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Comptroller: TN Makes ‘Extraordinary’ Sale of $345M in Higher Ed Facilities Bonds

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; August 27, 2014: 

The Tennessee State School Bond Authority has just completed the sale of $345 million of higher education facilities bonds to finance the costs of projects for the state’s higher education system. Tennessee’s excellent credit stimulated heavy interest from bond buyers, allowing bonds to be sold at historically low rates.

The School Bond Authority sold $132 million in 2014 Series A taxable bonds at a true interest cost of 3.59%. The bonds included new money and refunding bonds, the proceeds of which will repay a revolving credit facility, finance additional project costs, and refinance certain bonds outstanding. The refinancing will save the state’s higher educational institutions more than $6 million.

The School Bond Authority also sold $213 million of 2014 Series B tax-exempt refunding bonds. The true interest cost of 2.81% will result in an additional $17.8 million savings to the institutions. Buyer interest in the bonds allowed the School Bond Authority to reprice most of the maturities on the bonds from 5 to 10 basis points lower than the price that was initially offered.

“This may be the most extraordinary sale in the Authority’s history.” said Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “These low interest rates are a testament to the financial management and integrity of Tennessee’s higher education system and institutions. Taxpayers should be proud of this incredibly successful sale and the savings to the state’s institutions.”

The bonds were rated AA+ by Fitch Ratings, Aa1 by Moody’s Investor Service, and AA by Standard & Poor’s. All of the bonds have stable outlooks.

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Tennessee Joins Lawsuit Against Standard and Poor’s

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, February 5, 2013:

Attorney General Bob Cooper today joined the Department of Justice and other state Attorneys General in filing enforcement actions against Standard and Poor’s and its parent company, McGraw-Hill, seeking accountability for alleged misconduct by the credit rating agency. The allegations involved structured finance securities backed by subprime mortgages that were at the heart of the nation’s financial crisis.

The federal and state complaints allege that despite S&P’s repeated statements emphasizing its independence and objectivity, S&P allowed its credit rating analysis to be influenced by its desire to earn lucrative fees from its investment bank clients. Investors and others in the marketplace relied on credit rating agencies like S&P for accurate ratings because the underlying data for these securities was not publicly available.

This alleged misconduct began as early as 2001, became particularly acute between 2004 and 2007, and continued as recently as 2011.

Structured finance securities backed by subprime mortgages were at the center of the financial crisis. These financial products, including residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateral debt obligations (CDOs), derive their value from the monthly payments consumers make on their mortgages.

“The complaint filed in state court today alleges that investors as well as others in the market were misled by Standard and Poor’s promises that its analysis was independent and objective. Unfortunately, as the complaint alleges, this was not the case, and ratings of mortgage backed securities and collateral debt obligations were influenced by the desire to continue earning lucrative fees,” Attorney General Cooper said.

Tennessee’s lawsuit seeks relief to stop S&P from making misrepresentations to the public; change the way the company does business; and civil penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten profits.

The congressionally-appointed bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded in its final report that the financial crisis “could not have happened” without ratings agencies such as S&P.

The State’s Complaint may be found on the Attorney General’s website by going to www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral and clicking on “Filings of Interest.”

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TN Comptroller’s Office Reports on State’s Credit Status

Email from Tennessee Comptroller Executive Assistant Jason Mumpower to Members of the Tennessee General Assembly, Oct. 3, 2011:

Honorable Senators and Representatives:

On behalf of Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, Treasurer David Lillard and Secretary of State Tre Hargett I am writing to share the good news we have received from the various rating agencies in regard to Tennessee’s status.

We have received a AAA rating from Fitch Ratings. The Fitch representative said that the credit rating agency is very impressed with the way Tennessee manages its business.

We have received an Aaa rating with a negative outlook from Moody’s Investors Service. The negative outlook is tied to the United States government rating previously received from Moody’s.

In addition, we have maintained a AA+ with positive outlook from Standard & Poors. This reflects no change from our previous rating.

We wanted you to have this good news as soon as possible. We appreciate your partnership in making Tennessee a state with well managed finances and a positive future.