WASHINGTON -- In a policy shift, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board said it will no longer make comments received on proposed rules available to the industry or the public until after the comments are reviewed by the board.

Under the new policy, the comments on recent rule proposals dealing with price transparency, political contributions, and customer protection will not be available for public inspection until the board has reviewed them at its next scheduled meeting. board general counsel Diane Klinke said Tuesday.

That means comments due yesterday on two top initiatives proposed by the board in June cannot be viewed by the public for at least two months. The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 10-12.

Under the former policy, comments received on proposed rules were made available after the deadline for comments had expired.

Comments were due yesterday on a proposal to tighten the MSRB's customer protection rule G-19, which requires dealers to sell only suitable bonds to customers, and on a proposal to set up a pilot program for broader dissemination of prices on transactions between dealers.

"We want to be able to let board members review the comments before" the board releases them for review, Klinke said of the new policy.

The current directive on releasing comments to the public is tougher than that of the board's federal overseer, the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC makes comments available in its public reference room immediately after they are received by the agency. Even comments filed before the due date for public input are available for immediate review.

The MSRB's policy is similar to that of other "self-regulatory organizations" such as the National Association of Securities Dealers. NASD spokesman James Spellman said yesterday that the association does not release industry comments on rule proposals until its board has taken final action.

Christopher Taylor, MSRB executive director, stressed that anyone can file a comment on a board-proposed rule, including the public.

Officials of self-regulatory groups say that once a rule gets approval by one of their organizations, it is is sent to the SEC for another round of comment. The commission then decides whether to make the rule final based on the input it gets.

The MSRB first signaled the new policy in the June issue of MSRB Reports, when it said written comments on its price transparency plan will be available for public inspection "after board review."

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