MSRB NOTICE 2005-01 (January 5, 2005)

INTERPRETIVE REMINDER NOTICE REGARDING RULE G-17, ON DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL FACTS--DISCLOSURE OF ORIGINAL ISSUE DISCOUNT BONDS

On January 5, 2005, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) for immediate effectiveness a proposed rule change consisting of an interpretive reminder notice regarding Rule G-17, on disclosure of material facts—disclosure of original issue discount bonds (File No. SR-MSRB-2005-01).  The text of the interpretive notice is contained below.   

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The MSRB is publishing this notice to remind dealers of their affirmative disclosure obligations when effecting transactions with customers in original issue discount bonds. An original issue discount bond, or O.I.D. bond, is a bond that was sold at the time of issue at a price that included an original issue discount. The original issue discount is the amount by which the par value of the bond exceeded its public offering price at the time of its original issuance. The original issue discount is amortized over the life of the security and, on a municipal security, is generally treated as tax-exempt interest. When the investor sells the security before maturity, any profit realized on such sale is calculated (for tax purposes) on the adjusted book value, which is calculated for each year the security is outstanding by adding the accretion value to the original offering price. The amount of the accretion value (and the existence and total amount of original issue discount) is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and the rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service.[1]

Rule G-17, the MSRB’s fair dealing rule, encompasses two general principles. First, the rule imposes a duty on dealers not to engage in deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practices. This first prong of Rule G-17 is essentially an antifraud prohibition. In addition to the basic antifraud provisions in the rule, the rule imposes a duty to deal fairly with all persons. As part of a dealer’s obligation to deal fairly, the MSRB has interpreted the rule to create affirmative disclosure obligations for dealers. The MSRB has stated that the dealer’s affirmative disclosure obligations require that a dealer disclose, at or before the sale of municipal securities to a customer, all material facts concerning the transaction, including a complete description of the security.[2] These obligations apply even when a dealer is effecting non-recommended secondary market transactions.

In the context of the sale to customers of an original issue discount security, the MSRB’s customer confirmation rule, Rule G-15(a), provides that information regarding the status of bonds as original issue discount securities must be included on customer confirmations. Specifically, Rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(4)(c) provides that, “If the securities pay periodic interest and are sold by the underwriter as original issue discount securities, a designation that they are “original issue discount” securities and a statement of the initial public offering price of the securities, expressed as a dollar price” must be included on the customer’s confirmation.

The MSRB previously has alerted dealers of their obligation to make original issue discount disclosures to customers and has stated that, “The Board believes that the fact that a security bears an original issue discount is material information (since it may affect the tax treatment of the security); therefore, this fact should be disclosed to a customer prior to or at the time of trade.”[3] The MSRB is publishing this notice to remind dealers of their disclosure obligations under Rule G-17 because it remains concerned that, absent adequate disclosure of a security’s original issue discount status, an investor might not be aware that all or a portion of the component of his or her investment return represented by accretion of the discount is tax-exempt, and therefore might sell the securities at an inappropriately low price (i.e., at a price not reflecting the tax-exempt portion of the discount) or pay capital gains tax on the accreted discount amount. Without appropriate disclosure, an investor also might not be aware of how his or her transaction price compares to the initial public offering price of the security. Appropriate disclosure of a security’s original issue discount feature should assist customers in computing the market discount or premium on their transaction.


[1] See Glossary of Municipal Securities Terms, Second Edition (January 2004).

[2] See e.g., Rule G-17 Interpretation—Educational Notice on Bonds Subject to “Detachable” Call Features, May 13, 1993, MSRB Rule Book (July 2004) at 135.

[3] Rules G-12 and G-15, Comments Requested on Draft Amendments on Original Issue Discount Securities, MSRB Reports, Vol. 4, No. 6 (May 1994) at 7.