A labor coalition is urging New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to renegotiate or cancel interest-rate swaps on bond deals to which the MTA is a party, saying the agency is losing hundreds of millions of dollars.
“These deals have backfired and have become a drag on the MTA’s budget,” Camille Rivera, the executive director of UnitedNY, said in a joint letter with John Samuelsen, president of the Transit Workers Union Local 100. Michael Stewart of UnitedNY read the letter at Thursday’s monthly MTA board meeting.
UnitedNY said its analysis showed that, as of early September, the MTA, which operates public transportation in the New York City region, is paying more than $114 million annually on its interest rate swap deals with large banks. Over the life of the current batch of swap deals — from their effective dates to today — the MTA has paid out over $700 million net to the banks on these deals, it said.
The MTA has used interest swaps to protect itself from rising interest rates on its variable rate bonds, but the financial crisis has driven rates low. The group wants the MTA to force banks to the table and renegotiate swap deals, or cancel them without penalty.
MTA officials, however, say they have saved money on the agreements, and expect to save even more in the future.
UnitedNY also urged the MTA to continue its push for legal recourse over money possibly lost in the scandal surrounding the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. The authority has been discussing legal options with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
“The MTA continues to be in communication with the state attorney general concerning the progress of the state AG’s investigations of Libor suppression, as well as to monitor developments reported in the various other governmental investigations and civil proceedings concerning Libor manipulation that are ongoing,” the authority said in a statement on Friday.
“Either through these proceedings, or through separate legal action in the event that should that prove most beneficial to agency, the MTA will pursue full recovery from the banks involved for any financial injuries suffered as a result of suppression of Libor rates.”
“It’s an ongoing situation with Libor,” MTA finance manager Patrick McCoy said at a finance committee meeting in July. “We believe it does have an effect on the MTA, and we’re following what the regulators in Great Britain and the United States are doing.”
Britain’s Financial Services Authority in June fined Barclays plc, Britain’s second-largest bank by assets, £290 million ($470 million) for submitting false rates for Libor, a benchmark interest rate for financial products valued at $360 trillion. The U.S. Department of Justice is also considering whether to charge Barclays traders. Several other investment banks are under investigation.
Citigroup and UBS are counterparties to numerous MTA swap deals. Also, under a naming-rights agreement, the MTA added Barclays’ name to its Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn, which services nine lines and runs under the new Barclays Center arena, which opened on Friday.
Fitch Ratings late Friday assigned an A rating to the MTA's $250 million in transportation revenue variable rate bonds, which it plans to sell in October, and the same rating on the authoritry's $16.8 billion in outstanding transportation revenue bonds.