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Municipal Securities

Municipal securities, or "munis," are bonds issued by states, cities, counties and other governmental entities to raise money to build roads, schools and a host of other projects for the public good. Municipal securities pay a specified amount of interest (usually semiannually) and return the principal to you on a specific maturity date. Most municipal securities are sold in minimum increments of $5,000 and have maturities that range from short term (2 – 5 years) to very long term (30 years).

A firm that engages in municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities must register with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB).  Municipal securities firms are subject to MSRB rules, which cover issues that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Suitability - Firms recommending municipal securities must have reasonable grounds for believing that the securities are suitable for the customer.  This belief should be based on information available from the security’s issuer or any other source, as well as all facts known about the customer. 
  • Disclosures - Firms must disclose all material facts and risks surrounding a municipal securities transaction before or at the time of trade.  Unlike suitability, this obligation exists whether or not the trade is recommended.
  • Pricing - Firms must trade with customers at fair and reasonable prices, considering all relevant factors. Part of this is making sure the price bears a reasonable relationship to the security’s prevailing market price.
  • Supervision - Firms must supervise their municipal securities business, and they must have adequate policies and procedures in place for monitoring the effectiveness of their supervisory systems.

Rules for municipal advisors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fair Dealing - Municipal advisors must deal fairly with all persons and not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice.
  • Standards of Conduct - Under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, municipal advisors are deemed to owe a fiduciary obligation to their municipal entity clients.  MSRB rules define the specific conduct requirements of municipal advisors with respect to their fiduciary obligations.

The MSRB's Electronic Municipal Market Access system (EMMA) can be an excellent tool to help you gather information for suitability, disclosures, and pricing of municipal securities

FINRA is responsible for examining FINRA members that are municipal securities dealers or municipal advisors and for enforcing MSRB rules.  In addition, FINRA administers the professional qualifications program for the MSRB.  This includes the following qualification exams:

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January 10, 2000
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is denied based on: Firm D was subject to a ban that was discernible via a review of publicly available Forms G-37 which disclosed that a PAC controlled by Firm D or a Firm D MFP made political contributions to the Issuer Officials; Firm D had a long history of making contributions to the Issuer Officials; the ban attached to Firm A upon completion of the acquisition of Firm D; neither Firm A nor Firm D attempted to obtain refunds of the contributions; Firm A’s proposed supervisory systems are not adequate to address regulatory concerns presented.
January 4, 2016
Podcast
Second of a four-part series on the Fall 2015 Firm Element Advisory. This series highlights new and updated topics firms should consider for their Firm Element training plans. This episode focuses on Municipal Securities.
December 29, 2015
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: representations that at the time of the contribution the individual was not employed by the firm and was not an MFP; the firm already had a significant business relationship with the state of whom the contribution recipient is an issuer official (as defined); the firm has instituted information barriers on certain municipal business communications; the individual will be prohibited from the solicitation of certain new municipal business for a period of time.
February 11, 2015
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: representations that at the time of the contribution the individual was not employed by the firm and was not an MFP; the firm already had a significant business relationship with the state of whom the contribution recipient is an issuer official 9as defined); the firm has instituted information barriers on certain municipal business communications; the individual will be prohibited from the solicitation of certain new municipal business for a period of time.
June 27, 2011
Podcast
FINRA staff introduces the new Municipal Continuing Disclosure Report available through FINRA's Report Center.
June 13, 2011
Podcast
This podcast, the third in a three-part series on municipal securities, explores considerations for firms when gathering and disclosing information about these products.
November 8, 2010
Podcast
This podcast, the second in a three-part series on municipal securities, describes recent amendments to the Securities Exchange Act's Municipal Disclosure Rule.
October 18, 2010
Podcast
This podcast, the first in a three-part series on municipal securities, focuses on related sales practice and due diligence obligations.
September 27, 2010
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representation that at the time of the contribution the individual was not an MFP (as defined); the firm already has a significant business relationship with the government entity of which the contribution recipient was considered to be an issuer official; the firm has instituted information barriers on certain municipal business communications; the individual will be prohibited from the solicitation of certain new municipal business for a period of time.
September 7, 2010
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representation that at the time of the contribution the individual had no connection to the firm’s municipal securities business, and it was not contemplated that, at the time of the contribution, he would be promoted and, thus, become a municipal finance professional (as defined); the firm has significant and long standing business relationships with the government entity of which the contribution recipient was an issuer official; the firm has established additional compliance processes about political contributions; the individual will not be involved in any way in municipal securities business with the state or any other governmental issuer business for which the contribution recipient is an issuer official.
June 10, 2010
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representation that at the time of the contribution the individual was not an MFP (as defined); the firm already has a significant business relationship with the governmental entities of which the contribution recipients were considered to be issuer officials; the firm has instituted information barriers on certain municipal business communications; the individual involved will be prohibited from the solicitation of certain new municipal business for a period of time.
June 10, 2009
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representation that the acquiring firm did not engage in the soliciation of business and the individual was not, at the time, considered to be an MFP as defined; the acquiring firm did not have knowledge of the contribution and the contribution has been returned; the municipal securities business relationships of the acquired firm were long standing and existed prior to the contribution; the firm has instituted extensive information barriers on certain municipal business communications; the individual involved will be prohibited from the solicitation of new municipal securtiies business for a period of time.
April 3, 2009
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representations that the contributions were made prior to employment; the individual did not engage in the solicitation of, or have involvement in, municipal securities business (as defined) for the prior six years; the firm had no knowledge of the contributions at the time they were made; the firm has established detailed and comprehensive compliance procedures and has developed information barriers surrounding the solicitation of certain municipal securities business.
June 29, 2007
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representation that the individual did not engage in the solicitation of municipal securities business; for the six years prior to being hired by the Firm; the Contributions were made prior to the individual being employed by the Firm; imposition by the Firm of extensive Firm-wide information barriers on certain municipal securities business communications; prohibition of, for a specified period of time, the individual's solicitation of new municipal securities business; and the commitment to a quarterly certification of compliance.
October 16, 2006
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on: the representation that the individual did not solicit municipal securities business; the contribution being made prior to his employment at the Firm; the Firm's imposition of Firm-wide information barriers on certain municipal securities business communications: for a specified period, prohibition of the solicitation of new municipal securities business by the individual; and the commitment to a quarterly certification of compliance.
August 30, 2006
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is denied based on: the Firm’s repeated failure to detect Officer A’s contributions in excess of $250; the Firm had actual knowledge of all three of Officer A’s contributions and that the Firm violated the municipal securities ban on two separate ocassions; and the firm failed to discover its own rule violations prior to NASD’s intervention.
May 17, 2006
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the Firm's representation that the individual did not engage in the solicitation of municipal securities business, as defined by MSRB Rule G-37, the imposition by the Firm of extensive Firm-wide information barriers on certain municipal securities business communications, prohibition of, for a specified period of time, the individual's solicitation of new municipal securities business, a Firm commitment to conduct training or re-training for all Firm MFPs and new hire MFPs, including an on-going annual educational effort, a review of existing Firm procedures and the development of necessary enhancements.
February 23, 2006
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the Firm's representation that the Contributions were made prior to the individual being employed by the Firm, and that the individual has never engaged in municipal securities business, as defined by MSRB Rule G-37, the return of the Contributions, and the extensive information barriers and compensation restrictions.
October 11, 2005
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the representations that the Contributions were made prior to the individual's employment with the Firm, and the individual has never been involved in municipal securities business as defined by MSRB Rule G-37. Additionally, the Firm has agreed to institute information barriers and compensation restrictions, and the contributions have been returned.
October 11, 2005
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the Firm's representation that the Contributions were made prior to the individual's employment with the Firm, and that the individual was never engaged in municipal securities business, as defined by MSRB Rule G-37 ("Rule"), and the individual has never solicited municipal securities business from the City or City agencies of whom the Contribution recipients are issuer officials. The Firm agreed to institute certain information barriers, the individual will, for a period of time, be prohibited from soliciting municipal securities business as defined by the Rule, and the individual may not receive any compensation derived directly or indirectly from municipal securities business from City or certain City agencies for a period of time.
September 22, 2005
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the Firm's representation that the contributor has never solicited municipal securities business, as defined by MSRB Rule G-37, from the State or entities or agencies connected with the State of whom the contribution recipient is considered to be an issuer official, the Contribution was returned, and representations that the Firm has imposed certain limitations on the individual's municipal business solicitation, and receipt of compensation from the Firm's municipal securities business with the State or State agencies.
September 20, 2005
Exemptive Letter
An exemption is granted based on the following: First, the Firm took prompt remedial action by placing Name in an "inactive status" and directing him to not engage in any work for the Firm. Second, you have represented that Name, prior to being hired by the Firm, was not engaged in the solicitation of municipal securities business, as defined in the Rule, and during his Firm employment as an MFP Name did not engage in municipal securities representative activities and did not solicit municipal business. Third, you have represented that the Firm has a long relationship as an underwriter of municipal securities for County #1 and County #2, and the State and neither the hiring of Name nor his Contributions were necessary to obtain municipal securities business from such issuers. Fourth, the Firm has agreed to undertake an education initiative, as described below, for all employees of the Firm's Municipal Securities Group.
May 25, 2005
Exemptive Letter
An exemption is granted based on the following considerations. First, you have represented that Name, prior to being hired by the Firm, was not engaged in the solicitation of municipal securities business, as defined in the Rule. Second, you have represented that the Firm has a long relationship as an underwriter of municipal securities for the State and State agencies, and neither the hiring of Name nor his Contribution was necessary to obtain municipal securities business from such issuers. Third, the Firm has agreed to institute preventive information barriers to help avoid the potential for conflicting interests to exist and be used, or appear to be used, by the Firm or Name to obtain municipal securities business or compensation or other financial benefits related to such business.
October 27, 2004
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the Firms’ representation that the Contribution was made by an employee who does not and has never engaged in the solicitation of municipal securities business, the imposition of certain “information restrictions” and other Firm-wide compliance measures, a Firm- imposed “censure” and compensation restrictions, and the return of the Contribution.
August 23, 2004
Exemptive Letter
This request for exemptive relief is granted based on the contributions made being small in amount, in support of personal relationships, the Firm’s representation that the contributor will be restricted in his municipal securities activities and municipal securities compensation, the individual will be subject to a period of heightened supervision, and the return or reasonable attempt at the return of the contributions.
November 11, 2003
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following: (1) Name was not an MFP at the time the Contribution was made and was not engaged in, and did not supervise, municipal securities business; (2) the Firm took action once it became aware of the Contribution by retaining outside counsel to review the proposed reorganization and the possibility of municipal securities business restrictions as a result of the Contribution; (3) the Firm notified Name that when the municipal activities of certain retail sales brokers and MFP’s become part of the Business Unit on Month Day, 2003, the Firm will consider her to be an MFP and her municipal securities business activities will be restricted as a result of her Contribution and of her responsibilities3; (4) the Firm has agreed to restrict Name’s municipal securities activities, minimizing the potential for a quid pro quo resulting from the Contribution; and (5) although a less weighty factor, the Contribution has been returned.
January 7, 2003
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: (1) Name was not an MFP at the time the Contribution was made and was not involved in the solicitation of new municipal securities business; (2) the Firm took action once it became aware of the Contribution by instituting a self-ban on new City municipal securities business; (3) the Firm notified Name of her designation as an MFP and the accompanying restrictions; (4) the Firm has agreed to establish information barriers to help ensure the segregation of information flow, minimizing the potential for quid pro quo resulting from the Contribution; (5) the Firm represents that it has corrected the technical political contributions database problems and has established new procedures for direct notification to legal and compliance personnel of additions to the Parent Management Committee; and (6) although the Contribution has not been returned, the Firm represents that reasonable efforts have been made to obtain the return of the Contribution.
November 15, 2002
Exemptive Letter
An exemption is granted based on the following: (1) Name was not an MFP at the time the Contribution was made and was not involved in the solicitation of new municipal securities business; (2) the Firm took action once it became aware of the Contribution by voluntarily refraining from new State or its issuing authorities municipal securities business pending the outcome of the exemption request; (3) the Firm notified Name of his designation as an MFP and the accompanying restrictions; (4) the Firm has agreed to restrict Name's municipal securities activities, minimizing the potential for quid pro quo resulting from the Contribution; and (5) although a less weighty factor, the Contribution has been returned.
September 30, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relieve is granted based on the following considerations: (1) Firm A took prompt action once it became aware of the Contribution by instituting a self-ban on any Issuer new business solicitation; (2) Firm A sent an electronic reminder to all Firm A and Firm A affiliate employees about Firm A's requirements for pre-clearance of all political contributions; (3) at the time of the Contribution, Name had no personal involvement in soliciting new, or participating in existing, municipal securities business; (4) Firm A has now offered to put in place processes to help ensure the segregation of Issuer information flow, minimizing the potential for quid pro quo resulting from the contribution; and (5) although a less weighty factor, the contribution was returned.
August 15, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following factors: (1) the Contribution was made by Company prior to signing an acquisition agreement with the Firm Parent;6 (2) at the time of the contribution Company had no involvement in soliciting new, or participating in existing, municipal securities business; (3) Company has been acquired by the Firm Parent and merged into Firm Y, an existing subsidiary of the Firm Parent that reports to and is controlled by the equities business unit of the Firm; (4) Firm Y securities information flow is controlled by NYSE approved information barriers designed to prevent the use of confidential information and conflicts of interest, minimizing the potential for quid pro quo resulting from the Contribution; (5) the Firm has put in place additional processes to ensure the segregation of the acquired Company business operations and its principals from State Business; and (6) although a less weighty factor, the Contribution was returned.
June 27, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: (1) the contributions were made prior to Individual's employment by the Firm; and (2) at the time of the contributions, Individual had no personal involvement in soliciting new, or participating in existing municipal securities business.
June 11, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following factors: (1.) prior to Name's contribution, Firm X maintained a thorough and comprehensive set of procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance with the Rule; (2.) the Firm had no knowledge of Name's contribution; (3.) once Firm X learned of Name's contribution, it took all available steps to return of the contribution; (4.) Firm X took appropriate remedial or preventive measures.
May 15, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: (1) the Contribution was made nine months after Name last held a position which would have resulted in his designation as an MFP; (2) since becoming a Title of Company C, Name continues to be designated an MFP only because of the Rule’s two-year “look back” provision; (3) at the time Name was a member of the Firm X Board, Name had no personal day-to-day involvement in Firm X's municipal securities activities, and, since resigning from the Firm X Board, Name has had no involvement in the Firm’s municipal securities business; and (4) , the Contribution was returned and was small.
May 1, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is denied based on the following considerations: (1) this marks the second time in three years that Name made a political contribution without following the Firm’s established pre-clearance processes resulting in a prohibition of municipal securities business under the Rule;5 and (2) Name has an extremely high profile within the Firm and the state’s political and business community. -
January 29, 2002
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: 1) the contribution was inadvertent, de minimis, and was returned; and (2) the contribution was made to a candidate for public office who never had the opportunity to influence the award of municipal securities business (Candidate was not an elected official, was never elected to the office for which he was a candidate, and he died during the election campaign).
November 14, 2001
Exemptive Letter
An exemption is granted based on the following: (1) the contribution was made more than one year after Name transferred from the Firm Municipal Finance Department to another department; (2) from his/her transfer on May 1, 2000, to the present, Name continues to be designated an MFP only because of the two year "lookback" provision; (3) Name had no personal involvement in Firm's municipal securities activities with City, including the pre-existing and established selection of Firm as one of several underwriters; and (4) the contribution, which was returned, was made to the campaign of a candidate for public office who is not now an issuer official, and who had no apparent opportunity to influence the award of municipal securities business.
August 8, 2001
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: the Contribution was made by an individual who, at of the time of the Contribution, had never been an MFP nor was Name involved in the Firm’s municipal securities business. We believe the possibility that the payment was intended to influence issuer officials is significantly minimized. To the extent that any potential investor protection concerns exist, the staff believes these concerns will be appropriately addressed by the Firm’s existing firewall procedures for Name.
July 17, 2001
Exemptive Letter
An exemption is granted based on consideration of the MSRB’s published interpretation of Rule G-37 regarding mergers of corporations in the municipal securities industry3 and on your representation that Individual will not be engaged in helping Firm A obtain municipal securities business or engaged in municipal securities representative activities before September 24, 2001, when the two-year ban under Rule G-37 would otherwise expire.
December 18, 2000
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: (1.) the de minimis nature of the Contribution mitigates the probability that the payment will improperly influence issuer officials; (2.) the Contribution was made by an individual who has never been employed in the municipal securities business.
October 10, 2000
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the following considerations: (1.) the de minimis nature of the Proposed Hire’s Contribution made more than one year ago; (2.) the Contribution was made by an individual who has never been employed in the municipal securities business.
June 30, 2000
Exemptive Letter
The request for exemptive relief is denied. You represent that Firm had established comprehensive and detailed procedures which included the requirement to pre-clear political contributions. Indeed, the firm’s procedures were attached to your exemption request as "Attachment No. 2," and they require that "all public finance employees" of the firm obtain prior approval of political contributions. The CEO did not follow the firm’s established procedures. This lapse by a senior official is significant and leads us to conclude that the request for an exemption should be denied.
January 12, 2000
Exemptive Letter
It appears that the violation of the Rule, as described in your letter, relates directly to the failure of the firm to develop and institute procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance of the Rule i.e., for the review and approval of political contributions by a municipal finance professional prior to making the contribution. Accordingly, the firm's request for an exemption is denied.
December 2, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is granted based on the determination that the dealer: (1) had developed and instituted procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance with the rule; (2) had no actual knowledge of the contribution prior to or at the time of the contribution; (3) had taken all available steps to cause the person involved in making the contribution to obtain a return of the contribution; and (4) had taken such other remedial or preventative measures as were appropriate under the circumstances.
July 31, 1997
Exemptive Letter
A conditional exemption is granted. The Committee determined that B's second contribution was a violation of MSRB G-37 (the Rule) because, when consolidated with the first contribution, the total was $480. This significantly exceeded the $250 de minimis contribution exemption in the Rule. However, the Committee found that the second contribution at issue resulted from human error rather than from insufficient compliance procedures, failure by the firm to educate key personnel, or ignorance by firm personnel of the Rule.
May 20, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Firm X's request for exemption is denied. The Rule imposes a requirement on all firms subject to its provisions to know them and to have in place supervisory procedures to reasonably insure compliance with the Rule. The language of the rule is clear with respect to the limitations imposed on member firms, as distinct from municipal financial professionals. In the instant matter, we cannot conclude that ignorance of the Rule's provisions constitutes reasonable justification or excuse for granting the requested exemption.
March 9, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is denied based on the firm's failure to implement compliance procedures sufficient to educate its municipal finance professionals regarding the particular provisions of the Rule, or otherwise prevent the occurrence of the contributions.
February 28, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is based on the firm's failed to implement compliance procedures sufficient to educate its municipal finance professionals regarding the particular provisions of the Rule, or otherwise prevent the occurrence of the contributions.
February 28, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is denied due to a failure of the firm to develop and institute procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance with Rule G-37.
February 28, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is not granted based on the firm's failure to implement compliance procedures sufficient to educate its municipal finance professionals regarding the particular provisions of the Rule, or otherwise prevent the occurrence of the contributions.
February 28, 1997
Exemptive Letter
It appears that the violation of the rule described in your letter related directly to the failure of Firm X to adopt procedures to review for political contributions prior to offering employment. Therefore, we cannot conclude that Firm X has demonstrated reasonable justification or excuse for granting the requested exemption. Accordingly, Firm X's request for an exemption is denied.
January 27, 1997
Exemptive Letter
Exemptive relief is denied. Although C's employment with Firm X was the result of an "internal reorganization", it did result in C being a new employee with Firm X. Had Firm X's procedures as to new hires been followed, the disclosure of the contribution would have been known before C's transfer from an affiliated entity had been effected, rather than after.
January 7, 1997
Exemptive Letter
The request for exemption stems from the fact that several political contributions were made from Firm X's checking account which Person A contends should have been issued from Person A's checking account. Under the MSRB rules, the NASD may grant exemptions only when the situation involves a disgruntled employee contribution or a number of small contributions totaling slightly more than the $250 de minimis amount. Accordingly, Firm X's request for an exemption is denied.
May 13, 1996
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