More U.S. municipal bond information available to public-report
WASHINGTON Aug 22 (Reuters) - U.S. cities, states and agencies that sell municipal debt are disclosing more information on their finances through a free web site as regulators pressure issuers to make such details public, a report released on Wednesday shows.
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), the group that writes the rules for the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market, created the website known as Electronic Municipal Market Access, or EMMA, in 2009 to make disclosures and trade information available for free.
EMMA has since seen a steady rise in disclosures, according to the report published by the MSRB, as the federal government widened the net for information issuers must reveal.
This trend is likely to continue as the Securities and Exchange Commission, which approves and enforces rules the MSRB writes, seeks more protections for individual investors.
Prior to EMMA, issuers sent disclosures to only a handful of repositories that made paper copies available to investors for a fee.
For the year starting July 2009, EMMA received a total of 124,206 continuing disclosures, which include annual financial statements along with notices of "material events", according to the report released on Wednesday by the MSRB.
The number rose by 7 percent the next year to 132,842 and by 5 percent to 139,043 disclosures in the year that ended this June 30.
Over the three years, about half of the documents were event disclosures notifying investors of bond calls and other changing conditions, while about 47 percent were financial and operating documents.
Investors and analysts have raised concerns that the financial and operating documents are often posted to the website late and past the time when they would be relevant.
The MSRB did not provide data on the timing of disclosures. But it noted that it received 5,289 notices of failure to provide annual financial information over the three-year span, accounting for a little more than 1 percent of the disclosures received. The amount of notices of late filings has also gradually increased each year, hitting 1,871 last year.
The report also gave a vague indication of a rise in troubled municipal finances. There were 195 notices of delinquencies to make scheduled payments of interest or principal, up from from 188 from the year ended June 2011, but down from 276 in the year ended June 2010.
Issuers must post notices of bankruptcy, insolvency and receivership. The MSRB does not break down its total for each of the filings, and did not provide data on which types of issuers had posted the notices. Before Dec. 1, 2010 the disclosure was voluntary, as well.
The number of those notices jumped to 81 in the year ended June 2012 from 27 in the prior year.
The number of non-payment related default notices, though, dropped to 145 from 172 the prior year. Those are defaults stemming from something other than delinquent payments.
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