UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Wall Street is named for a fortification originally
built to keep Indians out of lower Manhattan. But tribes are breaching the
barrier with ever-increasing frequency.
Another Native irruption takes place June 27 - 29 at the Mohegan Sun
Convention Center when Information Management Network presents its third
Native American Finance Conference. As a sign of the stepped-up invasion,
this conference used to be annual; but this session comes just six months
after the second annual session, held in January at the Pechanga Resort &
Casino in Temecula, Calif.
The accelerated schedule reflects both the widespread interest in and the
urgency of the issues. A theme of the conference will be "tribes talk
back," as an array of tribal leaders explain to the financial world the
priority of securing the future well-being of their nations. But Wall
Street will have questions of its own, as it wonders whether recent
political and legal uncertainties might jeopardize its expanding investment
in tribal economies.
The conference will meet those questions head on in its first general
session June 27. Noting that Indian nations have raised hundreds of
millions of dollars for gaming facilities through high-yield capital
markets and bank loans, and have sold millions more in tax-exempt bonds for
government projects, the program asks how this previously unimaginable
investment in Indian country has affected the nations and how well Wall
Street has interacted with Native peoples.
These issues will occupy an opening panel of heavyweights, featuring Deron
Marquez, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians; Barry E.
Snyder Sr., president of the Seneca Nation of Indians; and invited members
Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association and
Philip Martin, tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Steven McSloy, co-chair of the Native American Practice at Hughes Hubbard &
Reed and a frequent writer on tribal development, will moderate.
Deeper into the conference, panels will home in on the issues. On June 28,
one part of the general session will take up the emerging national concern
over off-reservation gaming and the possibility that it could prompt a
congressional "revisiting" of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The session
will illustrate the debate through a case study of the compacting process
for an off-reservation casino.
A second panel will deal with Internal Revenue Service rulings on whether
tribal bonds qualify for tax-exempt status. The issue, unique to Indian
country through a quirk in the IRS code, is whether a tribal project
constitutes "an essential government function." As recent cases in
California and Florida have shown, a negative ruling from the IRS could
cost a tribe millions.
A segment will deal with the bond buyer's perspective on risk versus
reward. The greater the perception of risk, the higher the interest rate
and the higher the cost to the tribal issuer. The question is whether the
market sees the risk diminishing as it gains confidence in the tribes, or
increasing as the political atmosphere turns threatening.
After a full morning, participants can explore the detailed mechanics of
borrowing or investing. The question of perceived risks will get another
visit, this time from senior Wall Street figures James Penrose, managing
director of the bond raters Standard & Poor's, and Evan Ladouceur, managing
director of Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
The third day will take up the long-term strategy of income
diversification. Panels will discuss non-gaming tourist investments, retail
centers, big business relocations and natural resources.
The Mohegan Tribe will provide hospitality, with an opening prayer from
Tribal Councilor Bruce Two Dogs Bozsum and a welcome from Chairman Mark E