Muniland, meet your issuers

August 15, 2013


Bloomberg’s Joe Mysak, whom I consider the king of muniland, had a delightful stream of consciousness via Twitter today about how little information he had to report from when he was a muni reporter in the 1990s. In one tweet he laments the lack of access to preliminary official statements for bond offerings. To get one, “you basically had to rely on spies,” he says.

Thankfully, those days are over. Official statements are in the public domain via a giant file cabinet called EMMA, which is maintained by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. It’s muniland’s equivalent to the SEC’s Edgar system for corporate securities (actually it’s even more advanced).

Admittedly, if you are not municipal professional or a regular EMMA user, it is difficult to navigate EMMA to find specific bond documents. This is because documents are filed according to the legal issuer name, i.e. the DETROIT MICH BLDG AUTH REV (MI) is the Detroit Building Authority. Muni professionals are used to these cryptic identifiers, but anyone new to muniland may soon feel overwhelmed by the arcane environment. Everyone should take heart, because the MSRB is piloting a simple visual presentation that lets you quickly drill down to issuers grouped by state, county, local and “other” (like conduit levels). Start here:

When you choose a state, you are offered a menu of issuers grouped by type:

Users new to muniland will be astounded at how many different issuing units there are in the country (approximately 80,000). The MSRB and the development team at their EMMA unit have made it easier to identify the issuer and find a specific bond issue. We no longer need to be spies, as Mysak said. We are librarians with a new, souped-up indexing system. Kudos to the MSRB!

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