Cate Long writes the MuniLand blog for Reuters. As the blog’s name implies, she covers a wide range of topics which touch municipal bonds and municipal finances. This year, she managed to challenge both the former Governor of Puerto Rico and a well-known journalist at the New York Times. While we don’t normally think of municipal bond bloggers as being courageous or having “chutzpah”, Cate Long certainly is not afraid to write what she believes. Is Cate Long a kid trying to make a name for herself? No. She is actually a bond industry veteran with decades of experience and a background in credit ratings.
Here are the backstories behind naming Cate Long, The Learn Bonds Person of The Year
Inside the bond community, there has been a growing debate for several years over the investment value of Puerto Rico’s bonds. These bonds are attractive because they are triple tax free and offer high-yields. However, on the other side of the equation is Puerto Rico’s questionable credit worthiness. In early March 2012, Cate Long published an article Puerto Rico is America’s Greece detailing the economic problems of Puerto Rico and the shaky state of its finances. The article triggered a response by an organization closely connected to the former Governor that included name calling. Did Cate Long back down? Of course not! Within a week, she directly responded and refuted the criticism and since then has written numerous articles on Puerto Rico. For blow by blow of Cate’s “confrontation” with the Governor, read this.
While the New York Times does not have a full-time reporter covering municipal bonds, it does have a business reporter that frequently writes feature articles on the topic. Mary Williams Walsh is the reporter. Often articles by Mrs. Walsh are followed by stinging critiques in the MuniLand blog by Cate Long. First, she tends to take apart the “facts” of the article and then the analysis.
On September 3rd 2012, Mary William Walsh wrote an article titled: How Plan To Pay City Pensions Backfired. The article is about Stockton, California, which in 2006 issued about $125 Million in debt called pension obligation bonds. The New York Times article makes it sound like municipal officials were duped into issuing debt by slick Wall Street bankers who didn’t disclose the risks. Well, Cate Long found the video in which the debt deal was being pitched by the bankers to the Stockton city council. In her article How bankrupt Stockton, CA was sold pension obligation bonds, she links to part of video where the bankers were talking about the risks which leaves no doubt about their disclosure. After finding the factual flaws in the article, Cate takes issue with the overarching theme of the article that Pension Obligation bonds are always bad.
Thank you Cate for giving us lots of great stories for the Best of the Bond Market and for your work helping individual investors learn about the municipal bond bond market.