Opening Remarks at Spotlight on Transparency: A Discussion of Secondary Market Municipal Securities Disclosure Practices
June 16, 2020
Good afternoon, everyone. To begin, I want to thank Director Rebecca Olsen, Deputy Director Ahmed Abonamah, and the staff in the Office of Municipal Securities for your commitment to holding this conference. I’d also like to thank our Office of Information Technology for ensuring we can successfully hold this, and so many of our events, virtually. Thank you as well to all the panelists for your willingness to participate in this conference. I look forward to benefiting from your insights.
The subject of today’s conference –secondary market disclosure practices—is a topic that has become all the more important over the last few months. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that it would affect the finances of municipal issuers in significant ways. However, the precise nature of those effects has not always been clear. In such an environment, municipal issuers could benefit from further understanding about the type of information they should be disclosing to the market and when they should be disclosing that information.
Ensuring that municipal issuers have such further understanding is important because both markets and investors benefit from the disclosure of such relevant information. Municipal issuer financial information is often published long after the close of the issuer’s fiscal year. In the current environment, this raises the question of how useful that information is to investors in light of the anticipated effects of the pandemic on municipal issuer operations and revenues.
To that end, I commend Chairman Clayton and Director Olsen on the statement they issued on May 4 regarding disclosures by municipal issuers. As the statement makes clear, good faith attempts by municipal issuers to provide to investors current facts and forward-looking information, no matter how sobering, should be encouraged. I personally received positive feedback on the statement. Today, I hope to learn more from our panelists about how the market has responded to the statement and what they are seeing in terms of issuer disclosures. In particular, I am interested to learn what has worked well, what has been most challenging, and whether the market is rewarding issuers for the quality or quantity of their disclosures.
In addition, I look forward to exploring what lessons we can take from this recent period in more broadly considering ways to improve the timeliness and quality of secondary market disclosures. The municipal market is predominantly a retail market and transparency is a vital tool in assuring that our markets are fair, competitive, and resilient, particularly for retail investors. The diversity of issuers and their financing needs can make efforts to broadly improve municipal market transparency appear to be a daunting proposition. However, it is important to remember that our markets are not static, they are constantly evolving, and the Commission should continue to pursue policies related to transparency that support this continued evolution so that our municipal securities market is fair and favorable for all investors.
Thank you again to the SEC staff for your work in putting this conference together and to the panelists for participating today. I look forward to this afternoon’s discussions.
 See The Importance of Disclosure for our Municipal Markets (May 4, 2020) available at https://www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/statement-clayton-olsen-2020-05-04.
 See id.