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Should you buy municipal bonds individually or in a fund?

J. Hunter Brown's comment on the municipal bond market

"Individual investors that are unfamiliar with indentures and some of the embedded risks - interest rate, credit, or liquidity, many of which are appropriately noted here - should stick to reputable mutual funds or ETFs. And there aren't a lot of them around...A major problem for individuals with the muni market is that there is little to no price transparency. The inefficient structure and informational risk of the market can put the individual investor at the mercy of a dealer trying to monetize an informational monopoly or unload a risk position."

is cited in WSJ: Should You Buy Municpal Bonds Individually or in a Fund? (Wall Street Journal, The Wallet, Feb. 3, 2009)

"A 2004 investigation by the National Association of Securities Dealers — now known as FINRA – assessed a total of more than $610,000 in fines and restitution on Charles Schwab, Edward Jones, First Trust Portfolios, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Prudential Equity Group, UBS Financial Services and Wachovia Securities for buying municipal bonds from clients at unfairly low prices....According to the NASD, the fair market value of the bonds was 97.02, but a UBS broker executed the trade at 40.00 – meaning that more than half of the bonds’ total value ended up in the broker’s pocket. (All the firms settled the case without admitting or denying the charges.) That’s an extreme case of the problem that reader J. Hunter Brown points to in his comment: How can you know whether you get a fair price when you buy or sell an individual muni?"


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