WASHINGTON — The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board has drafted a new rule, G-45, that would require underwriters or other primary distributors of Section 529 college savings plans to electronically submit detailed information about these plans to the board’s EMMA system on a quarterly basis.
The board has asked market participants to submit comments on the draft rule by Sept. 14.
“The MSRB only proposes to collect and use the data for regulatory purposes and not display it on EMMA at this time,” the board said in the draft, adding, however, that it “does anticipate that some information collected would be of benefit to investors and, therefore, would be displayed on EMMA in the future.”
The board stressed it would not disseminate any data without issuing a new proposal for public comment and obtaining approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The new draft G-45 is a step toward, but would not go as far as, the draft proposal the MSRB released roughly a year ago to create a centralized system for the collection and dissemination of information for 529 college savings plans. In 10 comment letters submitted on that draft, some firms and groups suggested certain data regarding these plans is proprietary and opposed disseminating it over EMMA.
These college savings plans, which are established by states under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, are modeled on mutual funds and allow parents to save for the college expenses of their beneficiaries. The investment earnings are tax free as long as they are used to pay for certain higher education expenses. The SEC decided years ago that shares in these plans are municipal securities.
EMMA currently collects and displays disclosure documents containing basic plan information and annual financial statements.
Under its draft rule, the board also would collect: total plan assets, contributions and distributions; the percentage of contributions derived from automatic contributions; types of strategies and total assets in each strategy; types of portfolios and total assets in each portfolio; fees and expenses for the plan and each underlying strategy; and performance data.
“Gathering additional market information will help the MSRB evaluate whether further safeguards are necessary for the families who use 529 plans to save for college expenses,” said MSRB executive director Lynnette Kelly.
But the board said it would not collect certain information, such as the total number of active accounts and total rollover distributions, after reviewing comments from the July 2011 proposal and meeting with market participants.
Some market participants had complained that much of the information the MSRB wants to collect is already publicly available from other sources, such as the College Savings Plans Network, an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers. But the MSRB said that information, while helpful, is voluntarily submitted to CSPN and is sometimes sporadic and incomplete, as well as inconsistent because it is not based on uniform standards.
The MSRB would establish definitions pertaining to the data to promote consistency, the board said.
Others questioned the need for quarterly data submissions, but the MSRB said the information would be more beneficial if quarterly and appears to be readily available.