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Excerpt from Notice of Application of MSRB Rules to Solicitor Municipal Advisors

The MSRB amended Rule G-17, regarding fair dealing, to require that, in the conduct of their municipal advisory activities, municipal advisors, including solicitor municipal advisors, and their associated persons must deal fairly with all persons and not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice. (Previously, the rule applied only to dealers and their associated persons.) Rule G-17 became applicable to all municipal advisors, including solicitor municipal advisors, and their associated persons, on December 22, 2010.

Rule G-17 contains an anti-fraud prohibition similar to the standard set forth in Rule 10b-5 adopted by the SEC under the Exchange Act. Thus, all municipal advisors must refrain from engaging in certain conduct and must not misrepresent or omit the facts, risks, or other material information about municipal advisory activities undertaken. However, Rule G-17 does not merely prohibit deceptive conduct on the part of a municipal advisor. The rule also establishes a general duty of a municipal advisor to deal fairly with all persons, even in the absence of fraud.

Rule G-17 imposes a duty of fair dealing on solicitor municipal advisors when they are soliciting business from municipal entities and obligated persons on behalf of third parties. Again, municipal advisors are reminded that the term “municipal entity” also includes certain entities that do not issue municipal securities. Thus, in addition to owing the specific obligations discussed below to issuers of municipal securities, solicitor municipal advisors also owe such obligations to, for example, state and local government sponsored public pension plans and local government investment pools.

The duty of fair dealing includes, but is not limited to, a duty to disclose to the municipal entity or obligated person being solicited material facts about the solicitation, such as the name of the solicitor’s client; the type of business being solicited; the amount and source of all of the solicitor’s compensation; payments (including in-kind) made by the solicitor to another solicitor municipal advisor (including an affiliate, but not an employee) to facilitate the solicitation regardless of characterization; and any relationships of the solicitor with any employees or board members of the municipal entity or obligated person being solicited or any other persons affiliated with the municipal entity or obligated person or its officials who may have influence over the selection of the solicitor’s client.

Additionally, if a solicitor municipal advisor is engaged by its client to present information about a product or service offered by the third-party client to the municipal entity or obligated person, the solicitor municipal advisor must disclose all material risks and characteristics of the product or service. The solicitor municipal advisor must also advise the municipal entity or obligated person of any incentives received by the solicitor (that are not already disclosed as part of the solicitor municipal advisor’s compensation from its client) to recommend the product or service, as well as any other conflicts of interest regarding the product or service, and must not make material misstatements or omissions when discussing the product or service.

Under the Exchange Act, municipal advisors and their associated persons are deemed to owe a fiduciary duty to their municipal entity clients.[*] Similarly, Rule G-42 (which applies only to non-solicitor municipal advisors) follows the Exchange Act in deeming municipal advisors to owe a fiduciary duty, for purposes of Rule G-42, to such municipal entity clients. However, because a solicitor municipal advisor’s clients are not the municipal entities that they solicit, but rather the third parties that retain or engage the solicitor municipal advisor to solicit such municipal entities, solicitor municipal advisors do not owe a fiduciary duty under the Exchange Act or MSRB rules to their clients (or the municipal entity) in connection with such activity. Nonetheless, as noted above, solicitor municipal advisors are subject to the fair dealing standards under Rule G-17 (including with respect to their clients and the entities that they solicit).

[*] See Order Adopting SEC Final Rule [Release No. 34-70462 (September 20, 2013), 78 FR 67467 (November 12, 2013) (File No. S7-45-10)], at n. 100 (noting that the fiduciary duty of a municipal advisor, as set forth in Section 15B(c)(1) of the Exchange Act, extends only to its municipal entity clients).