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Ice Miller: A Bond Counsel History Ice Miller: A Bond Counsel History

Ice Miller: A Bond Counsel History

Ice Miller has been serving as bond counsel since the early 1900s.

The function of bond counsel in the United States originated in the late 19th century in response to widespread defaults and extensive litigation regarding the validity of "railroad-aid bonds." To address investor concerns, it became the practice for underwriters or original purchasers of municipal bonds to obtain an opinion post-closing regarding the bond's validity from lawyers who had the requisite expertise, objectivity, professional standing and independence. The premise underlying this arrangement was that bond counsel would not act as an advocate for the issuer or investors, but would have the expertise required to provide assurance of the validity of the bonds and exercise objectivity in applying that expertise.

By 1911, Ice Miller had given its first opinion on a bond issue. In the years that followed, the Firm gained eminence in the municipal finance field such that by the end of the World War II, the Firm was virtually alone in practicing municipal finance in Indiana. Ice Miller lawyers were naturally spending many hours with local lawyers and officials on the framework of proposed financings and sharing drafts of necessary proceedings in anticipation of delivering opinions after the bonds had been sold. Local lawyers and officials liked the help available from the Firm as they structured financings. Purchasers of bonds began advising designation of bond counsel prior to the sale, sparing purchasers the trouble and expense of bidding for an issue, which might not be approved by counsel.

In addition to finance, Ice Miller's history in the municipal field includes drafting legislation that has had lasting impacts on the state of Indiana. The first major piece of Indiana legislation with which Ice Miller assisted was the Park District Act of 1917, which was drafted by the Firm. It provided for the financing of parks and park improvements by bonds of a tax district. In response to the pressures for new school buildings after World War II, the Firm also drafted an act making available to all school corporations authority for leasing school buildings and financing by bonds of a building corporation out of lease rentals. 

In addition to the Firm's legislative involvement, much of the body of law relating to local government in Indiana has evolved in court decisions where the Firm either represented a party or filed amicus brief. With the need for school buildings, the way for quasi-public type financings was opened up with a 1967 decision in which the Firm was successful in sustaining the Economic Development Financing Act. This also ushered in pollution control bonds, a type of obligation that was prolific during the 1970s.

During the last 40 years, the Firm's municipal finance group has grown to include practices in Ohio and Illinois, in addition to Indiana. Ice Miller bond lawyers have experience in many types of financings including, but not limited, to health care, airports, K-12 education, public private partnerships, higher education, housing, municipal utilities and senior living as well as the various roles counsel serve on financings such bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, purchasers counsel and disclosure counsel. Today, the Municipal and Public Finance Section at Ice Miller is comprised of 29 lawyers and 7 paraprofessionals practicing exclusively in all areas of municipal finance, including one of the only rebate practices in the Midwest. Outside of the bond practice, the Firm is also has deep experience in numerous other practice areas including health law, securities law, real estate, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, litigation and banking and antitrust. These practice groups are prepared to assist issuers and borrowers of tax-exempt bonds with all their legal needs.

For further information, contact a member of the Ice Miller Municipal Finance Group.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader must consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader's specific circumstances.
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