BDA gives Michael Decker full-time role

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The Bond Dealers of America is strengthening its muni advocacy roster, hiring longtime muni lobbyist Michael Decker to focus on federal regulatory and legislative policy full time.

BDA hired Decker as its senior vice president of policy and research, the group announced Monday. Decker had been a consultant for BDA since March 2019, not in-house, and has been a prominent voice in muni lobbying and research for decades. Decker said the hiring shows BDA’s commitment to muni advocacy.

Michael Decker was hired as the Bond Dealers of America's senior vice president of policy and research, the lobbying group announced Monday.

“It represents that BDA is fully committed to fixed income and municipal advocacy,” Decker said. “We’ve built a strong team of advocates with a lot of experience.”

“It reflects that the member firms believe strongly in BDA as a platform and BDA’s mission and want to continue to see us be a strong, effective organization,” Decker added.

BDA also announced that Brett Bolton will shift roles to become vice president and head of government and industry relations, where he will be more focused on Capitol Hill and continue to work on regulatory issues. Bolton was previously vice president of federal legislative and regulatory policy at BDA.

Before joining BDA, Decker was co-head of munis at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association from 2009 to 2019. His departure from there was significant, stoking some concern about the group’s commitment to the muni market. Decker previously helped found the Regional Bond Dealers Association, which is the predecessor to the BDA, with Mike Nicholas, BDA's chief executive. BDA has grown from 14 members in 2008 to more than 70 today.

Decker plans to focus on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed exemptive order that would give municipal advisors more leeway to facilitate private placements. The BDA has been strongly opposed to the order, saying it would negatively impact the municipal market.

BDA made a last effort to limit the order in a letter to the SEC. An industry participant told The Bond Buyer late last year that the SEC was leaning toward some form of relief for MAs.

On the legislative side, Decker wants to home in on bringing back advance refunding, raising the cap on bank-qualified bonds and reviving some form of a direct-pay bond program. Direct-pay bonds were popular in 2009 as part of a two-year Build America Bonds program, though the authority to issue BABs expired in December 2010.

House Democrats have proposed restoring BABs and advance refunding, and the latter has some Republican support as well. Restoring advance refunding would restore state and local governments’ ability to invest in infrastructure with favorable financing terms through allowing them to use one bond’s proceeds to replace existing bonds.

"Leveraging 12 years of advocacy success, the BDA is building out a complete staff for comprehensive advocacy and representation for securities dealers and banks active in the US fixed income markets," Nicholas said in a press release. "That includes federal regulatory and legislative advocacy, market practices, research and surveys, industry-leading events and more."

BDA is not the only group to increasing its muni advocacy efforts.

Kelli McMorrow, BDA’s former senior vice president of federal legislative and regulatory policy, joined the American Securities Association in February. McMorrow was named head of government affairs and director of fixed income policy at ASA. ASA has plans to become increasingly involved in muni market issues in the near future.

“Speaking for the BDA Board, we are excited to build out this team, adding Michael in-house while streamlining Brett’s role to further capitalize on his background and strengths,” said Angelique David, BDA board chair, chief operating officer and general counsel of Ziegler, in the press release.

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