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Notice Concerning Stripped Coupon Municipal Securities

In 1986, several municipal securities dealers began selling ownership rights to discrete interest payments, principal payments or combinations of interest and principal payments on municipal securities. In 1987, the Board asked the Securities and Exchange Commission staff whether these "stripped coupon" instruments are municipal securities for purposes of the Securities Exchange Act and thus are subject to Board rules. On January 19, 1989, the staff of the Division of Market Regulation of the Commission issued a letter stating that, subject to certain conditions, these instruments are municipal securities for purposes of Board rules (SEC staff letter).

The Board is providing the following guidance on the application of its rules to transactions in stripped coupon instruments defined as municipal securities in the SEC staff letter (stripped coupon municipal securities). Questions whether other stripped coupon instruments are municipal securities and questions concerning the SEC staff letter should be directed to the Commission staff.


A dealer sponsoring a stripped coupon municipal securities program typically deposits municipal securities (the underlying securities) with a barred custodian. Pursuant to a custody agreement, the custodian separately records the ownership of the various interest payments, principal payments, or specified combinations of interest and principal payments. One combination of interest and principal payments sometimes offered is the "annual payment security," which represents one principal payment, with alternate semi-annual interest payments. This results in an annual interest rate equal to one-half the original interest rate on the securities.[1] Stripped coupon municipal securities are marketed under trade names such as Municipal Tax Exempt Investment Growth Receipts (Municipal TIGRs), Municipal Receipts (MRs), and Municipal Receipts of Accrual on Exempt Securities (MUNI RAES).

Application of Board Rules

In general, the Board's rules apply to transactions in stripped coupon municipal securities in the same way as they apply to other municipal securities transactions. The Board's rules on professional qualifications and supervision, for example, apply to persons executing transactions in the securities the same as any other municipal security. The Board's rules on recordkeeping, quotations, advertising and arbitration also apply to transactions in the securities. Dealers should be aware that rule G-19, on suitability of recommendations, and rule G-30, on fair pricing, apply to transactions in such instruments.

The Board emphasizes that its rule on fair dealing, rule G-17, requires dealers to disclose to customers purchasing stripped coupon municipal securities all material facts about the securities at or before the time of trade. Any facts concerning the underlying securities which materially affect the stripped coupon instruments, of course, must be disclosed to the customer. The Board understands that some stripped coupon municipal securities are sold without any credit enhancement to the underlying municipal securities. As pointed out in the SEC staff letter, dealers must be particularly careful in these cases to disclose all material facts relevant to the creditworthiness of the underlying issue.

Confirmation Requirements

Dealers generally should confirm transactions in stripped coupon municipal securities as they would transactions in other municipal securities that do not pay periodic interest or which pay interest annually.[2] A review of the Board's confirmation requirements applicable to the securities follows.

Securities Descriptions. Rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(a)(i)(E)[*] require a complete securities description to be included on inter-dealer and customer confirmations, respectively, including the name of the issuer, interest rate and maturity date.[3] In addition to the name of the issuer of the underlying municipal securities, the trade name and series designation assigned to the stripped coupon municipal security by the dealer sponsoring the program must be included on the confirmation.[4] Of course, the interest rate actually paid by the stripped coupon security (e.g., zero percent or the actual, annual interest rate) must be stated on the confirmation rather than the interest rate on the underlying security.[†] Similarly, the maturity date listed on the confirmation must be the date of the final payment made by the stripped coupon municipal security rather than the maturity date of the underlying securities.[5]

Credit Enhancement Information. Rules G-12(c)(vi)(D) and G-15(a)(ii)(D)[‡] require confirmations of securities pre-refunded to a call date or escrowed to maturity to state this fact along with the date of maturity set by the advance refunding and the redemption price. If the underlying municipal securities are advance-refunded, confirmations of the stripped coupon municipal securities must note this. In addition, rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(c)(i)(E)[#] require that the name of any company or other person, in addition to the issuer, obligated directly or indirectly with respect to debt service on the underlying issue or the stripped coupon security be included on confirmations.[6]

Quantity of Securities and Denominations. For securities that mature in more than two years and pay investment return only at maturity, rules G-12(c)(v) and G-15(a)(v)[**] require the maturity value to be stated on confirmations in lieu of par value. This requirement is applicable to transactions in stripped coupon municipal securities over two years in maturity that pay investment return only at maturity, e.g., securities representing one interest payment or one principal payment. For securities that pay only principal and that are pre-refunded at a premium price, the principal amount may be stated as the transaction amount, but the maturity value must be clearly noted elsewhere on the confirmation. This will permit such securities to be sold in standard denominations and will facilitate the clearance and settlement of the securities.

Rules G-12(c)(vi)(F) and G-15(a)(iii)(G)[††] require confirmations of securities that are sold or that will be delivered in denominations other than the standard denominations specified in rules G-12(e)(v) and G-15(a)(iii)(G)[††] to state the denominations on the confirmation. The standard denominations are $1,000 or $5,000 for bearer securities, and for registered securities, increments of $1,000 up to a maximum of $100,000. If stripped coupon municipal securities are sold or will be delivered in any other denominations, the denomination of the security must be stated on the confirmation.

Dated Date. Rules G-12(c)(vi)(A) and G-15(a)(iii)(A)[***] require that confirmations state the dated date of a security if it affects price or interest calculations, and the first interest payment date if other than semi-annual. The dated date for purposes of an interest-paying stripped coupon municipal security is the date that interest begins accruing to the custodian for payment to the beneficial owner. This date, along with the first date that interest will be paid to the owner, must be stated on the confirmation whenever it is necessary for calculation of price or accrued interest.

Original Issue Discount Disclosure. Rules G-12(c)(vi)(G) and G-15(a)(iii)(H)[†††] require that confirmations identify securities that pay periodic interest and that are sold by an underwriter or designated by the issuer as "original issue discount." This alerts purchasers that the periodic interest received on the securities is not the only source of tax-exempt return on investment. Under federal tax law, the purchaser of stripped coupon municipal securities is assumed to have purchased the securities at an "original issue discount," which determines the amount of investment income that will be tax-exempt to the purchaser. Thus, dealers should include the designation of "original issue discount" on confirmations of stripped coupon municipal securities, such as annual payment securities, which pay periodic interest.

Clearance and Settlement of Stripped Coupon Municipal Securities

Under rules G-12(e)(vi)(B) and G-15(a)(iv)(B), delivery of securities transferable only on the books of a custodian can be made only by the bookkeeping entry of the custodian.[7] Many dealers sponsoring stripped coupon programs provide customers with "certificates of accrual" or "receipts," which evidence the type and amount of the stripped coupon municipal securities that are held by the custodian on behalf of the beneficial owner. Some of these documents, which generally are referred to as "custodial receipts," include "assignment forms," which allow the beneficial owner to instruct the custodian to transfer the ownership of the securities on its books. Physical delivery of a custodial receipt is not a good delivery under rules G-12(e) and G-15(a) unless the parties specifically have agreed to the delivery of a custodial receipt. If such an agreement is reached, it should be noted on the confirmation of the transaction, as required by rules G-12(c)(v)(N) and G-15(a)(i)(N)[****].

The Board understands that some stripped coupon municipal securities that are assigned CUSIP numbers and sold in denominations which are multiples of $1,000 are eligible for automated comparison and automated confirmation/affirmation and that some of these instruments also are eligible for book-entry delivery through registered securities depositories. The Board reminds dealers that transactions in stripped coupon municipal securities are subject to the automated clearance requirements of rules G-12(f) and G-15(d) if they are eligible in the automated clearance systems. Dealers sponsoring stripped coupon programs also should note that rule G-34(b)(ii) requires CUSIP numbers to be assigned to stripped coupon municipal securities prior to the initial sale of the securities to facilitate clearance and settlement.

Written Disclosures in Connection with Sales of Stripped Coupon Municipal Securities

Dealers sponsoring stripped coupon municipal securities programs generally prepare "offering circulars" or "offering memoranda" describing the securities that have been placed on deposit with the custodian, the custody agreement under which the securities are held, and the tax treatment of transactions in the securities. These documents generally are provided to all customers purchasing the securities during the initial offering of the instruments. The Board strongly encourages all dealers selling stripped coupon municipal securities to provide these documents to their customers whether the securities are purchased during the initial distribution or at a later time.[8] Although the material information contained in these documents, under rule G-17, must be disclosed to customers orally if not provided in writing prior to the time of trade, the Board believes that the unusual nature of stripped coupon municipal securities and their tax treatment warrants special efforts to provide written disclosures. Moreover, if stripped coupon municipal securities are marketed during the underwriting period of the underlying issue, rule G-32 requires distribution of the official statement for the underlying issue prior to settlement of the transaction of the stripped coupon municipal securities.

[1] The Board understands that other types of stripped coupon municipal securities also may be offered with combinations of interest and principal payments providing an interest rate different than the original interest rate of the securities.

[2] Thus, for stripped coupon municipal securities that do not pay periodic interest, rules G-12(c)(v) and G-15(a)(v) require confirmations to state the interest rate as zero and, for customer confirmations, the inclusion of a legend indicating that the customer will not receive periodic interest payments. [See current rule G-15(a)(vi)(D), G-15(a)(i)(B)(4)(a) and G-15(a)(i)(D)(1).] Rules G-12(c)(vi)(H) and G-15(a)(iii)(l) [currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(2)(e)] require confirmations of securities paying annual interest to note this fact.

[3] The complete description consists of all of the following information: the name of the issuer, interest rate, maturity date, and if the securities are limited tax, subject to redemption prior to maturity (callable), or revenue bonds, an indication to such effect, including in the case of revenue bonds the type of revenue, if necessary for a materially complete description of the securities and in the case of any securities, if necessary for a materially complete description of the securities, the name of any company or other person in addition to the issuer obligated, directly or indirectly, with respect to debt service or, if there is more than one such obligor, the statement, "multiple obligors" may be shown.

[4] Trade name and series designation is required under rules G-12(c)(vi)(l) and G-15(a)(iii)(J) [currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(8)], which state that confirmations, must include all information necessary to ensure that the parties agree to the details of the transaction. [See also current rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(1)(a).]

[5] Therefore, the maturity date of a stripped coupon municipal security representing one interest payment is the date of the interest payment. [See current rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(3)(a).]

[6] It should be noted that the SEC staff letter is limited to instruments in which "neither the custodian nor sponsor additionally will guarantee or otherwise enhance the creditworthiness of the underlying municipal security or the stripped coupon security."

[7] Under rules G-12(c)(vi)(B) and G-15(a)(iii)(B) [currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(2)(d)] the book-entry-only nature of the securities also must be noted on the confirmation.

[8] The Board understands that these documents generally are available from the dealers sponsoring the stripped coupon municipal securities program.

[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(B)]

[] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(4)(e)]

[] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(3)(c)]

[#] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(1)(b)]

[**] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(3)]

[††] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(7)(b)]

[***] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(5)]

[†††] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(4)(c)]

[****] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(7)(c)]