Notice of Interpretation on Escrowed-to-Maturity Securities: Rules G-17, G-12 and G-15
The Board is concerned that the market for escrowed-to-maturity securities has been disrupted by uncertainty whether these securities may be called pursuant to optional redemption provisions. Accordingly, the Board has issued the following interpretations of rule G-17, on fair dealing, and rules G-12(c) and G-15(a), on confirmation disclosure, concerning escrowed-to-maturity securities. The interpretations are effective immediately.
Traditionally, the term escrowed-to-maturity has meant that such securities are not subject to optional redemption prior to maturity. Investors and market professionals have relied on this understanding in their purchases and sales of such securities. Recently, certain issuers have attempted to call escrowed-to-maturity securities. As a result, investors and market professionals considering transactions in escrowed-to-maturity securities must review the documents for the original issue, for any refunding issue, as well as the escrow agreement and state law, to determine whether any optional redemption provisions apply. In addition, the Board understands that there is uncertainly as to the fair market price of such securities which may cause harm to investors.
On March 17, 1987, the Board sent letters to the Public Securities Association, the Government Finance Officers Association and the National Association of Bond Lawyers expressing its concern. The Board stated that it is essential that issuers, when applicable, expressly note in official statements and defeasance notices relating to escrowed-to-maturity securities whether they have reserved the right to call such securities. It stated that the absence of such express disclosure would raise concerns whether the issuer’s disclosure documents adequately explain the material features of the issue and would severely damage investor confidence in the municipal securities market. Although the Board has no rulemaking authority over issuers, it advised brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (dealers) that assist issuers in preparing disclosure documents for escrowed-to-maturity securities to alert these issuers of the need to disclose whether they have reserved the right to call the securities since such information is material to a customer’s investment decision about the securities and to the efficient trading of such securities.
Application of Rule G-17 on Fair Dealing
In the intervening months since the Board’s letter, the Board has continued to receive inquiries from market participants concerning the callability of escrowed-to-maturity securities. Apparently, some dealers now are describing all escrowed-to-maturity securities as callable and there is confusion how to price such securities. In order to avoid confusion with respect to issues that might be escrowed-to-maturity in the future, the Board is interpreting rule G-17, on fair dealing, to require that municipal securities dealers that assist in the preparation of refunding documents as underwriters or financial advisors alert issuers of the materiality of information relating to the callability of escrowed-to-maturity securities. Accordingly, such dealers must recommend that issuers clearly state when the refunded securities will be redeemed and whether the issuer reserves the option to redeem the securities prior to their maturity.
Application of Rules G-12(c) and G-15(a) on Confirmation Disclosure of Escrowed-to-Maturity Securities
Rules G-12(c)(vi)(E) and G-15(a)(iii)(E)[*] require dealers to disclose on inter-dealer and customer confirmations, respectively, whether the securities are "called" or "prerefunded," the date of maturity which has been fixed by the call notice, and the call price. The Board has stated that this paragraph would require, in the case of escrowed-to-maturity securities, a statement to that effect (which would also meet the requirement to state "the date of maturity which has been fixed") and the amount to be paid at redemption. In addition, rules G-12(c)(v)(E) and G-15(a)(i)(E)[†] require dealers to note on confirmations if securities are subject to redemption prior to maturity (callable).
The Board understands that dealers traditionally have used the term escrowed-to-maturity only for non-callable advance refunded issues the proceeds of which are escrowed to original maturity date or for escrowed-to-maturity issues with mandatory sinking fund calls. To avoid confusion in the use of the term escrowed-to-maturity, the Board has determined that dealers should use the term escrowed-to-maturity to describe on confirmations only those issues with no optional redemption provisions expressly reserved in escrow and refunding documents. Escrowed-to-maturity issues with no optional or mandatory call features must be described as "escrowed-to-maturity." Escrowed-to-maturity issues subject to mandatory sinking fund calls must be described as "escrowed-to-maturity" and "callable." If an issue is advance refunded to the original maturity date, but the issuer expressly reserves optional redemption features, the security should be described on confirmations as "escrowed (or prerefunded) to [the actual maturity date]" and "callable."
The Board believes that the use of different terminology to describe advance refunded issues expressly subject to optional calls will better alert dealers and customers to this important aspect of certain escrowed issues.
 Rule G-17 states that "[i]n the conduct of its municipal securities business, each broker, dealer, and municipal securities dealer shall deal fairly with all persons and shall not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice."
 This terminology also would be used for any issue prerefunded to a call date, with an earlier optional call expressly reserved.
 The Board believes that, because of the small number of advance refunded issues that expressly reserve the right of the issuer to call the issue pursuant to an optional redemption provision, confirmation systems should be able to be programmed for use of the new terminology without delay.
[*] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(3)(a). See also current rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(3)(b).]
[†] [Currently codified at rule G-15(a)(i)(C)(2)(a).]