Notice Concerning "Zero Coupon" and "Stepped Coupon" Securities
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board has recently received inquiries concerning the application of the confirmation disclosure requirements of Board rules G-12 and G-15 to transactions in municipal securities with "zero coupons" or "stepped coupons." Certain recent new issues of municipal securities have had several maturities paying 0% interest; securities of these maturities are sold at deep discounts, with the investor's return received in the form of an accretion of this discount to par. Other issues have been sold which have "stepped coupons;" that is, all outstanding bonds pay the same interest rate each year, with the interest rate periodically rising, on a pre-established schedule, on all securities yet to be redeemed. Interested persons have inquired concerning how the description requirements of the rules apply to such securities, and whether the yield disclosure requirements of rule G-15 apply to confirmations of transactions in such securities for the accounts of customers.
Rule G-12(c)(v)(E) requires a municipal securities dealer to set forth on an inter-dealer confirmation a description of the securities which are the subject of the transaction, including the interest rate. Rule G-15(a)(i)(E)[*] imposes the same requirement with respect to customer confirmations. Further, rule G-15(a)(i)(I)(2)[†] requires that customer confirmations of transactions effected at dollar prices (except for transactions at par) state the lowest of the resulting yield to call, yield to par option, or yield to maturity.
A confirmation of a transaction in a "zero coupon" security must state that the interest rate on the security is "0%." A customer confirmation of such a transaction must state the lowest of the yield to call or yield to maturity resulting from the dollar price of the transaction. The Board believes that the disclosure of the resulting yield is particularly important on such transactions, since it provides the only indication to the investor of the return he or she can expect from the investment.
A confirmation of a transaction in a "stepped coupon" security must state the interest rate currently being paid on the securities, and must identify the securities as "stepped coupon" securities. A customer confirmation of such a transaction must also state the lowest of the yield to call, yield to par option, or yield to maturity resulting from the dollar price of the transaction. In view of the wide variation in the coupon interest rates that will be received over the life of a "stepped coupon" security, the Board believes that the disclosure of yield will assist customers in determining the actual return to be received on the investment.
In addition to the specific confirmation disclosure requirements of Board rules G-12 and G-15 discussed above, the Board is of the view that persons selling such securities to the public have an obligation to adequately disclose the special characteristics of such securities so as to comply with the Board's fair practice rules. For example, although the details of the increases to the interest rates on "stepped coupon" securities need not be provided on confirmations, such information is, of course, material information regarding the securities, and municipal securities dealers would be obliged to inform customers about this feature of the securities at or before the time of trade.
 The Board notes that, upon the effectiveness of Board rule G-33, such yield must be computed on a basis that presumes semi-annual compounding.
 In the case of both "zero coupon" and "stepped coupon" securities, if the transaction is effected in a yield basis, the confirmation must show the yield price and the resulting dollar price, computed to the lowest of price to premium call, price to par option, or price to maturity.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(B)(4)]
[†] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5)]