What Is the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB)?
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) is responsible for regulating municipal securities issued in the United States. The MSRB establishes standards and best practices for issuers and dealers of munis and also mandates transparency of information and disclosure for each issue. It is a self-regulatory organization that oversees the activities of its own members, subject to SEC oversight.
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board is the authoritative entity overseeing the issuance and trading of municipal bonds, notes, and other forms of municipal securities by investment firms, banks, and government entities. These securities are issued by various levels of government, including states, cities, and counties, to fund a wide range of initiatives. The MSRB assumes responsibility for regulating activities related to underwriting, trading, and sales of municipal securities, specifically those associated with public project financing.
Exploring the Role of the MSRB
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), akin to entities such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD/FINRA), operates as a self-regulating organization (SRO). It is overseen by a Board of Directors with four specialized committees responsible for various facets of the organization's management and functioning. These rules and standards are established by the MSRB and overseen by the SEC.
In 1975, the United States Congress established the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, entrusting it with the mission of formulating regulations and policies to prevent fraudulent and deceptive practices within the securities industry. Additionally, the MSRB was charged with the implementation and promotion of equitable trading principles. It was further mandated to create and maintain a system fostering open and unencumbered trading in the securities market. Among its initial achievements, the MSRB introduced a uniform set of standards governing ethical conduct for municipal securities dealers. Notably, it was pivotal in facilitating the industry's shift from traditional paper bonds to electronic formats during the 1980s.
Municipal Securities Types Regulated by the MSRB
Municipal securities come in various forms, each distinguished by the source of their interest payments and principal repayments. These diverse structures offer distinct advantages, risks, and tax considerations.
- General Obligation (GO) Bonds: These bonds hinge on the issuer's creditworthiness, which possesses the authority to levy taxes. Their issuance necessitates voter approval, making them a relatively secure investment option with typically lower yields.
- Revenue Bonds: Secured by specific revenue streams, such as tolls or user fees, revenue bonds entail higher risk than general obligation bonds. Consequently, they often yield more attractive returns for similar maturity periods.
- Short-Term Municipal Bonds: Including Tax Anticipation Notes (TANs), Revenue Anticipation Notes (RANs), and Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs), these bonds cater to shorter investment horizons.
- Exotic or Unique Bonds: These instruments represent variations of the aforementioned categories and include Certificates of Participation and Private Activity Bonds. They are typically part of state or local government bond offerings, offering unique features and considerations.
MSRB's Role in Disclosure and Regulation
During the 1980s, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board played a pivotal role in collaboration with the SEC to establish SEC Rule 15c2-12, focusing on ongoing disclosure. This rule mandates that municipal securities issuers commit to regularly providing specific information to the MSRB regarding the investment securities they manage. This information encompasses annual financial reports and notifications regarding events such as delinquencies, defaults, unscheduled debt service reserve draws, and any actions that could impact the tax-exempt status of the security.
The impetus behind these disclosure rules and related principles stems from a significant event in 1983 when the Washington Public Power Supply System defaulted on over $2 billion in municipal bonds, marking one of the most substantial and costly municipal bond failures in U.S. history.
In more recent times, the MSRB has led the way in ushering in an era of open electronic records within the securities industry. In the late 2000s, the MSRB introduced the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, offering free public access to municipal bond trading information and critical disclosure documents.
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board is a pivotal regulator of the U.S. municipal securities market, promoting transparency and ethical practices. It collaborates with the SEC to enforce Rule 15c2-12, emphasizing ongoing issuer disclosure. The MSRB's proactive measures, including the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, have played a crucial role in advancing electronic record-keeping and data accessibility, enhancing transparency in the industry.