AUSTIN — Comments about the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board review of its rules and interpretive-guidance rule changes are due Feb. 19, an important step toward revising the industry rulebook, MSRB chairman Jay Goldstone told The Bond Buyer's Texas Public Finance Conference Tuesday.
Goldstone said he does not know how many comments have been received so far, while adding that all will be considered when the public comment deadline passes. He asked members of the audience to be specific in their comments.
"Believe me, the board reads all comment letters," Goldstone said. "And if we get a letter that just says 'This will cost us a lot,' what does that mean?"
The MSRB is seeking broad industry and public comment on its regulation of the municipal securities market, with plans to revise its rulebook.
"There's no expectation we're going to get through the whole thing in one year," Goldstone said. The 2013 edition of the rulebook was published online Feb. 4.
Goldstone expects proposed changes to rule G-17 requiring fair dealing and barring deceptive, dishonest or unfair practices to attract much of the attention in the comments. While the rule is just a couple of sentences, it requires about 32 pages of interpretive guidance, he said.
The G-17 interpretive guidance issued in August requires underwriters to make new disclosures to issuers. That guidance could be clarified with additional notices, Goldstone said, noting that some underwriters have submitted lengthy and complicated disclosures to issuers.
"On top of the actual review of the rules, we're looking at improving some of the rationalization of our rules," Goldstone said. "We're considering whether to pick apart G-17 and try to decide whether some of those interpretive notices should be stand-alone rules."
Dean Jeske, deputy regional chief counsel for enforcement at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said his agency is in the process of adjusting its routine examination process. Among the changes are conducting exams on a four-year cycle, rather than two years. The examinations are also being refined to fit the firm, rather than using a one-size fits all approach.
"Hopefully this results in much more tailored exams," Jeske said. "The feedback we got in 2012 were mostly positive."
Jeske also cited active cases that included a firm that provided clients $185,000 worth of tickets to sporting events in violation of MSRB Rule G-20 on gifts and gratuities.
"The firm has cited various defenses, such as 'We think G-20 is antiquated and we'd be happy to rewrite it for you,' " Jeske said. "We didn't take them up on that."