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Legal filing called a “crank lawsuit”

Monday, Jul 8, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. Yvette Shields at the Bond Buyer

Municipal market analysts are brushing off the efforts of a New York hedge fund and conservative think-tank to invalidate $14.3 billion of outstanding Illinois debt as a legal long shot that even if successful would likely draw state support to make bondholders whole.

“We will limit our discussion to the justification behind this lawsuit and quite frankly, we do not think there is any,” Citi’s Vikram Rai and Jack Muller wrote of the legal arguments in a “Global Municipals Flash” report after the firm was “inundated” with calls from clients worried about the impact of the litigation filed Monday. […]

Illinois Policy Institute head John Tillman, acting as a taxpayer, and Warlander Asset Management LP, which holds $25 million of Illinois debt, filed the taxpayer/bondholder litigation Monday. They are asking the court to allow them to file a taxpayer lawsuit against the state to halt further repayment of 2003 and 2017 bonds they argue violate the state constitution. […]

Market participants appear skeptical of the legal arguments given the broad powers and limited rules guiding state issuance and the multiple layers of legal review.

“From all appearances it’s just a crank lawsuit,” said Matt Fabian, partner at Municipal Market Analytics. “Even if these guys do win, which seems unlikely, the state is going to do right by bondholders. Concerns over invalidation are really only a problem when it’s the borrower making the claim. It’s very unlikely to change demand for state bonds.” […]

“Some clients have openly questioned the ethical motivation behind the lawsuit and wondered if the recent surprise ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals [about Puerto Rico’s debt] has incentivized opportunistic investors to try their luck in the courts challenging other varieties of debt,” Citi wrote in its report.


  1. - Honeybear - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    Perfidy in legal form

  2. - DIstant watcher - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    So now people outside of Illinois are recognizing how little IPI understands state government.

  3. - Nonbeliever - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:28 am:

    On almost any issue you can find individuals/groups running to the courts and clogging them up.

    This would appear to be another example.

  4. - surprise? - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:35 am:

    the folks that were ’surprised’ by the Puerto Rico bond repayment ruling (affirmed by the appeals court btw) are the same municipal market ‘gurus’ quoted here…

  5. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:40 am:

    For a 19 month period, the IPI were the big dogs in Illinois politics. Heck, Tillman himself sat in on selection of a member of the General Assembly.

    Diana Rauner, the messaging guru, needed those “better than” the “Superstars”. She turned to IPI.

    After selecting folks less than stellar, with a messaging folk, like Diana Rickert and her “as a white male” thinking, it made sense from a governor’s office, the exposure of the utter phonies that litter both state government and IPI itself and created an implosion.

    IPI is smart? Not so much.

    With movies trying to vilify Madigan, thanks to IPI Madigan is more powerful with more seats than ever in his Speakership.

    Now you want me to think policy from an unthinking think tank that had such a fall from political grace can be a policy leader?


    Arguably the worst resume one could have is having both IPI and the Rauner Administration on it. It speaks to the inept ways the RaunerS and IPI had those who know very little about policy, politics, and in this case constitutional interpretation.

    Be very weary of IPI/Rauner folks.

    This move by Tillman is a fallen star trying to gain back it’s shine. It won’t come back, especially when knowledgeable folks scoff and ridicule the move and those making it.

    I believe - RNUG - has it best; let me know who buys these bonds, and how much more is being made by Tillman playing… the fool.

  6. - Morty - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    Crank about sums it uo

  7. - Morty - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    ‘Arguably the worst resume one could have is having both IP and the Rauner Administration on it.’

    Budget ‘expert’ Adam Schuster is going to find those words hurtful

  8. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:48 am:

    - Morty -

    I approach it this way;

    They are either wholly complicit knowing their phony is “baloney” and still pushed it, or they are utterly clueless to both policy and politics and were complicit because they just don’t know how things work.

    Can’t be both, and both aren’t what you need.

    I’m sure Adam Schuster is a nice enough fellow…

  9. - Norseman - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 11:08 am:

    === Some clients have openly questioned the ethical motivation behind the lawsuit … ===

    Rightly so. IPI’s goal is to cause chaos and destruction of Illinois’ governmental institutions to convince people to give their ilk power. Power that will go to support policies that will benefit the wealthy.

  10. - King Louis XVI - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 11:19 am:

    Even a nice little “crank lawsuit” can create a profitable arbitrage.

  11. - Huh? - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    The State ought to counter-sue for costs and damages. Also ask for required remedial education in the constitution for the plaintiff attorneys. In addition, Kwame Raoul ought to start looking into the tax exempt status of IPI.

  12. - Il Bosco - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 11:52 am:

    Instead of a lawsuit, the Mayor and Governor need conduct forensic audits of all public pension funds to analyze to what extent excessive investment fees have been fleecing these pension funds for years and years.

    It doesn’t make sense that the stock market has been on a 10-year bull run and the bond market has been on a 30 year bull run, and pension funds throughout the country are essentially insolvent?

    Before Ted Siedle conducted an audit of Rhode Island’s pension funds, the state was disclosing fees of $7 million a year. After he conducted his audit, the state started disclosing fees of $70 million per year.

  13. - yinn - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    ==Instead of a lawsuit, the Mayor and Governor need conduct forensic audits of all public pension funds to analyze to what extent excessive investment fees have been fleecing these pension funds for years and years.==

    IMO, one of the most important factors in “fleecing” local pension funds is not the admin fees, but in unrealistically matching a 7% to 7.5% performance assumption with an investment mix that is too conservative to perform consistently at that level.

  14. - driveby - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    It’s not a crank lawsuit because, if the state wins, it will mean the debt limitations for deficit financing mean nothing. But they must be interpreted to mean something. The 2017 bonds are clearly deficit financing. Same for the POBs if you cut through to the substance. If those bonds are allowed under the section allowing borrowing for “specific purposes,” the separate provision on deficit financing (9d) is rendered meaningless. Same for the separate provision on refinancing (9e). The lawsuit will fail because we know how Illinois courts work. But we will get a good education on how the constitution’s debt limitations will have been erased entirely.

  15. - DIstant watcher - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 1:41 pm:

    @driveby: The lawsuit will fail because the Constitution does not mean what you say it means. See the discussion above if you missed it.

    Why IPI and its supporters are so eager to tie government into knots, such that it cannot reasonably function, I’ll never understand.

  16. - Skeptic - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 1:55 pm:

    “pension funds throughout the country are essentially insolvent?” It has nothing to do with the rate of return and everything to do with the lack of contributions. Even the most affordable credit cards become budget busters if you fail to (or only) pay the minimums. Same with pension funds.

  17. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    === It has nothing to do with the rate of return===


  18. - Skeptic - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 2:34 pm:

    “Untrue.” Ok, I was unclear. OP’s contention was that these bonds are getting a great return but the funds are further and further behind, so someone must be ripping off the pensioners. My point is that falling behind was because of neglect, not malfeasance.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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