Chicago CFO and muni high-yield vet are 2017 Freda Johnson Award winners

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Chicago’s chief financial officer Carole Brown and Julie Morrone, a principal at Rosemawr Management, will receive the 2017 Freda Johnson Award for Trailblazing Women in Public Finance.

The Northeast Women in Public Finance will formally present the award at The Bond Buyer's Deal of the Year ceremony in New York City on Dec. 6.

The award is named for Freda Johnson, a founding board member of the organization who was an executive vice president and public finance division head at Moody's Investors Service from 1979 through 1990.

This marks the seventh year the group has handed out the award and the fourth year in which the organization expanded it from one recipient to cover two public finance professionals, one each from the public and private sectors.

Both women voiced their gratitude in being recognized for their contributions to the field and for their civic engagement.

“It is a privilege to be included in the company of the past recipients of the Freda Johnson Award,” Brown said. “I am honored to be recognized by my colleagues and peers.”

"I am honored and thrilled to receive this award. To be recognized by such an accomplished group of women means a tremendous amount to me,” Morrone said. “The industry is fortunate to have an organization like the Northeast Women in Public Finance and a leader like Freda Johnson who are committed to promoting women and showcasing their achievements."

Morrone’s career has spanned both the buy and sell sides where she’s worked as an analyst and portfolio manager with municipal high yield investing the focus of her 30-year career. Morrone was the third person to join Rosemawr Management in 2008 as principal, director of credit research and member of the investment team.

Rosemawr invests in more challenged credits, often working with issuers that otherwise have difficulty accessing the capital markets. She began her career as an analyst for a letter of credit bank before moving to the former Bear Stearns & Co. where she was a high yield research analyst supporting sales and trading.

“Julie is one of the few women who has been successful and blazed a trail as an analyst and portfolio manager at a buy, sell and hedge fund; not many people can make that switch and be successful at it,” Joan Allman, high yield municipal evaluator at Bloomberg LP, wrote in her nomination of Morrone. “At Rosemawr she is not only a portfolio manager but a problem solver who works on solutions with issuers.”

She later moved to Lehman but then made the leap to the buyside at Morgan Stanley investment Management where she worked as a high yield credit analyst, problem loan workout specialist, and co-manager of their high yield municipal funds.

Morrone is an active member of the National Federation of Municipal Analysts, the Municipal Analysts Group of New York, and the Northeast Women in Public Finance. She is the author of the “High Yield Chapter” of the Handbook of Municipal Bonds and Public Finance. She holds an undergraduate finance degree from NYU and a masters of business administration in accounting from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

“Julie supports, encourages, and assists younger women in the industry and is always willing to exchange ideas on controversial topics such as Puerto Rico and Illinois,” Patricia Healy, senior vice president of research & portfolio manager at Cumberland Advisors, wrote in nominating Morrone, who hosts an annual holiday lunch is both a networking event and time to share ideas.

Morrone is also a mentor to girls at the Bronx High School which she attended and has served as a board member.

Brown took over the city’s top fiscal post in May 2015 after a more than 25-year career as a public finance banker. She took on the role as the city grappled with a potential $2 billion liquidity crisis triggered by a loss of one its investment grade ratings over the city’s pension burden.

While resolving the potential crisis by shedding various bank and swap contracts and floating-rate exposure, Brown also worked on tackling new funding plans to shore up city pension funds and shedding frowned-upon debt practices used in the past. Brown is now readying a new securitization-like program to lower some existing debt costs.

Brown was nominated by her boss, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Through her depth of knowledge in municipal financing, keen understanding of the markets, and dedication to public service, Carole has worked to ensure that the city overcomes each of these challenges,” Emanuel wrote. “Carole has brought a wealth of experience and thoughtful innovative ideas to solving the city’s complex fiscal challenges.”

Brown previously led the Midwest and Southeast banking practices at Barclays Capital where she was a managing director. She also held positions at Mesirow Financial, Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., and the former Lehman Brothers.

Brown was tapped by former Mayor Richard Daley to chair the Chicago Transit Authority’s board and held the post for nearly seven years until 2009. Before her appointment to the CFO post, she served on Emanuel’s transition team, worked on an overhaul of tax-increment financing, and was an Emanuel-appointee to the Regional Transportation Authority of Illinois.

Brown is a native of Baltimore and a graduate of Harvard College. She landed in Chicago in 1986 to attend Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. She serves on the boards of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Metropolitan Planning Council, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, and The Auto Club Group/the Auto Club Insurance Association.

Last year's award winners were Marian Zucker, president of the Office of Finance & Development at New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and Suzanne Shank, founder and CEO of Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co..

Past winners also include Carol Kostik, New York City Deputy Comptroller for Public Finance; Meghan Burke, Boston-based public finance section head at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo; former Chicago CFO Lois Scott; veteran New York banker Kym Arnone; Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier, former Rhode Island Treasurer and current Gov. Gina Raimondo; and Philadelphia city Treasurer Nancy Winkler.

In 2013, the organization also gave a posthumous award to Muriel Siebert, the co-founder of SCSCO and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, which was accepted by Shank in her name.

Other Trailblazers this year from the public sector are Teveia Barnes, executive director of the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank; St. Louis comptroller Darlene Green; Monica Galuski, director of bond finance at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs; Elizabeth McCarthy, CFO at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Madhavi Rajev, Atlanta controller; Rasheia Johnson, Philadelphia treasurer.

Other Trailblazers this year from the private sector are Elizabeth Coolidge, a managing director UBS; Karen Daly, a senior managing director at Kroll Bond Rating Agency; Linda D’Onofrio, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP; and Suzanne Finnegan, chief credit officer at Build America Mutual; Elizabeth Hanify, a vice president and manager of municipal finance at Fidelity Capital Markets; Susan Kendall, director at Hilltop Securities Inc.

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