NYSE, NASD Pose Tougher Wine & Dine Rules

Originally published March 6, 2006 in MeetingNews

New York — Meeting professionals, already under growing pressure to adhere to "wine-and-dine" rules, may have more to learn in the near future.

The New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers have proposed new business entertainment rules that are pending approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Current NYSE and NASD rules prohibit member organizations from giving any gift or gratuity in excess of $100 per person per year. But rules governing entertainment, like parties and meals, have been less clear.

The proposed rules would require public companies to write policies defining appropriate business entertainment and how much can be spent. The companies also would have to ensure that employees follow the rules, provide them with adequate training and maintain records of expenditures.

"Firms must design standards for entertainment that are consistent with high standards of commercial honor, and they must develop robust policies and procedures to ensure compliance," said NASD chairman and CEO Robert Glauber.

In the meeting planning industry, those in the pharmaceutical sector have taken particular interest in these types of rules, noted Kelly Shulz, director of communications for Meeting Professionals International. "A lot of our members in that segment are dealing with what can be spent on doctors," she said.

MPI's Global Corporate Circle of Excellence, made up of senior level planners at large corporations, also has dealt with these issues, writing several white papers on the topic of business entertainment.

MPI concluded that business standards have changed, according to Schulz.

"You can't just go off and spend $500 on a floral arrangement," she said. "You can't just say, 'I'm going to take my meeting to that property because my friend works there.' You may not be able to have your meeting at the hotel down the street if your company is involved in a larger preferred vendor situation. It's just that whole awareness of transparency and documentation and not being extravagant and really being aware of what the rules are. It's very relevant for the meetings industry."

The NASD's open comment period ended on Feb. 23, after which the organization, along with the NYSE, awaited word from the SEC on the proposed rule changes. Whatever the outcome of these proposals, MPI will continue to educate its members on this topic, Shulz said.

"We expect meeting planners to be able to drive business, and in order to do that they need to understand what the policies are and what the documentation needs to be," she said. "It can't be the meetings department working in a silo."