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Fixed-Price Offerings

Fixed-price offerings. This responds to your letter of February 17, 1984, requesting our view on the applicability of the Board's rules to the following situation:

[Name deleted] the ("Dealer") is an underwriter of industrial revenue bonds. It underwrites on average three or four issues per month and sells them almost entirely on a retail basis to individual investors. The coupon rates are fixed at current market levels. The bonds are then offered to the public at par. Official statements are provided to investors, fully disclosing all pertinent information and making clear note of the fact that the initial offering price of par may be changed without prior notice.

Recently, interest rates dropped significantly during the two or three-week time period needed for the Dealer to sell out a bond issue. This caused the offering price of the fixed rate municipal bonds to rise above the initial offering price stated in the official statement. All of this occurred before the closing of the syndicate account. You ask specifically whether, under the Board's rules, it is permissible to raise the offering price of municipal bonds which are part of a new issue above the initial price before the close of the underwriting period.

Board rule G-11 generally requires syndicates to establish priorities for different categories of orders and requires that certain disclosures be made to syndicate members which are intended to assure that allocations are made in accordance with those priorities. The rule also requires that the manager provide account information to syndicate members in writing. The Board has described rule G-11 as a "disclosure rule" designed to provide information to new issue participants so that they can understand and evaluate syndicate practices. The rule does not, however, dictate what those practices must be. Thus, rule G-11 does not require that the offering price of new issue municipal securities remain fixed through the underwriting period. The Board considered the issue of fixed-price offerings when it formulated rule G-11 and again when the Public Securities Association, in 1981, asked the Board to consider the adoption of rules governing the granting of concessions in new issues of municipal securities. Since the kind of fixed-price offering system developed for corporate securities has not been the primary means of distributing municipal securities and in light of industry concerns that any such proposed regulations could unnecessarily restrict prices and increase the borrowing costs for municipal issues, the Board determined not to adopt any rules addressing the issue. [1]

Finally, we know of no laws or regulations which purport to require fixed-price offerings for new issue municipal securities, and the NASD's rules in this area do not apply to transactions in municipal securities.[2] Of course, Board rule G-30, on prices and commissions, prohibits a dealer from buying municipal securities for its own account from a customer or selling municipal securities for its own account to a customer at an aggregate price unless that price is reasonable taking into consideration all relevant factors. MSRB interpretation of March 16, 1984.



[1] For a fuller explanation of the Board's review of G-11 in this area, See Notice Concerning Board Determination Not to Adopt Concession Rules, [MSRB Reports, Vol. 2, No. 5 (July 1982) at 7].

[2] See NASD Rules of Fair Practice, Article II, Section 1, subsection (m) [currently codified as NASD Rule 114].