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Troubled Municipal Borrowers Can’t Hide From Matt Fabian

The $3.8 trillion U.S. municipal bond market is home to more than 50,000 individual issuers. That’s almost 10 times the number of corporations that sell debt. Yet muni issuers, which range from a tiny California school district to an economic powerhouse such as New York City, aren’t beholden to the same reporting requirements that companies must follow. Matt Fabian, a partner at Concord, Mass.-based research firm Municipal Market Analytics Inc., scours their often haphazard filings for signs of troubled borrowers. His database tracks events such as issuers dipping into reserves or skipping payments, informing his weekly reports to clients.

This labor-intensive undertaking has yielded surprising insights into where defaults cluster and may offer investors a road map. Fabian, based in Westport, Conn., joined MMA in 2006 after working at a ratings company, bond insurer, and investment bank. Here, he talks about his process, his bleak outlook for the U.S., and the implications for investors.

Tim Holler