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Interpretive Guidance - Interpretive Notices
Publication date:
Application of the Board's Rules to Trades in Misdescribed or Non-Existent Securities
Rule Number:

Rule G-12

From time to time, industry members have asked the Board for guidance in situations in which municipal securities dealers have traded securities which either are different from those described ("misdescribed") or do not exist as described ("non-existent") and the parties involved were unaware of this fact at the time of trade. A sale of a misdescribed security may occur, for example, when a minor characteristic of the issue is misstated. A sale of a non-existent security may result, for example, from the sale of a "when, as and if issued" security which is never authorized or issued.

The Board has responded to these inquiries by advising that its rules do not address the resolution of any underlying contractual dispute arising from trades in such misdescribed or non-existent securities, and that the parties involved in the trade should work out an appropriate resolution. Board rule G-12(g) does permit reclamation of an inter-dealer delivery in certain instances in which information required to be included on a confirmation by rule G-12(c)(v)(E)[1] is omitted or erroneously noted on the confirmation or where other material information is erroneously noted on the confirmation. Rule G-12(g)(v) and (vi), however, make clear that a reclamation only reverses the act of delivery and reinstates the open contract on the terms and conditions of the original contract, requiring the parties to work out an appropriate resolution of the transaction.

The Board wishes to emphasize that general principles of fair dealing would seem to require that a seller of non-existent or misdescribed securities make particular effort to reach an agreement on some disposition of the open trade with the purchaser. The Board believes that this obligation arises since it is usually the seller's responsibility to determine the status of the municipal securities it is offering for sale. The extent to which the seller bears this responsibility, of course, may vary, depending on the facts of a trade.

The Board notes that the status of the underlying contract claim for trades in non-existent or misdescribed securities ultimately is a matter of state law, and each fact situation must be dealt with under applicable state law, and each fact situation must be dealt with under applicable contract principles. The Board believes that the position set forth above is consistent with general contract principles, which commonly hold that a seller is responsible to the purchaser in most instances for failing to deliver goods as identified in the contract, or for negligently contracting for goods which do not exist if the purchaser relied in good faith on the seller's representation that the goods existed.

Parties to trades in misdescribed or non-existent securities should attempt to work out an appropriate resolution of the contractual agreement. If no agreement is reached, the Board's close-out and arbitration procedures may be available.


[1] Rule G-12(c)(v)(E) requires that confirmations contain a description of the securities, including at a minimum the name of the issuer, interest rate, maturity date, and if the securities are limited tax, subject to redemption prior to maturity (callable), or revenue bonds, an indication to such effect, including in the case of revenue bonds the type of revenue, if necessary for a materially complete description of the securities and in the case of any securities, if necessary for a materially complete description of the securities, the name of any company or other person in addition to the issuer obligated, directly or indirectly, with respect to debt service or, if there is more than one such obligor, the statement "multiple obligors" may be shown.