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Purchase of New Issue From Issuer

Purchase of new issue from issuer. This is in response to your letter in which you ask whether Board rule G-17, on fair dealing, or any other rule, regulation or federal law, requires an underwriter to purchase a bond issue from a municipal securities issuer at a “fair price.”

Rule G-17 states that, in 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. Thus, the rule requires dealers to deal fairly with issuers in connection with the underwriting of their municipal securities.  Whether or not an underwriter has dealt fairly with an issuer is dependent upon the facts and circumstances of an underwriting and cannot be addressed simply by virtue of the price of the issue. For example, in a competitive underwriting where an issuer reserves the right to reject all bids, a dealer submits a bid at a net interest cost it believes will enable it to successfully market the issue to investors. One could not view a dealer as having violated rule G-17 just because it did not submit a bid that the issuer considers fair. On the other hand, when a dealer is negotiating the underwriting of municipal securities, a dealer has an obligation to negotiate in good faith with the issuer. If the dealer represents to the issuer that it is providing the best market price available on this issue, and this is not the case, the dealer may violate rule G-17. Also, if the dealer knows the issuer is unsophisticated or otherwise depending on the dealer as its sole source of market information, the dealer’s duty under rule G-17 is to ensure that the issuer is treated fairly, specifically in light of the relationship of reliance that exists between the issuer and the underwriter. MSRB interpretation of December 1, 1997.