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Notice Concerning Syndicate Expenses

Board rule G-11, concerning syndicate practices, among other things, requires syndicates to establish priorities for different categories of orders and requires certain disclosures to syndicate members which are intended to assure that allocations are made in accordance with those priorities. Rule G-11(h)(i) requires that a senior syndicate manager, at or before final settlement of a syndicate account, furnish to syndicate members "an itemized statement setting forth the nature and amount of all actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate." One of the purposes of this section is to render managers accountable for their handling of syndicate funds.

Over the years, the Board, pursuant to rule G-11 and rule G-17, on fair dealing, has urged syndicate managers to provide members with a clear and accurate itemized statement of all actual expenses incurred in the underwriting of each issue. In a 1984 notice, the Board stated that expense items must be sufficiently described to make the expenditures readily understandable by syndicate members, and that generalized categories of expenses are not sufficient if they do not portray the specific nature of the expenses. [1] In 1985, the Board issued a notice specifically warning managers to take care in determining actual syndicate expenses, and noting that managers may violate rule G-17 if the expenses charged to syndicate members bear no relation to, or otherwise overstate, the actual expenses incurred. [2] And in 1987, in response to industry complaints concerning the amount of syndicate expenses charged by managers, the Board issued another notice reiterating that Board rules prohibit managers from overstating actual syndicate expenses. [3]

The Board wishes to reiterate its interpretation of rules G-11 and G-17 that syndicate expenses charged to members must be clearly identified and must be the actual expenses incurred on behalf of the syndicate. [4] The Board continues to be concerned over the number of complaints about syndicate managers who may be charging expenses that are overstated or excessive, particularly with respect to clearance fees for designated sales and computer expenses. Board rules specifically prohibit managers from overstating actual syndicate expenses.

The Board urges syndicate members to report possible overstatements of syndicate expenses and other problems in compliance with rule G-11(h)(i). The Board will continue to monitor this situation, and will refer any complaints it receives in this area to the appropriate enforcement agencies. In addition, the NASD has alerted the Board that it will accept telephone complaints or information from syndicate members who do not wish to reveal their identities.

[1] Notice Concerning Disclosure of Syndicate Expenses (January 12, 1984), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 4, No. 1 (February 1984) at 9].

[2] Notice Concerning Syndicate Managers Charging Excessive Fees for Designated Sales (July 29, 1985), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 5, No. 5 (August 1985) at 17].

[3] Notice Concerning Syndicate Expenses that Appear Excessive (March 3, 1987), [reprinted in MSRB Reports, Vol. 7, No. 2 (March 1987) at 5].

[4] See MSRB Reports, Vol. 5, No. 6 (November 1985)[at 5], and Vol. 5, No. 5 (August 1985)[at 5].