U.S. banks poured more than $200 billion into state and local-government debt since the onset of the financial crisis six years ago, boosting their share of the $3.7 trillion market to a two-decade high.
Ask a Nobel Prize-winning economist what’s the difference between the mayor of Baltimore losing taxpayer money with derivatives sold by Wall Street and millions of Americans defaulting on subprime loans and he’ll say there isn’t any: State and local governments are victims of opaque financing they don’t understand, the same way individuals go broke on borrowing at rates too good to be true.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Harvard University are among public and private entities that could be shut out of the $605 trillion privately negotiated derivatives market they use to manage risks under legislation being debated in the U.S. Senate, according to an industry group.
Providers of municipal-bond indexes and benchmarks have been asked to meet with the organization that sets rules for the $3.7 trillion market as it seeks to improve disclosure about how the financial tools are prepared.
Peter Kuhn, an investor from San Jose, California, who owns more than $1 million in municipal bonds, scours pricing websites and uses Zions Bancorporation’s online brokerage to avoid getting overcharged when he buys tax- exempt debt.
Representative John Mica , who becomes House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman in January, plans to introduce a “reincarnation” of the Build America Bonds program, set to expire Dec. 31.