Public unions: How strong is their influence?

April 19, 2013

Recently I participated in a podcast for the non-profit Freedom Works. One of the topics was how much influence public unions have on federal, state and local politicians. I said that I had not seen academic studies, but my own belief is that their over-sized political influence has allowed them to increase wages, benefits and advantages for public workers. It doesn’t look all that different from how corporations and Wall Street buy political influence through elections and legislation.

We need to know more about the risk of public pension assets

April 18, 2013

There has been a lot of discussion about the general underfunding of public pensions in muniland. Now credit rater Moody’s is reviewing cities in light of this:

A huddle over market transparency

April 17, 2013

The SEC held a fixed income roundtable on Tuesday to discuss two important issues: market structure and ways to improve it for municipal and corporate bonds. The SEC has as much authority to regulate this market as it does for equity securities, and it appears to be finally flexing its muscles with a little structure for the $18.7 trillion fixed income market.

Muniland has a disclosure problem

April 16, 2013

There is a glaring gap in regulation – called Regulation Fair Disclosure – when it comes to protecting municipal bond investors. It appears that issuers may be in the habit of giving material nonpublic information to preferred institutional investors, while making retail and non-preferred investors sit out in the cold. Exhibit number one is the treatment of media members who have petitioned to attend the City of Philadelphia bond investor day scheduled for this Thursday. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote:

Are sports scandals a blow for state universities?

April 12, 2013

The firing of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice and the surrounding controversy recalls the governance meltdown at Penn State around the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Moody’s downgraded Penn State over that scandal, which involved serious allegations of child abuse and rape. From

How counties lost revenue in the bank foreclosure crisis

April 12, 2013

In a Senate Banking Committee hearing, newly elected Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren asked why bank regulators protected banks, but would not assist wronged homeowners. Regulators did not have an answer to her question, but there is still another question that needs to be asked: What about the economic damages to county governments from banks using a false mortgage registration system – MERS – to avoid paying mortgage registration fees

SEC must look beyond US borders to reform the fixed income markets

April 11, 2013

The SEC is holding a Fixed Income Roundtable on April 16 to examine ways to improve the transparency and efficiency of the fixed income markets. This is the first time that I am aware of that the SEC has focused exclusively on the market structure of fixed income. Although fixed income as an asset class is over twice the size of the equity market, and the SEC was given authority in 1975 to oversee this market, almost nothing has been done to regulate it.

How Margaret Thatcher sold the family silver to reform society

April 10, 2013

The passing of the UK’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has brought the issue of her work privatizing public assets to the surface. When she began her efforts, her country was in desperate need of revenue. However, there were deeper reasons for her privatization binge. From the

Will Wisconsin’s merit pay for public employees change the system?

April 9, 2013

In a wildly contentious move in 2011, the Wisconsin legislature voted to end union rights for public workers. Those union rights established pay rates and employment conditions via collective bargaining agreements for most government workers. The new law also ended the deduction for union dues from employee salaries. The Wisconsin State Journal reports how merit raises have replaced automatic annual pay raises:

Pain for Stockton taxpayers

April 7, 2013

After proving it was insolvent, the city of Stockton, California entered the municipal bankruptcy process last week. The judge hasn’t yet delivered his formal ruling, but here are some of the most relevant reasons for the city’s insolvency, according to Judge Christopher Klein (page 556 most of which you have read here at MuniLand over the past year):