WSJ Examiners – Claims Trading

posted in: Claims Trading | 0

Does claims trading impede chapter 11 reorganizations? And, if so, would disclosure of additional information about traded claims remove the impediments it creates?

Kenneth A. Rosen answers “yes” to both questions. He argues that ownership of an in-the-money claim incentivizes liquidation and thus encourages bad-faith rejections. Disclosure, he contends, would enable courts to assess more accurately whether a party’s rejection of a plan was made in good faith.

Elliot Ganz disagrees on both scores. He maintains that claims traders try to maximize a debtor’s going-concern value rather than immediately lock in paper gains. In so doing, they provide liquidity and expertise that improves the reorganization process. Disclosure, however, would publicize their strategies and thus chill their participation.

Who has the better argument? The Wall Street Journal’s expert panel of Examiners agrees with Mr. Ganz.

Marc Leder, Brett Miller, Anders J. Maxwell, Sharon Levine, Jack Butler, and Mark Roe all agree that claims trading is generally beneficial and that current disclosure requirements are adequate. Mr. Butler also details the history of claims trading to show that Congress was aware of the practice when it adopted the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978.

Finally, Mark Roe addresses a common criticism of claims trading–namely, that it hinders resolution via a negotiated plan because claims traders, fearful of insider trading liability and other risks, will not participate in plan formation. He argues that 363 sales ameliorate this problem because such sales may proceed absent negotiation among the various classes of creditors.

(This post was authored by Ben A. Sherwood, J.D. ’17.)

House Judiciary Committee Approves Bill to Amend Chapter 11 for Financial Institution Bankruptcies

On February 11, 2016, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 2947—the Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act (FIBA)—which would amend the Bankruptcy Code to accommodate more smoothly the resolution of systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). Introduced in July 2015, the current bill is essentially identical to an earlier version that passed the House in December 2014 (discussed in a Roundtable post here).

Like two pending Senate proposals, FIBA focuses on facilitating the recapitalization of a SIFI through a “single point of entry” (SPOE) approach similar to the strategy the FDIC has developed for implementing the Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA) created in Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act. During an SPOE resolution, most of the failing SIFI’s assets would be transferred to a non-debtor bridge holding company to continue operations, leaving long-term debt and equity behind in the original holding company to be liquidated. (For a previous Roundtable post describing SPOE, click here.) Although both the House and the Senate bills would adapt the Bankruptcy Code to support recapitalization, FIBA differs from the Senate proposals in some important ways.

First, unlike the Senate proposals, FIBA does not repeal the OLA’s regulatory resolution process. FIBA would eliminate some of the major differences between the OLA and the current Bankruptcy Code to make bankruptcy a more viable route for failing SIFIs, but the OLA would remain an option for regulators.

Second, FIBA does not address either private or public financing for the bridge company. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s proposal, on the other hand, explicitly prohibits federal government funding. The bill pending in the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee also prohibits financing by Federal Reserve banks.

At the same time, FIBA and the Senate bills both impose a 48-hour stay on the exercise of contractual rights to terminate, liquidate, and offset qualified financial contracts to allow their transfer to a bridge company. At present, safe harbors in the Bankruptcy Code exempt such contracts from the automatic stay, and even the OLA imposes a stay of only one business day.

The full text of FIBA may be found here.

(This post was authored by Rebecca Green, J.D. ’17.)

National Bankruptcy Conference Proposed Amendments to Bankruptcy Code to Facilitate Restructuring of Bond and Credit Agreement Debt

posted in: Workouts and Pre-Packs | 0

By National Bankruptcy Conference, Richard Levin, Chair

While chapter 11 facilitates prepackaged plans that substantially reduce the cost, expense, and disruption of an ordinary chapter 11 case, it can still be an expensive and cumbersome process compared to an out-of-court workout. Recent court decisions under the Trust Indenture Act (Marblegate Asset Mgmt. v. Education Mgmt. Corp., — F. Supp. 3d —, No. 14 Civ. 8584, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178707 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 30, 2014), and Meehancombs Global Opportunities Funds, L.P. v. Caesars Entertainment Corp., — F. Supp. 3d —, No. 14 Civ. 7091 (SAS), 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5111 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2015), can be viewed as making out-of-court restructurings involving bonds covered by the TIA by a less than unanimous bondholder vote more difficult than previously thought by requiring affected lenders’ unanimous consent to an out-of-court workout.

The NBC has prepared proposed legislation that would facilitate court supervision of bond restructurings under a new chapter 16 of the Bankruptcy Code. The proposal is a result of the NBC’s Committee to Rethink Chapter 11, a project that the NBC initiated in 2009 to examine how chapter 11 could be modernized to accommodate substantial changes in finance, economics, and law since it was first adopted in 1978. Chapter 16 proposes a middle ground, preserving both the flexibility of chapter 11’s collective action and super-majority voting rules for a workout involving only borrowed money and court supervision of the process to protect the minority while reducing the expense and complexity of using chapter 11’s prepackaged plan process.

For the full proposal, see here.

Business Bankruptcy and Restructuring: 2015/2016

By Harold S. Novikoff, et al., Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Prior to 2015, corporate defaults and bankruptcy filings were at relatively low levels, amid continuing low interest rates and well-performing credit markets.

In 2015, those trends began to reverse.  There were 75 chapter 11 filings in 2015 involving debt of $100 million or more, the highest number since 2010.  During the second half of the year, credit and commodity markets proved increasingly volatile.  In addition, near the end of the year, several investment funds specializing in high-yield debt suspended redemptions or announced liquidations or closings.

Looking forward, we expect many of the trends from 2015 to continue.  In particular, low commodity prices will continue to create a challenging environment in the oil and gas and related sectors.  Retailers will also face pressure, including from internet shopping.  Faced with market volatility and the high costs of bankruptcy, we expect distressed borrowers to continue pursuing out-of-court strategies, including exchange offers, bespoke financing arrangements and equity capital infusions.

In this memo, we discuss several important developments and themes from 2015, as well as expectations for the year ahead.  Among other things, the memo discusses issues regarding secured creditor cramdown, the Trust Indenture Act, Puerto Rico and extraterritorial reach of the Bankruptcy Code.

The full memo is available here.