- Axe & Schwartz
Axe & Ecklund, P.C. is the successor firm to Axe and Schwartz, which was founded in 1981 by John R. Axe and several other partners then at the firm of Dickinson, Wright, McKean & Cudlip. Mr. Axe merged that firm, with its considerable municipal finance practice, into Dykema Gossett in 1985, where he served as head of its newly established Public Finance Department. The current firm was formed on January 1, 1990, by Mr. Axe and another attorney, and includes all of the staff which worked on his public finance matters while at Dykema Gossett.
As indicated above, nearly all of Dykema Gossett’s public finance work as bond counsel (as contrasted with underwriter’s counsel) between 1985 and 1990 was as a result of Mr. Axe’s serving as a partner of that firm. During that time, Mr. Axe was the partner in charge of these clients, all of whom he had formerly represented at Axe & Schwartz.
Axe & Ecklund, P.C. is a leader among firms providing bond counsel services to public entities in the state of Michigan.
Since 1990, Axe & Ecklund, P.C. and its predecessor John R. Axe and Associates has been advising cities, counties, villages, townships and other governmental units on the best way to issue municipal bonds and notes. (The firm name was John R. Axe and Associates, P.C. until January 1, 2001 when it was changed to Axe & Ecklund, P.C.)
Included in our services is the development of individual ways for a municipal client to market its bonds, notes, and other debt and revenue obligations. The firm principally assists government units in raising funds by structuring the borrowings, preparing all legal documents, conducting a competitive sale, and providing its unqualified opinion on the validity and tax exemption of the bond issue.Background on OPEB and Pension Financing
General Background on this Type of Financing
In 2005, Oakland County began exploring the possibility of a borrowing to completely fund its unfunded retirees health care liability. As a result, our firm prepared legislation, which was introduced in 2006, which authorized municipalities, including Counties to issue bonds for the purpose of funding its unfunded retirees health care liability. After a long and convoluted legislative fight, the legislation was adopted by the Legislature in late 2006 and then, despite broad support from many Counties and Cities, vetoed by the Governor.
Issuance of Certificates of Participation
As a result, Oakland County was left no alternative but to issue Certificates of Participation by a retiree medical benefits funding trust, which was created by the County in 2007. These Certificates of Participation, which originally totaled $556,985,000, were taxable obligations with interest rates varying between 6% and 6.25% per annum.
In the next three years a renewed effort was made to obtain legislation authorizing what was proposed by Oakland County in 2005. None of those efforts were successful.
Finally, in the summer of 2012 the new Governor prepared legislation that permitted such borrowings for the purpose of providing funds for unfunded pension liabilities. Our firm, on behalf of Oakland County and other municipalities, prepared amendments to this legislation to allow borrowings for both unfunded amounts owned by municipalities either for retiree health care or pensions. That legislation was passed by the Michigan Legislature in October of 2012, and signed into law effective October 9, 2012, but sunsetted in 2013. In 2014 our firm proposed and convinced the legislature to extend the sunset date to 2015 after which we obtained a further extension to 2018.
In addition to its work for Oakland County in 2007 and the refunding bonds for Oakland County in 2014, we have served as bond counsel for Macomb County on its OPEB bonds issued in 2015 and for Shelby Township on its Pension bonds issued in 2014.
The firm’s current clients include more than 40 Michigan counties, as well as many cities, villages, townships and special municipal districts. Large clients include the Counties of Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Grand Traverse, Washtenaw, Jackson, Ingham and Berrien, the cities of Warren, Royal Oak, and Portage. Mr. Axe has served as bond counsel for and has retained the following clients which were represented by him in 1989 and prior years:
County Road Commissions:
Grand Traverse Tuscola
Ingham Van Buren
Au Gres Portage
Imlay City Royal Oak
Lincoln Park Warren
Oxford St. Charles
Green Oak Swan Creek
Kochville West Branch
Public Finance Experience
In past years, senior shareholder, John R. Axe, has successfully issued bond opinions on 1950 issues of municipal obligations of all types for more than 120 different issuers in a total face amount in excess of $16,500,000,000. This volume of issues over that period of time is more than twice as large as for any other individual bond lawyer in Michigan.