"A complex financial strategy that was supposed to save Philadelphia money on bonds it sold investors in the mid-2000s could end up costing the city up to $186 million, compared with what issuing simple fixed-rate bonds would have cost, city treasurer Nancy Winkler told City Council members at a hearing Tuesday organized by Jim Kenney (D., at-large).
"The city arranged interest-rate swaps with Wall Street banks in exchange for up-front cash and to protect taxpayers from the risk of rising interest rates."
But "instead, the city found itself owing millions to the banks and its clients when interest rates fell, bond insurers failed, and financial markets froze in the crisis of 2008. Some swaps contracts lacked cancellation clauses, boosting the city's costs.
Whose idea was this? "We found it very difficult to find the documentation I would like to have seen, about why the city entered into swaps," said Winkler, a Mayor Nutter appointee who previously worked for Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management (PFM), financial adviser to Philadelphia under Nutter and to other communities across the U.S.