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Opening Remarks at the Meeting of the Fixed Income Market Structure Advisory Committee

June 1, 2020

Thank you, Michael.  I echo the Chairman’s appreciation for your excellent work and request that you all continue to serve for several more months.  The market events of the last several months have heightened the Commission’s need for your insights about the fixed income markets.  We have seen unique stress in the fixed income markets and unprecedented interventions by the Federal Reserve, including large purchases of exchange-traded funds that invest in corporate bonds.  My hope is that we can learn from what we saw in those markets during the COVID-19 crisis to identify regulatory changes that will help the fixed income markets function better during both normal times and times of crisis.

I read with interest your subcommittees’ preliminary recommendations and look forward to the discussions about them.  Your recommendation with respect to nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) includes a disclaimer that “even with the implementation of these recommendations, issues remain.”  The regulatory history of NRSROs has been haunted by that disclaimer.  Getting bondholders to periodically ratify NRSROs is an interesting idea, if perhaps difficult to operationalize.  The larger the field of competitors offering credit rating services, the greater the impact such a vote could have.  To achieve more competition in this area, we have to balance the benefits any new regulatory requirements offer with the burdens they place on NRSROs, particularly small ones.  The recommendation with respect to cross-trades under Investment Company Act rule 17a-7 offers some very practical suggestions for ensuring that fund advisers can undertake transactions that benefit both funds involved without fear that an enforcement action will follow.  Finally, the recommendation on municipal securities is a timely reminder of the work we still have to do with respect to transparency in this market—a market that experienced so much stress in recent months.

I look forward to the discussion on these recommendations and the other panel discussions.

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