SAN FRANCISCO — A new report from the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission found that more than one in four issuers in the state failed to file their annual financial reports on time.
The CDIAC report found that on average, 72% of California issuers, both state and local, filed their fiscal 2010 comprehensive annual financial reports on time with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board as promised in their official statements for bonds issued from 2005 to 2009.
An average of almost 10% of California issuers sampled did not file a CAFR at all to the board's EMMA database, and 11% filed more than 30 days late, according to the report CDIAC released Tuesday.
"A 72% compliance rate is nothing to brag about," Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the chairman of the commission, said in a statement. "California issuers can do much better."
The issuers who filed more than 30 days late averaged 147 days after the deadline, with over half filing more than 90 days late, according to the report, which was compiled using a random sampling of bond issues in CDIAC's database.
The report found that K-12 school districts were the worst offenders. Only 60% of districts filed on time and 18% did not file at all.
The CDIAC report cited another report from earlier this year on nationwide annual financial report disclosure by DPC Data that found that over half the issuers studied were one or more years delinquent in submitting annual financial statements.
Municipal bond market participants and analysts have long complained about a lack of financial transparency from government sellers, particularly smaller, unrated issuers.
"This study may lead California municipal finance managers to review their current bond administration polices and motivate improved performance going forward," the report said in its conclusions. "Nationally, the failure of issuers to comply with obligations under continuing disclosure rules may reduce the ability of the municipal market to resist calls for greater regulation."
The Securities and Exchange Commission has been moving to improve issuer disclosure in both the primary and secondary markets.
Legislation has also popped up in the U.S. House to give the SEC more authority to clamp down on the transparency problems.
The SEC requires government issuers to meet certain disclosure standards. Municipal issuers are also bound by agreements as part of their bond sales to provide annual financial information and notices of specific events to the public.
In 2009, the MSRB adopted EMMA as a centralized repository for muni bond disclosure and the SEC changed its 15c2-12 rule to require filing to the new system. Before EMMA, disclosure passed through four nationally recognized municipal securities information repositories.
CDIAC plans to initiate additional research of continuing disclosure, the report said.