Interpretive Notice on Professional Qualifications
On December 23, 1976, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (the "Board") issued an interpretive notice addressing certain questions received by the Board with respect to its professional qualifications rules (rules G-2 through G-7). Since that time, the Board has received additional questions concerning rule G-3 which are discussed in this interpretive notice.
1. Requirements for Financial and Operations Principals.
Under the rule G-3(b)(ii)[*], every municipal securities broker and municipal securities dealer other than a bank dealer is required to have at least one qualified financial and operations principal. As defined in the rule, this person is responsible for the overall supervision and preparation of financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission and self-regulatory organizations and for the processing, clearance, safekeeping and recordkeeping activities of the firm. If more than one person shares these overall supervisory responsibilities, each such person must be qualified as a financial and operations principal.
The question has been asked whether a financial and operations principal whose duties relate solely to financial and operational matters and not, for example, to underwriting, trading, or sales functions must qualify also as a municipal securities principal by passing the Board's municipal securities principal examination when it is prescribed. The Board does not intend to impose such a requirement on persons whose functions are limited to those set forth in the definition of a financial and operations principal.
The question has also been asked whether a person performing only the functions of a financial and operations principal on and after December 1, 1975 would be "grandfathered" as a municipal securities principal for purposes of taking the Board's municipal securities principal examination when prescribed if such person begins supervising underwriting, trading or sales functions. Activities relating to financial and operational matters are substantially different from those relating to underwriting, trading and sales or other categories of activities supervised by municipal securities principals. The Board does not intend, therefore, that financial and operations principals be "grandfathered" for purposes of the Board's examination requirements for municipal securities principals, or that a financial and operations principal would be qualified to engage in such other supervisory activities solely by reason of having met the Board's requirements for financial and operations principals.
The Board has also been asked whether senior officers or general partners of a firm, who may bear ultimate legal responsibility for the financial and operational activities of the firm, must be qualified as financial and operations principals under the Board's rules. Although the answer depends on the particular factual situation, officers or partners not directly involved in the financial and operations affairs of a firm generally would not be required to qualify as financial and operations principals.
2. Activities Requiring Qualification as a Municipal Securities Principal.
The question has been asked whether supervisory personnel in the processing and clearance areas must qualify as the municipal securities principals under rule G-3. In a securities firm, the financial and operations principal ordinarily would be the only person supervising operations-related activities who will be required to pass an examination. With respect to bank dealer supervisory personnel, to whom the financial and operations principal classification does not apply, qualification in a principal capacity in the operations area will not be required unless the person in question exercises policy-making authority. Thus, an individual may supervise a bank dealer's processing activities without qualifying as a municipal securities principal, regardless of the number of persons supervised by such individual, if policy-making functions and discretionary authority are delegated to a higher level.
Somewhat different considerations apply in determining which persons are required to be qualified as municipal securities principals in connection with underwriting, trading, sales or other activities referred to in the Board's rules as municipal securities principal activities. In these areas, the qualification requirements apply to persons having supervisory responsibility with respect to the day-to-day conduct of the activities in question, even though such persons may not have a policy-making role. The Board's conclusions in this regard are based on the fact that in these other areas the supervisory person is responsible for the activities of personnel who communicate directly with issuers, traders, and investors.
3. Activities Requiring Qualification as a Municipal Securities Representative.
In certain cases, communications from customers may be received at a time when a duly qualified municipal securities representative or municipal securities principal is unavailable. Similarly, there may be situations in which it becomes important to advise a customer promptly of transactions effected and orders confirmed, even though the individual responsible for the account may not be able to communicate with the customer at that time.
In many cases under the rules of other self-regulatory organizations, communications of this nature, which in essence reflect a mechanical function, may be received and made by properly supervised competent individuals whose clerical and ministerial functions would not otherwise subject them to qualification requirements. The Board believes the principle underlying this practice and the application of other self-regulatory organizations' qualification rules is sound.
Accordingly, the Board interprets rule G-3 to permit the recording and transmission in customary channels of orders, the reading of approved quotations, and the giving of reports of transactions by non-qualified clerical personnel when the duly qualified municipal securities representative or municipal securities principal who normally handles the account or customer is unavailable. The foregoing interpretation is applicable only to clerical personnel who are: (a) deemed capable and competent by a municipal securities principal or general securities principal to engage in such activities; (b) specifically authorized in writing to perform such functions on an occasional basis as necessary or directed to perform such functions in specific instances, in either case by a duly qualified municipal securities principal or general securities principal; (c) familiar with the normal type and size of transaction effected with or for the customer or the account; and (d) closely supervised by duly qualified municipal personnel.
All orders for municipal securities received by clerical personnel under the foregoing interpretation must be reviewed and approved by duly qualified municipal personnel familiar with the customer or account prior to being accepted or effected by the municipal securities broker or municipal securities dealer. Solicitation of orders by clerical personnel is not permitted. Confirmations of transactions may be given and quotations read by clerical personnel only when approved by duly qualified municipal personnel. Individuals subject to the 90-day apprenticeship requirements of rule G-3(i)[†] are not clerical personnel and are not authorized or permitted to engage in such activities with members of the public.
Also, the question has been raised whether a bank's branch office personnel, who are not otherwise required to be qualified under rule G-3, will be required to take and pass the qualification examination for municipal securities representatives in order to respond to a depositor's inquiry concerning possible investments in municipal securities. Insofar as the branch office personnel merely refer the depositor to qualified bank dealer personnel for discussion concerning the merits of an investment in municipal securities and execution of the depositor's order, the branch office personnel would not be required to be qualified under the Board's professional qualifications requirements. However, if branch office personnel seek to advise the depositor concerning the merits of a possible investment, or otherwise perform more than a purely ministerial function, qualification under the Board's rules would be required.
[*] [ Currently codified at rule G-3(d)(iii)]
[†] [ Currently codified at rule G-3(a)(iii)]