NEW YORK - The municipal bond industry has taken its fair share of lumps over the past few years, starting in 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, moving to the downfall of the auction-rate market and then the failures of muni derivatives.
But muni issuers and underwriters never abandoned hope or thought to give up on the market. That’s the message Ronald Stack, of Wells Fargo Securities, conveyed to the several hundreds gathered Wednesday evening at the 23rd annual Awards and Urban Leadership Fellows Fundraising Dinner for the Municipal Forum of New York at the Marriott Marquis Times Square.
Transformational leadership marked the night’s theme. And attendees were exhorted to recognize the work of those among them who innovated, provided steady guidance or inspired the confidence the industry needed to pull through the recent dark period.
Stack, citing a humorous, if historically inaccurate, motivational speech by John “Bluto” Blutarsky, John Belushi's character in the movie “Animal House,” pushed those in attendance to remember the importance of their roles and their sense of purpose.
“Our industry and our work is not over,” he said. “We need to rediscover our pride. What we do is honorable. We’re actually doing something that is good, good for people. Let us be proud of what we do.”
In his speech, Stack, the Austin V. Koenen Career Achievement Award recipient, also praised the award’s namesake. He mentioned how Austin Koenen taught him the importance of honesty and integrity in the business, as well as the need to fight for clients.
Other award recipients included Lynnette Kelly, executive director of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board and recipient of the forum’s Public Service Award, and Mark Page, of New York City’s Office of Management and Budget and recipient of the forum’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
In her speech, Kelly praised the work of award presenter Frank Chin of Citi, who worked to bring more disclosure to the market. She also recognized her fellow directors at the MSRB, who work to protect the interests of retail investors, she added.
“I accept this award on their behalf,” Kelly said.
Page took the opportunity to applaud the municipal industry’s role in helping state and local governments collect and spend money to build projects that improve citizens’ lives.
“The municipal finance industry is a vital part of that,” he said. “Municipal finance is not going to go away.”