The MSRB is finalizing some user-friendly enhancements to the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website, the website designated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission as the official source for municipal securities data and disclosure documents. The enhancements follow new continuing disclosure rules that will increase the volume of information required to be disclosed on EMMA. The MSRB expects that the enhancements will make it easier for issuers and obligated persons to submit information, and for the public to access it. The enhancements should roll out for public use this summer.

An MSRB infographic announcing the plans states that the enhancements include “creating a more user-friendly and streamlined document submission experience,” “developing a seamless navigation to tools and resources on EMMA,” and “improving the quality of indexing data for disclosure documents.” In an article published by The Bond Buyer on Friday, the MSRB elaborated a little on these plans.

The MSRB explained that the issuer document submission process would be revamped around a wizard approach. The new approach is designed to lead issuers through a series of questions to assist them in submitting their disclosure documents. The MSRB believes that this will reduce submission time, while also making things easier for infrequent posters.

Left unclear is the nature of the coming changes to the indexing of disclosure documents. We assume that the changes will improve the search functionality of the site. Currently, a user may retrieve disclosure documents using one of three functions: a “quick search,” an “advanced search,” or general browsing by state.

As might be gathered by the descriptions, a “quick search” allows a user to enter all of his search terms in a single field, while the “advance search” option allows the user to search by distinct field, e.g., the issuer name, issue description, or CUSIP. The general browsing feature simply pulls up a list of all issuers in the state, with the ability to search for particular entities within the list.

It seems likely that this summer’s enhancements will be limited to “under-the-hood” improvements – although The Bond Buyer noted that the ability to search directly by conduit borrower, instead of issuer, is a feature the MSRB is interested in implementing (although not this summer).

Currently, search functionality is built around the issuer, which can make things difficult for users looking to retrieve disclosure documents related to conduit borrowers (e.g., 501(c)(3) borrowers like charter schools, universities and hospital systems).

Unless the user knows the identity of the issuer, he may not be able to retrieve the disclosure information. And, conduit borrowers may use different issuers over time, making it difficult to put together a complete picture of the borrower’s debt picture.

The MSRB is expected to roll out additional EMMA user enhancements in the months and years to come. Having trouble keeping up? Don’t worry – McNees has the dedicated professionals you need to stay in compliance with your continuing disclosure obligations. Contact Tim Horstmann or Penny Pollick to learn more.