The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) today voted to propose rule amendments to improve investor protection and enhance transparency in the municipal securities market.
Rule 15c2-12 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 requires brokers, dealers, and municipal securities dealers that are acting as underwriters in primary offerings of municipal securities subject to the Rule, to reasonably determine, among other things, that the issuer or obligated person has agreed to provide to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) timely notice of certain events. The amendments proposed by the SEC today would add two new event notices:
– Incurrence of a financial obligation of the issuer or obligated person, if material, or agreement to covenants, events of default, remedies, priority rights, or other similar terms of a financial obligation of the issuer or obligated person, any of which affect security holders, if material; and
– Default, event of acceleration, termination event, modification of terms, or other similar events under the terms of the financial obligation of the issuer or obligated person, any of which reflect financial difficulties.
“Today the SEC took steps to empower investors by improving their access to current information about the financial obligations incurred by municipal issuers and conduit borrowers,” said SEC Acting Chairman Michael S. Piwowar.
These proposed amendments would provide timely access to important information regarding certain financial obligations incurred by issuers and obligated persons that could impact such entities’ liquidity and overall creditworthiness.
The public comment period will remain open for 60 days following publication of the proposing release in the Federal Register.
Utah SEC Open Meeting
The Commission will consider whether to propose amendments designed to better inform investors and other market participants about the current financial condition of issuers of municipal securities and obligated persons. Specifically, the proposed amendments would facilitate timely access to important information regarding certain financial obligations incurred by issuers and obligated persons, which could impact an issuer’s or obligated person’s liquidity and overall creditworthiness and create risks for existing security holders.
The proposed amendments to Exchange Act Rule 15c2-12 would amend the list of event notices that a broker, dealer, or municipal securities dealer acting as an underwriter in a primary offering of municipal securities subject to the Rule must reasonably determine that an issuer or obligated person has undertaken, in a written agreement for the benefit of holders of municipal securities, to provide to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board within ten business days of the event’s occurrence.
Specifically, the proposed amendments would add two new events to the list included in the Rule:
- Incurrence of a financial obligation of the issuer or obligated person, if material, or agreement to covenants, events of default, remedies, priority rights, or other similar terms of a financial obligation of the issuer or obligated person, any of which affect security holders, if material; and
- Default, event of acceleration, termination event, modification of terms, or other similar events under the terms of the financial obligation of the issuer or obligated person, any of which reflect financial difficulties.
The proposed amendments also would set forth a definition for the term “financial obligation.”
Adopted in 1989, Rule 15c2-12 is designed to address fraud and manipulation in the municipal securities market by prohibiting the underwriting of municipal securities and subsequent recommendation of those municipal securities by brokers, dealers, and municipal securities dealers for which adequate information is not available.
The Commission will seek public comment on the proposed amendments to Rule 15c2-12 for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
SEC STAFF ISSUES GUIDANCE UPDATE AND INVESTOR BULLETIN ON ROBO-ADVISERS
The Securities and Exchange Commission today published information and guidance for investors and the financial services industry on the fast-growing use of robo-advisers, which are registered investment advisers that use computer algorithms to provide investment advisory services online with often limited human interaction.
Because of the unique issues raised by robo-advisers, the Commission’s Division of Investment Management issued guidance for investment advisers with suggestions on meeting disclosure, suitability and compliance obligations under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
A second publication, an Investor Bulletin issued by the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, provides individual investors with information they may need to make informed decisions if they consider using robo-advisers.
The Investor Bulletin describes a number of issues investors should consider, including:
- The level of human interaction important to the investor
- The information the robo-adviser uses in formulating recommendations
- The robo-adviser’s approach to investing
- The fees and charges involved
“As technology continues to improve and make profound changes to the financial services industry, it’s important for regulators to assess its impact on U.S. markets and give thoughtful guidance to market participants,” said SEC Acting Chairman Michael Piwowar. “ This information is designed to help investors tap into the opportunities that fintech innovation can provide while ensuring fairness and investor protection.”
Investors can use the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) database, which is available on Investor.gov, to research the background, including registration or license status and disciplinary history, of any individual or firm recommending an investment, including robo-advisers, which are typically registered as investment advisers with either the SEC or one or more state securities authorities.
Robo-advisers, as registered investment advisers, are subject to the substantive and fiduciary obligations of the Advisers Act. The Guidance Update notes that there may be a variety of means for a robo-adviser to meet its obligations to clients under the Advisers Act, and that not all of the issues addressed in the Guidance Update will be applicable to every robo-adviser.
Rochelle Kauffman Plesset, and Robert Shapiro from the Division of Investment Management contributed substantially to preparing the Guidance Update, with significant assistance from the Division of Investment Management’s Risk and Examinations Office and the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations. Owen Donley, Jill Felker, and Holly Pal from the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy contributed substantially to preparing the Investor Bulletin.
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