By Stephen E. Hessler, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Congress is again advancing legislation to amend the Bankruptcy Code to add specific provisions for administering the case of a major financial institution. The belief that the Chapter 11 filing of Lehman Brothers was a key cause of the Great Recession led Congress to enact in 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, Title II, which provided “orderly liquidation authority” to the federal government to wind down insolvent financial companies whose failure would have “serious adverse effects on financial stability in the United States,” in proceedings administered by the FDIC. Although there has never been a Title II proceeding, Dodd-Frank has been significantly criticized for creating a new resolution framework that imbues politically-sensitive regulators with broad and untested discretion to liquidate a major bank.
In further response, the House of Representatives last year passed the Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2014, but the Congressional session expired without consideration of the bill by the Senate. In July 2015, the House Judiciary Committee held another hearing on H.R. 2947, the reintroduced Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2015. This bill, which is substantively identical to last year’s iteration, proposes to amend the Bankruptcy Code by adding a new Subchapter V within current Chapter 11. The central feature of Subchapter V is referred to as the “single point of entry” approach that allows a debtor to separate quickly upon filing “good” from “bad” assets through a near-immediate postpetition transfer of “good” assets to a nondebtor bridge company whose equity is held by a trust that is managed by a special trustee for the benefit of creditors of the chapter 11 estate. The “bad” assets would then be liquidated within the chapter 11 case. Critically, both the proposed transfer and liquidation transactions are subject to Bankruptcy Court approval.
For a further exploration of the legislation and these issues, my testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in 2015 is available here and my testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in 2014 is available here. Please note the views expressed in my testimony are solely my own, and are not offered on behalf my firm, any client, or other organization.
For a previous Roundtable post on the Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act see here.