With primary market issuance down significantly in 2011, municipal bond attorneys weren’t quite as busy as they have been in years past.
Because total long-term muni issuance was down about 30% last year to around $295 billion, bond counsel firms saw a 34% decline in par amount worked on.
Among bond counsel, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP did more business than any other firm.
Orrick ranked number one in bond counsel for the year, holding its position from 2010, according to Thomson Reuters. The firm participated in 328 issues at $25.26 billion by par amount, an 8.9% market share. That compares with the 417 issues and $44.69 billion by par amount it did in 2010.
Orrick Herrington had a strong year, placing second overall in underwriter’s counsel and first in disclosure counsel in 2011.
The firm anticipates a stronger 2012, as issuance is expected to rise and muni market fundamentals appear healthier compared to a year ago, according Roger Davis, Orrick’s head of public finance.
“On the whole, we were happy with 2011,” he said, “but happy that 2011 is over and we’re on to 2012.”
Orrick held to its general strategy of “trying to do as much and as well as we can across as many markets as possible, including issuers, borrowers and underwriters, with equal vigor,” Davis said.
The bond counsel group at Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP chased Orrick Herrington for a second straight year. They participated in 259 issues for $15.54 billion by par amount and 5.5% market share in 2011.
That follows the 340 issues at $21.83 billion by par amount, and 5.1% market share it had in 2010.
Winston & Strawn LLP made a huge leap in the rankings last year, to 10th place from 46th in 2010.
Jim Normile, a partner at the firm, attributed the jump in numbers during a down year for muni issuance to the fact that more clients were looking for lawyers with a broad range of expertise for more complicated deals — which Winston, as a full-service firm, has.
“You don’t know what roles you’ll get from year to year, and which will be the preponderance of the business,” Normile said. “It just so happens that we did more work as bond counsel than we had done previously. It’s just being involved in every deal, in either bond or underwriter’s counsel — I don’t care what role I have, just give me a role.”
Hawkins Delafield took the pole position for underwriter’s counsel for 2011. In a year that saw 37% less in underwriter counsel business overall, the firm participated in 111 issues at $18.20 billion by par amount, with an 8.8% market share.
That compares with the 142 issues at $19.01 billion by par amount, and just 5.9% market share, in 2010. Hawkins Delafield outpaced Orrick, which ranked fourth last year.
Winston & Strawn climbed to third place on the list for underwriter’s counsel last year from sixth in 2010. Unlike the category leaders, the firm saw its total dollar volume in par amount rise from year to year, and its market share almost double.
Peck, Shaffer &Williams LLP also saw stronger numbers in 2011. It leapt to eighth place last year from 16th place in 2010.
Its market share more than doubled, to 2.9% from 1.3%. And Peck Shaffer’s dollar volume rose to $5.91 billion by par amount in 2011 from $4.35 billion a year earlier.
“We are very pleased by the increase in our national market share and ranking as underwriter’s counsel, particularly in light of the overall decrease in the volume of municipal finance transactions in 2011,” Dirk Bedarff, managing partner with the firm, wrote in an email.
“We believe this is a reflection of the confidence clients place in the level of service we provide and the needs clients have for the kind of expertise brought to the table by our over 40 attorneys dedicated to the public finance practice.”
Orrick Herrington led all firms for disclosure counsel. The sector saw an overall decline in dollar volume of 28% in 2011 to $78 billion.
Orrick participated in 117 issues at $13.26 billion by par amount in 2011, a 17% market share. By comparison, it was involved in 129 issues at $24.44 billion by par amount in 2010, a 22.6% market share.
Chapman and Cutler LLP, after a measured effort last year to increase its disclosure counsel business, placed second. It participated in 117 issues at $6.35 billion by par amount, an 8.1% market share.
Those numbers mostly rose from 2010, when it ranked 16th, participating in 119 issues at $1.35 billion by par amount, a 1.2% market share.
Chapman in 2011 identified disclosure work as a new trend and business opportunity, said Kelly Kost, practice group leader for the firm’s Illinois public finance department. So the firm committed more resources to it by allocating most of its 10 associates and three paralegals in Illinois to disclosure matters in 2011.
The firm also educated its clients, both large and small, about the importance of improved disclosure, according to Kost.
“There’s no doubt that the issuers, underwriters and financial advisors understood that a sea change had occurred regarding disclosure, and that disclosure is not just updating numbers,” he said.
Among trustee banks, the Bank of New York Mellon led by number of issues and dollar volume for a second consecutive year. In 2011, the bank participated in 777 issues at $65.06 billion by par amount. That compares with 2010, when it participated in 1,127 issues at $94.59 billion by par amount.
The bond insurance industry continued to struggle. In 2011, the overall dollar amount declined 43% from a year earlier, to only $15.24 billion by par amount from $26.76 billion.
Assured Guaranty Corp. and its two insurer platforms wrapped 1,227 deals compared to 1,696 in 2010.
In the letter-of-credit business, Citi vaulted to first place this year from ninth in 2010. The bank was involved in just four issues worth $3.62 billion by par amount in 2011, a 23.2% market share.
In 2010, Citi participated in five issues totaling $257.3 million by par amount, a 2.2% market share. In doing so, it leapfrogged past JPMorgan, which saw its number of deals drop to 35 from 40 in 2010 and the dollar amount drop 5% to $2.8 billion by par amount.
In the guaranteed category, Texas’ Permanent School Fund ranked first last year, as it did in 2010. It was involved in 276 issues worth $5.04 billion by par amount, a 25.8% market share.