Back to top

Municipal securities principal

Municipal securities principal. This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of June 10, 1981. In your letter you indicate that the dealer department of [the bank] has recently been inspected by examiners from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and that, during the course of such inspection, the examiners indicated that they believed certain persons should be qualified as municipal securities principals. You indicate your disagreement with the examiners' conclusions, and request an opinion from the Board concerning the need to qualify these personnel.

The two cases you describe are as follows:

(1) Mr. "X", as head of the Operations Division of the bank's Financial Markets Group, is in charge of the operational support services for the bank's securities activities, including the Tax-Exempt Operations Department. The Tax-Exempt Operations Department is under the immediate supervision of yourself. For purposes of bank organizational structure you report to Mr. "X"; however, you also report to the head of the Tax-Exempt Securities Division in connection with "supporting the Tax-Exempt business operation." You are qualified as a municipal securities principal, as is the head of the Tax-Exempt Securities Division; Mr. "X", however, is not. The national bank examiners have expressed the view that he should be.

(2) Two "senior traders" in the Municipal Dealer Department act under the supervision of the department head with regard to the trading and positioning of municipal securities. In connection with these activities they "direct more junior traders" in their municipal securities activities. These persons are not qualified as municipal securities principals; the national bank examiners contend that they should be.

As a general matter we would hesitate to disagree with the opinion expressed by an on-site examiner in a matter of this sort. The examiner is, of course, in direct contact with the matter in question, and has access to the full details of the situation, rather than an abstraction or summary of the particulars. Accordingly, we are unable to express a view that the examiner's conclusions are incorrect in the circumstances you describe.

With respect to the specific situations presented in your letter, it is certainly not impossible to establish a reporting and supervisory structure such that a person who is in charge of the division which includes the operational aspects of a bank's municipal securities dealer department need not be qualified as a municipal securities principal. As is indicated in a Board interpretive notice concerning qualifications matters, qualification as a municipal securities principal is required of a person who supervises a bank dealer's processing and clearance activities with respect to municipal securities only to the extent that such person has policy-making authority over such activities. If such person does not have policy-making authority, or if such person's authority extends to the establishment of general guidelines or an overall framework for activities, with the specific function of making policy within that framework reserved for other persons, then such person would not be deemed to be a municipal securities principal.

Further, it is a not uncommon arrangement to have the policy-making authority with respect to the municipal dealer operations activities of a bank allocated between the immediate supervisor of the municipal operations function and a principal in the dealer department itself. In these circumstances the operation supervisor reports to the principal in connection with the municipal dealer activities, and also reports to other, non-qualified persons in connection with bank organizational requirements.

Therefore, the arrangement which you describe would not necessarily require that Mr. "X" be qualified as a municipal securities principal. Whether he should, in fact, be qualified as a municipal securities principal depends, of course, on the extent to which he does exercise policy-making authority over the municipal dealer operations functions; this is a determination that, we suggest, is most appropriately made by yourselves and the national bank examiners.

In the second situation you describe it appears to us clear that the "senior traders" are functioning as municipal securities principals and should be qualified as such. As you may know, the Board's rule defines the term "municipal securities principal" to include persons "who [are] directly engaged in the . . . direction or supervision of . . . underwriting, trading or sales of municipal securities. . ." Your description of the activities of these "senior traders" indicates that they "direct" other persons in trading activities. This certainly supports the conclusion that they are functioning as municipal securities principals. MSRB interpretation of June 24, 1981.