The deadline for changes to bond purchase agreements in Texas as part of a crackdown on compliance with two state laws prohibiting governmental contracts with banks and others that “boycott” or “discriminate” against the fossil fuel or firearm industries has been extended to mid-December.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced last week that changes it is requiring for those agreements and for underwriters’ standing letters of compliance with the 2021 laws must be in place by Dec. 16, instead of Dec. 1.
The changes came as Paxton’s office intensified its scrutiny of compliance with the laws and launched a review involving several big banks and their involvement with the New Zero Alliance, which seeks a transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Bond lawyers were advised by the attorney general’s public finance division earlier this month that agreements to purchase state and local government municipal debt should include new language that puts the underwriter on the hook should it run afoul of the two laws. Standing letters are to be revised to omit language that in some way qualifies an underwriter’s verification of compliance with the laws.
The later deadline will give banks more time to get the changes through their internal approval processes, a legal source said.
In the meantime, a couple of larger bond issues that priced around the time of the attorney general’s Oct. 17 announcement of the net-zero review were able to close deals that included underwriters placed under that review.
Horatio Porter, chief financial officer at the North Texas Tollway Authority, said a $577 million system revenue refunding bond issue that priced Oct. 17, closed Nov. 9 with all under-review underwriters — senior manager Barclays and co-managers Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo — remaining in the deal.
Morgan Stanley also remained a co-manager on a $298.4 million Texas Public Finance Authority general obligation bond refunding that priced Oct. 25 and closed Nov. 15, according to authority Executive Director Lee Deviney.
“TPFA complies with all state laws regarding the sale of municipal securities, and complies with administrative rules and directives promulgated by oversight agencies and officials,” he said in an email.