Placement Agents and the MSRB

In addition to laying out the changes to Form ADV, in Release No. IA-3110 the SEC also took a slightly different course on regulating placement agents. Rule 206(4)-5, released in July 2010, required placement agents to either be registered with the SEC as an investment adviser and subject to the limitation on campaign contributions, or register with FINRA. The FINRA registration was subject to enactment of a similar pay-to-play rule by FINRA.

The SEC has abandoned FINRA for the MSRB when it comes to regulating placement agents that interact with government sponsored plans.

Section 975 of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act created a new category of regulated persons called a “municipal adviser.” This new category will regulated by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

The MSRB is undertaking a rule-making to subject municipal advisers to the pay-to-play rules in place for municipal securities dealers under MSRB Rule G-37.

“Municipal advisors” include businesses and individuals that advise municipal entities concerning municipal financial products and municipal securities, as well as businesses and individuals who solicit certain types of business from municipal entities on behalf of unrelated broker-dealers, municipal advisors, or investment advisers.

In comparing the de minimis amounts under Rule 206(4)-5 and MSRB Rule G-37, the MSRB only allows for contributions up to $250 for candidates the person can actually vote for. The SEC rule is $350 for a candidate you can vote for and $150 for a candidate you can’t vote for. Both have a two-year ban for violation of the rules.