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Put Option Bonds: Safekeeping, Pricing

Put option bonds: safekeeping, pricing. I am writing in response to your recent letter regarding issues of municipal securities with put option or tender option features, under which a holder of the securities may put the securities back to the issuer or an agent of the issuer at par on certain stated dates. In your letter you inquire generally as to the confirmation disclosure requirements applicable to such securities. You also raise several questions regarding a dealer’s obligation to advise customers of the existence of the put option provision at times other than the time of sale of the securities to the customer.

Your letter was referred to a committee of the Board which has responsibility for interpreting the  Board’s confirmation rules, among other matters. That committee has authorized my sending you the following response.

Both rules G-12(c) and G-15, applicable to inter-dealer and customer confirmations respectively, require that confirmations of transactions in securities which are subject to put option or tender option features must indicate that fact (e.g., through inclusion of the designation “puttable” on the confirmation). the date on which the put option feature first comes into effect need be stated on the confirmation only if the transaction is effected on a yield basis and the parties to the transaction specifically agree that the transaction dollar price should be computed to that date. In the absence of such an agreement, the put date need not be stated on the confirmation, and any yield disclosed should be a yield to maturity.

Of course, municipal securities brokers and dealers selling to customers securities with put option or tender option features are obligated to disclose adequately the special characteristics of these securities at the time of trade.  The customer therefore should be advised of information about the put option or tender option feature at this time.

In your letter you inquire whether a dealer who had previously sold securities with a put option or tender option feature to a customer would be obliged to contact that customer around the time the put option comes into effect to remind the customer that the put option is available. You also ask whether such an obligation would exist if the dealer held the securities in safekeeping for the customer. The committee can respond, of course, only in terms of the requirements of Board rules; the committee noted that no Board rule would impose such an obligation on the dealer.

In your letter you also ask whether a dealer who purchased from a customer securities with a put option or tender option feature at the time of the put option exercise date at a price significantly below the put exercise price would be in violation of any Board  rules.  The committee believes that such a dealer might well be deemed to be in violation of Board rules G-17 on fair dealer and G-30 on prices and commissions. MSRB interpretation of February 18, 1983.