WASHINGTON – The National Federation of Municipal Analysts presented awards to three individuals and one issuer on Wednesday for their achievements in the municipal market.
The awards were presented as part of NFMA’s annual conference held here this year. The group gives the awards annually to recognize individuals or entities that further NFMA's goals of advancing the muni bond industry. The award recipients are determined by the group’s Awards Committee. Lisa Washburn, the current chair of the Awards Committee and a former NFMA chair, presided over this year’s awards ceremony.
NFMA presented two Industry Contribution Awards this year.
W. Bartley Hildreth, a professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, received one those two awards for his work as editor-in-chief of the Municipal Finance Journal and his two decades of overseeing the publication of presentation transcripts from NFMA conferences. The Municipal Finance Journal is the only professional journal devoted to munis and state and local financing. Washburn said that Hildreth’s work “helps to increase the visibility of the NFMA and the issues that are important to our membership.”
Hildreth said he is “very honored” by the award and that the Municipal Finance Journal’s relationship with NFMA since 1991 has been a “very rewarding experience.”
Michael Decker, a managing director of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and co-head of its municipal securities division, received the other award for his work on municipal disclosure. Washburn credited Decker for his “extraordinary efforts” to coordinate and lead an industry working group to author a letter to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board with recommendations to improve its EMMA system. She added that Decker “ensured that [the NFMA’s] voice was not only heard but carried weight in the discussions” to formulate the letter. The recommendations in the letter related to: searchability, ease of data imputing and uploading; improving linkages among related data; and the ability to correct information already on EMMA.
Decker said one of the lessons SIFMA and others learned from the stakeholder group when trying to advocate in Washington is that “there is strength in numbers and strength in diversity.
“When we come together on issues where there’s areas of common interest, I think we can be much more successful moving the needle with regulators and members of Congress,” Decker said after being presented with the award.
NFMA also presented an Award of Excellence to Geoffrey Buswick, managing director at S&P Global ratings, for his efforts to improve disclosure for bank loans. The group said Buswick’s work on bank loan disclosure spanned several years and included representing NFMA on the industry bank loan working group in 2012 and participating in the process behind NFMA’s 2015 Recommended Best Practices for Direct Purchase Bonds, Bank Loans and other Bank-Borrower Agreements.
Buswick has written extensively on bank loan disclosure for S&P and has been “careful to explain the risks that these instruments present and convincingly makes the case for better disclosure,” Washburn said. Buswick called the award “a great reward” during his short acceptance speech.
The last award presented was NFMA’s Excellence in Disclosure Award, which went to American Municipal Power, Inc. for what NFMA said is AMP’s work to interact with the investment community through a “comprehensive and easy-to-navigate investor relations site.” AMP’s site includes timely annual and quarterly financial reports, rating agency reports, and other important credit-related information, according to NFMA.
The organization “also has a webpage dedicated to sustainability objectives, programs, practices and reporting,” Washburn said, adding that AMP has “a notable track record of presenting investor events and making time for one-on-one meetings to ensure that investors have the information they need.” Marcy Steckman, AMP’s senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer, accepted the award on the issuer’s behalf.
“We try to go above and beyond … and take great pride in our relationship with the financial community,” Steckman said.
NFMA has roughly 1,400 members, primarily research analysts who evaluate credit and other associated risks in the muni market. The individuals represent mutual funds, insurance companies, broker-dealers, bond insurers, rating agencies, and financial advisory firms.