Key muni lobbyist Decker is out as SIFMA reorganizes

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WASHINGTON — Michael Decker will be leaving his post as managing director and co-head of munis at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association on Thursday, stoking concern about the group's commitment to the muni market.

Decker has held that post at SIFMA since October 2009 and has been among the most prominent muni lobbyists for years, meeting with and authoring letters to lawmakers and regulators on SIFMA's behalf.

Some market participants had already said they were skeptical of SIFMA's commitment to muni advocacy after a significant reorganization of the group's committee structure last year.

Cheryl Crispen, SIFMA executive vice president of communications and marketing, said nothing has changed since October regarding the restructuring of the group, and said SIFMA was not backing away from muni advocacy.

"SIFMA remains committed to the municipal securities sector and there will be no reduction of our issue coverage,” Crispen said.

Market participants have pointed out that SIFMA’s most prominent and biggest dues-paying members are big Wall Street investment banks, for which munis are a relatively small part of their businesses.

Other Washington-based muni advocates had praise for Decker upon hearing of his termination at SIFMA.

Micah Green, a partner at law firm Steptoe & Johnson, began working with Decker almost 30 years ago and applauded his dedication to the fixed income and municipal markets.

“The municipal market has been a better place because Michael Decker decided to spend so much time in his life and in his career being an advocate for that marketplace,” Green said.

In 2008, Decker joined the Regional Bond Dealers Association, now known as the Bond Dealers of America. Before that, he was senior managing director for research and public policy at SIFMA , where he oversaw the association’s research activities, including analyzing industry and market trends, collecting market and industry data and publishing research reports covering all aspects of the global securities market.

“I’ve personally known Michael and worked with him since 1996 at the Public Securities Association - the predecessor to SIFMA,” said Mike Nicholas, CEO of Bond Dealers of America. “Michael’s unwavering voice supporting fixed income broker-dealers and investors will be missed by many.”

Concern about the direction of SIFMA's advocacy was initially sparked after SIFMA President and CEO Ken Bentsen announced in September 2018 that the group would “reconstitute” its 95 committees and 167-plus working groups subcommittees into 35 committees and 21 forums that will be overseen by six subcommittees of the board of directors.

The streamlining was the result of three surveys that the global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman conducted of SIFMA members. Bentsen told members the goal was to refine and improve the efficiency of SIFMA's committee structure to ensure focus on core member priorities.

Green said it’s important to ensure that the municipal market has a clear voice and that it’s communicated through investors and issuers alike.

“I would hope Michael’s departure does not indicate any lack of commitment on any industry organization’s part to ensure that these markets have a clear and resolute voice,” Green said.

He added that the finance community should redouble its efforts to get the message out for the need to deal with infrastructure finance and other developments in the muni market.

“Michael is a giant in our industry and he’s also a good friend,” said Emily Brock, director of the Government Finance Officers Association's federal liaison center. “I look forward to working with him on his next adventure.”

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