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Capital Markets

Life in a shutdown: How New York’s IPO bankers are learning to love limbo

Equity capital markets bankers are having to get more creative with their advice to flotation candidates as the US government shutdown drags on.

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This is an extended version of a story originally published on January 24.


These are quiet times at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Since the shutdown of the country’s government began on December 22, the SEC, like other government agencies, has been operating on a skeleton staff. Of its roughly 4,400 employees, probably not more than about 300 – most of whom are in critical law enforcement or protection roles – are working.

Contrary to what you might imagine, shutdown is a remarkably quick process at the SEC. Internal guidance is that it should take no more than four hours to close down most of its systems. The day after the government shutdown became effective, staff had to attend their workplaces to start powering down. They are allowed to set up out-of-office voicemails and emails, but can’t do a whole lot more.

They cannot work for free even if they want to. As the SEC reminded its staff in a memo, doing so would violate the Antideficiency Act, that part of legislation that restricts what government agencies are allowed to do in the event of there being no appropriations to fund them – the technical definition of a shutdown.

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