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eNews Weekly Update - National Association of Credit Management
January 27th, 2009

News Briefs

  1. APG Warns of Suspected Business Identity Theft
  2. Obama’s Economic Plan Draws Cheers From Capitol Hill, Moody’s
  3. Balancing Work With Life
  4. Domestic Warming: SBA Works to Break Freeze on the Secondary Markets
  5. Business Schools Not Preparing Students for IFRS Transition?
  6. Gas Fields Seeing Spike in Winter Ozone
  7. OECD Secretary-General Calls for Centralized EU Market Supervision
  8. U.S.-Peru FTA Scheduled to Enter Into Force
  9. Munis Get Helping Hand in Recovery Package

1

APG Warns of Suspected Business Identity Theft

As a service to members, this alert was issued by NACM's Asset Protection Group:

APG has been informed of recent activities suspected to be cases of business identity theft among the membership. The information supplied on credit applications by the perpetrators matched the information of the legitimate business.

Please take a moment to cross-reference your records with the information provided below. Please contact APG at your earliest convenience with any additional information regarding this correspondence. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to call us. We thank you in advance for your time and cooperation.

This communication is in no way meant to harm the integrity of the legitimate business entity, but instead to serve as a caution to members.

Subject supplied the following information on the credit application:

SED International, Inc.
Shipping address: (not associated with the legitimate business, SED International, Inc.)
123 Devin Drive
Morage, CA 94556
310-929-5287 phone
&
21850 Edgewater Drive
Port Charlotte, FL 33952
310-929-5287 phone

Subject supplied the following information on the credit application:

Conti Electronics Ltd.
32 West 2nd Ave. (legitimate address for the legitimate business, Conti Electronics Ltd.)
Vancouver, BC  V5Y 1B3 Canada
Contact Name: Tim Alguire (legitimate employee of Conti Electronics Ltd.)
877-726-9102 phone and fax number (not associated with the legitimate business, Conti Electronics Ltd.)

Shipping Address:
Raymond Shepherd
700 Lawrence Road, #107
Hamilton, ON  L8K 1Z5
877-726-9102
(The shipping information provided above is not associated with the legitimate business, Conti Electronics Ltd.)

 

Credit Words: Stories of Victory and Defeat

Overall Winner of $250
Linda Olsen, CBA
Assistant Credit Manager
Credit Department
Oklahoma City, OK

Runners Up and Winners of $50
Loretta April
Credit Manager
Seaboard International Forest Products LLC
Nashua, NH

Bob Steve
Credit & A/R Manager
Harter Secrest & Emery LLP
Rochester, NY

We congratulate Linda, Loretta and Bob on their success. To read the winning stories, watch for your copy of the February issue of Business Credit magazine. The stories will also be posted on the NACM website under Business Credit magazine.

 

 

2

Obama’s Economic Plan Draws Cheers from Capitol Hill, Moody’s
President Barack Obama’s economic plan, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has recently drawn a wealth of praise on Capitol Hill following the release of a positive analysis of the plan by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com and former economic advisor to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign. “Implementation of the House Democratic fiscal stimulus plan in early 2009 would provide a substantial benefit to the economy,” he said in the analysis. “The stimulus will not keep the downturn from becoming the worst since the Great Depression, but it will ensure that the current episode remains a recession and not a depression.”

Zandi’s report was especially complimentary about the Obama plan’s investment in infrastructure, which it said would generate a remarkable return to U.S. gross domestic product. “The boost to GDP from every dollar spent on public infrastructure is large—an estimated $1.59—and there is little doubt that the nation has underinvested in infrastructure for some time, to the increasing detriment of the nation’s long-term growth prospects,” he said, adding that it won’t just be construction and manufacturing that benefit from these projects. “All major industries benefit from the House Democratic stimulus plan.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was one of the first officials to applaud the study, as well as the Act itself. “Zandi’s analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act shows he believes that this package will provide the boost our economy needs to begin recovering from this recession,” he said. “According to Zandi, the recovery plan will succeed in its goal of creating and saving four million jobs and keeping the unemployment rate lower than it would be if we did nothing. The recovery plan will also provide economic stability in the longer term by increasing infrastructure investment to keep our economy growing in the future.”

The plan was recently considered by the House Appropriations Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. “This legislation will provide critical benefits and incentives to middle-America, poor-America, and businesses, large and small, who are struggling during this economic downturn,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY). “This plan will go a long way to help relieve the pain these families and businesses are experiencing so that we can restore some confidence and economic security and help America maintain its prominence in the global marketplace. Simply put, the American people cannot keep the engine of our economy running if they don’t have money to spend and this package provides tax relief and critical benefits to help them take home a little more each month and help the economy grow.”

Obama’s plan is expected to go to the full House sometime this week but faces opposition in the Senate, notably from Zandi’s former boss and Obama’s former rival, McCain, who, along with others, has indicated that he would not vote for the Act in its current state.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

 

It Only Takes One: Dealing With PCI-DSS

Over the last several years, the world of business and finance has had to come to terms with the seedy world of fraud, hacking and identity theft and find a way to better protect customer data and identifiable information. The primary source of the data used and abused in breaches and hacks is from credit cards, which, as online transactions have increased, has become a bit easier to attain.

Just a few years ago, as threats increased in frequency, notoriety and sophistication, regulations and measures were discussed and pored over, culminating in an agreement between all card brands to instate a set of standards to protect cardholder information. The result, established on September 7, 2006, was the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), a set of 12 standards that applies to all organizations, systems, networks and applications that process, store or transmit a cardholder number. This move, made with the blessing of Capitol Hill, requires companies that accept credit cards to never store any cardholder data beyond the name, number, expiration date and service code. Nothing has to be signed on the part of the merchant; if a company agrees to accept payment cards, it’s implied that they are required to comply with these rules, and even just one violation can cost a company a great deal in fines, fees and restitution.

For more information on how to comply with PCI-DSS, read this article in the February 2009 issue of Business Credit magazine. Click here to get your subscription started today.

 

3

Balancing Work With Life
The country is confronting difficult times and the stresses of both personal and professional lives are mounting. There is always the constant battle between work and home, and as the pressures of the economy push down on executives, there exists the temptation to neglect the need for balance.

“The landscape today is very charged,” said Eddy Sumar, MBA, CCE, CICE, CEW, founder, ER$ Consulting Services, during the NACM-sponsored teleconference "Balancing Work With Life". “There is the financial meltdown, the financial crisis, people are going bankrupt and a lot of our customers might be defaulting on their payments. Companies are becoming very lean. If you are a manager you probably have less people under you.”

Sumar said it was important for credit managers to take a deep breath from time to time and take a rest period; take some time off. That could involve simply placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their office door to take a few quiet moments or closing their eyes to take a break from staring at the computer screen.

“I hear many times of people saying, ‘I would love to take a vacation. I would love to relax.’ Then, when they go on vacation, they take their laptop, their cell phone and keep on working,” said Sumar. “Is that a vacation? Will they reach a point of balance and equilibrium? No, they will not. Because it’s a not a point of relaxation, they just changed their place of work from the office to a beach in Cancun.”

He added, “We need to really start living, start being, instead of just work, work, work all day.”

The global outlook is one of uncertainty and one that Sumar believes was facilitated by greed and deceit; individuals lost control of the balance in their lives. Hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs while millions are losing their homes. Around the world, people are being affected by the financial crisis and the decisions they made. Thrown onto this are concerns about the environment: global warming, pollution and noise pollution which impacts people psychologically, physiologically, emotionally and sociologically. Then there is technology and communication. For managers, a cell phone means they are tethered to the office 24-hours a day, and if they are involved in international business, the effects are worse.

Sumar suggests that to create balance, professionals need to identify what causes the imbalances, define key life roles, refine their core values and then anchor themselves to their values and strengths. Work is not the center of the universe and if professionals just commit themselves to working nonstop, they will inevitably burn out and feel the impacts in their personal and professional lives.

He stated that he believes that spirituality should play a key role in every person’s life because it provides the foundation for ethics and values and helps alleviate tension.

“Over time, an improper balance will lead to problems,” said Sumar. “And this is what’s happening today. A lot of my friends that I talk to, a lot of credit managers, a lot of clients that I meet keep saying, ‘Eddy, we don’t have time. We just need to continue to work, work, work just to stay afloat these days.’ You know what? It’s a choice we make. We can decide to work 24/7, but are we going to find that point of balance? Are we going to be a happier person?”

Sumar is a firm proponent of the three “R’s”: Recreate, Re-energize and Refuel. He also delved into the OTIS Principle and the OTIS Factor that professionals should adhere to. OTIS stands for: become Open-Minded to seek opportunity; adopt Trust and Technology; pursue Integrity; and always Seek and Search for solutions.

“If we create an imbalance in our lives, it’s a guarantee that it will lead to problems,” said Sumar.

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

Preferences Coming Home to Roost? Not With All Those Preference Defenses!

As businesses trudge through the bleak landscape of recession, with bankruptcies soaring to monumental heights, lawsuits and preference claims are anticipated to rise considerably during the year ahead. Fortunately for credit managers, there is an arsenal of preference defenses at their disposal, including the new value defense, the expanded ordinary course of business defense, the contemporaneous exchange/COD defense, as well as unique preference issues spawned from credit card payments and lien and trust fund rights to defeat preference exposure.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

NACM members can take advantage of the wealth of knowledge espoused from Bruce Nathan, Esq., partner, Bankruptcy, Financial Reorganization and Creditors’ Rights Group of the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler PC, during the NACM-sponsored teleconference, “Preferences Coming Home to Roost? Not with All Those Preference Defenses!” on January 28th. Using recent court decisions, Nathan’s presentation will focus on elements of preference defenses as well as provide a checklist every credit manager needs to defeat these claims.

To register for this teleconference, members can click here.

 

4

Domestic Warming: SBA Works to Break Freeze on the Secondary Markets
The Bush Administration removed volume limitations from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) lending programs. In 2002 and 2004, the agency was forced to shut down programs, which were then funded by fees and a $120 million annual subsidy. Taking advantage of the freedom, during the last five years, the SBA has approved loans at a record-setting pace.

The United States has been forced to accept the fact that it is in the midst of a recession, regardless of any economist’s formal definition. For the SBA, the economic uncertainty has meant diminished small business loan demand after years of enormous vitality. The agency admits that borrowers are, on average, less creditworthy than in years past, while at the same time, lenders are raising cash reserves for when sunnier economic days return. Adding to the lending ice age, lenders have slowed SBA-backed lending because the secondary markets for those loans is still in turmoil.

The agency has worked diligently over the last two months to try and combat the lending slowdown and continues to stress that it will take time for its policies to be felt.

To try and unclog the system, the SBA added an alternative base rate—the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR)—lenders can use for SBA-backed loans. The purpose is to align loan rates with lenders’ costs to assist lenders to be profitable on new SBA loans in lieu of the divergence between interest rates and the costs of funds.

The SBA also created Weighted Average Coupon Pools to make SBA securities more profitable on the secondary markets. There is an average interest rate used for the pools, which makes it easier for assemblers to create and be more attractive to investors.

The SBA has also worked with the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Board to create the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) to help restore buying activity in the frozen secondary market. The agency sells some $4 billion in securities each year on these markets, but for 2009, a $3 billion tranche of loans securitized by lenders are frozen.

“We think the TALF will have a strong positive effect on the secondary markets, but this program is also just getting off the ground,” said the SBA.

Over the last two years, the agency has been able to slash loan processing times. It centralized offices in the loan process from 68 sites to six. In 2007, the SBA took an average of 279 days to pay lenders their guaranties. Now, that time has been reduced to less than 25 days.

The government entity is positive about the horizon. “These changes are having an effect,” said the SBA. “Over the last year, SBA has seen a net increase in active lenders, specifically community banks.”

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

NACM Affiliate Collection Departments

Partner with someone you can trust.

NACM Affiliate collection departments collect your past-due accounts, large or small, as quickly as possible. NACM collection departments are firm, but fair, with your customers, with the primary objective to collect your money.

Usually, the first step after the account is placed is to notify your debtor and make an immediate demand for full payment. The intensity of the phone calls increases if payment is not made. If direct personal contact is appropriate, NACM Affiliates have many resources, including the ability to draw on a nationwide network of Affiliates—with offices located throughout the nation. When necessary, NACM Affiliates will forward an account to one of the bonded attorneys in its tried and proven network. NACM Affiliates exhaust all collection possibilities before recommending litigation to you. All funds collected are placed in separate trust accounts.

NACM Affiliate collection services include:

Click here to learn more about NACM’s Collection Services.

 

5

Business Schools Not Preparing Students for IFRS Transition?
The credit crisis, as well as a recent change in government leadership, has added an element of uncertainty to the future of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in the U.S., as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has become preoccupied with fixing the crisis, rather than moving forward with the transition from U.S. generally accepted accounting principles to IFRS. Moreover, according to Donna Street, an accounting professor at the University of Dayton, many business schools are dragging their feet when it comes to teaching IFRS, leaving many accounting graduates ill-equipped with the knowledge they’ll need in order to handle the transition and to remain competitive in the job market.

“There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, not only because of the transition in administration, but because the credit crisis got in the way,” said Street, who also serves as president of the International Association for Accounting Education and Research (IAAER). “The SEC’s attention has been on addressing the crisis.”

With the shift from the SEC’s current chairman, Christopher Cox, to newly-elected President Barack Obama’s nominee, Mary Schapiro, Street noted that it’ll be at least mid-2009 before the SEC’s new leadership signals its course of action in regard to IFRS. The SEC currently has its own roadmap to adoption of the standards, but speculation abounds as to whether or not this will stand under the new administration. “For large U.S.-listed companies, the SEC estimates it will cost approximately $32 million per company to make the conversion from U.S. standards to IFRS,” said Street. “In this economy most companies don’t have $32 million laying around, and this may impact the timing of the move.”

However, she noted that business schools should still be preparing their graduates for the transition, even if it doesn’t happen for a long time. “Recent surveys suggest that fewer than 25 percent of U.S. business schools are presently providing some IFRS training for accounting majors," said Street. "Schools should be teaching both IFRS and U.S. GAAP concepts, but few U.S. faculty are trained in international standards."

"Even if the U.S. does not move to the international standard in the next few years, more and more U.S.-based accountants and auditors will be working for or with companies preparing IFRS accounts,” she added.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

 

What Goes Around, Comes Around…

…even in the world of business credit! Making a donation to NACM’s Scholarship Foundation doesn’t just provide credit professionals with educational growth opportunities regardless of their company’s size, industry or market position, it also creates a better-educated, more highly-regarded credit community as a whole, lifting up the profession itself as well as everyone invested in it.

Become a part of the credit profession’s future as a respected, educated entity in tomorrow’s business world by donating today. Whether it’s through a donation to NACM’s annual Silent Auction or the Annual Golf Outing, both held at Credit Congress each year, or through cash donations, a contribution to NACM’s Scholarship Foundation is a contribution to your profession, and, as always, donations are 100% tax deductible.

For more information, or to make your donation online, click here.

 

6

Gas Fields Seeing Spike in Winter Ozone
Commodity prices have tumbled over the last 12 months, with many falling 30% or more. Energy costs, once the largest concern among consumers, have fallen to the wayside as the price of oil has fallen from its triple-digit perch to around $35 per barrel. The historic high prices for both crude and natural gas created a drilling boom throughout much of the country and the world, but the costs could be more than just winning bids for parcels and daily rig rates.

Wyoming’s Pinedale Anticline has not been free of controversy. It is part of one of the largest and most concentrated natural gas fields in the U.S., with companies extracting more than $4 billion worth of natural gas in 2007. The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan for leasing parcels for 4,400 wells has spurred heated debate, with most of the focus on the effect of drilling on sage grouse and mule deer populations. The BLM plan allows for year-round drilling, which has been a contentious point for environmentalists because of the impacts to sage grouse, mule deer and other game migratory patterns. Now there appears to be another reason for concern.

During the last three winters, ozone levels have soared to hazzardous levels in the natural gas field in the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming. Ozone is normally linked to hot weather and urban pollution, and it was thought that sunlight and heat were needed for high concentrations of ozone to occur. However, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists claim they have been able to pinpoint the cause of the ozone levels during the wintertime and their findings indicate the problem is likely more widespread.

“Rapid production of ozone is probably occurring in other regions of the western United States, in Canada and around the world,” said Russell Schnell, NOAA research lab. “Wintertime ozone could be forming wherever gaseous fossil fuels are being extracted in conditions similar to those at the Wyoming site.”

NOAA concluded that strong temperature inversions, which trapped the chemical close to the ground, as well as extensive snow cover, which acted as a sunlight reflector, helped jump-start the chemical reaction needed to make the already ozone-forming chemicals from the drilling to rise to hazardous levels. Schnell and a team of NOAA researchers stated that gas fields in Russia, Mongolia and China are likely experiencing the same threats to human health.

Between January and March 2008, ozone levels in the Pinedale Anticline and nearby Jonah field were so high—topping 140-parts-per-billion—that the state of Wyoming was forced to issue its first ever wintertime ozone advisory.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the air-quality standards for ground-level pollution in the United States. The wintertime ozone levels could provide another hurtle for oil and gas drillers in the area as they will have to adhere to EPA standards.

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

Opening Shop in the Global Main Street

During the first eight months of 2008, U.S. exports topped $850 billion. International trade remained the main driver behind the nation’s economy for all of the year, and was one of the only reasons the country did not see negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth. In 2007, exports accounted for 41% of the United States’ economic expansion, and the sector now makes up more than 13% of the nation’s GDP, the largest portion ever in U.S. history. Since 2001, exports have nearly doubled from $1 trillion to a record-setting $2 trillion.

Though the financial crisis has already hit the brakes on the unprecedented economy growth of the last few years, international trade will still provide unparalleled opportunities for U.S. businesses. Overseas sales are what have kept factory floors bustling and have kept America alive during the financial tailspin that has taken place during the last two years.

Read more about in the February issue of Business Credit magazine in the feature “Opening Shop in the Global Main Street.”

Not a subscriber? Click here for the NACM Bookstore to start your subscription now.

 

7

OECD Secretary-General Calls for Centralized EU Market Supervision
The head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently called for more integrated financial market supervision in the European Union (EU), arguing that a more centralized approach to European regulation could help preclude a recurrence of the area’s current financial turmoil. “It is essential that national differences in implementation do not lead to distortions in competition and that consideration be given to how governments exit from t heir commitments when the turmoil eventually dissipates,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “In addressing financial market vulnerabilities, government must be careful not to sow the seeds of future problems.”

Specifically, in his presentation of OECD’s Economic Survey of the Euro Area, Gurría recommended that EU policy-makers choose between establishing a single, EU-wide financial regulator or a central agency that would work in conjunction with other national supervisors. “Inconsistent regulation and supervision between countries could lead to regulatory arbitrage and distort the European single market in capital services,” he said. “It could also make it harder to resolve a crisis stemming from the failure of a large, systemically important cross-border institution.”

“Either option would improve the monitoring and containment of systemic risks within the European financial market,” he added.

Gurría noted that the survey painted a rather bleak portrait of the Euro area economy, which he said is in recession and will remain weak for some time, exacerbated by cuts in household spending due to job losses coupled with the global economic downturn that has sacked demand for European exports. He also cautioned governments not to sacrifice long-term dynamism for short-term gains in their further efforts to weather the crisis.

The OECD report and Gurría’s remarks are available here.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

8

U.S.-Peru FTA Scheduled to Enter Into Force
Following a last minute proclamation by former President George W. Bush, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that the free trade agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and Peru becomes effective February 1, 2009. The announcement received an enthusiastic response from Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and a reserved one from other democratic members of Congress, who chided the former president for implementing the agreement before Peru could resolve certain policies that some found objectionable.

“We were pleased to meet with Peruvian President Alan Garcia when he effectively heralded the agreement as a ‘New Deal’ for international trade and announced actions to implement the new standard before Congress approved the FTA. Unfortunately, the Peruvian Congress has subsequently passed legislation including provisions inconsistent with their commitments,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) in a joint statement. “We made it clear to the United States Trade Representative that these issues should be resolved prior to certification. Regrettably, they were not, as the Administration has moved to certify the FTA during in its last hours in office.”

The Congressmen expressed hope, however, that future trade agreements won’t face the same problems. “We are confident that the Obama Administration will improve enforcement of trade agreements, including the use of the dispute settlement mechanism in the Peru and other FTAs,” they said. “We look forward to advancing a new trade policy that expands and shapes trade in an era of unprecedented economic globalization.”

“This is good news for exporters across the United States,” said Grassley. “The agreement eliminates 80% of the duties imposed by Peru on U.S. exports of industrial and consumer products, effective immediately. More than two-thirds of U.S. farm exports will enter Peru duty-free. The agreement also removes barriers to U.S. services. It creates new opportunities for businesses that create and sustain good-paying jobs here in the United States.”

Grassley, like many of his congressional colleagues, also noted that FTAs can have a positive effect on the economy and contribute to the nation’s ongoing economic recovery. “I hope the incoming Administration will consider that in planning next steps beyond its initial economic stimulus plan,” he said. “Implementing the three pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would be a good place to start.”

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

 

9

Munis Get Helping Hand in Recovery Package
The global financial crisis has provided an unrelenting pounding on state and local governments. The recessionary environment has meant lost jobs, businesses shuttering their doors, which in turn results in more jobless claims, increased pressure on public service programs and lost tax revenues. Added to the woe is the freezing of the municipal bond market, which states and localities use to fund projects and bridge the gap between budget shortfalls.

Most states use longer-term bonds for capital infrastructure and other projects. Short-term markets are used by some states to try and hedge against low cash-flow period. With debt markets stalled, there has been growing concern among state leaders about the ongoing impacts on their ability to raise capital and the overall financial health of states, but there is help on the way.

On Thursday, the House Committee on Ways and Means passed H.R. 598 which is an economic recovery package aimed at tax, health and unemployment relief. The bill was pushed through by a party-line vote of 24 to 13 and will now be combined into a larger piece of legislation dubbed, H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and will proceed to a full House vote this week.

Included in the package is $50 billion in new tax-credit bonds, as well as the creation of two new bond categories that local governments can issue for economically distressed areas. One of the provisions to draw in more corporate purchasers of bonds will allow them to purchase tax-exempt bonds issued in 2009 and 2010 and allow those companies to take a deduction for the portion of their interest expense allocable as long as it constitutes less than 2% of their average adjusted base of all assets. The bill also increases the definition of “qualified small issuer” as one whose tax-exempt obligations will not exceed $10 million to one that will not exceed $30 million. These two proposals are expected to cost more than $3 billion over the next decade.

The legislation also eliminates the alternative minimum tax (AMT) imposed on state and local governments on the issuance of private activity bonds and creates the qualified school construction bond category that allows governments to issue tax credit bonds on the construction, rehabilitation or repair of public school facilities or the acquisition of land on which a public school will be built. The national limit is set at $22 billion for 2009 and 2010, with an $11 billion cap for 2009, and limits Indian tribal governments to $400 million for the two years, with a $200 million cap for 2009.

Finally, the bill would allow an additional $1.4 billion in qualified zone academy bonds (QZAB), which are used to finance renovations, purchase new materials, etc., to be issued over the next two years.

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

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