Rule G-11 Primary Offering Practices

Request for Comment

The MSRB is seeking input on a concept proposal to Rule G-11. View the request for comment.

SYNDICATE EXPENSES: PER BOND FEE FOR BOOKRUNNING EXPENSES - June 14, 1995

Board rule G-11, concerning syndicate practices, among other things, requires syndicates to establish priorities for different categories of orders and requires certain disclosures to syndicate members which are intended to assure that allocations are made in accordance with those priorities. In addition, the rule requires that the manager provide certain accounting information to syndicate members. In particular, rule G-11(h)(i) provides that: "Discretionary fees for clearance costs to be imposed by a syndicate manager and management fees shall be disclosed to syndicate members prior to the submission of a bid, in the case of a competitive sale, or prior to the execution of a purchase contract with the issuer, in the case of a negotiated sale.[1] The purpose of this provision is to provide information useful to syndicate members in determining whether to participate in a syndicate account. The rule also requires that the senior syndicate manager, at or before final settlement of a syndicate account, furnish to the syndicate members "an itemized statement setting for the nature and amount of all actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate." One of the purposes of this section is to render managers accountable for their handling of syndicate funds.

The Board has received inquiries regarding the appropriateness of a per-bond fee for the bookrunning expenses or management fees of the senior syndicate manager. Discretionary fees for clearance costs and management fees may be expressed as a per-bond charge. These expenses, however, must be disclosed to members prior to the submission of a bid or prior to the execution of a purchase contract with the issuer; for example, in the Agreement Among Underwriters. The itemized statement setting forth a detailed breakdown of actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate, such as advertising, printing, legal, computer services, etc., must be disclosed to syndicate members at or before final settlement of the syndicate account. With respect to these fees, the Board has previously noted that managers who assess a per-bond charge for designated sales may be acting in violation of rule G-17 if the expenses charged to members bear no relation to or otherwise overstate the actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate. [2] The Board believes a per-bond fee creates the appearance that it is not an actual expense related to and incurred on behalf of the syndicate.

The Board is concerned about the charging of syndicate expenses and compliance with rule G-11. Managers should exercise care in accounting for syndicate funds, and any charge that has not been disclosed to members prior to the submission of a bid or prior to the execution of a purchase contract may be charged to syndicate members only if it is an actual expense incurred on behalf of the syndicate. The Board will continue to monitor syndicate practices and will notify the appropriate enforcement agency of any complaints it receives in this area. Syndicate members are encouraged to notify directly the appropriate enforcement agency of any violations of these provisions.


[1] The rule defines management fees to include, "in addition to amounts categorized as management fees by the syndicate manager, any amount to be realized by a syndicate manager, and not shared with the other members of the syndicate, which is attributable to the difference in price to be paid to an issuer for the purchase of a new issue of municipal securities and the price at which such securities are to be delivered by the syndicate manager to the members of the syndicate."

[2] Syndicate Managers Charging Excessive Fees for Designated Sales (July 29, 1985), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 7, No. 2 (March 1987) at 5].


NOTICE CONCERNING SYNDICATE EXPENSES - November 14, 1991

Board rule G-11, concerning syndicate practices, among other things, requires syndicates to establish priorities for different categories of orders and requires certain disclosures to syndicate members which are intended to assure that allocations are made in accordance with those priorities. Rule G-11(h)(i) requires that a senior syndicate manager, at or before final settlement of a syndicate account, furnish to syndicate members "an itemized statement setting forth the nature and amount of all actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate." One of the purposes of this section is to render managers accountable for their handling of syndicate funds.

Over the years, the Board, pursuant to rule G-11 and rule G-17, on fair dealing, has urged syndicate managers to provide members with a clear and accurate itemized statement of all actual expenses incurred in the underwriting of each issue. In a 1984 notice, the Board stated that expense items must be sufficiently described to make the expenditures readily understandable by syndicate members, and that generalized categories of expenses are not sufficient if they do not portray the specific nature of the expenses. [1] In 1985, the Board issued a notice specifically warning managers to take care in determining actual syndicate expenses, and noting that managers may violate rule G-17 if the expenses charged to syndicate members bear no relation to, or otherwise overstate, the actual expenses incurred. [2] And in 1987, in response to industry complaints concerning the amount of syndicate expenses charged by managers, the Board issued another notice reiterating that Board rules prohibit managers from overstating actual syndicate expenses. [3]

The Board wishes to reiterate its interpretation of rules G-11 and G-17 that syndicate expenses charged to members must be clearly identified and must be the actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate. [4] The Board continues to be concerned over the number of complaints about syndicate managers who may be charging expenses that are overstated or excessive, particularly with respect to clearance fees for designated sales and computer expenses. Board rules specifically prohibit managers from overstating actual syndicate expenses.

The Board urges syndicate members to report possible overstatements of syndicate expenses and other problems in compliance with rule G-11(h)(i). The Board will continue to monitor this situation, and will refer any complaints it receives in this area to the appropriate enforcement agencies. In addition, the NASD has alerted the Board that it will accept telephone complaints or information from syndicate members who do not wish to reveal their identities.


[1] Notice Concerning Disclosure of Syndicate Expenses (January 12, 1984), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 4, No. 1 (February 1984) at 9].

[2] Notice Concerning Syndicate Managers Charging Excessive Fees for Designated Sales (July 29, 1985), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 5, No. 5 (August 1985) at 17].

[3] Notice Concerning Syndicate Expenses that Appear Excessive (March 3, 1987), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 7, No. 2 (March 1987) at 5].

[4] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 5, No. 6 (November 1985)[at 5], and Vol. 5, No. 5 (August 1985)[at 5].



Concessions and discounts - October 22, 1986

Concessions and discounts. This is in response to your October 13, 1986 letter asking if the Board's rules prohibit a dealer from granting a price concession on a new issue security to a customer. The Board's rules do not address the granting of concessions or price discounts to customers on new issue offerings; however, the terms of the applicable syndicate agreement may address this issue. MSRB interpretation of October 22, 1986.

Fixed-price offerings - March 16, 1984

Fixed-price offerings. This responds to your letter of February 17, 1984, requesting our view on the applicability of the Board's rules to the following situation:

[Name deleted] the ("Dealer") is an underwriter of industrial revenue bonds. It underwrites on average three or four issues per month and sells them almost entirely on a retail basis to individual investors. The coupon rates are fixed at current market levels. The bonds are then offered to the public at par. Official statements are provided to investors, fully disclosing all pertinent information and making clear note of the fact that the initial offering price of par may be changed without prior notice.

Recently, interest rates dropped significantly during the two or three-week time period needed for the Dealer to sell out a bond issue. This caused the offering price of the fixed rate municipal bonds to rise above the initial offering price stated in the official statement. All of this occurred before the closing of the syndicate account. You ask specifically whether, under the Board's rules, it is permissible to raise the offering price of municipal bonds which are part of a new issue above the initial price before the close of the underwriting period.

Board rule G-11 generally requires syndicates to establish priorities for different categories of orders and requires that certain disclosures be made to syndicate members which are intended to assure that allocations are made in accordance with those priorities. The rule also requires that the manager provide account information to syndicate members in writing. The Board has described rule G-11 as a "disclosure rule" designed to provide information to new issue participants so that they can understand and evaluate syndicate practices. The rule does not, however, dictate what those practices must be. Thus, rule G-11 does not require that the offering price of new issue municipal securities remain fixed through the underwriting period. The Board considered the issue of fixed-price offerings when it formulated rule G-11 and again when the Public Securities Association, in 1981, asked the Board to consider the adoption of rules governing the granting of concessions in new issues of municipal securities. Since the kind of fixed-price offering system developed for corporate securities has not been the primary means of distributing municipal securities and in light of industry concerns that any such proposed regulations could unnecessarily restrict prices and increase the borrowing costs for municipal issues, the Board determined not to adopt any rules addressing the issue. [1]

Finally, we know of no laws or regulations which purport to require fixed-price offerings for new issue municipal securities, and the NASD's rules in this area do not apply to transactions in municipal securities.[2] Of course, Board rule G-30, on prices and commissions, prohibits a dealer from buying municipal securities for its own account from a customer or selling municipal securities for its own account to a customer at an aggregate price unless that price is reasonable taking into consideration all relevant factors. MSRB interpretation of March 16, 1984.


[1] For a fuller explanation of the Board's review of G-11 in this area, See Notice Concerning Board Determination Not to Adopt Concession Rules, [MSRB Reports, Vol. 2, No. 5 (July 1982) at 7].

[2] See NASD Rules of Fair Practice, Article II, Section 1, subsection (m) [currently codified as NASD Rule 114].


SYNDICATE SETTLEMENT PRACTICE VIOLATIONS NOTED - July 1, 1981

The Board continues to be concerned about industry compliance with certain of the requirements of Board rules G-11, "Sales of New Issue Municipal Securities During the Underwriting Period," and G-12, "Uniform Practice," with respect to the settlement of syndicate accounts. Board rule G-11(g)[*] requires, among other matters, that syndicate managers provide to members at the time of settlement of a syndicate account a detailed statement of the expenses incurred by the syndicate.[1] Rule G-12(j) requires that settlement of a syndicate account and distribution of any profit due to members be made within 60 days of delivery of the syndicate's securities. In addition, rule G-12(i) requires that good faith deposits be returned within two business days of settlement with an issuer, and rule G-12(k) requires that sales credits designated by a customer be distributed within 30 days following delivery of the securities [by the issuer to the syndicate]. 

The Board has from time to time received complaints from industry members concerning certain managers' non-compliance with these requirements. These persons allege that certain managers unduly delay the sending of syndicate settlement checks and other disbursements, and furnish settlement statements that provide little or no detail about the nature of the expenses incurred by the syndicate. These persons have also, on occasion, furnished to the Board copies of syndicate statements which illustrate clearly these managers' failure to provide the requisite information and to meet the time requirement for these disbursements. The Board has referred each of these complaints to the appropriate regulatory agency for investigation and appropriate action.

The Board wishes to emphasize strongly the need for compliance with these provisions. The Board continues to be of the view that the time periods and other requirements of the rules, which were arrived at after considerable deliberation, are fair and reasonable. The Board believes that failure to comply with these provisions is inexcusable. The Board does not accept the rationale offered by some, that the difficulties in obtaining bills for syndicate expenses justify these undue delays; the Board believes that it is incumbent upon managers to assure that such bills are received and processed in timely fashion, to permit compliance with the rule. The Board strongly urges syndicate managers who have failed to comply with these requirements to bring their practices into compliance with the requirements of the rules.

The Board also is communicating these views to the enforcement organizations and stressing its concern with respect to compliance with these provisions. It strongly urges all syndicate members to notify the appropriate enforcement organization of any violations by managers of these provisions.


[1] The rule contemplates that the statement will set forth a detailed breakdown of expenses into specified categories, such as advertising, printing, legal, computer services, packaging and handling, etc. The statement may include an item for miscellaneous expenses, provided that the amount shown under such an item is not disproportionately large in relation to other items of expense shown and includes only items of expense which cannot be easily categorized elsewhere in the statement.

[*] [Currently codified at rule G-11(h)]

NOTE: Revised to reflect subsequent amendments.


Communication of information - November 9, 1978

Communication of information. I refer to your letter dated October 23, 1978 in which you request advice concerning the application of certain provisions of rule G-11. In your letter, you state that it is your understanding that the requirement in the rule for a syndicate manager to communicate information regarding the priority to be accorded to different orders could be satisfied if an agreement among underwriters provides for the managing underwriters, in their discretion, to establish the priorities to be accorded to different types of orders for the purchase of bonds from the syndicate so long as information as to the priorities so established is furnished to the members of the syndicate prior to the beginning of the order period.

Rule G-11 would permit the inclusion of a provision delegating to the managing underwriters the authority to establish the priority provisions under which the syndicate would operate. However, under section (f) of rule G-11, such information must be provided by the senior syndicate manager in writing to other members of a syndicate "prior to the first offer of any securities by a syndicate." Accordingly, if there is a presale period, the required disclosure must be made prior to the commencement of such period, and not prior to "the beginning of the order period." The procedures outlined in your letter would be permissible under the rule only if no securities are offered by a syndicate prior to the order period. MSRB interpretation of November 9, 1978.