MSRB plans to improve EMMA's searchability

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The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board plans to make it easier to connect investors with state and local governments’ financial information in the coming years.

During the second annual Government Finance Officers Association MiniMuni virtual conference, MSRB CEO Mark Kim laid out a few priorities for the board in the coming years. Kim was named MSRB CEO last month.

MSRB CEO Mark Kim plans to improve the quality of EMMA's data.

One of those goals is to make it easier for investors and analysts to find information on the MSRB’s EMMA site, the searchability of which has drawn criticism especially from the analyst community.

The MSRB wants to improve the quality of the data in EMMA so that it’s more useful to the industry, Kim said. One example is the MSRB’s now monthly disclosure reports. Analysts have cautioned that not all filings to EMMA that include a keyword related to the pandemic are true COVID-19 related disclosures.

“It’s not always easy depending on where initially they might submit that information, is it in event notices or other information?” Kim said.

Ben Watkins, director of Florida’s Division of Bond Finance, criticized the MSRB saying its searchability goal took too long.

“My criticism would be, why did it take so long?” Watkins said. “I understand the challenge and get it now that you’re on it, but don’t rest on your laurels because we’re going to be grading papers later.”

Also on the virtual panel, Nicole Griffith, the Howard County, Maryland Department of Finance’s certified public finance officer said making data more valuable was a solid priority for the MSRB.

“There is a lot of information out there but making it so that it’s easier to understand and comprehend is really going to be helpful to the market,” Griffith said.

Every three years, the board tries to develop a new strategic plan, the last being in 2017 which included evolving its EMMA system and diversifying its funding resources. The delay in developing the strategic plan was caused by stresses from governance changes and the pandemic, said Manju Ganeriwala, state treasurer for the Commonwealth of Virginia and MSRB’s vice-chair.

The MSRB will be discussing that strategic plan at its first fiscal year 2021 quarterly board meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. Other priorities Kim mentioned were modernizing the MSRB’s rulebook.

“We decided it would be better to have a permanent CEO in place so Mark has his work cut out for him,” Ganeriwala said.

The SEC approved changes to the MSRB’s governance in August, which included reducing the board size, but also increased the “cooling off” period for applicants to be considered as public members to five years from two years. Board members also now have a six-year term limit.

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