Flood of California Chap. 9s Seen as Unlikely, But Investors on Edge

Muni market professionals during this week’s Bond Buyer California Public Finance Conference here said a flood of government bankruptcies in the state is unlikely, but Stockton’s Chapter 9 case has led to other worries. Stockton has indicated that it will treat its pension liabilities as senior to its bond debt, proposing a major haircut that could set a troublesome precedent for bondholders. If a judgment by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ultimately swings against bondholders, investors fear it could entice other municipalities to take the same path. The proposed haircuts would impose sizable losses on the two main insurers of Stockton’s debt, National Public Finance Guarantee Corp. and Assured Guaranty Ltd. They have objected to the city’s bankruptcy petition partly because bondholders are being asked to take more of a hit without touching employee pensions through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which the city has listed as its largest creditor.

Bond Buyer

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