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Description Provided at or Prior to the Time of Trade

Description provided at or prior to the time of trade. This is in response to your February 27, 1986 letter and our prior telephone conversation concerning the application of Board rules to the description of municipal securities exchanged at or prior to the time of trade. You note that it is becoming more and more common in the municipal securities secondary market for sellers, both dealers and customers, to provide only a “limited description” and CUSIP number for bonds being sold. Recently you were asked by a customer to bid on $4 million of bonds and were given the coupon, maturity date, and issuer. When you asked for more information, you were given the CUSIP number. You then bid on and purchased the bonds. After the bonds were confirmed, you discovered  that the bonds were callable and that, when these bonds first came to market, they were priced to the call. You state that the seller was aware that the bonds were callable.

Your letter was referred to a Committee of the Board which has responsibility for interpreting the Board’s fair practice rules. That Committee has authorized this response.

Board rule G-17 provides that

In the conduct of its municipal securities business, each broker, dealer, and municipal securities dealer shall deal fairly with all persons and shall not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice. (emphasis added)

The Board has interpreted this rule to require that, in connection with the purchase from or sale of a municipal security to a customer, at or before execution of the transaction, a dealer must disclose all material facts concerning the transaction which could affect the customer’s investment decision and not omit any material facts which would render other statements misleading. The fact that a municipal security may be redeemed in-whole, in-part, or in extraordinary circumstances prior to maturity is essential to a customer’s investment decision and is one of the facts a dealer must disclose.

I note from our telephone conversation that you ask whether Board rules specify what information a customer must disclose to a dealer at the time it solicits bids to buy municipal securities. Customers are not subject to the Board’s rules, and no specific disclosure rules would apply to customers beyond the application of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. I note, however, that a municipal securities professional buying securities from a customer should obtain sufficient information about the securities so that it can accurately describe these securities when the dealer reintroduces them into the market.

In regard to inter-dealer transactions, the items of information that professionals must exchange at or prior to the time of trade are governed by principles of contract law and essentially are those items necessary adequately to describe the security that is the subject of the contract. As a general matter, these items of information may not encompass all material facts, but must be sufficient to distinguish the security from other similar issues. The Board has interpreted rule G-17 to require dealers to treat other dealers fairly and to hold them to the prevailing ethical standards of the industry. Also, dealers may not knowingly misdescribe securities to another dealer. MSRB interpretation of April 30, 1986.