WASHINGTON — The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board has revised a draft rule that would require underwriters of 529 college savings plans to file certain plan-related data once or twice a year, instead of quarterly.
Released late last week, the revised draft alters an August notice that would create a new Rule G-45.
The draft has been reworked to require underwriters to file most of the requested information about the plans in Form G-45s twice a year, lessening their administrative burdens. Reports would have to be sent to the MSRB within 60 days each of June 30 and Dec. 31.
The MSRB’s regulatory purview includes oversight of underwriters of 529 college savings plans — mutual fund-like investment programs states have established under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to help families save for future higher education expenses.
The board has asked for comments on the revised draft, setting a Dec. 21 deadline. The rule would have to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and would be effective one year after SEC approval.
The draft would require underwriters to report a variety of information twice yearly, including plan assets, contributions, distributions, fees and expenses. Underwriters also would need to report similar information about the various investment options in which account owners can invest. However, they would be permitted to report performance data annually, following the end of the calendar year.
The board said it made the changes in response to comment letters received on the initial proposal. Some market participants called quarterly reporting unreasonable and unnecessary and argued that semi-annual reporting would be consistent with SEC reporting requirements for mutual funds.
Although the MSRB agreed to convert to semi-annual reporting, the board said it has a long-term goal of moving to quarterly reporting. Another goal is to require reports to be submitted within 30 days after the end of the reporting period, not 60 days.
“The MSRB believes that 30 days are sufficient to gather, format and report the required information,” it said in the notice.
Some market participants also expressed concern about the MSRB making proprietary information available to the public on the EMMA system. They added that the information could possibly mislead or confuse investors.
But the MSRB said in its notice that the information will not be publicly distributed and that the board would conduct separate rulemaking before releasing any to the public.
In addition, the board said it would conform its reporting format to disclosure guidelines issued by the College Savings Plans Network, an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers.
In July 2011 the MSRB announced a plan to create a centralized system for the collection and dissemination of 529 plan market information. That notice said that although the EMMA system collects 529 plan primary offering and disclosure documents, it does not collect specific plan data.
The board said the additional information would help the MSRB better understand the 529 plan market and monitor market size and growth.