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.
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.
Stockton, California is in the early stages of their bankruptcy and a local grand jury polled current city council members about their understanding of public finance. Does the latest round of public servants have any knowledge municipal finance? No, sadly the San Joaquin County Grand Jury discovered that there was little understanding of the city finances that the council oversees and that they could easily repeat prior mistakes. Local ABC affiliate, News10, reports (emphasis mine):
The newly confirmed chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White, testified to the House Financial Services Committee on May 16 and requested an increase in funding for her agency. SEC funding does not come from federal government revenues, but from fees assessed on securities transactions. White’s request to increase the agency’s funding does nothing to increase the federal deficit or take funding from other programs. She is merely asking to spend the money the agency collects.
On Tuesday the SEC is holding a roundtable on credit ratings to address the ongoing question of ratings shopping. Rating shopping is when a bond issuer shops its deal to various credit rating agencies to see who will assign the highest rating. The rating agencies that will assign the best ratings are given the business and the rating fee. Here is how the SEC describes its event:
The near-bankrupt city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was charged this week by the Securities and Exchange Commission with securities fraud. Here is the official language (emphasis mine):
The SEC held a fixed income roundtable on Tuesday to discuss two important issues: market structure and ways to improve it for municipal and corporate bonds. The SEC has as much authority to regulate this market as it does for equity securities, and it appears to be finally flexing its muscles with a little structure for the $18.7 trillion fixed income market.
The SEC is holding a Fixed Income Roundtable on April 16 to examine ways to improve the transparency and efficiency of the fixed income markets. This is the first time that I am aware of that the SEC has focused exclusively on the market structure of fixed income. Although fixed income as an asset class is over twice the size of the equity market, and the SEC was given authority in 1975 to oversee this market, almost nothing has been done to regulate it.
The SEC has announced that it will hold a Fixed Income Roundtable on April 16 in Washington to discuss improving the transparency and efficiency of fixed income markets. This news is welcome and long overdue. As I wrote in a comment letter to the SEC in 2008 (emphasis mine):