December 09, 2015 Articles

Municipal Bond Pricing, Part I: Fair Pricing

The first in a two-part series examines the current standards for establishing fair prices, including identifying a market price for a security trade

By Pamela W. Peterson

Securities regulators have focused on unfair pricing of municipal bonds and other types of municipal securities within the past few years. See Press Release, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), FINRA Fines Oppenheimer (Dec. 9, 2013). FINRA found in the Oppenheimer case that in a one-year period, the firm (through its employee) priced 89 customer transactions from 5.01 percent to 15.57 percent above the firm’s contemporaneous cost. In 54 of those transactions, the markups exceeded 9.4 percent. Experience tells us that a regulatory focus on any particular area of the securities laws is often followed by a spate of private client claims based on those same rule violations.

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