Sea change as Orrick's Feyer retires after 30 years as California's lead bond counsel
LOS ANGELES — After more than 30 years as lead bond and disclosure counsel for the California state government, Robert Feyer, a partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, has retired.
Feyer, 71, handed the reins over this month to Bryan Victor, who was named partner in 2014.
“We have been working toward that for years,” Feyer said. “It has been a glide path with Bryan taking on increasing responsibility.”
Victor will work on the state’s business with a team that includes Patricia Eichar, who was named partner in January, and Jenna Magan, chair of Orrick’s Higher Education and Healthcare Practice Group.
Feyer will continue to work for the firm as senior counsel to wrap up a transaction that had not closed and to provide guidance on financial security matters. He is a member of the Securities Law Committee for the National Association of Bond Lawyers. He ended active practice on Dec. 31.
“Bob is a rare lawyer in that he’s unflappable and that is a really good quality in a big issuer’s office,” said Tim Schaefer, California’s deputy treasurer for public finance, who has known Feyer for 34 years.
It’s not uncommon for problems to arise on transactions involving the amount of money that the treasurer’s office issues, Schaefer said.
“Bob would say, 'Let us look at this and come up with a solution,'" Schaefer said.
The treasurer’s office said at Feyer’s retirement party earlier this month that he was lead bond counsel on $470 billion of bonds and notes over the past 30 years, Feyer said.
“I knew it was a big number, but not that big,” he said.
In addition to general obligation bonds, cash flow notes, warrants and lease revenue obligations, Feyer has worked on private activity financings for solid waste disposal, pollution control and industrial development. He also was lead bond counsel for the California Pollution Control Financing Authority.
In May 2015, he received the James P. Preovolos Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Services in Family Law from the Justice and Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco. He has worked on guardianships in cases where the grandparents needed to take over care of children, often in cases involving drug-addicted parents.
Feyer worked for Orrick for a year doing corporate transactions in 1971 after he graduated from Harvard with his law degree.
As a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, he was obligated to serve in the military after completing his degree. So he headed to Washington D.C. as a captain on the staff of the Air Force General Counsel at the Pentagon. He then worked in Washington for U.S. Sen. John Tunney of California for a few years, before returning to California to work for Orrick.
Working in municipal finance was a natural fit, said Feyer, who had earned his bachelor’s degree in public policy at Princeton University in 1968 before attending Harvard Law.
“This was the perfect practice for me, because of my interest in public affairs and public policy,” Feyer said.
He called his focus on public finance and working for Orrick a great combination.
“I had the opportunity to work for a superb law firm with high standards and vast resources – to advance public policies and support infrastructure for citizens in the largest state in the union,” he said. “Our group has done a lot of work in the state legislature improving statutes for municipal finance.”
He started out working for Orrick on pollution control bonds, which were hybrid of corporate and municipal finance being developed in the early 1970s.
“I eventually took over that practice,” Feyer said. “Through the pollution control work I got to know the treasurer’s office pretty well. That led to being asked to take over the GO program when the senior partner who did that work, C. Richard Walker, retired in 1986.”
The most interesting and challenging transactions were solutions crafted when the state had a budget crisis or cash flow problems, Feyer said.
He helped develop the $11 billion economic recovery bond deal issued in 2003-04 to help pay down a deficit. The voter-approved special bonds were backed by a sales tax, rather than the general fund. The state made its last payment on the debt two years ago.
“It was the least bad of the alternatives,” Feyer said. “It is bad public policy to use long-term debt to pay operating costs or pay off a deficit, but the state would have been looking at insolvency or issuing IOUs as it had done previously.”
Feyer has no regrets for his career spent in public finance.
“It was never boring, because there is always a new wrinkle that comes up,” he said.
The deputy treasurer said he will miss Feyer, who even when disagreeing on a subject manages to do it in a non-adversarial way.
“He has a keen intellect – and an ability to assert himself at the right time and place,” Schaefer said.