Muniland retail bond buying is getting more attention

By Cate Long
May 31, 2012

A little-known provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law expanded the board of directors of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), the self-regulatory organization that oversees muniland. The board used to be composed of employees of municipal bond dealers and big banks, and many would say privately that MSRB rulemaking favored industry players rather the public. Dodd-Frank radically altered the board’s composition to balance representation from the municipal industry and the public. The law firm Duane Morris explained the change (emphasis mine):

Massachusetts sets the bar for transparency

By Cate Long
May 25, 2012

For openness in finances, debt management and budget process, Massachusetts is the gold standard among states. The legislature and executive branch have collaboratively embraced a five-year budgeting process and committed to sharing the results with taxpayers and the public. Because of the state’s efforts to reach out to the investing community, I predict that its transparency will lead to lower borrowing costs and more stable funding sources in the future. The state is rated AA+ by credit rating agencies for creditworthiness, but I’ll assign it the highest rating, AAA, for transparency.

Here comes a whole new municipal bond market

By Cate Long
February 24, 2012

How do you shake up the sleepy old municipal bond market? Gather up the most important data, organize it into an easy-to-search format and make it available to retail investors for free. It’s this blogger’s dream, and it is on its way. Muniland’s overseer, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), today released its long-range plan outlining the expansion of its free, public-facing disclosure system called EMMA.

Untimely data will cost muniland potential investors

By Cate Long
October 8, 2011

If municipal bonds lose their tax-exempt status, as some in the corridors of power in Washington are suggesting, municipalities will increasingly be competing with corporations for investors. As this competition intensifies, municipalities with poor accounting and disclosure practices could find it difficult attracting capital.

Muniland is the most transparent bond market

By Cate Long
July 1, 2011

Agnes Crane, a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, wrote an interesting column today about ending the municipal-bond tax exemption. This tax exemption, granted at the federal level, makes the interest earned on municipal bonds free from taxation on the local, state and federal level if it’s owned by an investor residing at the place of issuance.

The declining welfare rolls

By Cate Long
June 24, 2011

The ever-shrinking welfare rolls

Stateline has done some very good reporting on the decline of the welfare rolls. Welfare funding was switched to block grants in 1996, and the funding level has remained the same since then. From Stateline:

Bank backstops for municipals

By Cate Long
May 9, 2011

There is a very interesting class of municipals that you may not know about.

They are called “variable rate demand obligations” (VRDOs).

Moody’s estimates the market size at about $380 billion or 13% of the $3 trillion municipal market.

Improved muni supermarket coming

By Cate Long
May 9, 2011

Shopping for municipal bonds is tough.

Investors generally don’t know if the issuer is financially healthy or spiraling down to default. The media does not have useful data.