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First, read the case Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanics.

Be sure to read the Notes at the bottom of the case, including:

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“The term “estimated yield” is essentially synonymous to the term “current yield.” Textbooks define current yield as the bond’s coupon payment divided by the current market value of the bond. Brokerage statements report what they term estimated yield, which is the client’s projected annual income from a series of bonds (i.e. aggregate coupon income) divided by the aggregate market value of those bonds.
The EMMA website and search function can be accessed here http://emma.msrb.org/.”

 Additional readings (not required, but recommended by the case study’s author)

Second, answer the questions. In your initial response to the topic you have to answer all questions:

  1. Examine the brokerage statement contained in the case. How would the stated “estimated yield” compare to the yield to maturity for an investor who purchased the bonds on the statement date at current market prices?
  2. Are you concerned by the ethical behavior presented in the case? Describe the dilemma and explain what you would do. Justify your response.
  3. Reflection – the students also should include a paragraph in the initial response in their own words, using finance terminology, reflecting on specifically what they learned from the assignment and how they think they could apply what they learned in the workplace or in everyday life.

Please also note that your answers should be written in your own words. Don’t use quotes from the case.

Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanics

Case

Author: Benjamin Boyar

Online Pub Date: January 15, 2020 | Original Pub. Date: 2017

Subject: Business Ethics, Bond Markets

Level: | Type: Experience case | Length: 3322

Copyright: © 2017 NeilsonJournals Publishing

Organization: | Organization size:

Region: Northern America | State:

Industry: Financial and insurance activities

Originally Published in:

Boyar, B. ( 2017). Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanics. Journal of Business Ethics

Education, 14( 1), 299– 306. JBEE14-0CS1.

Publisher: NeilsonJournals Publishing

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529703917 | Online ISBN: 9781529703917javascript: void(0);javascript: void(0);javascript: void(0);http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529703917

© 2017 NeilsonJournals Publishing

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes. 2021 SAGE Publications Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The case studies on SAGE Business Cases are designed and optimized for online learning. Please refer to the online version of this case to fully experience any video, data embeds, spreadsheets, slides, or other resources that may be included.

This content may only be distributed for use within Univ of Maryland Global Campus. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529703917

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Page 2 of 10 Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanicshttp://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529703917

Abstract

A student considering a career as a financial advisor is confronted by a common industry practice that some consider misleading and unethical. The case fosters financial literacy by allowing students to connect theory to practice through the analysis of a highly realistic brokerage statement using Microsoft Excel. It permits an instructor to seamlessly inject an ethical component into an accounting or finance course while simultaneously sharpening students’ understanding of key financial concepts such as bond valuation and yield to maturity.

Case

Keywords: financial literacy, yield to maturity, bond valuation, ethics.

1. Introduction

This brief yet challenging case concerns Claudia, a college sophomore who is considering a career as a financial advisor and who suspects that her financially unsophisticated grandfather may not fully understand the information contained in his brokerage statements.

The crux of the case is that it is common in the brokerage industry to present bond yields using a method similar to how dividend yields are calculated (see e.g. Zweig, 2015), namely

Estimated Yield = Estimated Annual Income

Market Value

However, when fixed income securities are purchased at a premium, the practice of computing yields in this way may be misleading if a significant portion of the “yield” is return of principal. There are “yields that matter more … and that are worth knowing” (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority [FINRA] 2016). These yields include yield to maturity, yield to call, and yield to worst (FINRA 2016).

The case provides an opportunity for students to analyze a highly realistic brokerage statement using Microsoft Excel and in so doing to develop a sophisticated understanding of key financial concepts such as bond valuation and yield to maturity.

Students are also challenged to take a position on the ethics of a potentially misleading industry practice, considering especially the perspective of the protagonist, who is grappling with how she will conduct herself in her future profession. The suggested framework for exploring the issue is virtue ethics. Students must put themselves in Claudia’s shoes and consider not just who may be harmed by the practice, but the possibly deeper question of what sort of person and professional she wishes to be.

2. Facts of the Case

Claudia, a rising sophomore at Queens College, finished class and boarded the crowded Q60 bus to Rego Park, where she lived with her grandfather. Although born-and-raised in New York, Claudia’s upbringing had been old-fashioned. Her grandfather, a retired carpenter, had literally made her bed (and her desk and chair besides) from carved oak. His values, too, seemed from another time and place. She recalled the pride he took in his craftsmanship, the hours spent laboring over details only a knowing eye would appreciate. He had promised quality, and for over 30 years, he had delivered it. Now retired, he lived off social security and the interest on his retirement savings.

Claudia was a decent woodworker herself but dreamed of becoming a financial advisor when she graduated.

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Page 3 of 10 Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanics

She had heard it could be a lucrative career, and helping others prepare for a comfortable retirement sounded personally fulfilling. While becoming a financial advisor had been her plan for some time, she had only a hazy idea of her chosen profession, so she was enthusiastic when required to read, “How Muni Bonds ‘Yield’ 4% in a 2% World” (Zweig 2015) in her introductory finance course.

Bonds, the article explained, may be issued at a premium, but they mature or are called at par:

“Imagine this streamlined example: You pay $110 for a bond that pays $4 interest and matures four years from now.

Each year, you will earn $4 interest … when it matures, you will get $100 back – not $110” (Zweig 2015).

The article indicated that many brokerages reported the yield on such investments as 4%, despite the fact that the yield to maturity, which accounts for the return of principal, is less than half of that.

Her finance instructor, Professor Cairo, had an excitable manner and a penchant for banging the lectern. He frequently digressed from the textbook with “real world” examples. But his class was rigorous, with regular assignments that took hours to complete, and he demonstrated how to calculate the precise yield to maturity using the RATE function in Microsoft Excel. Unusually, however, there was no assignment associated with the municipal bond article. The professor simply stated that not reading the article was “hazardous to their financial future.” After a few moments’ discussion, he continued to the next topic on the syllabus, the present value of an ordinary annuity, which he used to value a stream of bond coupons:

PV0 = C * [ 1 −

1

(1 + i)n

i ] Where “n” is equal to the number of cash flows, as opposed to the number of time periods (see e.g. Wahlen, 2016, p. M-15).

Claudia had been unable to focus on the new topic. While the Q60 rolled fitfully down Queens Boulevard, she continued to reflect on the possibly unscrupulous practice common in the industry in which she hoped to make her career. She wondered if her grandfather had been beguiled by a misleading yield and if he truly understood the returns his retirement savings were generating.

Professor Cairo, in a very brief discussion of the article, emphasized that financial regulations provided a measure of protection for investors, requiring that ‘yield to worst’ figures be printed clearly on confirmation statements by brokerage firms (Municipal Securities Rules Board, 2016). “Always read the fine print,” he had said, with a characteristic thud on the lectern. Claudia wondered how carefully her grandfather reviewed his confirmations and whether he was aware of the distinctions she had learned in class between current yield, yield to maturity and yield to worst.

She was happy for investment advisors to make a good living. Still, it did not seem right to say one thing to make a sale and to rely on the fine print when a customer became disgruntled after the fact. She wondered if she would be fully transparent with clients in her future career. Of course, she told herself, she had a very ethical upbringing. But she understood there would be pressure, particularly if all her competitors quoted a deceptively high yield when she herself offered unvarnished truth. She wanted to avoid misleading her clients; she also wanted to be successful financially.

Claudia recalled that in an earlier class, Professor Cairo had asked students to consider a required reading (see Black, 2013) that had argued there were fundamental ethical principles, such as “[not] pursuing profit at the expense of everything else including reputation” (p. 1) and “[l]ooking beyond the question of what is legal – i.e., being prepared to act in a certain way on the basis that it is unethical, even though it is legal” (p. 2) that should be instilled in those who worked in financial services. She had been convinced by these principles when they had been described abstractly, but now she struggled to determine how (and if) she would apply

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them in a real world business situation.

She thought about how financial professionals were compensated. There were, of course, a variety of methods, including commissions and fees. She knew that her grandfather’s advisor charged him a fee based on the assets under management in lieu of commissions. Certainly an advisor had an incentive to present yields in a flattering light if it kept the client happy or led to referrals and new business. She tried to put herself in the shoes of the financial advisor. If she were charging her client a fee of 1.5% per annum, it would seem to be in her interest to present the yield on the bonds in the account as 4% per annum rather than 2% per annum.

The bus reached 63rd Drive. She disembarked and took out her phone. “Grandpa,” she said, “I’m working on an assignment for my finance class. Can I look at one of your brokerage statements?” Slightly queasy, she began the walk to their house on Wetherole Street.

Her grandfather was proud and private and had not previously shared details of his financial affairs with Claudia. But, as she knew, he had a soft spot for her education, and after a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “I suppose so, if it’s for school. I’ll show you when you get home.”

Claudia was excited when she arrived home and hardly greeted her grandfather before asking to see his latest brokerage statement (see Exhibit 1 below). Recalling her professor’s exhortation to “always read the fine print,” she decided to start by reading the disclaimers and disclosures and was surprised to discover that they were over three pages long. The section that she found most relevant read:

“The estimated annual income (EAI) and estimated annual yield (EAY) figures are estimates and for informational purposes only. These figures are not considered to be a forecast or guarantee of future results. These figures are computed using information from providers believed to be reliable; however, no assurance can be made as to the accuracy. Since interest and dividends rates are subject to change at any time, and may be affected by current and future economic, political and business conditions, they should not be relied on for making investing, trading or tax decisions. These figures assume that the position, quantities, interest and dividend rates, and prices remain constant. A capital gain or return of principal may be included in the figures for certain securities, thereby overstating them. Refer to our website for specific details as to formulas used to calculate the figures.” 1

At first Claudia found reviewing her grandfather’s brokerage statements intimidating, but her confidence grew as she slowly worked through the information and recollected what she had learned in her finance class. Bonds, she recalled, were an important financial instrument (sometimes termed “a fixed income security”) for borrowers requiring significant capital over multiyear periods. The issuance of a bond allowed risk to be spread widely among many investors, as opposed to (for example) a bank loan, where risk was borne by a single institution. Her grandfather purchased municipal bonds, meaning the proceeds were used to fund a state or local authority. For example, one of the bonds was issued by a local school district.

Claudia recalled that investors such as her grandfather benefitted from bonds because they provided predictable cash flows, especially as part of a diversified portfolio. Municipal bonds also offered tax advantages to investors in certain circumstances, as the interest earned could be exempt from federal, state and local taxes.

Professor Cairo stressed that bonds were not uniform and had various features and idiosyncrasies, but he highlighted what was most typical. The investment (“the principal”) was exchanged for a promise of repayment at the end of a term (the “maturity” date). While principal typically was not repaid until maturity, interest payments (“coupons”) were paid at regular intervals. For example, Claudia saw that the bond issued to fund the local school, MERRICK NY UN FREE SCH DIST RFDG, had a semiannual coupon. The 4.00% figure listed was an annual rate, so her grandfather could expect to receive $20 every six months (2% for each $1,000 bond 2 ). His income from this particular investment was expected to be $4,000 per year, or the 4.00% per annum coupon yield 3 listed in the brokerage statement multiplied by the $100,000 aggregate face value of the bonds indicated in the brokerage statement.

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Claudia noted from the market price contained in the brokerage statement that the bonds currently traded at a premium, meaning a value greater than the $1,000 face value. As Professor Cairo had explained, when a bond traded at a premium, it meant that interest rates on investments of comparable risk were lower than the coupon yield offered by the bond. Since prevailing market rates were lower than the 4.00% coupon yield, investors were willing to pay $1,096.34 for the bond, despite the fact that when it matured in 2021, they would receive only the face value of $1,000. Claudia further noted that the aggregate face value of the MERRICK bonds held by her grandfather was $100,000, while the current market value was $109,634. The “estimated yield 4 ” listed on the brokerage statement of 3.65%, she realized, was calculated by dividing the $4,000 per year in projected coupon payments by $109,634. However, she knew from the article she had read in class that the estimated yield was arguably misleading, because at the end of the term, her grandfather would receive only $100,000, and not the premium investors were currently willing to pay for the above market coupon payments.

Claudia recalled what her professor had colloquially termed “one final hitch.” In some instances, bonds may be “callable,” meaning that the borrower had the option of repaying the bonds early, usually at a specified premium to face value. None of the bonds in Claudia’s grandfather’s portfolio were callable. She verified this by visiting the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website 5 and scanning the bond’s contractual terms (“the indenture”).

Although Claudia was a very good student, she still found it helpful to refresh her memory on key terms associated with bonds by visiting the Financial Industry Regulatory (FINRA) website that Professor Cairo recommended in class 6 , where she identified yields “that matter[ed] more” than the estimated yield disclosed on the brokerage statement:

• Yield to maturity (YTM) is the overall interest rate earned by an investor who buys a bond at the market price and holds it until maturity. Mathematically, it is the discount rate at which the sum of all future cash flows (from coupons and principal repayment) equals the price of the bond. YTM is often quoted in terms of an annual rate and may differ from the bond’s coupon rate. It assumes that coupon and principal payments are paid on time …. [and that] you reinvest every coupon.

• Yield to call (YTC) is figured the same way as YTM, except instead of plugging in the number of months until a bond matures, you use a call date and the bond’s call price. The calculation takes into account the impact on a bond’s yield if it is called prior to maturity, and should be performed using the first date on which the issuer could call the bond.

• Yield to worst (YTW) is whichever of a bond’s YTM and YTC is lower. If you want to know the most conservative potential return a bond can give you – and you should know it for every callable security – then perform this comparison (FINRA, 2016).

These three yields were more difficult to calculate than estimated yield, but they provided a clearer picture of the total return an investor was likely to reap on his or her investment (FINRA 2016).

Claudia’s grandfather watched with bemusement as she opened Microsoft Excel and began analyzing the numbers on his brokerage statement with the intensity of someone operating a circular table saw.

Exhibit 1: Excerpt from Claudia’s grandfather’s most recent brokerage statement

Borough Brokerage

BOROUGH BROKERAGE LLC

1999 Chambers Street

New York, NY 10007

(212) 555-9191

Managed Account Statement

Statement Period: 10/01/2017–10/31/2017

Opening Date Quantity Account Activity Opening Going Accrued Income 30-Day Current

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Number Ending Balance Balance Income This Year

Yield Yield

Cash, Money Funds, and Bank Deposits

Q39% of Portfolio

Money Market

FEDERATED USTREASURY INSTL9H

10/1/2017 000000000315 10/16/2017 2,500.00 2,50100 0.00 10.00 0.48% 0.48%

Total Money Market

2,50Q00 $2,501.00 $0.00 $10.00

Total Cash, Money Funds, and Bank Deposits

$2,50Q00 $2,501.00 $0.00 $10.00

Date Acquired Quantity

Quantity Unit Cost Adjusted Cost Basis

Market Price

Market Value

Unrealized Gain/Loss

Accrued Interest

Annual Estimated Yield

Fixed income 99.61% of Portfolio (In Maturity Dote Seque nce)

Municipal Bonds

Westmere NY RFDG-SER B

Security Identifier: X50016RS4

3.00% 10/15/19 B/EDTD 07/10/15

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1ST ORN DTE 10/15/15 QRN PMT SEMI ANNUAL Moody

Rating AA2

6/21/2015 200,000.000 103.572 207,143.82 104.5350 209,070.00 1,92618 266.67 6,000.000 2.87%

Origina1 Cost Basis: $215,350.00

NEW YORK ST DORM AUTH REVS NON ST

Security Identifier: X67765QP2

SUPPORTED DEBT FORISSUESDTD PRIORTO

500% 07/01/20 B/EDTD 09/17/12 Moody Rating A2

9/14/2012 300,000.000 100.852 302,556 102.6840 308,052.00 5,496 00 5,000.00 15,000.000 4.87%

Origina1 Cost Basis: $106,713.00

MERRICK NY UN FREE SCH DIST RFDG

Security Identifier: X80156GG1

4.00% 02/01/21 B/EDTD 10/12/13

1STCPN DTE 02/ 01/14 QRN PMTSEM

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ANNUAL Moody

Rating AA2

9/21/2013 100,000.000 105.9450 105,944.53 109.6340 109,634.00 3,689.47 1,000.00 4,000.000 3.65%

Origina1 Cost Basis: $112,799.00

Account Number 181841313

Suggested Assignment Questions

• 1. Assume the facts in the “streamlined” example above. Calculate the yield to maturity for the buyer of the $110 bond.

• 2. Examine the brokerage statement contained in the case. How would the stated “estimated yield” compare to the yield to maturity for an investor who purchased the bonds on the statement date at current market prices?

• 3. Are you concerned by the ethical behavior presented in the case? Describe the dilemma and explain what you would do. Justify your response.

• 4. Consider the dilemma through the lens of virtue ethics (or an alternative framework suggested by your instructor). Does using this frameworks result in a different conclusions than you reached initially? Discuss.

• 5. “Arguably, ethics is simply about how a person chooses to act because of who they are, and not because of what they are required to do by law” (Black 2013, p. 3). Discuss.

References Black, J. & Anderson, K. (2013), Creating an Ethical Framework for the Financial Services Industry. Retrieved from http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/law/staff/julia-black.htm Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (2016), Bond Basis: Yields That Matter More. Retrieved from http://www.finra.org/investors/bond-yield-and-return Municipal Securities Rules Board (MSRB) (2016, July 1), The Municipal Securities Rulebook’s Rule G-15(a)(i)(A)(5)(b). Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. Retrieved from http://www.msrb.org/msrb1/pdfs/ MSRB-Rule-Book-PDF-Current-Quarter.pdf Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), General Information on the Regulation of Investment Advisers. Retrieved from https://www.sec.gov/divisions/investment/iaregulation/memoia.htm Whalen, J. M. , Jefferson, P. J. , & Pagach, D. P. (2016), Intermediate Accounting (13th Ed.). Massachusetts: Cengage Learning. Zweig, J (2015, Oct. 30), “How Muni Bonds ‘Yield’ 4% in a 2% World”, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://on.wsj.com/1RDOCmp

Notes

1. These “boilerplate” disclosures and disclaimers are used, with slight variation, at various brokerage firms. See e.g. https://www.pershing.com/_global-assets/pdf/disclosures/per-estimated-annual-income-and-

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Page 9 of 10 Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanicshttp://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/law/staff/julia-black.htmhttp://www.finra.org/investors/bond-yield-and-returnhttp://www.msrb.org/msrb1/pdfs/MSRB-Rule-Book-PDF-Current-Quarter.pdfhttp://www.msrb.org/msrb1/pdfs/MSRB-Rule-Book-PDF-Current-Quarter.pdfhttps://www.sec.gov/divisions/investment/iaregulation/memoia.htmhttp://on.wsj.com/1RDOCmphttps://sk.sagepub.com/cases/calculating-and-disclosing-bond-yields-ethics-and-mechanics##i61https://www.pershing.com/_global-assets/pdf/disclosures/per-estimated-annual-income-and-estimated-yield.pdf

estimated-yield.pdf and https://www.edwardjones.com/disclosures/investing-terms-recurring-disclosures/ estimated-annual-income.html.

2. Bonds typically have face values (also termed par values) of $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000. A $1,000 face value is assumed in the case for illustrative purposes.

3. The 4% coupon yield is computed by dividing the total annual coupon payments of $40 by the $1,000 par value of the bond.

4. The term “estimated yield” is essentially synonymous to the term “current yield.” Textbooks define current yield as the bond’s coupon payment divided by the current market value of the bond. Brokerage statements report what they term estimated yield, which is the client’s projected annual income from a series of bonds (i.e. aggregate coupon income) divided by the aggregate market value of those bonds.

5. The EMMA website and search function can be accessed here http://emma.msrb.org/.

6. See http://www.finra.org/investors/bond-yield-and-return.

http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529703917

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  • Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanics
    • Case
      • Abstract

FINC Week 3 Discussion

First, read the case  Calculating & Disclosing Bond Yields: Ethics and Mechanics .

Be sure to read the Notes at the bottom of the case, including:

“The term “estimated yield” is essentially synonymous to the term “current yield.” Textbooks define current yield as the bond’s coupon payment divided by the current market value of the bond. Brokerage statements report what they term estimated yield, which is the client’s projected annual income from a series of bonds (i.e. aggregate coupon income) divided by the aggregate market value of those bonds.

The EMMA website and search function can be accessed here  http://emma.msrb.org/ .”

 Additional readings (not required, but recommended by the case study’s author)

· Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (2016), Bond Basis: Yields That Matter More. Retrieved from  http://www.finra.org/investors/bond-yield-and-return

· Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), General Information on the Regulation of Investment Advisers. Retrieved from  https://www.sec.gov/divisions/investment/iaregulation/memoia.htm

· Zweig, J (2015, Oct. 30), “How Muni Bonds ‘Yield’ 4% in a 2% World”, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from  http://on.wsj.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/1RDOCmp

Second, answer the questions. In your initial response to the topic you have to answer all questions:

1. Examine the brokerage statement contained in the case. How would the stated “estimated yield” compare to the yield to maturity for an investor who purchased the bonds on the statement date at current market prices?

2. Are you concerned by the ethical behavior presented in the case? Describe the dilemma and explain what you would do. Justify your response.

3. Reflection – the students also should include a paragraph in the initial response in their own words, using finance terminology,  reflecting on specifically what they learned from the assignment and how they think they could apply what they learned in the workplace or in everyday life.

Please also note that your answers should be written in your own words. Don’t use quotes from the case.

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