When states or municipalities decide to finance public infrastructure projects with municipal bonds, it’s their responsibility to routinely provide updated information about their financial status. Investors rely on this information to make informed decisions about buying and selling municipal bonds. Good disclosure also helps keep citizens informed about how their tax money is being spent.
Municipal bond issuers are required to fulfill their disclosure obligations through a single online portal called the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website, which is operated on behalf of the public by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB). The MSRB works to help municipal securities issuers understand how and where to make their disclosures publicly available.
The MSRB encourages municipal finance staff to keep in mind three “C’s” to help them understand and fulfill their continuing disclosure obligations:
- Click to access free, objective educational resources about disclosure from the online MSRB Education Center.
- Call the MSRB’s support line for free expert assistance with submitting continuing disclosure documents.
- Comply with federal and contractual disclosure obligations by submitting filings to the EMMA website.
The MSRB’s online Education Center is go-to resource for educational material about continuing disclosure for state and local officials. Resources are available in many formats, from a podcast covering the regulatory framework that establishes continuing disclosure requirements to a checklist for issuers preparing to submit documents to EMMA. Step-by-step video tutorials are also available to walk issuers through the process of using EMMA to disclose information to investors. View the full inventory of educational resources available to issuers in the MSRB Education Center.
The MSRB is much like a local 311 phone line for the municipal market – a source for information that issuers can call with questions about issuing municipal bonds, disclosing information to investors or using the EMMA. MSRB Support is available by phone weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time at 202-838-1330 or by e-mail at MSRBSupport@msrb.org.
The MSRB’s EMMA website offers three free tools to help issuers comply with their disclosure obligations. First, “organization accounts” are available to ensure the process of submitting disclosure documents to EMMA is coordinated among all staff and agents of an issuer. An organization account creates a single continuing disclosure submission account for each issuer. Organization account administrators can securely and independently manage staff access, without having to call the MSRB to grant or remove staff permissions.
Second, issuers can sign up for free e-mail reminders from EMMA about approaching annual or quarterly financial disclosure filing deadlines. Issuers can include up to 50 additional contacts to ensure all those with a role in disclosure are alerted.
Finally, issuers can exercise more control over how their information is presented on EMMA by customizing their issuer homepage. By default, every issuer has its own page on EMMA that presents recent trade data, official statements, financial disclosures, and refunding information about their outstanding bonds. Issuers can customize this page to be more useful to investors by updating confusing abbreviations to plain English, confirming the list of issues associated with the issuer, providing contact information for an individual who handles investor inquiries, and linking to the issuer’s other websites.