Municipal markets play a crucial role in financing local governments and infrastructure projects across the United States. These markets have a rich history, and their regulation has evolved over the years to ensure transparency and fairness. Today, the regulatory framework for municipal markets is more comprehensive and transparent than ever before. The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) and FINRA regularly update their rules to adapt to changes in the market, and to improve market efficiencies and investor protection through transparency and disclosure requirements.
As firms anxiously begin to prepare to accommodate regulators’ 2024 exam priorities, let’s take a moment to review rule amendments, Request for Comments (RFCs) and compliance resources issued in 2023 affecting the municipal markets.
2023 MSRB Regulatory Approvals
- On September 12, 2023, the SEC approved amendments to MSRB Rule G-3 and G-8 creating an exemption for Municipal Advisor Representatives from requalification by exam.
- On March 29, 2023, SEC approved the creation of a “new” rule, MSRB Rule G-46, on duties of solicitor municipal advisors, designed to establish core standards of conduct when engaging in activities that would require them to register with the SEC and MSRB as Municipal Advisors.
Ongoing Regulatory Efforts
MSRB Rule G-12
As part of its ongoing retrospective review of its rules, published interpretations and rulebook modernization efforts, the MSRB seeks comment on draft amendments to MSRB Rule G-12, on uniform practice to codify, retire and reorganize certain interpretive guidance. Any interpretive guidance that is retired under this initiative would be archived on the MSRB website to streamline the rule book.
The draft amendments to Rule G-12 would:
- codify certain existing interpretive guidance pertaining to confirmation disclosure requirements for inter-dealer municipal securities transactions that are ineligible for automated comparison into existing Rule G-12(c);
- make certain clarifying amendments to the rule text to reorganize the rule; and
- and retire certain guidance that would be codified or is already codified in current MSRB rules, or that would be consolidated into frequently asked questions (FAQs) pertaining to Rule G-12(c), Rule G-15, on customer confirmations, and other MSRB rules.
In June 2023, the MSRB published several articles providing guidance on Rule G-40 which covers “advertising” by Municipal Advisors:
- FAQs on Use of Municipal Advisory Client Lists and Case Studies
- Application of the Content Standards to Advertisements by Municipal Advisors under MSRB Rule G-40
- Assessing Supervision of Municipal Advisor Advertising Regulations
What Your Firm Should Be Doing
Staying abreast of the regulatory landscape in municipal markets and for municipal advisors involves proactive measures and ongoing efforts to ensure compliance and adaptability. Here are key actions firms can take:
Continuous Regulatory Monitoring
Subscription to Regulatory Updates: Subscribe to regulatory newsletters, publications, and alerts issued by relevant authorities like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB).
Engagement with Regulatory Agencies: Participate in industry conferences, webinars, or forums conducted by regulatory bodies to stay updated on regulatory changes and interpretations.
Compliance Reviews and Assessments
Regular Compliance Audits: Conduct periodic internal audits or assessments to review compliance with existing regulations and identify gaps or areas needing improvement.
Adaptation of Compliance Programs: Update compliance programs based on new regulatory guidelines, ensuring alignment with the evolving landscape.
Review of Compliance Technology
Utilize Compliance Software: Implement or upgrade compliance management systems to track regulatory changes and manage compliance efforts efficiently.
Technology Integration: Leverage technology to automate compliance monitoring and reporting processes.
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