Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said during a meeting of the Public Finance Authority Thursday that matching fund securitization “is not off the table,” and his financial team is working on a new plan to refinance the territory’s debt.
The PFA has already approved contracts worth $330,000 in association with the plan, which stalled after two special sessions where senators passed debt refinancing legislation.
Bryan, who serves as chairman of the PFA, announced on Sept. 28 that he had suspended the effort, but said Thursday that he intends to try again.
“We just need reauthorization from the Senate to extend the deadline,” Bryan said. “We have a new plan that we need to get approved, so we’re working with them.”
Bryan also said that “we’re looking at a more likely date after the election.”
At a meeting on Sept. 23, the PFA board of directors voted unanimously to ratify approval of the engagement of Kroll Bond Rating Agency, LLC to perform ratings services associated with the Matching Fund Revenue Securitization.
PFA legal counsel Kye Walker said the contract is worth $145,000.
The PFA also voted to enter into a $185,000 contract with IHS Global “to verify and project the USVI Matching Fund revenues from rum shipments to the United States and to issue a report in connection with the Matching Fund Revenue Securitization.”
Walker said in an email that “the majority of the contractors performing services associated with the Matching Fund Securitization have contingency fee arrangements with the PFA such that payment is contingent upon a successful closing.”
The value of those contracts is unclear, and Walker and PFA Director of Finance and Administration Nathan Simmonds have not responded to questions about the value of several contracts approved at the Sept. 23 meeting.
Three of those were associated with the refinancing plan, which sought to refinance and restructure about $1 billion of bond debt secured by rum cover-over revenues that the Virgin Islands receives from the U.S. Treasury.
One of the contracts was to Squire Patton Boggs LLP “to provide legal services to the PFA in connection with the Matching Fund Revenue Securitization,” the second was for senior underwriter Samuel A. Ramirez & Co., Inc., and the third was to “Duane Morris as Special Counsel to the PFA to address legal and governmental relations services necessary to establish the Special Purpose Vehicle in connection with the Matching Fund Securitization.”
The plan would achieve this by creating a separate financial entity, or Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), that would take full control of the cover-over monies. Being independent and untarnished by the V.I. government’s poor financial standing, the SPV would purportedly attract more investors in the bond market, use the rum cover-over monies as collateral and issue new bonds at lower interest rates, around 3.5% as opposed to the current 5.58-6.75%, as issued by the V.I. Public Finance Authority.
The new arrangement would supposedly reap $255 million in cash savings over the next three years and theoretically save the Government Employees’ Retirement System from looming insolvency.