Statutory Erosion of Secured Creditors’ Rights: Some Insights from the United Kingdom

By Adrian Walters, IIT Chicago-Kent School of Law

The prevailing wisdom is that Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings have been captured by secured creditors with the consequence that many Chapter 11s are little more than glorified nationwide federal foreclosures through which secured creditors exit by means of a section 363 sale.  Some scholars worry that secured creditor capture of Chapter 11 leads to asset deployment decisions that do not produce welfare-maximizing outcomes for creditors as a whole.

In an article forthcoming in the 2015 University of Illinois Law Review, I do not question this prevailing wisdom.  Instead, I seek to argue, by reference to experience in the United Kingdom, that if we are serious about curbing secured creditors’ control of bankruptcy proceedings through bankruptcy law reform, we have to acknowledge and understand the ways in which secured creditors respond to reforms that are adverse to their interests.

The article identifies four ways in which lenders may be expected to adjust to “adverse” bankruptcy reform: (i) meta bargaining; (ii) adjustments to pre-bankruptcy behaviour; (iii) transactional innovation; and (iv) shape shifting. The article then illustrates how lenders in England and Wales have successfully adjusted to sustained statutory attempts to undermine their bankruptcy priority by carving value out of their collateral, and to erode their control rights by abolishing their right to appoint an administrative receiver over floating charge collateral.

Click here to read more.

Indenture Trustees in Out-of-Court Restructuring Transactions: Proceed with Caution

posted in: Workouts and Pre-Packs | 0

By Howard Seife and Marian Baldwin Fuerst of Chadbourne & Parke LLP

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The recent decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (the “S.D.N.Y.”) concerning the restructuring efforts of Caesars Entertainment Operating Company, Inc. (“OpCo”), the large United States casino operator which is currently in bankruptcy, should be on all indenture trustees’ radars.  See MeehanCombs Global Opportunity Funds, LP v. Caesars Entertainment Corp., 14- cv-7091, 2015 WL 221055 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2015). The case arises from an August 2014 transaction, in which OpCo restructured certain of its unsecured obligations resulting in the elimination of guarantees by OpCo’s parent, Caesars Entertainment Corporation (the “Parent,” together with OpCo, “Caesars”). Caesars moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by certain OpCo unsecured noteholders. After heavily scrutinizing the August 2014 transaction, US District Court Judge Scheindlin held that the noteholders could proceed with a majority of their claims for breaches of the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, as amended (the “TIA”), and state law. The court’s decision, entered right on the heels of a December S.D.N.Y. decision addressing a similar situation, establishes a clear precedent that out-of-court restructurings eliminating parent guarantees are disfavored in this influential District. The decision cautions indenture trustees to closely review any changes to core terms even when acting under the direction of noteholders.

To read more, click here.

For two related pieces discussing the Trust Indenture Act, see here and here.

Corporate Bankruptcy Tourists

By Oscar Couwenberg & Stephen J. Lubben

Insolvency procedures are not designed for corporate group, but for individual debtor corporations. This becomes an especially important issue when corporations have international operations.

When such a corporate group becomes financially distressed, then different national insolvency procedures will claim jurisdiction over assets and debts of the corporation, the consequence of which is an uncoordinated wealth-destroying piecemeal sale of assets. The obvious solution is to look for a single forum that can address an entire firm’s financial distress.

In this paper we argue that chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, and to a lesser extent also the UK scheme of arrangement under the Companies Act 2006, can be considered such bankruptcy havens for corporate bankruptcy tourists.

We construct a database of foreign debtors initiating a chapter 11 case over the period 2005 to 2012. In total our dataset includes 316 corporate debtors, organized in 49 corporate groups.

What we find is that corporations with mobile assets, with subsidiaries in many jurisdictions, or both, are the most frequent tourists in chapter 11. We further discuss why chapter 11 and its competitor in the UK render a trans-national insolvency system superfluous. We expect these two jurisdictions to see increasing amounts of “tourist” activity as Europe moves from its traditional reliance on bank financing to more frequent use of North American style high yield bond markets.

The full version of this article is available here.

The New Corporate Web: Tailored Entity Partitions and Creditors’ Selective Enforcement

posted in: Cramdown and Priority | 0

By Anthony J. Casey, University of Chicago Law School

Casey, Anthony_0 (1)Firms often separate assets into distinct entities that have their own legal identity but are commonly owned and together form a large corporate group. While the law-and-economics literature has viewed these legal partitions as either all or nothing, firms have developed sophisticated legal mechanisms to create precisely tailored partitions. The result is a complex corporate web of interconnected legal affiliates.

For example, an asset that is placed in one legal entity may serve as collateral guaranteeing the debts of another legal entity within the corporate group. The assets of the two entities are separate for some purposes but integrated for others. Conventional theories of corporate groups cannot explain the tailored partitions in this corporate web. This article develops a new theory of selective enforcement to fill that gap.

When a debtor defaults on a loan, that default may signal a failure across the entire firm or it may signal a project-specific failure. Tailored partitions provide monitoring creditors with a valuable option to choose between project-specific and firm-wide enforcement depending on the information signal provided. Thus, firm-wide risks and failures can be addressed globally while the effects of project-specific risks and failures can be locally contained when necessary.

These concepts of selective enforcement and tailored partitions reveal important implications for theory and practice. They provide a cohesive justification for the web of entity partitioning and cross liabilities that characterize much of corporate structure today and inform the analysis of holding-company equity guarantees, fraudulent transfers, and ipso facto clauses.

The full version of this article is available here.