer to the dealer for handling and execution.”

(November 20, 2015)

III. Reasonable Diligence Factors – Number of Markets Checked 

III.1: General

Q: When effecting a customer transaction in municipal securities, how many dealers and/or markets does a dealer need to check, and how much diligence does a dealer need to conduct in order to have confidence that all appropriate dealers and/or markets are included? 

A: The duty of best execution requires a dealer to use reasonable diligence. It does not require a dealer to access every available market, especially given the differences in pricing information and execution functionality offered, and there is no set number of dealers making an offer or collecting bids on behalf of a customer order, or other markets, to check that categorically qualifies as reasonable diligence for compliance with the best-execution obligation. Accordingly, a dealer does not need to post a bid-wanted simultaneously on multiple fixed income alternative trading systems (ATSs) and/or with multiple broker’s brokers, though this may be warranted in some cases, or become a subscriber to every ATS. However, in general, dealers should check more than one market or expose customer orders to multiple offerings or bids, and show external offerings and bids to retail customers, which may be accomplished by the use of ATSs or broker’s brokers that expose orders to multiple dealers, each of which constitutes a “market,” as that term is broadly defined in paragraph .04 of the Supplementary Material.[10] For example, a dealer’s policies and procedures could require that, after receiving offers or bids, the dealer must evaluate the offer or bid price versus relevant market information to determine whether any additional markets, including, but not limited to, other dealers, should be checked to perform reasonable diligence. Each dealer should consider including in its written policies and procedures how and when its trading desk exposes retail customer orders to multiple offerings or bids and shows external offerings and bids to retail customers (directly or through financial advisors). Some dealers may employ “filters,” which generally refer to automated tools that allow the dealer to limit its trading, with, for example, specific parties or parties with specified attributes with which it does not want to interact. If a dealer uses filters on counterparties or filters on specific securities intended to limit accessing bids or offers in those securities, they may be used only for a legitimate purpose consistent with obtaining the most favorable executions for non-SMMP customers, and should be reviewed on a periodic basis and adjusted as needed. The dealer, accordingly, should have policies and procedures in place that govern when and how to: reasonably use filters without negatively impacting the quality of execution of non-SMMP customer transactions; periodically reevaluate their use; and determine whether to lift them upon request.[11]  

Given that the rule is designed, in part, to promote fair competition among dealers, generally, a dealer’s policies and procedures should facilitate competition for its customer order flow, including by eliminating practices that discourage other dealers from offering (bidding on) securities to (from) its clients. However, exposing customer order flow to other dealers, alone, is not sufficient to satisfy reasonable diligence, and dealers must also consider the non-exhaustive list of factors identified in Rule G‑18(a).  

(November 20, 2015)

(Updated February 7, 2019)

III.2: Use of Broker’s Brokers and ATSs

Q: Under what circumstances must a dealer use a broker’s broker or ATS to demonstrate reasonable diligence in ascertaining the best market? 

A: There is no categorical requirement in MSRB Rule G-18 for dealers to use a broker’s broker or an ATS, and the rule is designed specifically not to favor any particular type of venue over another for dealers to meet their best-execution obligations. Paragraph .04 of the Supplementary Material construes the term “market” broadly for purposes of Rule G-18, including the rule’s core provision, section (a), requiring the exercise of reasonable diligence in ascertaining the “best market” for the security. Paragraph .04 of the Supplementary Material states: “This expansive interpretation is meant both to inform dealers as to the breadth of the scope of venues that must be considered in the furtherance of their best-execution obligations and to promote fair competition among dealers (including broker’s brokers), alternative trading systems and platforms, and any other venue that may emerge, by not mandating that certain trading venues have less relevance than others in the course of determining a dealer’s best-execution obligations.” A principal purpose of this broad and even-handed language is to tailor the definition of the critical term “market” to the characteristics of the municipal securities market and provide flexibility for future developments in both market structure and applied technology. For example, the language expressly recognizes a characteristic of the municipal securities market (i.e., the role of dealer inventories in providing liquidity) by providing that the executing dealer itself, acting in a principal capacity, may be the best market for the security. Additionally, while an ATS or a broker’s broker, individually, can be considered a market, each can also be a mechanism to expose customer orders to multiple dealers and, therefore, multiple markets. 

As the availability of electronic systems that facilitate trading in municipal securities increases, dealers need to determine whether these systems might provide benefits to their customer order flow, particularly retail order flow, and help ensure they are meeting their obligations under Rule G-18(a) with respect to ascertaining the best market for their customer transactions. Similarly, pre-trade transparency, such as through electronic trading platforms, is also increasing in the municipal securities market, and dealers need to periodically analyze and determine whether incorporating pricing information available from these systems should be incorporated into their best-execution policies and procedures. 

The MSRB recognizes that different markets provide different levels of price information and execution functionality, and that a dealer’s analysis of the available pricing information offered by different systems may take these differences into account. Some systems, including auto-execution systems, both display prices and provide execution functionality, while other systems display prices but provide no execution functionality. Still other systems, such as request-for-quotation systems, may provide indications of interest but not display prices or provide execution functionality. As such, it is the dealers’ responsibility to evaluate various markets (e.g., ATSs, inter-dealer brokers, other dealers) and to establish and periodically review reasonably designed written policies and procedures addressing when and how certain markets should be checked to satisfy the requirements of the rule. Pursuant to paragraph .08(a) of the Supplementary Material, “[i]n conducting its periodic reviews, a dealer must assess whether its policies and procedures are reasonably designed to achieve best execution, taking into account the quality of the executions the dealer is obtaining under its current policies and procedures, changes in market structure, new entrants, the availability of additional pre-trade and post-trade data, and the availability of new technologies, and to make promptly any necessary modification(s) to such policies and procedures as may be appropriate in light of such reviews.” As an aspect of this periodic review, dealers should review the execution quality provided by the various markets they choose to use (including the internalization of order flow), and, to the extent information is reasonably available, the execution quality of new markets or markets they do not use to determine whether to use them.[12] This review could include, for example, reviewing EMMA® data for previous executions in the subject security or similar securities. 

Additionally, Rule G-18(a) provides a non-exhaustive list of factors that will be considered in determining whether a dealer has used reasonable diligence, with no single factor being determinative, including: (1) the character of the market for the security (e.g., price, volatility and relative liquidity); (2) the size and type of transaction; (3) the number of markets checked; (4) the information reviewed to determine the current market for the subject security or similar securities; (5) the accessibility of quotations; and (6) the terms and conditions of the customer’s inquiry or order, including any bids or offers, that result in the transaction, as communicated to the dealer. Accordingly, a dealer’s policies and procedures for best execution should address how these factors will affect the dealer’s municipal securities transactions with customers under various conditions. 

(November 20, 2015)

(Updated February 7, 2019)

III.3: Reliance on Broker’s Brokers for Pricing

Q: Is a dealer in compliance with MSRB Rule G-18 if it uses the best bid or offer obtained by a broker’s broker as the only basis for the price at which the dealer executes a customer order? 

A: Use of the best bid or offer obtained by a broker’s broker for a particular security as the only basis for the price at which a dealer executes a customer order will not qualify categorically as reasonable diligence in compliance with Rule G-18. To the extent a dealer uses such practice alone, the dealer’s policies and procedures should establish what facts and circumstances should be considered to allow the dealer to do so (e.g., length of collection period used, number of offers/bids received, accessibility of quotations). 

(November 20, 2015) 

III.4: One ATS/Broker’s Broker

Q: Can a dealer comply with MSRB Rule G-18 by exposing customer orders to an ATS or broker’s broker that captures offers/bids from multiple markets? 

A: The market for municipal securities has evolved significantly in recent years. Some dealers have reduced their inventory positions in response to market and regulatory influences and the use of electronic trading systems, including ATSs, continues to grow. In addition, transaction prices for most municipal securities are now widely available to market participants and investors. Although the amount of pre-trade pricing information (e.g., bids and offers) available also has increased, it is still relatively limited as compared to equity securities and generally not readily accessible by the investing public. While new technology and communications in the municipal securities market have advanced, the market remains decentralized, with much trading still occurring primarily through individual dealers.  

In light of this evolution of the municipal securities market, the MSRB encourages the use of broker’s brokers, ATSs and other markets that typically provide exposure to offers/bids from multiple dealers, each of which could constitute a separate market, and it recognizes there may be facts and circumstances under which it may be sufficient for a dealer to check only one such market and satisfy the best-execution obligation. However, utilizing one ATS, one broker’s broker or other similar market will not qualify categorically as reasonable diligence in compliance with Rule G-18. To the extent a dealer checks only one ATS, broker’s broker or other similar market when executing customer orders, the dealer’s policies and procedures should establish what facts and circumstances may allow for the checking of only one such market (e.g., competitiveness of the ATS; the number of dealers, offerings or bids an order is generally exposed to through the ATS or broker’s broker; accessibility of quotations) and what steps would be required to be taken in those situations. 

(November 20, 2015) 

(Updated February 7, 2019)

III.5: Only One Market

Q: How does the best-execution obligation apply when there is only one dealer (i.e., only one market) offering or bidding on the subject security? 

A: There is no set number of dealers making an offer or collecting bids on behalf of a customer order the checking of which categorically qualifies as reasonable diligence for compliance with the best-execution obligation, and, in general, dealers’ procedures should provide for the checking of more than one market or the exposure of customer orders to multiple offers or bids (e.g., use of an ATS or broker’s broker). However, the MSRB recognizes there may be facts and circumstances under which it may be sufficient for a dealer to check only one market, including internal inventory only, and satisfy the best-execution obligation. In order to comply with the best-execution obligation, each dealer’s written policies and procedures should address such facts and circumstances and the steps required to be taken in those scenarios. At a minimum, dealers must also consider the other factors identified in MSRB Rule G-18(a), including, but not limited to, information to determine the current market for the subject security (e.g., recent trade history) and information on similar securities (e.g., offerings of similar securities). If a dealer has policies and procedures in place that are reasonably designed and otherwise comply with applicable rules and follows them, it could execute an order for which there is only one available market, as long as such handling and execution also are consistent with the terms of the customer’s order or inquiry as communicated to the dealer. 

(November 20, 2015)

IV. Reasonable Diligence Factors – Information Reviewed to Determine the Current Market for the Subject Security or Similar Securities 

IV.1: Similar Securities

Q: What constitutes a similar security? 

A: The municipal securities market differs significantly from the market for equity securities and options and also can vary significantly depending on the specific municipal security at issue. For example, some municipal securities may trade frequently, be relatively more liquid and have transparent, accessible and firm quotations available. Other municipal securities do not have public quotations or frequent pricing information available, and may trade infrequently; however, some municipal securities that are less liquid also are fungible, meaning that they trade like other, similar securities, and the pricing in these similar securities can be used as a basis for determining prices in a subject security.   

Given the wide variety of municipal securities, it is impracticable for the MSRB to provide an exhaustive list of characteristics that qualify a bond as a “similar security” for purposes of MSRB Rule G-18. By way of example, however, issuer, source of repayment, credit rating, coupon, maturity, redemption features, sector, geographical region and tax status are some factors a dealer could use to identify municipal bonds as similar. If a dealer uses a similar securities analysis, its written policies and procedures should establish how the dealer identifies similar securities, as well as how and when to consider the market for them for the purposes of complying with the best-execution rule. 

(November 20, 2015) 

IV.2: Trade Review

Q: In the absence of a market and the absence of previous trade history with other dealers in the subject security, how should dealers use reasonable diligence in compliance with their best-execution obligations? 

A: The MSRB encourages dealers to incorporate pre- and/or post-trade review(s) into their written policies and procedures for compliance with MSRB Rule G-18, but Rule G-18 does not mandate any specific trade review process and the MSRB recognizes that multiple approaches to trade reviews could satisfy a dealer’s best-execution obligations. Rule G-18 is designed to provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate the diverse population of dealers, which can adopt policies and procedures to be reasonably related to the nature of their business, including the level of sales and trading activity and the type of customer transactions at issue, and to allow dealers to evidence that they have used reasonable diligence in compliance with the rule in a manner different than that used by other dealers. Accordingly, dealers can use a variety of data, such as comparisons to similar securities, internal models for assessing the quality of execution or potential execution and/or other tools or measurements of quality of execution, as part of their policies and procedures for best execution or the evaluation thereof. To fully inform themselves when determining what procedures to use for customer transactions, dealers should consider what procedures they use or would use for executing the same or similar transactions for their own accounts, although such procedures are not absolutely required to be the same. 

(November 20, 2015) 

IV.3: Evaluated Pricing

Q: Can dealers use evaluated pricing as a component of their procedures to comply with the best-execution obligation? 

A: Yes. MSRB Rule G-18(a) requires dealers to use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best market for the subject security and to buy or sell in that market so that the resultant price to the customer is as favorable as possible under prevailing market conditions. Section (a) includes a non-exhaustive list of factors that a dealer must consider when exercising this diligence, including the information reviewed to determine the current market for the subject security or similar securities. Accordingly, dealers can use a variety of data, which is not required to include, but can include, evaluated pricing as part of their written policies and procedures for best execution or the evaluation of their policies and procedures; however, such use would not categorically make those policies and procedures sufficient for compliance with Rule G-18. 

(November 20, 2015)

V. Maintenance of Adequate Resources 

V.1: Appropriate Level of Resources

Q: How does a firm establish that it has the appropriate level of resources? 

A: Paragraph .02 of the Supplementary Material to MSRB Rule G-18 states that “[a] dealer’s failure to maintain adequate resources (e.g., staff or technology) is not a justification for executing away from the best available market.” Additionally, paragraph .02 states that “[t]he level of resources that a dealer maintains should take into account the nature of the dealer’s municipal securities business, including its level of sales and trading activity.” This provision was designed to provide flexibility to accommodate the diverse population of dealers. Accordingly, an appropriate level of resources will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to, a firm’s amount of business, and dealers need to employ enough resources to assure that they can establish, implement, follow and periodically review and improve written policies and procedures reasonably designed to achieve best execution. 

(November 20, 2015)

VI. Securities with Limited Quotations or Pricing Information 

VI.1: Execution Timing

Q: Are there municipal bonds that require more time for a dealer to use reasonable diligence when effecting a customer transaction, and how does a dealer demonstrate such diligence? 

A: Paragraph .03 of the Supplementary Material to MSRB Rule G-18 requires dealers to make every effort to execute a customer transaction promptly, taking into account prevailing market conditions. Taking a relatively shorter time can suggest a lack of reasonable diligence to ascertain the best market, while taking a relatively longer time can suggest a failure to execute promptly. There is no specific amount of time that is too short or too long to effect a customer transaction; it necessarily will depend on the particular facts and circumstances. Paragraph .03, which is tailored for the municipal securities market and varies from the language of FINRA Rule 5310, therefore, goes on to recognize that, in certain market conditions, dealers may need more time to use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best market for the subject security. This provision clarifies that a dealer should not be considered to have failed to execute promptly in market conditions that are beyond the dealer’s control that cause reasonable diligence to be more time-consuming. This provision, at the same time, is designed to temper the promptness requirement so that it does not undermine the goal of the rule to promote reasonable diligence. By way of example, such market conditions could be illiquidity or infrequent trading of the subject security, low demand for lower-rated bonds, low demand for distressed bonds and low demand for bonds with uncommon structural characteristics.  

The absence or limitation of accessible quotations or pricing information is not uncommon for many municipal securities, but does not relieve a dealer of its best-execution obligations. Indeed, paragraph .06 of the Supplementary Material to Rule G-18 specifically requires dealers to have written policies and procedures in place that address how the dealer will make its best-execution determinations with respect to securities with limited quotations or pricing information and to document its compliance with those policies and procedures. Such policies and procedures could establish what bonds/market conditions are subject to any variance in the dealer’s other order-handling procedures, including establishing what it means to have limited quotations or pricing information, what additional procedures, if any, are required to be followed by dealer personnel, and how such steps are to be documented. For example, these securities may require dealers to take additional steps in order to satisfy the best-execution standard, including, but not limited to, seeking out other sources of pricing information and potential liquidity, including, but not limited to, directly contacting dealers with which they previously have traded the security or that are otherwise known to trade in the security.

The MSRB recognizes that, in some instances, obtaining quotations from multiple markets could adversely affect execution quality due to delays in execution or other factors.[13] Therefore, a dealer generally should analyze other data to which it reasonably has access to determine whether it has ascertained the best market for the subject security, but its policies and procedures should also establish under what facts and circumstances it would be appropriate to obtain quotations or other pricing information from multiple markets. Additionally, if pricing information related to the subject security, such as a dealer’s previous trades in the security, or other pricing information, such as a quotation from another market, is limited or unavailable, a dealer may also consider previous trades in a similar security, if that security and those previous trades constitute a reasonable basis for comparison. As with all policies and procedures related to best execution, paragraph .08 of the Supplementary Material to Rule G-18 requires dealers to periodically review these specific policies and procedures, assess whether they are reasonably designed to achieve best execution, and make promptly any necessary modifications in light of such reviews. 

(November 20, 2015)

VII. Relationship To Fair Pricing 

VII.1: MSRB Rule G-30

Q: How does MSRB Rule G-18, on best execution, relate to MSRB Rule G-30, on prices and commissions? 

A: Rule G-18 is intended to complement, support and foster compliance with the MSRB’s established substantive pricing standards, which are governed by Rule G-30, by improving execution quality for customers and promoting fair competition among dealers resulting in increased market efficiency. However, the rule makes clear that its obligations are distinct from, for example, the fairness and reasonableness of commissions, markups or markdowns.  

Rule G-30 requires dealers to trade with customers at fair and reasonable prices, and to exercise diligence in establishing the market value of municipal securities and the reasonableness of their compensation. Rule G-18, on the other hand, does not contain any substantive pricing standard; it is an order-handling and transaction-execution standard, under which the goal of the dealer’s reasonable diligence is to provide the customer the most favorable price possible under prevailing market conditions. Paragraph .01 of the Supplementary Material makes explicit that Rule G-18 is not an absolute “best-price” standard. The rule requires dealers to exercise reasonable diligence with the goal of obtaining the most favorable price possible under prevailing market conditions, which is accomplished through the use and periodic improvement of policies and procedures; it does not require the dealer to actually obtain the most favorable price possible in each transaction (although it frequently will do so through the use of reasonable diligence), and a failure to obtain the most favorable price possible in a transaction will not necessarily mean that the dealer failed to use reasonable diligence under the circumstances.  

Despite the different purposes of Rules G-18 and G-30, some of the relevant factors in determining the fairness and reasonableness of prices and commissions or service charges, such as the availability of the securities and the nature of the dealer’s business, may also be relevant to the application of the best-execution requirement. Further, although the best-execution rule does not itself contain any substantive standard by which the transaction price itself is to be or could be evaluated, the requirement to use reasonable diligence in the order-handling and transaction-execution process is expected to increase the probability that customers receive fair-and-reasonable prices.  

(November 20, 2015)

VIII. SMMP Eexemption – General 

VIII.1: Qualification

Q:  Does the best-execution obligation apply to all customer transactions? 

A: No. However, the only variance in the requirements of MSRB Rule G-18, according to the characteristics of the customer, is codified in MSRB Rules G-48 and D-15 in the form of the SMMP exemption. Section (e) of Rule G-48, which is the consolidated MSRB rule under which all modified obligations of dealers when dealing with SMMPs are addressed, provides that the best-execution obligation under Rule G-18 does not apply to transactions with customers that are SMMPs as defined in Rule D-15.  

(November 20, 2015) 

VIII.2: Applicability to Non-Recommended Transactions

Q: Will the SMMP exemption from the best-execution rule apply to non-recommended transactions? 

A: Yes. The applicability of the SMMP exemption to MSRB Rule G-18 is triggered by a customer’s status as an SMMP, not whether or not a transaction is recommended by the dealer. However, the applicability of the exemption for any particular SMMP is controlled by the scope of the customer affirmation required by MSRB Rule D-15(c) and provided to the dealer. Specifically, paragraph .02 of the Supplementary Material to Rule D-15 provides that “[t]he customer affirmation may be given either orally or in writing, and may be given on a trade-by-trade basis, a type-of-transaction basis, a type-of-municipal-security basis (e.g., general obligation, revenue, variable rate), or an account-wide basis.” As such, any transaction not covered by a customer’s affirmation would remain subject to the best-execution obligation. 

(November 20, 2015) 

VIII.3: Applicability to Transactions with Other Broker-Dealers

Q: Do dealers need to rely on the SMMP exemption to be relieved of the best-execution obligation for transactions for or with broker-dealer clients? 

A: No. MSRB Rule G-18’s best-execution obligation only applies to transactions for or with a customer or a customer of another dealer, and the MSRB’s definition of “customer” in Rule D-9 does not include broker-dealers acting in their capacity as broker-dealers.[14] Accordingly, there is no need for dealers to rely on the SMMP exemption when executing transactions for or with other broker-dealers, and, therefore, no need for customer affirmations for those broker-dealers to qualify as SMMPs. 

(November 20, 2015) 

VIII.4: Existing Customer Affirmations

Q: Can dealers rely on customer affirmations based on existing MSRB Rule D-15? 

A: No. As of the effective date of MSRB Rule G-18 and the amendments to MSRB Rules G-48 and D-15, a customer will not qualify as an SMMP unless it makes the broader affirmation required by Rule D-15, as amended, which addresses all of the modified dealer obligations provided in Rule G-48, including the exemption from the best-execution obligation. Accordingly, any customer affirmations based on existing Rule D-15 would be ineffective to qualify for the SMMP exemption. 

(November 20, 2015) 

VIII.5: Piecemeal Customer Affirmations and Waiver of Dealer Obligations

Q: Can an SMMP waive time-of-trade disclosures, but still have its trades subject to the best-execution rule? 

A: No. A customer cannot waive, and a dealer is not exempt from the time-of-trade disclosure obligation, unless the customer qualifies as an SMMP.[15] In order to qualify as an SMMP, the customer’s affirmation, according to MSRB Rule D-15, must be unified and speak to all of the modified dealer obligations provided in MSRB Rule G-48, including the modified obligations with respect to both time-of-trade disclosure and best execution. The MSRB has determined that, if a customer is not prepared to forgo all of the legal protections afforded by the dealer obligations that would be modified under Rule G-48 if they were an SMMP, then the customer likely does not have the sophistication necessary to qualify as an SMMP. However, the exemption from the best-execution obligation provided by Rules G-48 and D-15 does not preclude a dealer from following its best-execution policies and procedures when handling SMMP orders. 

(November 20, 2015) 

VIII.6: Customer Affirmation Updates

Q: If a dealer reasonably concludes a customer is an SMMP, is the initial affirmation sufficient for all future trades for that customer, or is there a periodic update requirement for customer affirmations? 

A: Although there is no explicit periodic update requirement for customer affirmations, MSRB Rule G‑48 requires that dealers “reasonably conclude” a customer is an SMMP. After a certain lapse of time, it will become unreasonable for the dealer to continue to rely on the stale affirmation, and the dealer, therefore, could no longer “reasonably conclude,” as required, that the customer is an SMMP. 

(November 20, 2015) 

VIII.7: FINRA Rule 2111

Q: Will an institutional investor’s suitability form/letter in compliance with FINRA Rule 2111 satisfy the affirmation requirement to qualify as an SMMP pursuant to MSRB Rule D-15? 

A: No. FINRA Rule 2111(b) and paragraph .07 of the Supplementary Material thereto provide that one element of the suitability obligation of member firms under that rule is fulfilled if the institution affirmatively indicates that it is exercising independent judgment in evaluating the member's or associated person's recommendations. This is similar to the existing exemption dealers have from the suitability requirement of MSRB Rule G-19 under MSRB Rule G-48(c). But neither FINRA Rule 2111 nor any other FINRA rule provides a similar exemption from best execution or any other obligations for its member firms comparable to those included in Rule G-48. Accordingly, a suitability form/letter limited in its terms to comply with FINRA Rule 2111 would not address the full scope of obligations that dealers would be relieved of fulfilling under the exemptions provided by Rules G-48 and D-15. Therefore, a customer will not qualify as an SMMP unless it makes the affirmation required by Rule D-15, which does address all of the modified dealer obligations provided in Rule G-48.

(November 20, 2015)


[1] The MSRB believes the guidance in this Notice is consistent in all material respects with guidance on best execution obligations on transactions in corporate fixed income securities published by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) on November 20, 2016, except where the rule or context otherwise specifically requires. The two instances where material differences exist with the FINRA guidance are with respect to (1) the review of policies and procedures and execution quality by dealers, and (2) the timeliness of executions consistent with reasonable diligence. See note 12 and accompanying text; VI.1 infra; Section 1 (The Duty of Best Execution) and Section 2 (Regular and Rigorous Review for Best Execution) of FINRA Notice to Members 15-46 (November 2015). The MSRB and FINRA will continue to work together with the goal of ensuring that their guidance on best-execution obligations remains consistent in all material respects, unless differentiation is necessary due to differences in the markets for municipal or corporate fixed income securities or their respective rules.

[2] MSRB Rule D-9 states that, “[e]xcept as otherwise specifically provided by rule of the [MSRB], 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.”

[3] See MSRB Rule D-15.

[4] See MSRB Rule G-18(c).

[5] See paragraph .03 of the Supplementary Material to Rule G-18.

[6] Additionally, paragraph .06 of the Supplementary Material specifically requires dealers to have written policies and procedures in place that address how they will make best-execution determinations with respect to securities with limited quotations or pricing information (and document their compliance with those policies and procedures), but dealers should consider establishing and implementing policies and procedures that address other potential market conditions or variables, such as volatility. See, e.g., I.4 infra.

[7] See note 6 supra. The MSRB also notes that, pursuant to MSRB Rules G-8(a)(xx) and G-27(c), dealers are required to maintain records of written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the conduct of their municipal securities activities and those of their associated persons are in compliance with MSRB rules and the applicable provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and rules thereunder.

[8] See IV.2 infra.

[9] However, the disclosure of alternative order handling procedures that are unfair or otherwise inconsistent with the firm’s best-execution obligations would neither correct the deficiencies with such procedures nor absolve the firm of potential best execution violations.

[10] See III.5 infra.

[11] The scope of a dealer’s policies and procedures on the use of filters, as well as the periodic review and adjustment of their use, should be appropriate to the nature of the dealer’s municipal securities business and, therefore, may be different than the policies and procedures used by other dealers.

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[12] In adopting Rule G-18, and paragraph .08 of the Supplementary Material specifically, the MSRB did not include provisions that are contained in FINRA Rule 5310 pertaining to “regular and rigorous review of execution quality,” to tailor the rule to the characteristics of the municipal securities market. Accordingly, the implementation guidance provided herein on dealers’ review of execution quality differs from guidance on regular and rigorous review that has been published by FINRA.

[13] The MSRB notes that a dealer providing a price in response to a bid request or bid list presented to the dealer or other competitive bidding process would not be subject to a best-execution obligation since the dealer has not accepted a customer order for the purpose of facilitating the handling and execution of such order.  This situation is analogous to paragraph .05 of the Supplementary Material to Rule G-18, which draws a distinction between those situations in which a dealer acts solely as the buyer or seller in connection with an order presented against its quote as opposed to accepting an order for handling and execution.

[14] See note 2 supra.

[15] See 15 U.S.C. 78cc(a) (“Any condition, stipulation, or provision binding any person to waive compliance with any provision of [the Exchange Act] or of any rule or regulation thereunder, or of any rule of a self-regulatory organization, shall be void.”).