After months of deliberation, on August 20, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced its final approval of new amendments (the “2018 Amendments”) to Rule 15c2-12, 17 C.F.R. §240.15c2-12 (herein, “Rule 15c2-12” or the “Rule”). Rule 15c2-12 requires dealers, when underwriting certain types of municipal securities, to ensure that “obligated persons” enter into a written commitment (called a continuing disclosure agreement, or “CDA”) to make periodic disclosure filings to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (the “MSRB”). An “obligated person” means any person, including the issuer, that supports the payment of all or part of the obligations on municipal securities to be publicly offered for sale. Continue Reading What is Material? The SEC Says You Decide
On August 20, 2018 the SEC approved amendments to Rule 15c2-12 of the Securities Exchange Act to add two additional disclosure events to written continuing disclosure undertakings required to be obtained by underwriters in primary securities offerings. A copy of the final rule approving the amendments can be accessed here. Continue Reading SEC Approves Amendments to Rule 15c2-12 to Address Bank Loan Disclosure Concerns
When Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) late last year, a much-heralded provision of TCJA was the reduction in the federal corporate income tax rate, from 35% to 21%. However, that reduction has had unforeseen consequences for the municipal bond industry. The reduction in the tax rate is expected to result in efforts by banks to increase the interest rates charged by banks for current outstanding loans to municipalities and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. Whether a bank may increase the interest rate on a loan will depend on the language of the loan documents. Even if the loan documents permit the bank to unilaterally increase the interest rate, some banks may be hesitant to do so, as the request is may be received poorly, potentially jeopardizing the bank’s ongoing relationship with the borrower. Continue Reading Continuing Disclosure in the Municipal Bond Market: Importance of Compliance
As we prepare to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome a new year, we thought we’d take a moment and revisit some of our favorite stories from the last twelve months that we’ve followed on the McNees Public Sector Blog.
- A kinder, gentler Internal Revenue Service? Perhaps in response to the Trump Administration’s “less is more” approach to regulation, 2017 saw several announcements from the IRS that were favorably received by the municipal bond industry. In January the IRS published new guidance on management contracts involving bond-financed facilities, which reintroduced old concepts following a less-than-favorable response to a prior announcement. In June, new IRS regulations on the determination of issue price went into effect, and despite some initial headaches, the new regulations appear to be working well and have been incorporated by underwriters and bond counsel. In October, the IRS published new proposed regulations interpreting the public hearing requirement for private activity bonds, which as promised featured a long-hoped-for “remedial action” option. And finally, an early Christmas present for bond lawyers everywhere: in October the IRS announced that it was withdrawing its much-despised “political subdivision” proposed regulations.
- While the IRS appeared to get President Trump’s “less regulation” message, the SEC and MSRB continued their aggressive enforcement efforts. In March the SEC voted to formally propose amendments to Rule 15c2-12 to beef up required disclosures by municipalities in connection with bank loans. And in August, the MSRB issued a warning to municipal issuers to avoid involvement in the selection of underwriter’s counsel. All indications are that the SEC and MSRB will continue to aggressively police the municipal bond industry in 2018.
- The Pennsylvania budget situation continued to be a mess. Governor Wolf’s budget proposal featured a variety of tax increases, which were soundly rejected by the Republican-led legislature. A spending plan was quickly agreed to, but without the revenue needed to pay for it. The final spending plan again avoids broad-based tax increases (at the relief of many) in favor of one-time revenues from a securitization of Tobacco Settlement Funds, among other things.
- For local governments, high fixed costs and declining revenues continued to be a problem in 2017. Generating revenue through asset monetization remained an option for struggling municipalities faced with severe blight and new government mandates, including stormwater management.
- And finally, Tax Reform! The end of 2017 saw the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the first successful attempt at comprehensive tax reform since the passage of the 1986 Code. A number of versions of the bill were introduced, some of which would have been devastating on the municipal bond industry. We wrote about the impact of the final legislation on the municipal bond industry here.
To all our readers – thanks for visiting! And may you all have a happy and prosperous new year!
– Tim Horstmann
It has traditionally been a fairly common practice in the municipal bond arena for issuers to either select or have significant input into the selection of underwriter’s counsel in connection with the issuance of municipal bonds. On July 27, 2017, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) issued a strong warning to the industry against continuation of these practices by publication of Notice 2017-14. Continue Reading MSRB Issues Warning Guidance On Issuer Involvement In Selection of Underwriter’s Counsel
On June 7, 2017, new IRS regulations that change the way state and local governments issue tax-exempt bonds went into effect. The new rules change the way municipal issuers determine the issue price of tax-exempt bonds they issue, and amend existing IRS regulations under section 148 of the Internal Revenue Code. The new rules have produced immediate changes to many common documents used by municipal issuers and their advisors in municipal bond transactions.
Following his inauguration on January 20th, President Trump issued several Executive Orders, one of which was issued on January 25, 2017 and titled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” (referred to herein as the “Order”). Among other things, this Order punishes so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions” by stripping them of federal grants. As justification for this punitive measure, the Order states that “sanctuary jurisdictions … willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal…. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
In the months since the Order, many state and local entities have parsed the Order to determine whether they would be considered a “sanctuary jurisdiction,” what funding may be in jeopardy, and whether they can modify their policies to limit or eliminate application of the Order. In the midst of these uncertainties, many municipalities also have been faced with the issue of how to address the potential consequences of “sanctuary jurisdiction” status in their public offering documents when they are considering issuing municipal bonds for sale to the investor public.
The National Association of Bond Lawyers (NABL) and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) recently released model issue price documents in connection with the soon-to-be effective Treasury Regulations on establishing the issue price of a tax-exempt bond issue. NABL’s model documents can be accessed here; SIFMA’s documents can be accessed here.
These model documents have been issued in response to the finalized Treasury Regulations on issue price, published by the Department of the Treasury on December 9, 2016. The final regulations – which become effective on June 7, 2017 – retain the existing rule that in general, the issue price of a series of bonds is the first price at which a substantial amount (10%) of the bonds is sold to the public. The regulations add two special rules, however, which may be selected by the issuer in connection with the determination of the issue price: a special rule for competitive sales, and a special rule where the underwriter or underwriters agree to “hold the price” on the initial sale of the bonds to a price that is not higher than the initial offering price.
The model documents published by SIFMA and NABL provide a uniform solution for underwriters and issuers to ensure compliance with the final regulations, in particular in determining which of the three rules for determining issue price apply, and ensuring that the requirements for application of the rule are met. It is expected that both SIFMA and NABL will finalize these forms in the coming weeks after receipt of any comments from the public. Professionals working in the public finance industry should carefully review the forms now to get familiar with their requirements in advance of the effective date for the final regulations.
At its meeting on March 1, 2017, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to formally propose and publish for comment amendments to Rule 15c2-12 to add two additional disclosure events to written continuing disclosure undertakings required to be obtained by underwriters in primary securities offerings.
Who has not heard of the Bridgegate scandal? The George Washington Bridge spanning the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City is the busiest motor vehicle bridge in the world. Two of three toll lanes for a street entrance from Fort Lee, NJ to the George Washington Bridge were closed for five days in September 2013. This resulted in huge backups in Fort Lee. As one of the individuals convicted in the incident emailed, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”