Politics undoubtedly influence the public narrative surrounding a municipality’s slide into bankruptcy. Last week, however, the Securities and Exchange Commission served notice that public officials need to be careful of what they say. For the first time ever, the SEC charged a municipality, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10(b)(5) for making materially misleading statements.
While Harrisburg filed a Chapter 9 petition in October of 2011, the petition was dismissed on the grounds that the bankruptcy filing was not authorized under Pennsylvania law. Instead, a receiver was appointed to implement a “recovery plan” and take control of the city’s finances. The city remains under the control of the receiver.