John Miller steps down as head of municipals at Nuveen

John Miller has stepped down as head of municipals at Nuveen and will retire June 1 after a 27-career at the firm that saw him rise from credit analyst to leading the firm’s municipal business, the firm announced Monday.

Internally, sources had been speculating that Miller was being forced out and that retirement allowed for a more positive characterization. His impending departure comes amid a global settlement that resolves litigation filed in 2019 by the investment house titan’s smaller direct-lending rival Preston Hollow Capital LLC. A judge in the case concluded in 2020 that Nuveen — under Miller’s leadership — had used threats and lies to damage PHC’s business. 

The settlement resolves all claims. The terms were not disclosed but “with this resolution in hand, and supported by its parent, Nuveen is also making an investment in Preston Hollow Community Capital, becoming a significant minority investor. This investment is designed to advance PHCC’s strategy of direct sourcing and structuring of financings to help deliver meaningful and measurable social impact to borrowers and their respective communities,” a PHCC statement read. 

“John Miller made the decision to retire after nearly 30 years at Nuveen. He will continue to serve as a portfolio manager until his retirement June 1, 2023,” a firm spokeswoman said. 

Nuveen, the investment manager of TIAA, named veteran portfolio manager Daniel Close, 47, head of municipals. Close, who has run the firm’s taxable municipals business, will lead an investment team of more than 80 investment professionals.

News of the impending shift began circulating internally late last week although specific details were unclear until the weekend, market sources said. Nuveen said Close’s choice is part of a “well-established transition plan” and that the tenets of the team’s proven investment and research processes will not change.

“Dan’s contributions have been crucial to the advancement of Nuveen’s municipals business,” William Huffman, president of Nuveen Equities and Fixed Income, said in a statement. “His strong historical investment performance, rock-solid judgment and dedication to our team-based approach give me the utmost confidence that the group, under his leadership, will retain and strengthen the advantages and market positioning that they’ve long been known and admired for in the industry.”

Close began his investment career in 1998 with portfolio management experience in both tax-exempt high-yield and investment-grade municipals. Leading Nuveen’s taxable municipals business, he helped establish and expand the platform to $35 billion of assets under management, serving more than 60 institutional accounts.

“We’re also celebrating John’s incredibly successful career,” Huffman said. “John’s ceaseless dedication to our clients’ best interests represents the very heart of Nuveen’s culture.”

Miller began working at the firm in 1996 as a credit analyst and moved over to portfolio management in 2000. Previously, he was chief investment officer for the firm’s municipal bond team since 2007. He was named head of portfolio management for Nuveen Asset Management in 2006. He began working in the investment industry at a private account management firm in 1993.

As head of municipals, Miller has wielded a powerful and heavy hand at Nuveen — the global investment manager of TIAA with $1.1 trillion of assets under management including $529 billion in fixed-income — in his role as head of municipals commanding both respect and fear in the industry.

The depths of his power were laid bare for the market’s view with the release of transcripts of recordings between Miller and members of his team and banking professionals in Preston Hollow Capital LLC’s 2019 lawsuit accusing Miller of engineering a boycott of its direct lending rival to blacklist the competition.

The transcripts came from conversations — recorded under regulatory mandate — that were obtained by Preston Hollow through subpoenas.

In a 2020 ruling, Delaware Chancery Court Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III wrote: “The record, taken as a whole, shows consistent, systematic efforts by Nuveen to shut down Preston Hollow’s ability to continue to do business … I find that Nuveen used threats and lies in a successful attempt to damage the plaintiff in its business relationships.”

On eight national municipal mutual funds, Miller is listed as the portfolio manager on one — the High-Yield Municipal Bond fund — and as one of two managers on the All-American Bond fund and Strategic Municipal Opportunities as one three mangers on the Short Duration Municipal Bond fund. He’s managed the high yield fund since 2000.

The firm filed notices with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the portfolio changes. “John V. Miller will retire from Nuveen on June 1, 2023. He will continue to serve as a portfolio manager of the Fund until that time,” the notice read.

“I am deeply grateful for my years at Nuveen and retire with a profound sense of pride in all that our dedicated and extremely talented team accomplished,” Miller said in the statement. “Nuveen’s municipal business is incredibly resilient and well-positioned to capitalize on the many opportunities that lay ahead. I wish all of my colleagues the best as they continue to set the industry standard for success.”

Ahead of Miller’s retirement, the firm said it would begin transitioning responsibilities for managing 10 of the firm’s more than 60 municipal bond funds and does not plan any changes to its separately managed accounts, investment-grade municipals or taxable municipals businesses.

The PHC litigation is ongoing on several fronts and while Nuveen hasn’t faced any monetary sanctions, market participants throughout the proceedings have called the disclosures and judge’s ruling an embarrassment to Nuveen even if some agreed with Nuveen’s legal arguments that it was operating within its competitive rights. PHC also brought the litigation to the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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