For more than a decade, key corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission have been available to the public at no charge through the EDGAR website. This has been a boon for transparency and a godsend for researchers.
During the same period, those who wanted to access analogous documents on tax-exempt bonds filed with the lesser known Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) have had to use commercial services such as Munistatements and DPC Data that charge hefty subscription or pay-per-view fees.
Now that is beginning to change. This week MSRB introduced EMMA (short for Electronic Municipal Market Access), which is described as “an Internet-based disclosure portal.” The key document EMMA will disclose is the Official Statement (OS), a prospectus that issuing agencies publish with details on new municipal securities.
The OS is useful not only to municipal finance specialists and investors in tax-exempt bonds. Because certain types of municipal securities such as industrial revenue bonds provide funding for private-sector projects, many OS filings shine a light on ways in which public money is being used to subsidize for-profit ventures.
EMMA starts out this week on a pilot basis covering only advance refundings of outstanding securities. The site also provides real-time trade price data — an effort to end market insiders’ monopoly on price information. Fuller access to OS filings will begin after June 30, but it remains to be seen whether EMMA will have the full search capabilities of Munistatements and DPC.