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Contact: Leah Szarek, Director of Communications
202-838-1500
lszarek@msrb.org

 

MSRB DISCUSSES COVID-19 RESPONSE AT VIRTUAL QUARTERLY BOARD MEETING

Washington, DC – The Board of Directors of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) met via conference call on April 22-23, 2020 for its quarterly meeting. The Board discussed the MSRB’s organizational response to the COVID-19 pandemic and early benefits to the municipal market of the MSRB’s enterprise-wide migration to the cloud, among other governance and market topics.

“The health and safety of our staff remain priority number one for the Board, and we are incredibly grateful for the dedication and flexibility of our team of professionals who are working seamlessly from their homes,” said MSRB Board Chair Ed Sisk. “The MSRB is fully operational and focused on providing timely data, market expertise and responsive regulation to safeguard the municipal securities market during a time of unprecedented volatility and fiscal distress.”

A dedicated COVID-19 information page outlines the MSRB’s proactive efforts to provide data and resources for the market, including a daily Municipal Securities Market Trading Summary. The MSRB also produces a weekly Municipal Securities Market COVID-19-Related Disclosure Summary based on filings made to the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website to provide investors and others with insight into the financial position and operating status of the states, municipalities, health care systems and others on the front lines of the pandemic.

Ronald Dieckman, Chair of the Board’s Technology Committee, said: “This disclosure summary gives us an early indication of the value the cloud will enable us to deliver to the market. Our data team leveraged the power of cloud computing to comb through the more than 50,000 disclosure documents submitted to our EMMA system since January to identify and aggregate the 2,200 – and counting – disclosures that reference the impact of COVID-19. The MSRB envisions a future in which this enhanced search capability is available on the EMMA website.”

The Board discussed the federal government’s relief efforts for the municipal market, including the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility. “The MSRB stands ready to be a resource to effectively structure and operationalize the liquidity facility to provide the intended benefit to American states and communities deeply affected by the financial effects of the pandemic,” Sisk said.

Additionally, the MSRB has taken several regulatory actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including providing temporary regulatory relief, suspending price variance alerts for dealers, extending the comment deadline on request for comment on proposed governance enhancements and reminding regulated entities of application of supervisory requirements in light of coronavirus.

The Board discussed four additional important topics at its meeting:

Additional COVID-19 Regulatory Relief: The Board voted to seek approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to provide an extension for the regulatory authorities that examine dealers for compliance with MSRB rules under the examination schedule established by MSRB Rule G-16.

Governance Matters: The Board remains focused on continually improving its governance practices. As part of its discussion of annual governance matters, the Board reaffirmed the organization’s long-term strategic goals and directed staff to prioritize supporting the post-pandemic recovery of the municipal market by continuing to provide data, expertise and leadership to policymakers and other stakeholders.

Pre-Trade Analysis: The Board discussed staff’s analysis of pre-trade data voluntarily provided by alternative trading systems (ATS), which notes a significant increase in the amount of responses to requests for quotes (RFQs) and live quotes between 2015 and 2018. The Board directed staff to continue analyzing ATS data.

Remembering Former MSRB Chair Gedale "Dale" B. Horowitz. The Board mourned the loss of Dale Horowitz and shared memories of his life-long service to the municipal securities market, including helping to shape the regulatory framework upon the creation of the MSRB in 1975. “Our industry has lost an innovator and leader,” Dieckman noted at the Board meeting. “He started what you and I have inherited, with so many Board members since then passing the torch that Dale and that first MSRB Board lighted.”