ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of Municipal Securities began reporting to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro as of Sept. 24, an attorney in the muni office said Thursday.

The move comes more than two years after the Dodd-Frank law, which was enacted in July 2010, mandated that the muni office report directly to the SEC chairman rather than the head of the commission's trading and markets division within which the office has been located.

Speaking at an annual conference held here by the National Association of Independent Public Finance Advisors, SEC muni office attorney Dave Sanchez said that the old reporting structure "made it more complicated to advance the agenda of the office."

Under the old structure, four SEC officials were between the muni office and the chairman, he said, stressing these were personal views and not necessarily those of the commission.

Sanchez said the muni office's top priority is to finalize its definition of municipal advisor.

"It is the highest priority of the office and my highest priority," he told those attending the meeting.

His remarks echoed that John Cross, the new director of the muni office, made earlier this week at an industry meeting in New York City.

Speaking at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association's Municipal Bond Summit, Cross said the MA definition is a top priority and that the muni office also plans to update its 1994 interpretative release on the disclosure obligations of municipal securities issuers and others.

Dealers and other market participants have been calling for the SEC to act on the MA definition so that the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board can move forward with rules and rule changes and begin regulating MAs. Under Dodd-Frank, MAs must register with the SEC and MSRB and must comply with board rules. They also are subject to a fiduciary duty that requires them to put their issuer clients' interests first, before their own.

Cross took over as chairman of the muni office on Sept. 24.

He replaced Martha Haines, who left the SEC in June 2011 after 12 years in that post.

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