Municipal Forum of New York honors industry veterans

Bonds

The Municipal Forum of New York presented three awards to industry leaders and veterans at its annual awards and leadership fellows fundraising dinner. 

Recipients included Marjorie Henning, retired deputy comptroller for public finance for the New York City Comptroller’s office; Albert Simons, retired partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and New York City Budget Director Jacques Jiha. 

This was the Municipal Forum’s 33rd annual dinner, which fundraises for the Urban Leadership Fellows program.

The night began with the Carey Gabay Scholarship, an award for college students who participated in the fellowship program. The scholarship honors the memory of Gabay, a former assistant counsel for Governor Andrew Cuomo and first deputy council for the Empire State Development Corporation who was killed in 2015. 

This year, Portia Lee, managing director of public finance for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, presented the scholarship to Lamont Rhodes, a rising senior at the University of Chicago. 

Rhodes could not attend the dinner in person because he was busy with final exams, but he thanked the Municipal Forum in a video he sent to the dinner. 

“This award represents more than just financial assistance,” Rhodes said. “It symbolizes validation, encouragement, and belief in my potential. It acknowledges the journey to self discovery that led me to where I am today.”

Ray Orlando, CFO of Empire State Development, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Marjorie Henning, retired deputy comptroller for public finance of the New York City Comptroller’s office. 

Henning “has had basically every position worth having in municipal finance in New York City,” Orlando said, describing her three-decade career in public finance. 

She spent more than 20 years as counsel and eventually general counsel at the New York City Office of Management and Budget, served as a director in the municipal securities division at Citigroup, and was named deputy comptroller for public finance of New York City in 2018. 

Henning said in her remarks that she entered the municipal finance industry “primarily by accident.”

“No one grows up thinking, ‘I really want to be a muni bond lawyer,'” Henning said.

In law school, Henning chose to work for Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, mostly because she recognized their name from an internship she did as an undergraduate, she recalled. That associateship introduced her to both municipal finance and New York City, which she found “intoxicating.”

Although Henning spent five years on the private side of the industry, she said the proudest moments of her career were working for the city.

“Issuing yen-denominated taxable bonds in the 1990s, which involved a crash course and interest rate swaps; creating the [Transitional Finance Authority] in 1997; TSASC in 2000; Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation in 2006; and the city’s first ESG bond issued for affordable housing in 2022.”

Her most memorable transaction was the issuance of the TFA’s New York City Recovery Notes. On the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, Henning helped to draft the emergency legislation allowing for the use of the TFA to issue the notes from her downtown Manhattan apartment. 

“We priced the first issue of recovery notes on October 1,” Henning said, “less than a month after the attacks.”

After Henning, Albert Simons, a retired partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, received the Austin Koenen Career Achievement Award.

Simons described the only direct conversation he remembers having with Austin Koenen, at a convention in the early 1980s. 

“Austin came up to me at a table with several Smith Barney bankers late at night — when I say ‘late at night,’ it was probably early in the morning — and told me, ‘We’ve all drunk too much,'” Simons said, “which I consider a great honor.”

The award was presented by Kevin Roche, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who described Simons as a role model and dedicated mentor. 

“No matter how long the days or nights were, each morning he was striding in upright,” Roche said. Simons would “have a power breakfast of Diet Coke and pretzels at his desk, and attack the day with a level of enthusiasm I’ve always admired and still still seek to attain.”

“I’ve had a good run,” Simons said. “I’ve worked with great people and been a part of some unique transactions.”

One unique transaction was Simons’ work on the first tobacco securitization deal in the country. During the deal, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe developed a close relationship with the city and its OMB, which paved the way for the firm to work as bond counsel for many more deals in the future. 

The night ended with New York City Budget Director Jacques Jiha receiving the Public Service Award. 

Tara Boirard, Jiha’s senior deputy director at the city Office of Management and Budget, told the audience about Jiha’s arrival at OMB. He was appointed in November 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and came into work to find “nearly empty offices and very few of his core staff members.”

“He assessed the situation and prepared a plan to balance the budget and meet the city’s most critical needs, stabilizing the financial outlook even before we received federal stimulus funding,” Boirard said. 

As New York was still navigating the pandemic, Jiha had to deal with the migrant crisis. Although Jiha “was instrumental in getting support from the feds as well as the state,” Boirard said, he still had to find billions of dollars in the budget to find housing and services for the asylum seekers. 

Jiha’s response to these crises featured lots of budget cuts, but, Boirard said, he was very aware of the implications of his decisions.

“He’s often been the one to want to not take certain cuts, even if that meant making his job that much harder,” Boirard said. 

Despite Jiha’s accomplishments in recent years, he said the award was an unexpected honor.

In his career, Jiha has served as the principal economist for the New York State Assembly, the deputy comptroller for the New York Common Retirement Fund, CFO of Black Enterprise and the New York City Finance Commissioner. 

Jiha praised the mission of the Municipal Forum in his acceptance speech. 

“The summer internship programs and college scholarships, which the Municipal Forum supports, will shape the minds and the lives of young New Yorkers,” Jiha said. 

The Urban Leadership Fellows program awards paid summer internships to graduating New York City high school students who are interested in careers in finance. The program was developed in 1992 and currently has classes of more than 40 students each summer. 

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