MSRB Publishes Interpretive Letter Regarding Solicitation Activity on Behalf of an Affiliated Company Pursuant to Rules G-37 and G-38
MSRB PUBLISHES INTERPRETIVE LETTER REGARDING SOLICITATION ACTIVITY ON BEHALF OF AN AFFILIATED COMPANY PURSUANT TO RULES G-37 AND G-38
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board has published an interpretive letter pursuant to Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business, and Rule G-38, on solicitation of municipal securities business, concerning the activities of a broker-dealer on behalf of an affiliated company. The text of the interpretive letter is included below. Questions regarding the interpretive letter may be directed to Leslie Carey, Associate General Counsel, or Ronald W. Smith, Senior Legal Associate.
July 2, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERPRETIVE LETTER
Rules G-37 and G-38 Interpretive Letter – Solicitation activity on behalf of affiliated company. This is in response to your April 29, 2009 letter seeking guidance regarding Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) Rule G-38, on solicitation of municipal securities business, and MSRB Rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. Your letter relates to the formation of a joint venture broker-dealer (“JV B-D”) by two existing broker-dealers (the “legacy firms”). You state that JV B-D will not engage in municipal securities business and that the employees of JV B-D will not retain their employment status with the legacy firms, but will be associated persons of both legacy firms.
Specifically, you request guidance on the following two issues: (i) whether the employees of the JV B-D may solicit municipal securities business, under Rule G-38, on behalf of the legacy firms; and (ii) whether an employee who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of one of the legacy firms will be considered a municipal finance professional (“MFP”)  solely of the legacy firm on whose behalf the MFP solicits municipal securities business under Rule G-37, rather than of both legacy firms. The Board has reviewed your letter and authorized this response.
JV B-D Employee Solicitation of Municipal Securities Business on Behalf of Legacy Firms: You ask whether employees of JV B-D, who are the prior employees of the legacy firms, may solicit municipal securities business on behalf of such firms under Rule G-38. Rule G-38(a) prohibits a broker, dealer or municipal securities dealer (“dealer”) from providing, directly or indirectly, payment to any person who is not an affiliated person of the dealer for a solicitation of municipal securities business on behalf of such dealer.
You state that JV B-D will be controlled by the legacy firms and, as such, should be viewed as an affiliated company of the legacy firms. Under Rule G-38, if JV B-D is controlled by the legacy firms, JV B-D and its employees should be viewed as affiliates of the legacy firms. Based on the control relationships you describe, Rule G-38 will not be violated if employees of JV B-D are paid by a legacy firm for a solicitation of municipal securities business on behalf of such legacy firms.
JV B-D Employee Status as Municipal Finance Professional for Legacy Firm on Behalf of Which the Employee Has Solicited Municipal Securities Business: You also ask whether an employee of JV B-D who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of one of the legacy firms will be considered an MFP solely of the legacy firm on whose behalf the employee solicits municipal securities business, rather than of both legacy firms. Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B) defines MFP, in relevant part, as any associated person (including, but not limited to, any affiliated person of the dealer, as defined in Rule G-38) who solicits municipal securities business (a “solicitor MFP”). You note that this language does not expressly limit MFP status to the dealer on whose behalf the municipal securities business was solicited.
The MSRB is of the view that implicit in the concept of a solicitor MFP, as set forth in Rule G-37(g)(iv)(B), is the notion that an associated person who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of a dealer becomes an MFP of such dealer. Although an individual who solicits municipal securities business on behalf of one dealer with which he or she is associated thereby becomes an MFP of such dealer, the solicitation does not by itself result in the individual becoming an MFP of a different dealer with which such individual may be associated but for which he or she has not solicited municipal securities business. Rather, such individual would have to undertake a solicitation or another activity described in Rule G-37(g)(iv) on behalf of the second dealer in order to become an MFP of such second dealer.
The MSRB notes that Rule G-38(b)(i) defines solicitation broadly to mean, any direct or indirect communication with an issuer for the purpose of obtaining or retaining municipal securities business. The MSRB has previously provided guidance regarding the types of communications that are viewed as solicitations of municipal securities business. Depending upon specific facts and circumstances, a direct solicitation of municipal securities business by an individual on behalf of a dealer with which such individual is associated (the “directly-benefited dealer”) might also be considered an indirect solicitation of business on behalf of another dealer with which such individual is associated (the “indirectly-benefited dealer”). In conversations with issuers or other third parties, the individual must clearly indicate for which dealer he or she is soliciting business. For example, an individual who describes to issuer personnel two or more affiliated dealers as leading underwriting firms in that issuer’s state but only explicitly asks such personnel to hire one dealer (i.e., the directly-benefited dealer) would likely be considered to have indirectly solicited business on behalf of the other dealer as well (i.e., the indirectly-benefited dealer). An important factor in determining whether a direct solicitation on behalf of a directly-benefited dealer could also be considered an indirect solicitation on behalf of an indirectly-benefited dealer is whether the individual solely identifies his or her affiliation with the directly-benefited dealer or also identifies an affiliation with the other dealer. To the extent that multiple dealers are identified directly or indirectly, dealers would need to take extra precautions to ensure that the solicited issuer personnel understand that the solicitation is solely on behalf of the directly-benefited dealer and that the identification of the other firm is limited and does not serve to promote the other firm. In circumstances similar to those described in this letter, dealers should have in place effective procedures to ensure that the solicitations for municipal securities business are tracked in a way that will properly classify individuals making solicitations as MFPs of the appropriate dealer. MSRB Interpretation of June 23, 2009.