MuniLand

Muni sweeps: “People learn deterrence”

Professor John Coffee of Columbia Law School, who is considered one of the foremost legal scholars in the securities area, discusses the effect of the conviction of Galleon Group co-founder Raj Rajaratnam on insider trading:

“People learn deterrence from actual vivid examples of people going to prison.  And that is what it takes in every generation to overcome the tremendous temptation to make tens of millions of dollars.”

What about the municipal market? Are there instances where dealers are receiving inside information and trading on it ahead of others?

Raj Raj is a warning to all market participants.

Crushing pension costs

We keep hearing how it’s teachers that are raking in the big pensions.  But Bloomberg reports on a stunning example of politicians lavishing pension benefits on firefighters in California, and now to afford these pension payments they have to lay off workers:

A 2007 arbitration ruling letting San Jose, California, firefighters retire as early as age 48 with 90 percent of their pay may result in the firing of 370 municipal workers as the 10th-largest U.S. city tries to close a budget deficit fueled by higher pension costs.

Muni sweeps: Connecticut may issue layoff notices

Connecticut issues layoff notices

The governors are getting it done. And it’s painful.

From the Wall Street Journal:

After months of closed-door talks with state employee unions, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that no deal could be reached to garner $1 billion annual concessions needed to close a $3.5 billion budget gap.

“The state employee representatives have thus far not offered enough,” Malloy said in a statement Tuesday morning.

To balance the two-year $40.1 billion budget and comply with contractual layoff notice requirements, Malloy said layoff notices would go out Tuesday to “the first 4,742 state employees,” resulting in an estimated savings of $455 million. The remaining $545 million in savings would be achieved by cuts to government programs, which could result in additional layoffs.

Let’s give Meredith some credit

Everybody beats up on Meredith Whitney for her muniland panic call.

Yesterday she doubled down on her prediction of “hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth” of municipal-bond defaults.

Whitney was speaking on a panel, Reading the Tea Leaves: What Lies Ahead for Financial Markets?, at the Milken Global Conference.

I want to give Whitney some credit.

Whitney has a very good macro view of the U.S. economy. At the Milken conference she said that housing has contracted for four consecutive years. States have spent at a 30% higher CAGR rate than consumers.

Muni sweeps: Clouds for pretty Puerto Rico

Happy days may be over in our 51st state. Joan Gralla of Reuters reports:

Puerto Rico’s credit rating might be cut due to its “deeply underfunded” pension system, Moody’s Investors Service said on Tuesday, in a reminder of one of the biggest threats to state and local finances.

Puerto Rico now is rated A3 by Moody’s; about $28 billion of debt issued by the Commonwealth was affected by the warning from the credit agency.

Puerto Rico’s financial problems are not only deep but long-standing. Moody’s cited years of over-estimating revenues, underestimating expenses and relying on deficit borrowing.

Muni sweeps: Arbor Day


Among other things today is National Arbor Day.

It’s time to be thankful for our wonderful trees. Some municipalities make the preservation and addition of trees a centerpiece of town planning.

Consider planting a tree this weekend or donating to local group who is beautifying your community.

Stranded assets

There are 67 miles of toll roads in Orange County, California that drivers don’t seem to want to drive on much.

Golden muni derivatives

Is the “Golden State” golden?

Some banks and hedge funds don’t think California is so golden after all. And they have bought credit default swaps insuring (or betting) against it’s default.

We know about these muni derivatives because of some excellent reporting from Katy Burne at Dow Jones.

She reports:

The banks disclosed the trades to California Treasurer Bill Lockyer last month in response to his request that all 86 of the state’s bond underwriters detail the volume of credit default swaps they traded on the state’s roughly $80 billion of general obligation bonds in the three months ending Jan. 31.

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