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from MuniLand:

A revolution in muniland

Goldman Sachs

In a speech last week at the Economic Club of New York, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White set out three new initiatives that will reorder the way fixed income markets serve retail investors.

Congress gave the SEC the authority to regulate fixed income markets in 1975. The initiatives that White announced make up the first broad extension of the SEC’s authority over the murky, cost ridden, over-the-counter bond market. The combined firepower of the SEC, FINRA and the MSRB will likely topple any resistance that dealers will use to protect one of the last remaining profit centers.

In her speech, White pointed out that securities markets operate within a “structure” of regulator rules, technology and market practices. Bond trading information for retail-size trades is often locked in trading venues and available only to select market participants. Transparency for investors is mostly an illusion. White said:

It is striking that the dramatic technological advances that have transformed the equity markets over the past decade have had only a modest impact on the trading of fixed income securities. While today there are a number of electronic systems that facilitate trading in fixed income securities, they tend to be ‘inventory-based,’ providing information primarily on the bonds their participating dealers would like to sell.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

SEC faces challenges before fast-trading reforms can go on the books

By Emmanuel Olaoye, Compliance Complete

The Securities and Exchange Commission has rolled out its intentions to regulate high-frequency trading, making stricter regulation in some form a strong possibility, but the agency faces more work and some challenging obstacles before it can put new rules in the books.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White in a speech last week outlined her goals for regulating high-frequency trading (HFT), at a time when political interest over the fairness and risks of the practice has surged in the wake of a best-selling book by financial writer Michael Lewis.

from Breakingviews:

James Hoffa: Let sun shine on corporate donations

By James Hoffa
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews guest columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Companies increasingly are playing an outsized role in U.S. elections. In many cases, they donate money to advocate controversial policies that could antagonize their customers and undermine their businesses. Because so many of these contributions are not disclosed, however, shareholders are left in the dark and unable to evaluate potential conflicts or risks.

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: Coke takes fizz out of shareholder spring

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

America’s shareholder spring hit a cold patch. Just when it seemed investors were finally breaking through entrenched boards’ barricades, the owners of Coca-Cola turned to jelly, led shockingly by Warren Buffett. The failure to challenge a transfer of vast shareholder treasure to the top 5 percent of Coke’s soda jerks shows the agency problem is still alive and well in American capitalism.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Expect corruption crackdown to widen, intensify

By Stuart Gittleman, Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Apr. 15, 2014 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Companies and financial firms that are potentially subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-corruption regimes should expect more of the enforcement crackdown they have seen in recent years, except in greater quantity and intensity, two former U.S. government officials said last week.

The ex-officials, Cheryl Scarboro, a law partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Greg Andres, a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, respectively headed the Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division FCPA unit and the Department of Justice Criminal Division fraud section. They spoke at an FCPA and anti-corruption seminar at the New York City Bar Association.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

The JOBS Act at age two – prodigy or enfant terrible?

By Stuart Gittleman, Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Apr. 3, 2014 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The financial services industry is still getting used to the two-year old JOBS Act, as funds gingerly begin to explore new general-solicitation freedoms and "crowdfunding" venues sort through the rules, speakers said at a Fordham Law School forum in New York.

As mandated by the JOBS – or Jumpstart Our Business Startups – Act enacted in April 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted rules for general solicitations that became effective in September 2013, and is reviewing comments to a December 2013 set of proposed crowd-funding rules.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Book by high-profile author Lewis may spur high-frequency-trading reform push, success unclear

By Emmanuel Olaoye, Compliance Complete

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Apr. 2, 2014 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - During a clip on Sunday night's "60 Minutes" program, host Steve Kroft asked bestselling author Michael Lewis why he was so opposed to high frequency trading.

"If it wasn't so complicated, it would be illegal," said Lewis, who is the author of a new book called "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt." 

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: GE should put itself up for sale

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

General Electric should sell itself. If that sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke, think again. It’s a real proposal on the ballot at the industrial group’s annual meeting. Setting aside the absence of any obvious buyer for the $260 billion company, the proposition illustrates the kind of shareholder democracy gone wild that many boards, and even some regulators, would like to squelch. They have half a point.

from Breakingviews:

Activists crash dealmaker party

By Reynolds Holding
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Activists are crashing the dealmaker party. Shareholder lawsuits, cross-border mergers and defender-in-chief Marty Lipton will play supporting roles at the annual New Orleans confab for M&A attorneys and bankers. Aggressive investors shaking dozy boards are this year’s headliners. Their increasing presence at the gathering reinforces a growing power.

from MuniLand:

The SEC’s new municipal adviser rule is not confusing

Governing.com ran a story titled “Why's the SEC's New Municipal Advisor Rule So Confusing?” Actually the new rule, although not yet finalized, is not confusing. There are resources for muniland participants to understand how it will be implemented and what responsibilities muni advisors have towards their clients. In fact, I have never seen a better rollout for a new regulatory effort.

Here is a roadmap:

As directed by Congress in the 2010 Dodd Frank legislation, the SEC published the definition of a municipal adviser last September. Over 1,100 municipal advisers have registered with the SEC and MSRB (registrations here including a downloadable list). Reuters detailed what happened last January:

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