More disclosure of muni dealer bond campaign donations sought

Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:37pm EDT

Oct 31 (Reuters) - The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board said on Wednesday that it is seeking regulatory approval to demand greater disclosure by muni dealers about contributions they make to campaigns for bond measures appearing on election ballots.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which approves and enforces the MSRB's rules for the $3.7 trillion municipal market, will be asked to require dealers to disclose the timing of their contributions, the identity of the municipal issuer that would sell the bonds subject to voter approval, and bonds related to the ballot campaign that were underwritten by the dealers.

"The award of municipal securities underwriting business tied to dealer contributions to campaigns that secure voter approval for taxpayer-funded public projects can give rise to real or perceived conflicts or related concerns that can adversely affect the integrity of the municipal market," the MSRB said in a statement.

It added that the enhanced disclosure would be "an important step" toward determining whether muni dealer contributions should be restricted in the future. The market already has strict "pay-to-play" rules on dealers' donations to political campaigns for public office.

Meanwhile, the MSRB said it was continuing to refine proposals aimed at protecting investors who buy and sell munis through electronic brokerages.

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