PNC Bank, which employs new Illinois Tollway president Dorothy Abreu, will decline agency future bond work

PNC Bank, of which new Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board chair Dorothy Abreu is an executive, will step back from bond work with the toll agency to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

The Pittsburgh-based bank worked on deals with the highway involving more than $2 billion in borrowings over the past decade, records show.

How much the company made from these deals, which helped pay for the construction of the causeway, is unclear. In an underwriting deal last year under Abreu’s predecessor, Will Evans, the fee was at least $420,000.

“PNC took immediate steps to avoid the potential for conflicts of interest and had in fact committed to withdrawing from state and highway bond pools prior to the announcement of my appointment,” Abreu said. , senior vice president of PNC. institutional banking group, said. “I am also committed to acting in a completely transparent manner and to acting in the best interests of the toll authority and our customers.”

Gov. JB Pritzker nominated Abreu on Feb. 18 while announcing that Evans — a former Peoples Gas executive whose tenure at the toll has been marred by controversy since Pritzker nominated him in 2019 — was retiring.

The Chicago Sun-Times asked the toll agency about PNC’s work for the agency on February 22. PNC’s Robert Dailey sent a letter dated Feb. 23 to toll officer Bill O’Connell retiring from toll bonding work, records show.

“I am writing on behalf of PNC Capital Markets LLC to advise the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority of PNC’s withdrawal from the following Illinois Tollway contract: Bond Underwriting Services,” wrote Dailey, Managing Director and Chief Public Finance Officer of PNC Capital Markets. in Philadelphia.

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“The withdrawal from the toll underwriting pool is in the interest of the toll and the PNC to avoid any potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of such conflicts which could arise as a result of the appointment of the employee of the PNC, Dorothy Abreu, to chair the board of directors of the Illinois State Turnpike Authority,” Dailey wrote.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said, “As soon as the administration determined that Dorothy Abreu was an exemplary candidate for the position of president she wanted to fill, the administration contacted PNC to discuss the need for the company to withdraw from contracts with the toll highway and other states. entities.

Documents showing PNC's involvement in agreements with the Illinois Tollway.

Documents showing PNC’s involvement in agreements with the Illinois Tollway.

“The first conversation with the PNC regarding the conflicts took place on January 19, 2022,” according to Abudayyeh. “PNC withdrew from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority bond underwriting pool on February 23, 2022. . . . As a precaution, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget will no longer use the PNC in the future to work on capital markets.

The PNC's letter of recusal for other state business while bank manager Dorothy Abreu is chairman of the toll board.

The PNC’s letter of recusal for other state business while bank manager Dorothy Abreu is chairman of the toll board.

A tollgate spokeswoman said, “We have no other banking relationship with the PNC.

But officials did not explain why PNC’s bail letter came at that time or how Abreu would handle other possible disputes, such as when there is a vote on a contract for a supplier who uses PNC or one of its competitors.

With Abreu’s appointment, Pritzker said, “I am confident that his two decades of private sector banking experience and his impressive work with government entities and non-profit organizations will lend themselves to continued growth and toll liability.

PNC, a publicly traded company, reports $558 billion in assets.

Bankers have served on the Toll Lane Board in the past, including Joseph Gomez of Byline Bank and James Banks of Belmont Bank & Trust, although they did not chair the board.

The law firm of former toll board chairman Robert Schillerstrom had done bonding work for the toll, but stopped when he was appointed.

The board oversees senior tolling staff and votes on major contracts. Its chairman also has a say in what is on the board’s agenda for discussion and voting.

Tolls were first instituted in Illinois decades ago to pay for the construction of certain highways. The charges had to end eventually. But they stayed and fund an agency, under the governor’s control, which now oversees nearly 300 miles of roadway, mostly through suburbs.

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