Muni Debt Reform: SEC to Proceed with Field Hearing in Alabama

According to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the Securities and Exchange Commission will proceed with a field hearing in Birmingham, Alabama. The hearing is to let the SEC more fully comprehend Jefferson County, Alabama’s experience as it comes up with policies to enhance disclosure and transparency in municipal finance markets.

Currently, Birmingham, which is the largest city in Jefferson County, is still trying to avoid filing a $4 billion sewer bonds bankruptcy stemming from county officials’ alleged corruption and fraud. The SEC hopes that the hearing will help it in the development of policies to improve disclosure and transparency in municipal finance markets.

Already, the SEC and the Justice Department have filed fraud charges against Jefferson County officials, including ex-mayor Larry Langford, who was convicted in 2009 for taking kickbacks involving the refinancing of county bonds that were for the funding of the reconstruction of the aged sewer system. Charged with alleged involvement in the pay-to-play scam are ex-J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) managing directors Charles LeCroy and Douglas MacFaddin. JP Morgan Chase has already settled the SEC’s securities charges over the financial fraud, which allowed the financial firm to obtain the rights to some of the sewer bond offerings. It paid Jefferson County $50 million and dropped a $647 million termination fee claim.

Bachus has said that he doesn’t believe that any taxpayer, locality, or ratepayer should have to undergo the same experience as the sewer financing fiasco and the impact it has had. If Jefferson County were to file for bankruptcy, it would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

Related Web Resources:
Congressman Bachus: SEC to Hold Field Hearing on Municipal Debt Reform , Bachus House
Bond Debacle Sinks Jefferson County, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 8, 2009

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