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Muni World's Recovery from Sandy Is Uneven

NOV 6, 2012 2:24pm ET
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While some firms in the municipal bond world have fully recovered from Sandy’s impact, others were still dealing with its aftermath on Tuesday.

One of JPMorgan’s buildings is located in the southern area of the Financial District in downtown Manhattan, an area which experienced a great deal of flooding. As of Monday JPMorgan was not able to use its downtown building. However, “the majority of our muni team works out of our midtown office so were not dislocated, though some personnel worked remotely and in our backup locations,” a company source wrote in an email. “Our trading desks were fully staffed and we successfully remarketed all products that were due to mature or reset every day of last week.” On Monday JPMorgan’s muni operations were normal, the source said.

Sandy had a major impact on New Jersey as well New York City. Financial advisor Lamont Financial Services Corp.’s professionals worked from home all last week, said president Bob Lamb. However, they are back in the office in northern New Jersey on Monday. Aside from a few small problems with Internet service, everything is normal, Lamb said.

Financial advisor Acacia Financial Group lost power in its southern and northern New Jersey offices on October 30, said managing director Peter Nissen. However, its professionals were working from home on that day. They returned to work on Wednesday. “We were never effectively shut down,” Nissen said. Things were generally back to normal by Wednesday or Thursday.

RBC Capital Markets has its headquarters in downtown Manhattan. A source said on Monday said that its muni operations were fully active but declined to give any specifics.

Goldman Sachs has its headquarters in downtown. On October 30, a company source said that while its professionals were not in the building, the building had sustained little damage. The headquarters has been open since Wednesday and employees have more and more been returning to working in the building as opposed to working from home, the source said. The firm has been operational throughout the period, she said.

A source at Morgan Stanley said that its damaged building in downtown Manhattan is not relevant to municipal bonds. She said the municipal bond underwriting and asset managing business at Morgan Stanley has continued operations through this storm. She pointed out that the firm priced two deals last week.

Moody’s Investors Services headquarters building in downtown Manhattan experienced some flooding, a Moody’s spokesman said. However, the building has been open since Monday. Moody’s had been operating with the help of offices outside New York City and staff working from their homes last week. Because of transportation disruptions in the New York City area, some of the staff remain working from home. However, Moody’s is fully operational, the spokesman said.

On Tuesday some other firms were still struggling with Sandy’s aftermath.

“At 55 Water Street, where Standard & Poor’s has offices, the ‘restricted use’ sign listed ‘severe flooding in basement, no fire alarm, no power, damaged face brick in loading dock,’” according to the New York Times.

“Standard & Poor’s remains operational and open for business,” Standard & Poor’s spokesman Olayinka Fadahunsi wrote in an email. “Our offices at 55 Water Street are currently closed due to the storm, but we have moved the operations performed there to other locations, including our parent company’s headquarters at 1221 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.”

“We are working to determine when the office will re-open,” Fadahunsi continued. “S&P had a business continuity plan in place and immediately put it into effect.  We are a global organization with 23 offices around the world. Many employees in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area are now located in other [parent company] McGraw-Hill offices in New York or have been able to work remotely.  We continue to produce timely ratings opinions and credit analysis.”

Fitch Ratings New York City headquarters are in two buildings downtown that were both flooded and remain closed for an unknown period, according to Daniel Champeau, global group head for public finance and infrastructure. Fitch is using office space in midtown Manhattan and a county immediately north of New York City. Fitch is fully up and operational, said Richard Raphael, head of United States public finance.

All of Fitch’s networks, drives and contacts are available to its staff, Raphael said.

Fitch also has headquarters in London and has offices around the United States.

The Bond Buyer is headquartered in a building shared with Fitch downtown. It has been closed for a week and company officials expected it to be closed for two more weeks. Though The Bond Buyer has about two dozen editorial professionals who work across the country, many of the dozen professionals who work in New York City have worked from their homes or the homes of relatives.

Citigroup’s downtown 388 Greenwich Street building “was not damaged by Hurricane Sandy,” Citigroup spokeswoman Daniel Romero-Apsilos wrote in an e-mail. “We had minor flooding and loss of power from public utility but the building is open for business since [Monday] (we had to wait for public power to be restored.) Citi rented space in 111 Wall Street that housed back-office operations; that building was impacted by the storm and won’t be open for several weeks.”

Regarding the damage to the 111 Wall Street building, Citigroup stated, “We had planned for this contingency and its functions were picked up by back up facilities.” It also stated, “We have been able to serve our clients without interruption throughout this event."

Ramirez & Co. has a major office in the Financial District. No one picked up their line when it was called on Monday and Tuesday.

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