Teri Guarnaccia becomes new NABL president

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Ballard Spahr partner Teri Guarnaccia is the tenth woman to serve as president of the National Association of Bond Lawyers.

Ballard Spahr partner Teri Guarnaccia becomes the tenth woman to serve as president of the National Association of Bond Lawyers on Wednesday as the association kicks off its annual conference online.

Guarnaccia, who succeeds tax attorney Richard Moore of Orrick, thinks it's notable to have a woman in the top NABL position because women often leave the public finance sector after the early years of their career.

“We, as an industry still face a high level of attrition,” she said. “There are a lot of reasons for it. I’m not sure everyone understands what all the reasons are. But it’s something of which we are cognizant.”

Guarnaccia said the attrition also applies minorities and other underrepresented groups.

NABL has worked to create resources to help people stay in the industry, including providing mentors and advocating for flexible workspaces, she said.

“As careers and life collide, at times it’s still women who sacrifice their careers for a period of time,” she said, noting that the pandemic has highlighted the ability of people to work more flexibly.

This week’s conference known as The Workshop, originally scheduled to be held in Chicago, is just one of many that have moved to the internet because of the pandemic.

The coming year promises to be a challenge for NABL in which the other two of the association’s three major conferences are likely to also be held online in March and April.

A final decision hasn’t yet been made on whether those conferences will be held online, but NABL officials feel confident they can pivot to online given success they had with their first virtual conference last April.

“It turned out to be a really great conference with good attendance,” said Guarnaccia. “It went off pretty much without a hitch so I feel reasonably confident we can do it in a way that’s meaningful for members knowing that everybody is ready to be back in person.”

For Guarnaccia, the pandemic ironically has meant that she sees more of her clients because Zoom and WebEx video conferences have replaced what previously were usually phone conference calls.

“That’s something I’ve enjoyed and look forward to continuing,” she said.

NABL’s officers plan to hold their board meetings in the coming year using a combination of in-person and via video, depending on what people are comfortable with.

Guarnaccia, 48, who lives in the Baltimore suburbs, has been working mostly from home but sometimes goes into her office in a downtown high-rise office building for a closing for the sake of efficiency with the paperwork.

Her one child — a seven-year-old second grader — is attending a school with in-person classes. That wasn’t the case from March through May when she and her husband had to help with their daughter’s online classes.

Guarnaccia, who does a mix of bond counsel and underwriter’s counsel work, has worked in public finance at Ballard since 1996 when she graduated from Cornell Law School.

Her initial exposure to public finance came a year prior to her law school graduation when she was a Ballard Spahr summer associate. She helped out with the bond financing of a dormitory for graduate students at Johns Hopkins University.

“It was so interesting to me and I asked so many questions, that the partner who I was working with said to me, ‘Not everyone shows the same level of interest in municipal bonds that you have,’” she said. “And I thought, why not? This is so cool. I now, in retrospect, realize that I am a little nerdier than your average [attorney] in thinking this is the coolest area ever.”

Johns Hopkins remains a client of her firm but isn’t one of Guarnaccia’s.

However, she’s remained involved in financing student housing by participating in more than 60 public-private partnerships for that purpose.

Her clients include the state of Maryland, for which she serves as bond counsel.

Guarnaccia also has participated in a number of affordable housing projects that have used the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit for agencies such as the Fresno Housing Authority and the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration.

She represented the New York City Housing Authority for one of the nation’s largest public-private partnership tax credit bond deals which provided funding for the rehabilitation of more than 20,000 units of public housing.

A native of the Kansas City, Kansas suburb of Overland Park, Guarnaccia earned her bachelor’s degree at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Her involvement in NABL began with work on the securities law desk book as an editor, following by membership on the securities law committee and the board of directors.

A couple of years ago, NABL expanded from its traditional focus on securities and tax law to create a governmental affairs committee to advocate with Congress and federal regulators for muni-friendly laws and regulations.

NABL recently created a new committee for issuers and in house counsels. Guarnaccia said the hope is to provide more educational opportunities for lawyers working in that specialty with an eye towards eventually creating an issuers track of classes at the annual conference known as The Essentials.

The NABL publications committee is working on a paper about the constitutional underpinnings of public finance law. The association also is working on a white paper about underwriters due diligence and the securities law committee is working on an update to disclosure policy.

Earlier this year NABL wrote to Congress and regulators pointing out measures that would provide regulatory relief during the pandemic.

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