View from the Board

A regular feature on members of the MSRB Board of Directors; excerpts from the MSRB Update. Subscribe to the MSRB Update

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Christopher Ryon

For municipal securities investor and MSRB Board Member Christopher Ryon, the most important role of the MSRB is to create a fair and efficient market that allows investors to confidently put their capital to work. Millions of investors rely on the municipal market, and Ryon says the ability of the MSRB to provide access to market information is essential to maintaining a healthy climate for investors.

“If people have confidence in the market, they’ll access it through individual securities, mutual funds or separately managed accounts,” he says. “And if they know they are getting the right price, odds are they will commit more capital. The transparency and disclosure the MSRB makes possible help increase that confidence.”

That confidence is important in a market that attracts the largest percentage of individual investors and more bond issuers than any other capital market. Ryon, who is managing director at Thornburg Investment Group, says the MSRB’s EMMA website and trade data feeds that the MSRB makes available to market participants help investors create a full picture for pricing municipal securities. “Our in-house database incorporates MSRB trade price data with other indicative data, so we can see where a specific municipal bond should trade,” he says. This ability to more accurately price a bond supports a more efficient market. “Because of MSRB data, investors have a better price discovery tool to strengthen their bids, which is good for the market as a whole.”

As a professional investor who has been analyzing municipal bonds for more than 30 years, Ryon remembers the time when disclosure meant getting a phone call with someone giving a description of a bond, or when he would find out that a bond he purchased was different than what he thought he bought. Ryon says the availability of official statements and secondary market disclosures on EMMA has provided more certainty for municipal market investors. “A market is based on uncertainty,” he says, “But the surprises that you used to have because you didn’t have clarity into what you were buying has been significantly reduced.”

Lucy Hooper, Chair

Like many MSRB Board members, Lucy Hooper was first exposed to the work of the MSRB as a member of one of its advisory committees. Her eight-year tenure on the MSRB Professional Qualifications Committee, which develops and maintains competency exams for municipal securities professionals, piqued Hooper’s interest in how a self-regulatory organization developed standards for its industry members. 

“I was intrigued by the idea of a group of highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals creating the industry’s rules of the road to protect investors and the integrity of the market,” she says. “What I’ve learned is that self-regulation has a good deal of ‘self,’ but also plenty of checks and balances that ensure those rules have their intended effect. The MSRB provides the expertise and resources, but the Securities and Exchange Commission and even Congress have an important oversight role.” 

Hooper joined the Board in 2015 and this year was elected Chair. Her more than 35 years of experience in the municipal securities business—the majority at Davenport & Company, a regional broker-dealer in Richmond, VA—inform her contributions as a board member. “From trading and sales order flow, to bond underwriting and retail sales, my experience helps ensure that the MSRB’s activities – whether they be regulatory or educational—consider all the features and intricacies of our business,” she says.

As Chair, Hooper wants to ensure that the public at large never loses sight of the importance of the municipal securities market. “A thriving municipal market helps build and maintain this country’s infrastructure and supports the retirement savings of millions of Americans,” she says. “The role of the MSRB, with its ability to reflect and address the market’s complexities, is fundamental to the market’s longevity.”

Arthur Miller, Vice Chair

With nearly 40 years of experience in virtually every aspect of public finance, Arthur Miller is one of the Board’s most seasoned members. As Managing Director of the Public Sector and Infrastructure Group at Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he has worked since 1985, Miller serves on the Board as a securities firm representative. While his contributions to policy development reflect his own professional experience, Miller says his views are informed and balanced by the diverse representation on the Board, and through engagement with market stakeholders and participants.

“Although I work at a large, institutionally oriented investment bank, I fully recognize that the perspective of the municipal securities market that I bring to the Board is just one among many,” he says. “Smaller firms, regional firms and minority firms play a vital role in the municipal market, as do the range of municipal issuers. Their involvement, input and participation in MSRB initiatives on an ongoing basis are an absolute necessity.”

As a fourth-year Board member, Miller has played a significant role in the development of the MSRB’s municipal advisory regulatory framework, and in overseeing the continued enhancement of the MSRB’s EMMA website. “EMMA has become THE portal for information about municipal bonds and the disclosures of municipal issuers — it’s Facebook of the muni market,” he says. Over the past year, the MSRB has rigorously examined EMMA’s functionality and ease-of-use, and improvements will be released this spring. “As part of its core mission in helping to further develop a fair and efficient market, the MSRB can and must continue to invest in and develop transparency tools that benefit all market stakeholders.”

Miller says that the MSRB’s market leadership and investor protection activities, including those that contribute to the availability of pricing information for smaller investors who may not have access to tools used by professional investors, are particularly important. The recent addition of third-party yield curves to EMMA gives retail investors free access to helpful benchmarks. 

Miller also supports the MSRB’s plan to request information from the public and market stakeholders about the accessibility and utility of indices, yield curves and other market benchmarks. “From a market transparency perspective, we think this is an area that would benefit further exploration of market views,” Miller says. “The MSRB has no jurisdiction over benchmark providers, but it can seek industry feedback on the use of benchmarks and other market-based data that would benefit investors, other market participants and the public interest more generally.”

Renee Boicourt

As one of three non-dealer municipal advisor representatives to the Board, Renee Boicourt knows that success in the municipal market is all about collaboration. Through her 30 years of work in the industry advising municipal bond issuers, Boicourt has observed that the public finance sector is at its peak when all parties have a place at the table. Now Managing Director at Lamont Financial Services Corporation, Boicourt sees the same dynamic at work on the MSRB Board of Directors.

She says that just as all parties need to work together for a successful transaction, successful oversight of the municipal securities market requires the collective input of the different participants. “The Board does well by having diversity of disciplines. You’ve got expertise from a lot of different angles,” she says. “The regulated members of the Board take the time to understand and think through the potential second-order effects of proposed regulations on market dynamics and the public members bring other points of view. The right people are at the table.”

As one of many Board members who has dedicated their professional life to public finance, Boicourt appreciates the common purpose that draws many to the municipal securities market. “I think the public finance industry has this self-selection process of who goes into the profession,” she says. “It draws in people who care about public policy. You’re helping, advising and lending into policy settings, essentially helping clients solve policy problems. It’s very rewarding.”  

Boicourt is among those municipal financial professionals who until 2010, were not federally regulated. The MSRB has since established rules of professional conduct and qualification requirements for municipal advisors. She says that while regulation sometimes is viewed as a burden, it is essential for protecting the market.

“Sometimes you hear that nobody wants to be regulated, but I don’t think that is true. What we want is to be self-regulated so that the bad actors don’t destroy the business and hurt the clients and the market,” she says. “In that sense, we do want to be regulated, and we want to be regulated by a technically well-informed body like the MSRB.”

Richard Froelich

Oversight of the municipal securities market is achieved primarily through regulation of the financial professionals that support the transactions. And yet, says MSRB Board member Richard Froehlich, it is the municipal issuer that is at the heart of the public finance business. “Municipal bonds, on some level, are all about the issuer—whether it is a general obligation bond and its ability to tax or a revenue bond where it is making decisions about different projects—the issuer is undertaking the endeavor and is the face of the industry and the face of the product itself.”

Froehlich, who is Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel for the New York City Housing Development Corporation, which has approximately $11 billion in bonds outstanding and typically issues between $1-2 billion annually, says the issuer’s central role in every transaction means its perspective is essential to the process of regulation. “It’s the issuers that bring together and hire the regulated entities, and therefore provide critical insight into helping ensure the transactions are fair and efficient.” The MSRB’s self-regulatory model ensures the views of issuers are part of the rulemaking process. City and state issuers are represented on the Board, in addition to regulated entities, investors and other public members.

Froehlich says a key aspect of the MSRB’s market oversight is its responsibility to protect municipal entities. In addition to establishing regulations for municipal advisors, the MSRB protects municipal entities by engaging and educating issuers to understand more about the underlying business and its regulation. He says the MSRB’s outreach, the development of tools for issuers on the EMMA website and the MSRB’s online learning platform, MuniEdPro®, have established it as an important resource for all market participants. “This will be a continuing legacy for the organization,” he says.


Watch a video to hear more from Froehlich and other bond issuers on how they use the EMMA website.