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Advertisements Showing Current Yield

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.