Coronavirus hampers MSRB CEO search

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The coronavirus pandemic has slowed the search for a new CEO and president at the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

At a virtual quarterly board meeting this week, the board discussed its search for the next CEO, which has been hampered by the virus.

Nanette Lawson, MSRB CFO and interim CEO, said the board's goal is to find a new leader by September.

“With these nationwide travel restrictions, it has slowed the search,” said Nanette Lawson, MSRB CFO and interim CEO.

The board wants to meet the finalists in person. If the virus had not unfolded, April may have been an opportunity for the board to meet the candidates, Lawson added.

“It’s not unreasonable, any leadership you would want to meet those individuals, it’s just a completely different experience from interviewing folks,” Lawson said. “Now we have to do it virtually to having an in-person connection with those candidates.”

Former President and CEO Lynnette Kelly left the MSRB at the conclusion of the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2019. It took the MSRB about ten months to find Kelly as its new leader in late May 2007.

The goal is to still find a new CEO by the end of the MSRB’s fiscal year in September, Lawson said. The MSRB has begun interviewing candidates.

Late last year, the MSRB retained an executive search firm, Spencer Stuart, which then reached out to prominent muni market figures to gauge the MSRB’s current standing. In January the board released information on the qualifications it seeks in a new CEO. Since last year, five senior officials have left the organization.

The board also discussed its response to COVID-19 and voted to seek approval from the SEC to provide an extension for regulatory authorities like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to grant them more time to examine dealers. MSRB rules require that once every four years dealers have to be examined in order to determine whether they are in compliance with all MSRB rules.

Lawson said that filing should be done in the next few weeks.

The board discussed the MSRB’s organizational response to COVID-19 as well and how its cloud migration has aided during the pandemic.

Currently, the MSRB has a COVID-19 information page on its site where they post a daily market trading summary, a weekly COVID-19 related disclosure summary and other industry reports. The MSRB is also planning to release an investor education guide as early as next week.

“This disclosure summary gives us an early indication of the value the cloud will enable us to deliver to the market,” said Ronald Dieckman, chair of the board’s technology committee in a press release. “Our data team leveraged the power of cloud computing to comb through the more than 50,000 disclosure documents submitted to our EMMA system since January to identify and aggregate the 2,200 – and counting – disclosures that reference the impact of COVID-19. The MSRB envisions a future in which this enhanced search capability is available on the EMMA website.”

Over the past year, the MSRB has allocated more money to go towards its enterprise-wide migration to the cloud. The MSRB has said in the long run, transferring data to the cloud will increase functionality and make systems more secure while reducing operating costs.

The MSRB also said they are keeping an eye on the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, announced a few weeks ago. The MLF will purchase up to $500 billion of short-term notes with the Treasury providing $35 billion of credit protection to the Fed using funds appropriated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“That’s something that is extremely important to the industry and lending our expertise to policymakers and requests for data,” Lawson said. “We’re just trying to be completely responsive to that and just doing anything we can to support the market at this time and help facilitate that process.”

The board also remembered former MSRB Chair Gedale “Dale” B. Horowitz during the call. He died on April 2 of a long illness.

“He was a force of nature and a huge presence in the industry as well as the community,” Lawson said.

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