The junk-rated district, reeling from escalating pension costs and fallout from the Illinois budget gridlock, has been stuck paying punitive interest rates on $167.5 million of adjustable-rate bonds after PNC Capital Markets failed in March to resell the securities once previous owners sold them.
The rate on the bonds, which are supposed to stay extremely low because investors can resell them to banks periodically, jumped to a maximum 9% on March 1 from 4.64% the week before and has stayed there ever since, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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The spiraling interest bills are reminiscent of the chaos that erupted in the wake of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy in 2008, when state and local governments were stung by soaring costs after investors sold the variable-rate securities en masse just as banks were scrambling to raise cash. In Chicago’s case, though, it reflects how skittish investors have become about holding the debt of the cash-strapped school system.