Municipal Bond Issuance: Is There Evidence of a Principal-Agent Problem?



Is there evidence of a principal-agent problem in the municipal bond industry? Do public managers, either on their own or through private sector agents, act to increase their own utility at the expense of the public? This article examines municipal bond decisions in the context of principal-agent theory based on data collected through a random sample survey of municipal bond issuers. Principal-agent theory is not well developed in the public sector. In the municipal bond industry, however, we have evidence that it helps explain the actions of public managers and elected officials, in particular for pay to play and the importance of interest rates vis-à-vis relationships. These actions carry potential costs to citizens.