Volume 17 Number 2 -- JUNE 1997
COMMENTS DUE BY: AUGUST 15, 1997
Interpretation of Prohibition on Municipal Securities Business Pursuant to Rule G-37
The Board is issuing an interpretation concerning the prohibition on municipal securities business pursuant to rule G-37.
Recently, dealers have raised questions regarding how the prohibition on municipal securities business in rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, applies to certain situations. Rule G-37 prohibits any dealer from engaging in municipal securities business with an issuer within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer made by: (i) the dealer; (ii) any municipal finance professional associated with such dealer; or (iii) any political action committee controlled by the dealer or any municipal finance professional.1 If a municipal finance professional makes a political contribution to an issuer official for whom he is not entitled to vote, the dealer is prohibited from engaging in municipal securities business with that issuer for two years. The Board has been asked whether the prohibition on municipal securities business extends to certain services provided under contractual agreements with an issuer that pre-date the contribution. The Board is issuing the following interpretation of the prohibition on municipal securities business pursuant to rule G-37.
A dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business with an issuer may not enter into any new contractual obligations with that issuer for municipal securities business.2 The Board adopted rule G-37 in an effort to sever any connection between the making of political contributions and the awarding of municipal securities business. The Board believes that the problems associated with political contributions including the practice known as "pay-to-play" undermine investor confidence in the municipal securities market, which confidence is crucial to the long-term health of the market, both in terms of liquidity and capital-raising ability.
The Board believes that it is consistent with the intent of rule G-37 that a dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business with an issuer be allowed to continue to execute certain issue-specific contractual obligations in effect prior to the date of the contribution that caused the prohibition. For example, if a bond purchase agreement was signed prior to the date of the contribution, a dealer may continue to perform its services as an underwriter on the issue. Also, if an issue-specific agreement for financial advisory services was in effect prior to the date of the contribution, the dealer may continue in its role as financial advisor for that issue. In the same manner, a dealer may act as remarketing agent or placement agent for an issue and also may continue to underwrite a commercial paper program as long as the contract to perform these services was in effect prior to the date of the contribution. Subject to the limitations noted below, these activities are not considered new municipal securities business and thus can be performed by dealers under a prohibition on municipal securities business with the issuer.
Dealers also have asked questions regarding certain terms in contracts to provide on-going municipal securities business that allow for additional services or compensation. For example, a dealer may have an agreement to provide remarketing services for a municipal securities issue, the terms of which allow the issuer to change the "mode" of the outstanding bonds from variable to a fixed rate of interest or from Rule 2a-7 eligible to non-Rule 2a-7 eligible.3 Generally, the per bond fee increases if the dealer sells fixed rate municipal securities or non-money market fund securities. Also, an agreement to underwrite a commercial paper program may include terms for increasing the size of the program. While the per bond fee probably does not increase if more commercial paper is underwritten, the amount of money paid to the dealer does increase. The Board views the provisions in existing contracts that allow for changes in the services provided by the dealer on compensation paid by the issuer as new municipal securities business and, therefore, rule G-37 precludes a dealer subject to a prohibition on municipal securities business from performing such additional functions or receiving additional compensation.
Dealers also at times enter into long-term contracts with issuers for municipal securities business, e.g., a five-year financial advisory agreement. If a contribution is given after such a non-issue-specific contract is entered into that results in a prohibition on municipal securities business, the Board believes the dealer should not be allowed to continue with the municipal securities business, subject to an orderly transition to another entity to perform such business. This transition should be as short a period of time as possible and is intended to give the issuer the opportunity to receive the benefit of the work already provided by the dealer and to find a replacement to complete the work, as needed.
The Board recognizes that there is great variety in the terms of agreements regarding municipal securities business and that the interpretation noted above may not adequately deal with all such agreements. Thus, the Board is seeking comment on how a prohibition on municipal securities business pursuant to rule G-37 affects contracts for municipal securities business entered into with issuers prior to the date of the contribution triggering the prohibition on business. In particular, the Board is seeking comment on other examples whereby a dealer may be contractually obligated to perform certain activities after the date of the triggering contribution. If other examples are provided, the Board would like comments on how these situations should be addressed pursuant to rule G-37.
Based upon the comments received on this notice, the Board may issue additional interpretations or amend the language of rule G-37.
February 21, 1997
 The only exception to rule G-37's absolute prohibition on municipal securities business is for certain contributions made to issuer officials by municipal finance professionals. Contributions by such persons to officials of issuers do not invoke application of the prohibition on business if (i) the municipal finance professional is entitled to vote for such official and (ii) contributions by such municipal finance professional do not exceed, in total, $250 to each official, per election.
 The term "municipal securities business" is defined in the rule to encompass certain activities of dealers, such as acting as negotiated underwriters (as managing underwriter or as syndicate member), financial advisors, placement agents and negotiated remarketing agents. The rule does not prohibit dealers from engaging in business awarded on a competitive bid basis.
 SEC Rule 2a-7 under the Investment Company Act of 1940 defines eligible securities for inclusion in money market funds.
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