Bonds

Palm Beach County, Florida, increases portfolio investments in Israeli bonds

In a show of support in the wake of the deadly terror attacks, Palm Beach County, Florida, is boosting its investment in Israel.

Joseph Abruzzo, county comptroller and clerk of the circuit court, on Monday directed that $25 million from the county’s investment portfolio be invested in Israeli bonds following the surprise weekend attack by Hamas and subsequent declaration of war by Israel against the group. 

Palm Beach County Comptroller Joseph Abruzzo directed that $25 million from the county’s investment portfolio be invested in Israeli bonds.

Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller Joseph Abruzzo

Additionally, Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, said Wednesday the Florida Treasury would follow Palm Beach County’s lead and also invest $25 million in Israeli bonds.

“Israel is our greatest ally and they need our full support in the aftermath of this horrific terrorist attack that slaughtered hundreds of innocent civilians — including 11 Americans thus far,” Abruzzo said in a statement.

Noting that Florida and Israel have deep economic and personal ties, Patronis said the state stands with Israel following the attacks.

“We made a commitment to support Israel both morally and monetarily and that’s why I’m proud to announce that Florida will invest an additional $25 million in Israel bonds to further support our ally in the Middle East,” Patronis said.

About 1,200 Israelis have been killed and 97 hostages are known to have been taken so far in the violence initiated by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and E.U., Bloomberg News reported. Retaliatory strikes on Gaza by Israeli forces have left more than 1,354 Palestinians dead, authorities have said.

“I am proud to show solidarity with the people of Israel and make Palm Beach County the first county in the nation to increase its investment in Israel bonds following their declaration of war against Hamas,” Abruzzo said.

Abruzzo manages the county’s investment portfolio in his role as its chief financial officer.

This is the second time Abruzzo has pushed to increase the county’s investment in Israeli bonds. In 2021, he backed a change to the county’s official investment policy to allow for the doubling of investments in Israel, which was unanimously approved by the Board of County Commissioners.

According to the policy, “the county shall strive to achieve with each investment opportunity, the following objectives, in order of priority: safety of financial assets; liquidity of funds adequate for timely satisfaction of financial obligations; and market rate of return — maximum achievable investment income.”

The policy goes on to state the county can purchase for its portfolio “bonds, notes or instruments backed by the full faith and credit of the government of Israel, if the government of Israel’s foreign debt at the time of purchase is rated A or higher by S&P and Moody’s ratings services and any bonds purchased must have a maturity of 10 years or less. No more than 10% (at market value) of the total portfolio at the time of purchase may be invested in these securities.”

The investment policy further states “investments shall be made with judgment and care, under circumstances then prevailing, which persons of prudence, discretion and intelligence exercise in the management of their own affairs, not for speculation, but for investment, considering the probable safety of their capital as well as the probable income to be derived from the investment.”

While a recent state law prohibits municipalities from investing in securities that have environmental, social or governance criteria as their sole purpose, the county said the move was based on sound financial principles.

“Israel bonds align with the county investment policy objectives of safety, liquidity and providing a market rate of return,” the investment team told The Bond Buyer Wednesday. “They are highly rated and pay an attractive rate of return for a shorter maturity investment.”

The county’s investment portfolio is projected to earn a record $172 million in income for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Certified investment professionals in Abruzzo’s office actively manage the portfolio, which hit $4.06 billion in the last fiscal year.

Patronis also stressed the quality of the investments.

“This historic investment increases our state’s Israel bond portfolio to more than $80 million and not only provides Florida with a strong investment, but also further fortifies Florida’s commitment to stand with and support Israel,” Patronis said.

Since 2013, Palm Beach County has issued about $1.4 billion of municipal bonds, with the most issuance occurring in 2015 when it sold $266 million of securities. It carries triple-A ratings and stable outlooks from Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

“The AAA issuer default rating and GO bond rating reflect the county’s broad and diverse economy supporting strong revenue performance and low long-term liabilities relative to its resource base,” Fitch said in April. “The rating also reflects the county’s strong financial performance, which has supported growth in unrestricted reserves over the past decade and enhanced the county’s ability to respond to fiscal stresses.”

On Wednesday, Abruzzo met with Jewish leaders to discuss the increased investment and hear from them why it is important to financially support Israel. Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County, and Mark Ruben, executive director of Israel bonds in Palm Beach County, were in attendance.

Abruzzo, who is also clerk of the circuit court, was elected in November 2020. He supervises a team of 650 employees and oversees an annual operating budget of $70.5 million for a county of more than 1.5 million residents.

Prior to his election, he was in the state legislature for a decade, being elected to office in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. A graduate of Lynn University, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves as a port security specialist.

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