WASHINGTON — The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board filed rule changes with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday to change the procedures for periodic compliance examinations of broker-dealers in the muni market.
Under the board’s current Rule G-16, muni broker-dealers must be examined at least once every two years.
But the board is proposing rule changes that would require high-risk firms to be examined more frequently — as often as every year — while other firms with little muni securities business would be examined less frequently but at least once every four years.
The proposed rule changes would establish a risk-based compliance examination program, which the MSRB said in a release, “will focus more closely on those dealers that, by virtue of various identified factors, pose the greatest risk to investors and other market participants, as well as to the municipal securities market on a systemic basis.”
According to the board, the muni securities industry has consolidated so that a small number of large firms account for the majority of the public finance business.
The top five underwriters accounted for more than 50% of primary offerings, by par amount, in 2010 and 2011, the board said. The top 10 underwriters were responsible for more than 70% of the underwritings during those years, it said.
The top 10 dealers executed about 55% of all of the muni securities transactions that were reported to the MSRB in 2010 and 2011.
In addition, technology changes — including the MSRB’s Real-Time Transaction Reporting System and Electronic Municipal Market Access System — have enabled the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which enforces MSRB rules, to conduct near real-time automated surveillance of certain muni securities activities, the MSRB said.
FINRA plans to rank dealers by certain risk factors, as well as by size and scope of business to determine examination cycle frequencies that will range from every one to four years, rather than the two years prescribed by Rule G-16, the MSRB said.
“It is anticipated that, based on the analysis of the various identified risks and related factors, those firms that represent higher risks, as well as firms that pose a systemic threat based on the scope and scale of their underlying municipal securities activities, would be examined on an annual basis,” the board said.
Other firms would be examined every one to four years.
The MSRB proposed also that FINRA members retain certain records for four years, rather than three years under its Rule G-9 in order to ensure that the records are available for those firms examined every four years.