Letter from the Board Chair and the CEO (October 2022)
Upholding the public trust is the foundation of everything we do at the MSRB to give America the confidence to invest in its communities. As a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for the $4 trillion U.S. municipal securities market, we understand that fiscal transparency and accountability are critical to earning and maintaining public trust. We publish an annual budget to report on the financial management of our activities to protect investors and issuers and to promote a fair and efficient market. The MSRB is funded primarily by fees paid by regulated industry entities, at no cost to the American taxpayer.
The Board has approved the MSRB’s budget for the new fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2022 to advance our priorities in support of the Strategic Plan we adopted last year with extensive input from our diverse stakeholders. Grounded in our Congressional mandate, the FY 2022–FY 2025 Strategic Plan provides a detailed roadmap for modernizing the MSRB’s regulatory rule book, continuing improvements to the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website and related market transparency systems, and enhancing our data capabilities as the central repository of municipal bond market data.
This year’s budget, the details of which are outlined in the pages that follow, includes revenue of $45 million compared to $41 million budgeted for FY 2021 before an 18-month, 40% fee reduction to spend down excess reserves built up over several years. As a result, the MSRB operated at a substantial deficit last year. Despite historically high inflation, the FY 2023 budget holds expenses to a relatively modest 4.9% increase for the coming year. Importantly, the budget reflects our continued efforts to manage reserves and expenses in a manner that responsibly funds the important work of the MSRB to protect and strengthen our market and uphold the public interest.
Modernizing Market Regulation
Market practices are continually evolving, and as we navigate this shifting environment, we are conscious of the need to adapt and modernize our rules to ensure that they continue to promote fairness and efficiency in our market. A major emphasis for FY 2023 will be a coordinated review with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) of fixed income market structure. This includes advancing our proposal to improve market efficiency and transparency by shortening the time of trade reporting requirement to one minute, as well as examining the potential collection of pre-trade data in the fixed income markets. We will also continue to holistically review our rules and interpretive guidance to identify opportunities to streamline and update them so they continue to achieve their intended purpose to protect investors, issuers and the public interest. In doing so, we will seek to promote consistency with the rules of other regulators in light of modern market practices and feedback from market participants.
Providing Transparency Through Technology
In the coming year, we will continue to leverage our significant investment in cloud computing and modernizing our flagship EMMA website to make the market’s official online source for data and disclosures easier to navigate and more intuitive to use. From our redesign of the MSRB website to make municipal market rules, research and resources easier to find, to our ongoing work to modernize EMMA, we are working to deliver technology solutions that users have asked for to improve its utility and ease of use. This includes actionable alerts to help monitor portfolios of securities and enhanced tools for improving issuers’ ability to manage their continuing disclosures.
Improving the Quality of Market Data
As our market’s central repository for data, the MSRB is focused on providing high-quality market data that enable comprehensive analysis of the municipal securities market and empower better decisions. In light of evolving technology and market practices across the fixed income markets, we plan to leverage our investments in technology to migrate market data into the cloud and to develop analytic tools and services to enhance the quality, accessibility and security of market data for investors, issuers and all market participants. An area of focus for the coming year is reviewing new opportunities to support the market’s use of structured data by leveraging EMMA Labs, the MSRB’s innovation sandbox, to advance transparency and the quality and comparability of data in the municipal securities market.
Upholding the Public Trust
To give America the confidence to invest in its communities through the municipal securities market, we must uphold the public’s trust as a model SRO. We coordinate with fellow regulators on the particular issues and needs of the municipal securities markets and engage with a wide range of stakeholders to understand evolving market trends, best practices and challenges in this large and diverse market. We believe that markets function best with the broadest pool of diverse participants. In that spirit, we are expanding our touchpoints with minority-, women- and veteran-owned enterprises to understand their unique challenges and the opportunities to enhance the market’s efficiency, fairness and access to capital.
Our promise to uphold the public trust also means that we are committed to prudent stewardship of the revenue we receive principally from regulated entities. FY 2023 will be the MSRB’s first year under a new approach to fee setting that will annually adjust fee rates to account for prior year results. This new fee model will ensure the organization has sufficient annual revenue to fund operations while allowing it to more effectively and efficiently manage reserve levels as it delivers on its multi-year strategic plan.
This budget summary for FY 2023 is meant to answer stakeholders’ call for greater transparency into the MSRB’s annual budget and to demonstrate fiscal accountability to the public we serve. We hope you find it helpful to understand how the MSRB funds its operations and strategic investments and look forward to continuing to engage with you in the year ahead.
Meredith L. Hathorn, Board Chair
Mark Kim, CEO
Letter from the CEO (September 2021)
For over 45 years, the MSRB has served as the principal regulator of the municipal securities market. As this dynamic market continues to evolve, the MSRB’s vision to give America the confidence to invest in its communities has never been more important. The market we regulate touches people’s lives every single day by financing the country’s infrastructure, from public schools that educate our children and hospitals that care for our loved ones to the water we drink. We remain firmly grounded in our Congressional mandate to protect investors, state and local government issuers and the public interest by promoting a fair and efficient market.
The pace of change is accelerating in every capital market, and municipal securities are no exception. There has never been a more important time for the MSRB to plan for the future and I am delighted to present our FY 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, which lays out a clear roadmap of where we are going, how we will get there and what it means for you. The four strategic goals and guiding principles will advance our mission to strengthen the market that enables access to capital and economic and social progress for communities across the country.
This Strategic Plan draws on input from an extensive public engagement process over the past year that included an open comment period and a series of in-depth interviews with core stakeholders—investors, issuers, broker-dealers and municipal advisors—as well as other market participants. In developing this plan, we stayed true to what we heard from you and trust you will see your important perspectives reflected within. As a self-regulatory organization, we depend on your ongoing engagement to keep this plan relevant, and ultimately, to achieve better outcomes.
You will see in this Strategic Plan our steadfast commitment to serve the public interest and embrace our social responsibility as a regulator. We will redouble our efforts not only to be a more diverse and inclusive organization, but also to promote greater diversity and inclusion within the market we regulate and to foster a more sustainable and resilient future.
On behalf of the MSRB, I wish to express my gratitude to everyone who contributed to the development of this Strategic Plan. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of our staff and Board of Directors who shared their thoughts, wisdom and vision for the future. Together, we will continue to build an organization that engenders public trust and gives America the confidence to invest in its communities. Onward!
Chief Executive Officer