Overview

Schiff Hardin’s Public Finance Group is nationally recognized as bond counsel, disclosure counsel, underwriters’ counsel, and trustee’s counsel (both pre- and post-default), and is well known for its experience, talent and creativity in all matters relating to public finance law. We represent clients across the country from our offices in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, acting as bond counsel, disclosure counsel, issuer’s special counsel and tax counsel to state and local governmental issuers. We also represent national and regional investment banking firms on a wide variety of  transactions and national banks on corporate trust matters involving municipal debt.

The Public Finance Group’s experience extends beyond just bond issues. We have assisted clients in the development and operation of government funding programs. We also offer clients assistance with government finance generally, including special taxes and assessments and financial matters with respect to inter-governmental financing arrangements. We have substantial experience in troubled bond transactions and related restructurings and workouts.

The firm has particular experience with respect to the challenges facing municipal governments and financial market participants in analyzing the operation and impact of growing public pension and OPEB obligations.

U.S. News and Best Lawyers recently rated the firm’s Public Finance Group as “National First Tier” and “Metropolitan Chicago First Tier,” the highest possible national and regional ratings.

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Governmental Finance

In representing our clients, we draw upon the capabilities not only of traditional bond attorneys but of the firm’s other practice groups, including creditors’ rights, local government law, environmental law, labor law and securities law.

We also receive support from the firm’s broker-dealer regulatory practice on our underwriter representations, and from our banking and finance groups in our representations in the growing areas of direct lending and placements of municipal credits and modern transactions such as commercial paper and put bond structures without separate liquidity support.

The firm provides a range of services ancillary to the traditional bond counsel practice. We represent governmental entities on bond tax audits and advise broker dealers and financial advisors on regulatory compliance. We represent issuers, credit enhancement providers and bond trustees on troubled debt situations, and we work with governments and developers to establish financing mechanisms to support programs and projects.

  • Experience

    Extensive Experience as Bond Counsel

    We have assisted clients with every kind of state and local government financing. Examples of our representations as Bond Counsel include:

    General Obligation Bonds

    • Bond Counsel to the City of Chicago
    • Bond Counsel to the City and County of San Francisco 

    • Bond Counsel to the State of Connecticut

     

    Enterprise and Utility Revenue Bonds

    • Bond Counsel to the City of Chicago for a variety of enterprise revenue bond financings including water and wastewater financings, including creation of a senior/ subordinated debt structure for water and wastewater revenue bond financings
    • Bond Counsel to the State of Connecticut for its Clean Water Fund Revolving Loan Program

     

    Installment Purchase Contracts and Leasing Transactions, including Certificates of Participation

    • Bond Counsel to the City and County of San Francisco in connection with a lease revenue refunding bond issue for emergency communications purposes
    • Our attorneys act as special counsel or underwriter’s counsel with respect to various issuances of certificates of participation relating to installment purchase and lease transactions by various State agencies, local governments (including special districts) and public universities 


     

    Cash Flow Borrowings 


    • Bond Counsel to numerous entities for publicly-sold TRAN’s, including the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. 


     

    Single and Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds

    • Bond Counsel (and Issuer’s and Underwriter’s Counsel) to the Illinois Housing Development Authority on multi-family housing bond issues
    • Bond Counsel to the City of Chicago for multifamily and single-family housing revenue bond issues
    • Bond Counsel to the City and County of San Francisco multifamily housing bond issues.
    • Schiff Hardin attorneys have served on the Board of Directors of a major San Francisco Bay Area low-income housing tax credit investor
    • Bond Counsel to the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority for its Housing Funding Programs
    • Bond Counsel to the Housing Financing Agency of the State of New York for its Housing Finance Programs

     

    Health Care, Educational and Cultural Facilities Financings

    • Special Counsel to The Chicago Community Loan Fund, a respected micro-loan lender, both in its start-up phase, involving federal and state regulatory analysis, and later as lender’s counsel
    • Special Counsel to the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Trinity International University, Knox College, St. Xavier University and Loyola University, Chicago for educational facilities tax-exempt bond financings 

    • Special Counsel to Harvard Community Hospital for a health facilities tax-exempt bond financings

     

    Industrial Development, Pollution Control and other Conduit Financings

    • Bond and Issuer’s Counsel to the Illinois Finance Authority on dozens of economic development financings
    • Bond Counsel to the Industrial Development Authority of Alameda County, California
    • Bond Counsel to the California Pollution Control Financing Authority in connection with the financing of a biomass facility for a major lumber producer

     

    Tax Increment and Special District/Service Area Financings

    • Bond Counsel to the City of Chicago for TIF and SSA bonds, including for its Central Loop tax increment area (which the City for the first time chose to issue as general obligation bonds) and for the Near South TIF Project Area.

     

    Revolving Credit Agreements, Direct Placements, Commercial Paper and Put Bonds and Stepped-Coupon Credits

    • Bond Counsel to the Cities of San Francisco and Oakland on direct debt placement to financial institutions
    • Disclosure Counsel to the State of California on publicly sold stepped-coupon put bonds

     

    Special Purpose Financings, including Public-Private Partnerships and Project Financings

    • Special Counsel to the Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc. for the reconstruction of Soldier Field in Chicago, including development of the financing structure, preparation of necessary MOU’s and agreements, drafting of amendatory legislation and successfully defending litigation
    • Special Counsel to the State of Illinois for the possible privatization of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and the sale of equity interests in the Illinois State Lottery 

    • Special Counsel to the Chicago Transit Authority in connection with the leasing, financing and construction of its new headquarters building, which consisted of a fast-track design/build-to-suit high-rise in Chicago’s west loop area to be leased to the CTA by the Chicago Public Building Commission, which financed both the land purchase and construction by selling $119,020,000 of tax-exempt bonds
    • Special Counsel to the Darien Park District for an innovative joint public and private financing of a multi-purpose sports complex
    • Bond Counsel and Special Counsel to the Wood Dale Park District for the acquisition of a golf course, including the conduct of eminent domain proceedings, ultimate settlement of project-related litigation and the preparation and development of the financing documents
    • Special Counsel to the City of Prospect Heights, Illinois in the acquisition, with the Village of Wheeling, of Palwaukee Airport, including, obtaining necessary state and federal governmental approvals, assistance with state and federal financing, and negotiating the necessary intergovernmental agreements

     

    Workout and Restructuring Transactions 


    • Counsel to the Illinois Department of Transportation in connection with its take-over and rehabilitation of the McKinley Bridge near East St. Louis. This involved the tender for and retirement of a defaulted toll bridge revenue bond issue and the related conversion of the bridge from a toll bridge to a free bridge. 

    • Counsel to the Los Angeles Housing Authority in connection with bonds secured a troubled low-income housing development
    • Special Counsel to a Northern California amusement park in restructuring defaulted municipal conduit debt obligations
    • Counsel to a underwriting firm in connection with defaulted municipal special tax debt for a regional shopping center, including negotiations to reposition the mall from a 1950’s style open-air center to partially enclosed mall with a multiples theater and multi-level garages
    • Represented Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, as trustee, on restructuring of defaulted municipal bond issues in Illinois and California

    Addressing the Impact of Public Pension Obligations

    Public pensions are the dominant factor causing municipal fiscal stress. The imperative to fund them adequately places enormous and increasing pressure on government operating budgets, and failure to do so causes municipal credit ratings to fall and the costs of borrowing to increase. These challenges led 86 percent of the respondents to an April 2015 survey of 167 municipal finance analysts to identify public pensions as the most important current issue in public finance.

    Public pensions are drawing intense scrutiny by lawmakers and voters. Since the financial collapse of 2008 exposed widespread municipal distress, at least 45 states and many of their local governments have attempted to enact reforms of their pension statutes. These efforts have produced a broad array of legal issues, challenges and litigation, and have prompted exquisitely difficult policy choices driven by legal interpretations. In addition, underfunded pension obligations have become a major concern for the public finance community. As a result, pension jurisprudence is changing rapidly.

    Schiff Hardin’s Public Law Group has been active in these legal developments. We have advised the executive and legislative branches of state and local governments, municipal debt issuers, underwriters, asset managers, labor organizations, citizens’ groups and direct government lenders on the changing public pension law landscape.

    Illustrative representations include:

    • Serving as counsel to the Task Force on the Fiscal Crisis of the States (Volcker/Ravitch), which highlighted pensions and held a national dialogue on public pensions at the New York Fed
    • Providing pension advice to the Governor and Treasurer of Rhode Island, the Governor of New Jersey, the Governor of Illinois, the Comptroller of New York State, the Central Labor Council of New York City, the UFT, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Mayor of Syracuse, the Arnold Foundation, PEW, and others
    • Providing pension advice to the Amalgamated Bank of New York, a direct lender to municipalities
    • Providing advice to the Confidential Feasibility Advisor to the Detroit Bankruptcy Court
    • Providing pension-related advice to the General Counsel of The Blackstone Group, the largest alternative asset management firm in the world

     

    Offering Advice on Government Funding Programs
    Our attorneys have advised State and local governments in the development and implementation of governmental programs established to make funds available for private development, other governmental projects and for nonprofit purposes. Examples include the following.

    • Illinois Finance Authority special purpose medical student loan program
    • State of California subordinated loan program for low-income housing
    • CalSTRS bond letter of credit program
    • San Francisco Airport and Alameda County letter of credit programs supporting surety bonds for small contractors
    • State of Connecticut Clean Water Fund Revolving Loan Program