Rule G-21 Advertising by Brokers, Dealers or Municipal Securities Dealers

This section contains interpretive guidance issued by the MSRB that establishes a regulatory standard and clarifies the application of the principles of an MSRB rule and may provide more information about the obligations and prohibited conduct under the rule. Learn about the differences between interpretive guidance and other resources the MSRB provides.

FAQs regarding the Use of Social Media under MSRB Rule G-21, on Advertising by Brokers, Dealers or Municipal Securities Dealers, and MSRB Rule G-40, on Advertising by Municipal Advisors - August 23, 2019

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) provides these answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) to enhance market participants’ understanding of permissible and impermissible uses of social media as part of their municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities under MSRB Rule G-21, on advertising by brokers, dealers or municipal securities dealers (collectively, “dealers”), and under MSRB Rule G-40, on advertising by municipal advisors (Rule G-21, together with Rule G-40, the “advertising rules”). These FAQs can assist dealers and municipal advisors (collectively, “regulated entities”) with their compliance with the MSRB’s advertising rules.

In developing these FAQs, the MSRB has been mindful of the potential burden on a regulated entity if there were to be unnecessary inconsistencies between any adopted MSRB social media guidance and similar guidance issued by other regulators that may be applicable to other aspects of the regulated entity’s business. To that end, and to the extent practicable, the MSRB has endeavored to align these FAQs with the social media guidance published by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA).[1]

The FAQs discuss compliance with MSRB rules; regulated entities are reminded that they also may be subject to the rules of other financial regulators, including state regulators. Further, a regulated entity’s use of social media to conduct municipal securities or municipal advisory activities is optional, and the responsibilities that follow from that social media usage are not new here. In particular, a regulated entity should consider its ability to comply with the existing recordkeeping requirements under the federal securities laws and incorporated into MSRB rules when determining whether to use social media to conduct municipal securities or municipal advisory activities and whether to permit its associated persons to use social media to conduct municipal securities or municipal advisory activities.

Background

Amended Rule G-21 and new Rule G-40, effective as of the date of these FAQs, set forth general provisions, address professional advertisements by the relevant regulated entity and require principal approval, in writing, for advertisements by regulated entities before their first use.

During the development of the amendments to Rule G-21 and of new Rule G-40, the MSRB received requests for guidance regarding the use of social media by a regulated entity under those rules. These FAQs provide the requested guidance.

Consistent with MSRB Rule D-11, references in the FAQs to a dealer, municipal advisor or regulated entity generally include the associated persons of such dealer, municipal advisor or regulated entity.[2]

Use of Social Media

1.     Is social media use by a regulated entity relating to its municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities considered advertising under the MSRB’s advertising rules?

Yes, depending on the facts and circumstances. With limited exceptions, any material that relates to (i) the products or services of the dealer, (ii) the services of the municipal advisor, or (iii) the engagement of a municipal advisory client by the municipal advisor, may constitute an advertisement under the MSRB’s advertising rules, if it is:

  • published or used in any electronic or other public media; or
  • written or electronic promotional literature distributed or made generally available to either customers or municipal entities, obligated persons, municipal advisory clients or the public.

To the extent that the use of social media, including blogs, microblogs and social and professional networks, by a regulated entity is deemed advertising based on its content and distribution, that advertising would be subject to all applicable provisions of Rules G- 21 and G-40. Those provisions include content standards and a requirement that an advertisement be pre-approved by a principal before its first use.

Further, dealers and municipal advisors should bear in mind that “posts” or “chats” on social media, including those deemed advertising, are subject to all other applicable MSRB rules.

Those rules include:

  • MSRB Rule G-17, on conduct of municipal securities and municipal advisory activities;
  • MSRB Rule G-27, on supervision;
  • MSRB Rule G-44, on supervisory and compliance obligations of municipal advisors;
  • MSRB Rule G-8, on books and records to be made by brokers, dealers, municipal securities dealers, and municipal advisors; and
  • MSRB Rule G-9, on retention of records.    

2.     Can an associated person’s personal social media use be deemed “advertising” that is subject to the MSRB’s advertising rules?

Potentially, yes. An associated person’s personal social media use would not per se be advertising that is subject to the MSRB’s advertising rules. Whether an associated person’s personal social media use is advertising depends on whether the content of the social media relates to (i) the products or services of the dealer, (ii) the services of the municipal advisor, or (iii) the engagement of a municipal advisory client by the municipal advisor, as relevant.

  • For example, an associated person of a regulated entity “posts” the following on his personal social media that is viewable by the public rather than a selected audience:

Let’s help our children! ABC Youth Group is having a car wash to raise funds for a new basketball court on May 18th at 3:00 pm at XYZ address. Get your car washed and help out.

The content in the “post” in the above example does not relate to (i) the products or services of the dealer, (ii) the services of the municipal advisor, or (iii) the engagement of a municipal advisory client by the municipal advisor. Even though the “post” is publicly available, the “post” would not be advertising that is subject to the MSRB’s advertising rules.

Similarly, an associated person may hyperlink from his or her personal social media to content on his or her dealer’s or municipal advisor’s social media. The “hyperlinking” by the associated person to the regulated entity’s social media would not constitute an advertisement if that hyperlinked content does not relate to the matters referenced in the preceding paragraph.[3]

  • For example, a “post” from associated person FGH’s personal social media contains a hyperlink to an article on municipal advisor ABC’s website about an animal shelter rebuilding after recent flooding. The “post” is viewable by the public.

The “post” would not be advertising that is subject to the MSRB’s advertising rules. The “post,” although it contains a hyperlink to a regulated entity’s website, links to content that does not relate to the services of the municipal advisor or the engagement of a municipal advisory client by a municipal advisor.

By contrast, to the extent that an associated person of a municipal advisor engages in advertising, as defined by Rules G-21 and G-40, on his or her personal social media, that advertising would be subject to the requirements of the MSRB’s advertising rules.

  • For example, an associated person of ABC municipal advisor posts the following on his or her personal social networking page that is viewable by the general public:

I’m happy to be part of the team! ABC municipal advisor was rated the best in XYZ state for airport financings during 2017 according to DEF rating service. ABC municipal advisor has great experience in airport financings, and can help you with your next project.

The “post” would be an advertisement, as defined in Rule G-40(a)(i). The content of the electronically distributed “post” (i) promotes the expertise and experience of ABC municipal advisor and solicits inquiries about its services and (ii) is generally available to municipal entities, obligated persons, municipal advisory clients or the public. As such, even though the advertisement was “posted” on the associated person’s personal social networking page, the “post” would be subject to the requirements of Rule G-40 as well as all other applicable MSRB rules. See question 1.

3.    Do the MSRB’s advertising rules apply to hyperlinked content on an independent third-party website from a regulated entity’s website?

The MSRB’s advertising rules would apply to hyperlinked content on an independent third-party’s website from a regulated entity’s website in those instances where the regulated entity either:

  • involved itself in the preparation of content on that third-party website— this is known as entanglement;[4]; or
  • implicitly or explicitly approved or endorsed the content on that third-party website —this is known as adoption.[5]

Accordingly, if a regulated entity either becomes entangled with or adopts the hyperlinked content, the regulated entity has obligations under MSRB’s advertising rules for that content.

  • For example, on its website, ABC dealer states that XYZ municipal entity has a great article about the financing for its new school (ABC dealer was the underwriter for that financing), and ABC dealer provides a hyperlink to that article.

In this case, ABC dealer, by stating it was a great article, would have adopted the article on XYZ’s website, and the content of that article would be subject to Rule G-21. Further, depending on the facts and circumstances, ABC may have adopted the article by linking to its specific content even without stating that the article was a great article. See question 4. A regulated entity should consider whether the context of the hyperlink and the content of the hyperlinked information together create a reasonable inference that the regulated entity has approved or endorsed the hyperlinked information.[6]

Similarly, a regulated entity may become entangled with hyperlinked content.

  • For example, CDE municipal advisor assists XYZ issuer with the preparation of a press release about a financing to build a new school. The press release discusses how the financing method will save taxpayer dollars, but does not mention CDE municipal advisor. CDE municipal advisor then posts a hyperlink on its website to the press release on XYZ issuer’s website.

In this case, CDE municipal advisor, because it helped prepare the press release, would have become entangled with the press release, and the hyperlinked content would be an advertisement subject to Rule G-40.

See Question 7 for discussion regarding third-party posts.

4.    What factors are relevant for a regulated entity to consider as it determines whether it has adopted the hyperlinked content on an independent third-party’s website?

While non-exclusive, some factors to consider are:[7]

  • Does the context suggest that the regulated entity has approved or endorsed the hyperlinked content? The regulated entity may want to consider its disclosure about the hyperlink and what a reader may imply by the location and presentation of the hyperlink. For example:
    • Does the regulated entity state that it approves or endorses the prominently-featured hyperlinked content (in which case, the regulated entity would have adopted the hyperlinked content), or does the regulated entity have a portion of its website that links to recent general news articles and provides hyperlinks to the websites of various newspapers or magazines (depending on the facts and circumstances, in most cases, the regulated entity would not have adopted such content)?[8]

    • Does the hyperlinked content indicate a degree of selective choice by the regulated entity, such as a hyperlink to a specific news article that is laudatory of the regulated entity, as compared to a hyperlink to the website of the newspaper?[9]

    • Does the regulated entity provide an explanation about the source of a hyperlinked article and why the regulated entity is hyperlinking to it in order to avoid the inference that the regulated entity is adopting the hyperlinked content?[10]

    Although a regulated entity’s hyperlink to specific independent third-party content may indicate adoption of that content, if the hyperlinked content itself is not an advertisement, the regulated entity’s hyperlink to that content would not be an advertisement under Rules G-21 and G-40.

    • For example, ABC dealer includes a hyperlink on its website to an article regarding the importance of saving for college on an independent third- party’s website. The article does not identify any particular 529 savings plan, any dealer, or any municipal security.

    In this case, ABC dealer hyperlinks to an article that is purely educational. Because the hyperlinked content does not address ABC dealer or a municipal security offered through ABC dealer, the hyperlinked content would not be an advertisement, and ABC dealer’s hyperlink to that content would not be an advertisement that is subject to Rule G-21.

  • Does the hyperlink create customer or municipal advisory client confusion? The regulated entity may want to consider whether a customer or municipal advisory client would be confused and not fully appreciate that the hyperlink is to third-party content. Does the regulated entity provide disclosure to explain that the hyperlink is to third-party content?[11]

  • Is the hyperlink to content that is not controlled by the regulated entity and is the hyperlink ongoing? When a regulated entity links to content that is hosted by an independent third-party that is not controlled or influenced by the regulated entity, that content may not be advertising subject to the MSRB’s advertising rules if the hyperlink is “ongoing.”

    An “ongoing” link is one which: (i) is continuously available to visitors to the regulated entity’s website; (ii) visitors to the regulated entity’s site have access to even though the independent third-party site may or may not contain favorable material about the regulated entity; and (iii) visitors to the regulated entity’s website have access to even though the independent third-party’s website may be revised.[12] A regulated entity may not have adopted the content on the independent third-party’s website if the link is “ongoing.”

However, where a regulated entity has become entangled with the hyperlinked content on a third-party website (to the extent that hyperlinked content otherwise meets the definition of an advertisement), that hyperlinked content would be an advertisement under Rules G-21 and G-40 and the regulated entity must consider all applicable provisions of the MSRB’s advertising rules, including with respect to the hyperlinked content.[13] Therefore, a regulated entity should not include hyperlinked content on its website if there are any red flags that indicate that the hyperlinked content contains false or misleading material.[14]

5.    May a regulated entity use a disclaimer alone to disclaim potential MSRB rule violations for hyperlinked content on an independent third-party website?

No, the MSRB generally would not view a disclaimer alone as sufficient to insulate a regulated entity from potential MSRB rule violations related to hyperlinked content on an independent third-party website that the regulated entity knows or has reason to know is materially false or misleading. A regulated entity that hyperlinks to content that the regulated entity knows or has reason to know is materially false or misleading may violate Rules G-17, G-21 and/or G-40.[15]

6.    Do the MSRB’s advertising rules apply to linked content within independent third- party content to which a regulated entity hyperlinked?

No, Rules G-21 and G-40, in general, would not apply to linked content within content to which the regulated entity linked (“secondary links”). However, to avoid triggering the application of Rules G-21 and G-40:

  • The regulated entity must not have adopted or become entangled with the content in the secondary link – See question 3;
  • The regulated entity must have no influence or control over the content in the secondary links – See question 4;
  • The original linked content must not be a mere vehicle for the secondary links or not rely completely on the information available in the secondary links; and
  • The regulated entity must not know or have reason to know that the information contained in the secondary links contains any untrue statement of material fact or is otherwise false or misleading.[16] A regulated entity should not include a link on its website if there are any red flags that indicate that the hyperlinked website contains false or misleading content.[17]

Third-Party Posts

7.    Do Rules G-21 and G-40 apply to posts by a customer, municipal entity client or another third-party (collectively, “third-party posts”) on a regulated entity’s or its associated person’s social networking page?

In general, no. Rules G-21 and G-40 generally would not apply to posts by a third-party on a regulated entity’s or its associated person’s social networking page. The post would not be considered material that is published, distributed or made available by the dealer or municipal advisor.

Notwithstanding, Rules G-21 and G-40 may apply to such third-party posts under certain circumstances. For example, Rules G-21 and G-40 would apply to such posts if the dealer or municipal advisor becomes entangled with or adopts the content of such posts. See also question 3.

  • Entanglement. A regulated entity becomes entangled with a post by a third-party on the regulated entity’s social networking page if the regulated entity has involved itself with the preparation of the third-party content.[18] For example, a regulated entity or its associated person may become entangled with a third-party post if the regulated entity or its associated person pays for or solicits a third-party to post certain comments on the regulated entity’s social networking page.

  • Adoption. A regulated entity adopts the content of the third-party post if the regulated entity explicitly or implicitly approves or endorses the content.[19] A regulated entity or its associated person may adopt a third- party post if it “likes,” “shares,” or otherwise indicates approval or endorsement of the content.

See question 3 above for a discussion of hyperlinked content on an independent third- party website; see question 4 above for a discussion of the non-exclusive factors to consider when determining whether a regulated entity or its associated person has adopted third-party content.

8.    May a municipal advisory client post positive comments about its experience with the municipal advisor on the municipal advisor’s social media page without such post being a testimonial under Rule G-40?

As with question 7 above, if a municipal advisory client posts positive comments on a municipal advisor’s social media page and the municipal advisor does not become entangled with or adopt that content, the municipal advisor could allow such content on its social media page. This would be true even if the municipal advisory client’s comments were to include a testimonial.

However, if the municipal advisor paid for or solicited a municipal advisory client to post positive comments about its experience with the municipal advisor on the municipal advisor’s social media page, that post would be deemed to be an advertisement by the municipal advisor that contains a testimonial within Rule G-40.

Specifically, by paying for or soliciting positive comments from a third-party, the municipal advisor would become entangled with those comments, and the posting of those third-party comments on the municipal advisor’s social media page would be deemed to be an advertisement by the municipal advisor that contains a testimonial within Rule G-40(a)(iv)(G). See question 7. As such, the municipal advisor’s use of that testimonial content would be prohibited.[20] Similar considerations would prohibit the municipal advisor from “liking” the municipal advisory client’s post or by forwarding the municipal advisory client’s post to others, thereby adopting the content.

Recordkeeping

9.    Must regulated entities retain records of “posts,” “chats,” text messages or messages sent through messaging applications related to the regulated entity’s business conducted through social media?

Yes, the MSRB’s recordkeeping and record retention requirements apply to all written, including electronic, communications sent or received as well as records of advertisements under the MSRB’s advertising rules.

Specifically, for dealers, Rule G-9(b)(viii)(C) requires that “all written and electronic communications received and sent, including inter-office memoranda, relating to the conduct of the activities of such municipal securities broker or municipal securities dealer with respect to municipal securities” be retained. Similarly, Rule G-9(h)(i) requires that a municipal advisor retain records, which include, among other things, originals or copies of all written and electronic communications received and sent, including inter-office memoranda, relating to municipal advisory activities.[21] Neither the technology used for the communication nor the distinction between a communication made through a device issued by the regulated entity or its associated person’s personal device is determinative for this analysis. See questions 10 and 11 regarding supervision.

Supervision[22]

10.    Should a regulated entity consider establishing policies and procedures as part of its supervisory system to address the use of social media by the regulated entity and its associated persons?

Yes, given that recordkeeping requirements apply to electronic communications, a regulated entity should establish policies and procedures to address the use by the regulated entity and its associated persons of social media.[23] As a baseline, those policies and procedures would reflect the regulated entity’s permitted and/or prohibited practices. Such permitted practices may include restrictions on the use of certain technologies or the prohibition of the use of social media to engage in municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities. Further, the supervisory system for a regulated entity that permits the use of social media would address all applicable MSRB rules, including, but not limited to:

  • The MSRB’s advertising rules;
  • Rule G-17;
  • Rule G-8; and
  • Rule G-9.

See question 1.

11.    What are some factors that a regulated entity should consider as it develops policies and procedures about the use of social media?

As with any policy and procedure, a regulated entity’s social media policies and procedures would be tailored to reflect, among other things, its size, organizational structure and the nature and scope of its municipal securities or municipal advisory activities. Social media policies and procedures are not expected to be “one size fits all.”

Among the factors that a regulated entity should consider as it develops social media policies and procedures are:

Usage Restrictions. While some regulated entities may prohibit an associated person from engaging in municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities through social media, other regulated entities may permit the use of social media for such purposes. A regulated entity that permits the use of social media by its associated persons, in whole or in part, should consider providing associated persons with a clear and concise list of permitted social media for the conduct of municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities. That list also may include any restrictions to the use of particular social media (for example, a regulated entity may permit certain messaging applications to be used only for internal communications among the regulated entity and its associated persons). If applicable, a regulated entity should consider making the list of permitted social media widely available and easily accessible to its associated persons.[24]

Further, recognizing the need to have policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to ensure compliance with MSRB rules as well as with other applicable securities laws and regulations, and in light of the pace of technology innovations, a regulated entity that permits the use of social media should consider periodically reviewing its list of permitted social media. As part of that review, the regulated entity should determine whether any updates to the list of permitted social media would be warranted.[25]

Along with the list of permitted social media, the regulated entity should consider addressing the consequences of non-compliance with its social media policies and procedures.[26]

Training and Education. The regulated entity’s social media policies and procedures may address the training that the regulated entity will provide related to those policies and procedures. For example, will the training include an initial training as well as training that is required on a periodic basis? In addition, a regulated entity’s training on social media may address various topics likely to occur such as an explanation of the differences between business and personal social media use and how the lines between business and personal social media usage could be blurred. For example, an associated person could receive a request on his or her personal social media relating to municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities. A regulated entity may want to consider how the associated person should respond to such a request.

Recordkeeping and Record Retention. As noted in question 1, it is possible that social media posts relating to the regulated entity’s municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities would be subject to the MSRB’s recordkeeping and record retention rules. A regulated entity should consider its recordkeeping and record retention obligations as it designs its social media compliance policies and procedures.[27]

Monitoring. As a regulated entity develops its social media policies and procedures, the regulated entity should consider how it will monitor for compliance with those policies and procedures. For example, a regulated entity may determine to more frequently monitor various social media activities based on the potential risks that the regulated entity has determined may be associated with those activities. See question 12 below for a discussion of various factors that the regulated entity may want to consider as it develops its policies and procedures. As a reminder, a regulated entity’s supervisory procedures concerning social media should address not only the MSRB’s advertising rules, but all applicable MSRB rules and other applicable federal securities laws and regulations.

12.    What factors may be important in determining the effectiveness of policies and procedures concerning social media?

As noted in question 10, MSRB Rules G-27 and G-44 generally require that a regulated entity establish, implement and maintain a supervisory system that is reasonably designed to achieve compliance with MSRB rules as well as with other applicable federal securities laws and regulations. To help test whether that goal is being met with regard to its social media compliance policies and procedures, a regulated entity may want to consider the following non-exclusive factors:

  • Content standards. A regulated entity should consider whether there are certain risks associated with content created by the regulated entity for its social media and whether that content may create regulatory issues. For example, non-solicitor municipal advisors owe a fiduciary duty to their municipal entity clients. Is the social media content consistent with that duty (e.g., such as content that contains information on specific municipal advisory activity or a recommendation regarding that activity)? Further, is the social media content consistent with the testimonial restrictions set forth in the MSRB’s advertising rules?
  • Monitoring of third-party sites. To the extent that the regulated entity permits the use of social networking sites, a regulated entity should consider how it will monitor for compliance with the regulated entity’s social media policies and procedures on those sites.
  • Criteria for approving participation in social networking sites. A regulated entity should consider whether to develop standards relating to social networking participation. For example, at a minimum, a regulated entity must ensure compliance with record retention requirements. As the regulated entity develops its criteria for approving the use of certain sites, the regulated entity also should address whether it has a process in place for revoking approval to participate in a particular social networking site should certain circumstances change.
  • Personal social networking sites. A regulated entity should address whether the regulated entity or its associated persons may engage in municipal securities business or municipal advisory activities on personal social networking sites.
  • Enterprise-wide sites. A regulated entity that is a part of a larger financial services organization should consider whether it needs to develop usage guidelines reasonably designed to prevent the larger financial services organization in organizational-wide advertisements from violating the MSRB’s advertising rules including, for municipal advisors, the prohibition on the use of testimonials in municipal advisor advertising.

Additional Resources

SR-MSRB-2018-01 (January 24, 2018)

Letter from Pamela K. Ellis, Associate General Counsel, Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, dated April 30, 2018

Self-Regulatory Organizations; Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board; Order Granting Approval of a Proposed Rule Change, Consisting to Amendments to Rule G-21, on Advertising, Proposed New Rule G-40, on Advertising by Municipal Advisors, and a Technical Amendment to Rule G-42, on Duties of Non-Solicitor Municipal Advisors

MSRB Notice 2018-08 SEC Approves Advertising Rule Changes for Dealers and Municipal Advisors

MSRB Notice 2018-32 Application of Content Standards to Advertisements by Municipal Advisors under MSRB Rule G-40


[1] See, e.g., IM Guidance Update, No. 2014-04, Division of Investment Management, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Mar. 2014) (“2014 IM Guidance Update”); National Examination Risk Alert, Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Jan. 4, 2012) (“2012 Risk Alert”); Exchange Act Release No. 58288 (Aug. 1, 2008); FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-18 (Apr. 2017). These materials are identified for reference and such reference is not intended to suggest that regulated entities that are not subject to the guidance issued by the SEC or FINRA are responsible for compliance with that guidance. In addition, the MSRB does not intend for the guidance provided by these FAQs to modify or otherwise affect the guidance contained in the any of the referenced materials published by the SEC or FINRA.

[2] Rule D-11 provides that:

Unless the context otherwise requires or a rule of the Board otherwise specifically provides, the terms “broker,” “dealer,” “municipal securities broker,” “municipal securities dealer,” “bank dealer,” and “municipal advisor” shall refer to and include their respective associated persons. Unless otherwise specified, persons whose functions are solely clerical or ministerial shall not be considered associated persons for purposes of the Board’s rules.

[3] For example, such hyperlinked content may include information about a charity event sponsored by the dealer or municipal advisor, a human interest article, an employment opportunity, or employer information covered by state and federal fair employment laws. See, e.g., FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-18 (Apr. 2017) at 4.

[4] See, e.g., Exchange Act Release No. 58288 (Aug. 1, 2008) at 32, 73 FR 45862 (Aug. 7. 2008) at 45870 (the “2008 release”); Exchange Act Release No. 42728 (Apr. 28, 2000), 65 FR 25843 (May 4, 2000) at 25848 (the “2000 release”).

[5] Id.

[6] 2008 release at 34.

[7] See 2008 release at 33; 2000 release at 25849.

[8] See 2008 release at 34; 2000 release at 25849.

[9] See 2008 release at 35.

[10] Id.

[11] See 2008 release at 36; 2000 release at 25849.

[12] See FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-18 (Apr. 2017) at 5.

[13] See MSRB Notice 2018-14 (Jun. 27, 2018).

[14] See FINRA Regulatory Notice 11-39 (Aug. 2011) at 3.

[15] See 2008 Release at 36-37; 2000 Release at 25849.

[16] See FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-18 at Q:4; see Q:5.

[17] See FINRA Regulatory Notice 11-39 (Aug. 2011) at 3.

[18] See 2008 release at 32; 2000 release at 25848-49; FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06 (Jan. 2010) at 7-8. The MSRB’s definition of the entanglement and adoption theories is consistent with the definition of those theories set forth by the SEC and FINRA in those materials.

[19] Id.

[20] See 2014 IM Guidance Update at 3.

[21] Rule G-8(h)(i) requires municipal advisors to make and keep current all books and records described in Rule 15Ba1-8(a) under the Exchange Act. Particularly, Rule 15Ba1- 8(a)(1) requires that municipal advisors make and keep true, accurate, and current “originals or copies of all written communications received, and originals or copies of all written communications sent, by such municipal advisor (including inter-office memoranda and communications) relating to municipal advisory activities, regardless of the format of such communications.”

[22] While many regulated entities may find the guidance in these FAQs useful when establishing their supervisory systems, each regulated entity should develop a supervisory system that is tailored to its own business model, recognizing that some considerations may not apply in the same manner for every firm and others may not apply at all.

[23] In part, Rules G-27(b) and Rule G-44(a) require that a regulated entity establish a supervisory system to supervise the municipal securities and municipal advisory activities of the regulated entity and its associated persons. In general, a supervisory system includes:

  1. compliance policies and procedures that describe the practices that associated persons must adhere to in order to meet the standards of conduct established by the regulated entity consistent with applicable securities laws and regulations, including MSRB rules; and
  2. written supervisory procedures that describe the practices that the supervisory personnel follow in order to reasonably ensure that associated persons meet the standards of conduct and the regulated entity can evidence a supervisory system.

[24] See, e.g., 2012 Risk Alert at 3; FINRA Regulatory Notice 07-59 (Dec. 2007) at 7.

[25] See, e.g., 2012 Risk Alert at 4.

[26] See FINRA Regulatory Notice 07-59 (Dec.2007) at 7; see also National Exam Program Risk Alert, Observations from Investment Adviser Examinations Relating to Electronic Messaging, Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (modified Dec. 14, 2018) available at https://www.sec.gov/files/OCIE%20Risk%20Alert%20%20Electronic%20Messaging.pdf (“2018 Risk Alert”) at 4.

[27] See FINRA Regulatory Notice 07-59 (Dec. 2007) at 6-7; 2018 Risk Alert at 3-4.


INTERPRETATION ON GENERAL ADVERTISING DISCLOSURES, BLIND ADVERTISEMENTS AND ANNUAL REPORTS RELATING TO MUNICIPAL FUND SECURITIES UNDER RULE G-21 - June 5, 2007

Rule G-21, on advertising, establishes specific requirements for advertisements by brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) of municipal fund securities, including but not limited to advertisements for 529 college savings plans (“529 plans”).  This notice sets forth interpretive guidance under Rule G-21 with respect to time-limited broadcast advertisements, blind advertisements, and annual reports or other similar information required to be distributed under state mandates.

General Disclosures in Time-Limited Broadcast Advertisements

Rule G-21(e)(i)(A) requires certain basic disclosures to be provided in product advertisements for municipal fund securities. These disclosures are not legends requiring the inclusion of specific language. Rather, these disclosure requirements may be complied with if the substance of such information is effectively conveyed, regardless of the specific language used in the advertisement. In general, the context in which the information is provided is an important factor in determining whether the information is effectively conveyed.

These required disclosures may present challenges in  the context of broadcast advertisements, such as traditional television or radio commercials with 30-second run-times or public service announcements with shorter run-times.  In the context of time-limited  broadcast  advertisements,  dealers  should  provide  such disclosures in a manner that appropriately balances the intended message with the required disclosures. Given the unique nature of broadcast  advertisements, where the oral presentation of more information can often result in a decreased likelihood that  the central message of such information will be understood and retained, somewhat abbreviated forms of the required  disclosures may be appropriate for such time-limited  broadcast advertisements, particularly if the disclosures are made with close attention paid to ensuring that they are presented with equal prominence to the remainder of the message.

Thus, for example, in a time-limited broadcast  advertisement for a non-money market 529 plan, the following language, spoken in a manner consistent with the remaining oral presentation of information, generally would satisfy the disclosure requirements of Rule G-21(e)(i)(A): “To learn about [529 plan name], its investment objectives, risks and costs, read the official statement available from [source]. Check with your home state to learn if it offers tax or other benefits for investing in its own 529 plan.”  Further, in a time-limited television advertisement, the source for the official statement, together with a contact telephone number or web address, generally could be displayed on screen while other portions of the disclosures are spoken. This example is intended to be illustrative and is not intended to be exclusive or to necessarily establish a baseline for disclosure.

Blind Advertisements

Under Rule G-21(e)(i)(B)(2), certain product advertisements for municipal fund securities that promote an issuer and its public purpose without promoting specific municipal fund securities or identifying a dealer or its affiliates may omit the general disclosures otherwise required under Rule G-21(e)(i)(A). Among other things, such a blind advertisement may include contact information for the issuer or an agent of the issuer to obtain an official statement or other information, provided that if such issuer’s agent is a dealer or dealer affiliate, no orders may be accepted through such source unless initiated by the customer. Although the contact information may direct a potential customer to a dealer or its affiliate acting as agent of the issuer, the face of the advertisement may not identify such dealer or affiliate.

For example, a blind advertisement may say “call 1-800-xxx-xxxx for more information” or “go to www.[state-name]-529plan.com for more information” but may not say “call [dealer name] at 1-800-xxx-xxxx for more information” or “go to www.[dealer-name]-529plan.com for more information.” This provision does not preclude the person who answers a phone inquiry, or the website to which the URL links, from identifying the dealer or its affiliate, so long as such dealer or affiliate is clearly disclosed to be acting on behalf of the issuer identified in the advertisement.

If a potential customer initiates an order through the source identified in the advertisement, a distinct barrier between the providing of information and the seeking of orders must be maintained to qualify as a blind advertisement. For example, solely for purposes of Rule G-21(e)(i)(B)(2), a dealer may establish that the customer initiated the order by requiring, in the case of a telephone inquiry, that the customer be transferred from the initial dealer contact person to a different person before the customer provides any information used in connection with an order or, in the case of a web-based inquiry, that the customer navigate from the initial webpage referred to in the advertisement to another page on the same or different web site before entering any information used in connection with an order.[1]  Of course, the dealer must be mindful of its obligation under Rule G-17, on fair practice, to provide to the customer, at or prior to the time of trade, all material facts about the transaction known by the dealer as well as material facts about the security that are reasonably accessible to the market, regardless of whether the transaction was recommended or whether an order may be characterized as unsolicited.[2]  In addition, if the transaction is recommended, the dealer must fulfill its obligations with respect to suitability under Rule G-19, on suitability of recommendations and transactions.[3]

Required Annual Reports Excluded from Definition of Advertisement

In some cases, a dealer may be required, by state law or the rules and regulations adopted by the state or an  instrumentality thereof governing a particular 529 plan or other municipal fund security program, to prepare or distribute an annual financial re- port or other similar information regarding such plan or program. So long as a dealer provides any such required report or information with respect to a 529 plan or other municipal fund securities program solely in the manner required by such state law or rules and regulations, such report or information will not be treated as an advertisement for purposes of Rule G-21.[4] However, the dealer would remain subject to Rule G-17, which requires that the dealer deal fairly with all persons, prohibits the dealer from engaging in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice and requires the dealer to provide to its customer, at or prior to the time of trade, all material facts about a transaction known by the dealer or that are reasonably accessible to the market. In addition, if such information is used in any manner beyond what is narrowly required by such law, rules or regulation, such use of the information would become subject to Rule G-21 as an advertisement.[5]


[1] These methods are not intended to be the exclusive means by which a dealer could establish that the customer initiated the order.

[2] See Rule G-17 Interpretation – Interpretive Notice Regarding Rule G-17, on Disclosure of Material Facts, March 20, 2002, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[3] See Rule G-17 Interpretation – Interpretation on Customer Protection Obligations Relating to the Marketing of 529 College Savings Plans, August 7, 2006, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[4] If such information is distributed through the official statement, then it would not be considered an advertisement by virtue of the exclusion of official statements from the definition of “advertisement” in Rule G-21(a)(i).

[5] This guidance is consistent with similar guidance provided by NASD with respect to its advertising rule, Rule 2210, as applied to certain performance information and hypothetical illustrations required by state laws to be provided by dealers in connection with retirement investments and variable annuity contracts. See letter dated November 29, 2004, to Therese Squillacote, Chief Compliance Officer, ING Financial Advisers,  LLC, from Philip A. Shaikun, Assistant General Counsel, NASD; letter dated September 30, 2002, to Sally Krawczyk, Esq., Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, LLP, from Mr. Shaikun; and letter dated February 5, 1999, to W. Thomas Conner, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, National Association of Variable  Annuities, from Robert J. Smith, Office of General Counsel,  NASD Regulation, Inc.



529 College Savings Plan Advertisements - May 12, 2006

529 college savings plan advertisements.  Thank you for your letter of April 21, 2006 in which you request interpretive guidance on the application of Rule G-21, on advertising, with respect to advertisements of 529 college savings plans.  Rule G-21 was amended in 2005 by adding new section (e) relating to advertisements by brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”) of interests in 529 college savings plans and other municipal fund securities (collectively referred to as “municipal fund securities”).  These new provisions were modeled after the provisions of Securities Act Rules 482 and 135a relating to mutual fund advertisements, with certain modifications.

The Board expects to undertake a detailed review of issues relating to the implementation of section (e) of its advertising rule in the coming months and your views will be instrumental in that review.  We appreciate your interest in the operation of the rule and the commitment of your organization and your individual members to assure that investors receive appropriate disclosures.  As you are aware, MSRB rules apply solely to dealers, not to issuers or other parties.  The MSRB has previously stated that Rule G-21 does not govern advertisements published by issuers but that an advertisement produced by a dealer as agent for an issuer must comply with Rule G-21.  Similarly, a dealer cannot avoid application of Rule G-21 merely by hiring a third party to produce and publish advertisements on its behalf.[1]  Pending our detailed review of section (e) of Rule G-21, I would like to address certain basic principles under the current rule language and existing interpretive guidance that may prove helpful in the context of some of the issues you raise in your letter.[2]

Section (a) of the rule provides a broad definition of “advertisement.”[3]  Sections (b) through (e) of the rule establish requirements with respect to specific types of advertisements.  Section (b) establishes standards for professional advertisements, which are advertisements concerning the dealer’s facilities, services or skills with respect to municipal securities.  Section (c) establishes general standards for product advertisements, with additional specific standards relating to advertisements for new issue debt securities set forth in Section (d) and specific standards relating to advertisements for municipal fund securities set forth in Section (e).  In addition, all advertisements are subject to the MSRB’s basic fair dealing rule, Rule G-17,[4] and are subject to approval by a principal pursuant to Section (f) of Rule G-21.

Where an advertisement does not identify specific securities, specific issuers of securities or specific features of securities, but merely refers to one or more broad categories of securities with respect to which the dealer provides services, the MSRB would generally view such advertisement as a professional advertisement under Section (b) rather than as a product advertisement.  For example, if an advertisement simply states that the dealer provides investment services with respect to 529 college savings plans – without identifying any specific 529 college savings plan, specific municipal fund securities issued through a 529 college savings plan, or specific features of any such municipal fund securities – the advertisement would be subject to Section (b) of Rule G-21, rather than to Sections (c) and (e).

On the other hand, advertisements that identify specific securities, specific issuers of securities or specific features of securities generally are viewed as product advertisements under Rule G-21 and therefore would be subject to Section (c), as well as Section (d) or (e), if applicable.  However, in some circumstances, an advertisement that identifies an issuer of securities without identifying its securities or specific features of such securities effectively may not constitute an advertisement of such issuer’s securities and therefore would not be treated as a product advertisement under the rule, particularly if the dealer or any of its affiliates is not identified.  For example, if an advertisement identifies the state or other governmental entity that operates a 529 college savings plan without identifying its municipal fund securities, the specific features of such securities or the dealer and its affiliates that may participate in the marketing of its municipal fund securities, the MSRB generally would not view such advertisement as a product advertisement subject to Sections (c) and (e) of Rule G-21.[5] MSRB Interpretation of May 12, 2006.


[1] The MSRB expresses no opinion at this time as to the applicability of MSRB rules to advertisements relating to municipal fund securities produced and published by issuers with funds provided directly or indirectly by a dealer.

[2] Other issues you raise in your letter will be considered during the upcoming review of Rule G-21.

[3] An advertisement is defined as any material (other than listings of offerings) published or designed for use in the public, including electronic, media, or any promotional literature designed for dissemination to the public, including any notice, circular, report, market letter, form letter, telemarketing script or reprint or excerpt of the foregoing. The term does not apply to preliminary official statements or official statements (including program disclosure documents), but does apply to abstracts or summaries of official statements, offering circulars and other such similar documents prepared by dealers.  The MSRB expresses no opinion at this time as to whether the specific communications or promotional materials described in your letter would constitute advertisements under this definition.

[4] Rule G-17 requires each dealer, in the conduct of its municipal securities activities, to deal fairly with all persons and prohibits the dealer from engaging in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice.

[5] The advertisement may, in addition to or instead of identifying the state or other governmental entity that operates the 529 college savings plan, include the state’s marketing name for such plan so long as such name does not identify the dealer or any dealer affiliates that may participate in the marketing of its municipal fund securities.  Further, any contact information (such as a telephone number or Internet address) included in the advertisement should be for the state or other governmental entity and must not be for the dealer or its affiliates.


Disclosure obligations - May 21, 1998

Disclosure obligations. This is in response to your letters dated March 18, 1998 and March 31, 1998 in which you present an example where a dealer advertises a specific municipal security which it knows, or has reason to know, is subject to a material adverse circumstance such as a technical default. You ask whether a dealer is obligated to include disclosure information indicating that a bond is subject to additional risk in order to avoid publishing a false or misleading advertisement as prohibited by rule G-21(c).  The Board reviewed your letters and has authorized this response. 

Section (c) of rule G-21 provides, among other things, that no dealer shall publish any advertisement[1] concerning municipal securities which such dealer knows or has reason to know is materially false or misleading. The Board has previously interpreted the rule as not requiring that any specific statements or information be included in an advertisement but that any statement or information that is included must not be materially false or misleading.  Thus, if a dealer makes a statement in an advertisement that explicitly or implicitly refers to the soundness or safety of an investment in the municipal securities described in the advertisement, such dealer must include any information necessary to ensure that the advertisement is not materially false or misleading with respect to the soundness or safety of such investment. The rule establishes a general ethical standard that provides the enforcement agencies with the flexibility that is needed to evaluate advertisements in light of what information is printed and how the information physically is presented.  Thus, the enforcement agencies should continue to evaluate advertisements on a case-by-case basis to make a determination whether any such advertisements, in fact, are misleading. 

You also ask whether the relative specificity of any such disclosure obligation that may exist depends on the level of detail provided about the municipal security. As stated above, rule G-21 does not require that any specific statements or information be included in an advertisement but that any statement or information that is included must not be materially false or misleading. Thus, the nature and extent of any disclosures or other explanatory statements that must be included in an advertisement is dependent upon the substance and form of the information presented in the advertisement.

The Board wishes to emphasize that the enforcement agencies should remain cognizant of certain other rules of the Board that may be relevant in evaluating whether a dealer's advertisement and such dealer's interactions with customers or potential customers that arise as a result of such advertisement are in conformity with Board rules. Thus, depending upon the facts and circumstances, an advertisement for a particular municipal security that on its face conforms with the requirements of rule G-21 may nonetheless be violative of rule G-17, the Board's fair dealing rule,[2] if, for example, the advertisement is designed as a “bait-and-switch” mechanism that attracts potential customers interested in an advertised security that the dealer is not in a legitimate position to sell (because of its unavailability, unsuitability or otherwise) for the primary purpose of creating a captive audience for the offering of other securities. In addition, a dealer that in fact sells the municipal securities that are described in its advertisement must fulfill its obligations  under rule G-19, on suitability, and rule G-30, on pricing. MSRB interpretation of May 21, 1998.


[1] “Advertisement” is defined in rule G-21 as any material (other than listings of offerings) published or designed for use in the public, including electronic, media, or any promotional literature designed for dissemination to the public, including any notice, circular, report, market letter, form letter, telemarketing script or reprint or excerpt of the foregoing. The term does not apply to preliminary official statements or official statements, but does apply to abstracts or summaries of official statements, offering circulars and other such similar documents prepared by dealers. 

[2] Rule G-17 requires each dealer, in the conduct of its municipal securities business, to deal fairly with all persons and prohibits the dealer from engaging in any deceptive, dishonest or unfair practice.

Advertisements on behalf of issuer - June 20, 1994

Advertisements on behalf of issuer.  You ask whether a certain advertisement is subject to approval by a principal pursuant to rule G-21, on advertising. You state that an issuer asked the bank to act as its agent in producing the advertisement.  Rule G-21 defines an advertisement as any material (other than listings of offerings) published or designed for use in the public media, or any promotional literature designed for dissemination to the public, including any notice, circular, report, market letter, form letter or reprint or excerpt of the foregoing. The term does not apply to preliminary official statements or official statements, but does apply to abstracts or summaries of official statements, offering circulars and other such similar documents prepared by dealers. Each advertisement subject to the requirements of rule G-21 must be approved in writing by a municipal securities principal or general securities principal prior to first use. The fact that a bank dealer is acting as an agent of an issuer in the production of an advertisement meeting the definition contained in rule G-21 does not relieve a bank from complying with the requirements of the rule.  MSRB interpretation of June 20, 1994.

Advertisements showing current yield - April 22, 1988

Advertisements showing current yield. This is in response to your letter concerning the application of rule G-21, on advertising, to advertisements that include information on current yield of municipal securities. [1] You have asked for the Board’s views whether including current yield information in advertisements for municipal securities, alone or with other yield information, would be materially misleading. You also ask if a dealer may advertise current yield if other yield information is included but is in smaller print. The Board has considered this issue and authorized this reply.

Rule G-21 prohibits a dealer from publishing an advertisement concerning a municipal security that the dealer knows or has reason to know is materially false or misleading. The Board has stated that an advertisement showing a percentage rate of return must specify whether it is the coupon rate or the yield. The Board noted that, if a yield is presented, the advertisement must indicate the basis on which the yield is calculated.[2]

The Board frequently has stated that the yield to call or yield to maturity is the most important factor in determining the fairness and reasonableness of the price of any given transaction in municipal securities. Such yields typically are used as a basis for dealers and customers to evaluate an investment in municipal securities. The disclosure of yield to call or yield to maturity is the longstanding practice of the municipal securities industry and this practice is reflected in rule G-15(a) which requires dealers to disclose yield to call or yield to maturity on customer confirmations.[3] A customer who purchases a municipal security relying only on the current yield information disclosed in an advertisement would be confused upon receipt of the confirmation when the yield to call or yield to maturity of the security is different. Moreover, a customer would not be able to compare municipal securities advertised at a current yield with those advertised at a yield to call or yield to maturity.[4]

The Board has determined that the use of current yield information in municipal securities advertisements without other yield information would be materially misleading under rule G-21. Thus, dealers may not show only current yield in municipal securities advertisements.

The Board also has determined that, while showing only current yield information in advertisements is materially misleading, if advertisements also include, at a minimum, the lowest of yield to call or yield to maturity, current yield may be used if all the information is clearly presented as discussed below. The Board notes that including yield to call or yield to maturity in municipal securities advertisements would give customers a more realistic view of the yield they can expect to receive on the investment and would enable them to compare the security advertised with other municipal securities. In addition, the yield to call or yield to maturity information would be consistent with the yield information disclosed on customer confirmations. If the yield to call is used, the call date and price also should be noted.

The Board is concerned that, even if dealers comply with this interpretation of rule G-21 and include current yield and other yield information in municipal securities advertisements, such advertisements still could be misleading due to the size of type used and the placement of the information. For example, it would not be appropriate for the type size of the current yield to be larger than other yield information. Thus, whether a particular advertisement is materially misleading requires the appropriate regulatory body, for example, an NASD District Business Conduct Committee, to consider a number of objective and subjective factors. The Board urges the regulatory authorities to continue to review advertisements on a case-by-case basis to make a determination whether any such advertisements, in fact, are misleading. MSRB interpretation of April 22, 1988.


[1] Current yield is a calculation of current income on a bond. It is the ratio of the annual dollar amount of interest paid on a security to the purchase price of the security, stated as a percentage. If the securities are sold at par, the current yield equals the coupon rate on the securities. Current yield, however, does not take into account the time value of money. Thus, generally, if a bond is selling at a discount, the current yield would be less than the yield to maturity and, if the bond is selling at a premium, the current yield would be greater than the yield to maturity.

[2] Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Advertising, MSRB Reports, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr. 1983), at 21-23.

[3] Rule G-15(a)(i)(1) [currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5)] requires that the yield or dollar price at which the transaction was effected be disclosed on customer confirmations, with the resulting dollar price (if the transaction is done on a yield basis) or yield (if the transaction is done on a dollar basis) calculated to the lowest of dollar price or yield to call, to par option or to maturity. In cases in which the resulting dollar price or yield shown on the confirmation is calculated to call or par option, this must be stated and the call or option date and price used in the calculation must be shown.

[4] The Board also notes that some dealers have used current yield in municipal securities advertisements in an attempt to compete with municipal securities mutual funds, which often use a “current yield” in their advertisements. However, a mutual fund “yield” is not directly comparable to a municipal securities yield because a mutual fund “yield” represents historical information, while the yield on a municipal security represents a future rate of return.


Advertising of securities subject to alternative minimum tax - February 23, 1988

Advertising of securities subject to alternative minimum tax. This is in response to your letter concerning the application of rule G-21, on advertising, to advertisements for municipal securities subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT). You state that advertisements for municipal securities usually note that the securities are "free from federal and state taxes." You ask whether an advertisement for municipal securities subject to AMT should note the applicability of AMT if such advertisements describe the securities as "tax exempt." The Board has considered the issue and authorized this reply.

Rule G-21(c) prohibits a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer from publishing any advertisement concerning municipal securities which the broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer knows or has reason to know is materially false or misleading. The Board has stated that the use of the term "tax exempt" in advertisements for municipal securities connotes that the securities are exempt from all federal, state and local income taxes. If this is not true of the security being advertised, the Board has required that the use of the term "tax exempt" in an advertisement must be explained, e.g., by footnote[1] In regard to municipal securities subject to AMT, the Board has determined that advertisements for such securities that describe the securities as being exempt from federal income tax also must describe the securities as subject to AMT. MSRB Interpretation of February 23, 1988.


[1] Frequently asked questions concerning advertising, MSRB Reports, Vol. 3, No. 2 (April 1983), at 22.


Advertisements of securities not owned - July 1, 1982

Advertisements of securities not owned. This is in response to your letter of May 5, 1982 concerning a dealer bank’s advertising practices. Your letter states that the dealer bank has recently published newspaper advertisements which list specific municipal securities as "Current Offerings," and that your review of the dealer’s inventory positions has disclosed that "on the date the advertisement was published the dealer held no position in four of the issues advertised and a nominal position in the fifth advertised issue." Your letter reports that the dealer stated that it was his intention to obtain the advertised issues from other dealers when customer orders were received. Your first question is whether "it is misleading and thus in violation of rule G-21, to advertise securities which the dealer does not own..."

The Board has recently considered this advertising practice and concluded that it would not violate Board rules provided that: (1) the advertisement indicates that the securities are advertised "subject to availability;" (2) the dealer placing the advertisement is not aware that the bonds are no longer available in the market; and (3) the dealer would attempt to acquire the bonds advertised if contacted by a potential customer.

Your letter also expresses concern that this type of advertising might be seriously misleading to customers since the advertisement must be prepared and the printer’s proof copy approved five days in advance of the date of publication. You note that "significant changes in the market can occur over a five, or even three-day period" and that, if such market changes had occurred between submission and publication of the advertisement, the customer could be seriously misled. The Board is aware that delays occur between the time an advertisement is composed and approved for publication by a municipal securities dealer and the time it is actually published. The Board believes that inclusion in the advertisement of a statement indicating that the securities are advertised subject to change in price provides adequate notice to a potential customer that the prices and yields quoted in the advertisement may not represent market yields and prices at the time the customer contacts the dealer. MSRB interpretation of July 1, 1982.


Contents of advertisement: put options - July 13, 1981

Contents of advertisement: put options. Your letter dated June 15, 1981, has been referred to me for response. In your letter you mention our previous conversation regarding the appropriate definition of "put bonds", which definition your firm would like to use in advertisements offering such securities for sale. You request confirmation of the Board’s views concerning the aspects of the "put option" feature on these securities that would be appropriate to cover in such a definition.

The type of "put option" issue with which the Board is familiar, and which we discussed, has a provision in the indenture which permits the holder of the securities to tender or "put" the securities back to the issuer on specified dates at par. This feature typically commences six (or more) years after the date of issuance, is exercisable only once annually (on an interest payment date), and is exercisable only upon the provision of irrevocable prior notice to the issuer (typically three or more months before the exercise date).

If I remember our conversation correctly, you indicated that the firm wished to describe a security of this type in an advertisement as having a "put option" feature, available once annually, permitting redemption of the securities at par. I suggested that, while the items of information you detailed were appropriate, it might also be advisable to mention in the advertisement the "prior notice" requirement under the option exercise procedure. It would also be helpful to make clear the irrevocable nature of such notice.

If the content of your definition of the "put option" feature goes beyond the items we discussed (for example, by indicating that the "put option" is secured by a bank letter of credit, additional disclosures might also be appropriate. MSRB interpretation of July 13, 1981.


Legend satisfying requirement - August 28, 1979

Legend satisfying requirement. I refer to your letter of June 29, 1979 in which you request advice regarding rule G-21(c) on product advertisements. As you noted in your letter, the notice of approval of rule G-34 [prior rule on advertising] stated that the Board believes that the advertisements may be misleading if they show

only a percentage rate without specifying whether it is the coupon rate or yield and, if yield, the basis on which calculated (for example, discount, par or premium securities and if discount securities, whether before-tax or after-tax yield).

You have requested advice as whether the following legend, to be used in connection with the sale of discount bonds, would be satisfactory for purposes of the rule:

"Discount bonds may be subject to capital gains tax. Rates of such tax vary for individual taxpayers. Discount yields shown herein are gross yields to maturity."

As I previously indicated to you in our telephone conversation, the proposed legend would satisfy the requirements of rule G-21(c). MSRB interpretation of August 28, 1979.


Furnishing of official statements: duplication of copies - March 7, 1979

Furnishing of official statements: duplication of copies. [It] is the Board’s position that if an official statement is made available by an issuer, it is incumbent upon municipal securities dealers to see that their customers receive copies of the official statement. A municipal securities dealer cannot avoid the rule on the grounds that the issuer did not supply a sufficient number of official statements for distribution. The dealer in such a case has to bear the burden of reproducing the official statement. MSRB interpretation of March 7, 1979.

Note: The above letter refers to the text of rule G-32 as in effect prior to the amendments effective on August 30, 1985.