July 31, 2014 / 9:56 PM / 3 years ago

REFILE-U.S. regulator expands options to report municipal bond violations

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WASHINGTON, July 31 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is expanding an initiative for municipal bond issuers and underwriters to voluntarily report inaccurate statements they made in disclosures and pay standardized settlements, it said on Thursday.

The regulator, which enforces the rules the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board writes, has pushed the deadline for issuers to report violations under the initiative launched this spring to Dec. 1 from Sept. 10. The deadline for underwriters to report remains Sept. 10.

“It is clear that many underwriters and issuers are working diligently to take advantage of the initiative within its time period,” said Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s enforcement division, in a statement. “These adjustments to the program are designed to encourage as much participation as possible, which we expect will ultimately benefit investors by encouraging improved compliance with continuing disclosures by the broadest group of industry participants.”

If the SEC identifies violations after the initiative ends, it will consider “reasonable, good faith, and documented efforts” to report them when deciding on any enforcement actions or settlements.

At the same time, the commission has created tiered penalties for underwriters’ violations, in the hopes of encouraging smaller firms to participate. Those with total annual revenue of less than $20 million will have to pay fines of $100,000, while those with income of more than $100 million have penalties of $500,000.

The SEC did not say how many issuers and underwriters have participated in the initiative since it was unveiled in March. (Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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