The Fifth Circuit held in October of this year in In re Ultra Petroleum Corp., 51 F.4th 138 (5th Cir. 2022) that a contractual make-whole provision in the debt instruments of certain unsecured creditors was unmatured interest under Section 502(b)(2). In this unusual case, where the debtor became solvent after filing for bankruptcy, the Fifth Circuit also held that the Solvent Debtor-Exception applied to claims for unmatured interest. The Fifth Circuit then determined that the Make-Whole Amount was a valid contractual claim and held that Ultra must pay the contractual Make-Whole Amount under the Solvent Debtor-Exception. Lastly, the Fifth Circuit held that an unimpaired creditor of a solvent debtor is entitled to interest at the bargained-for rate rather than the Federal Judgment Rate. In reaching this conclusion, the Fifth Circuit interpreted Section 726(a)(5)’s interest at the legal rate provision (relevant to a plan under Chapter 11 through Section 1129(a)(7)(A)) as a floor, rather than a ceiling, for interest payable by a solvent debtor.
Several law firms have now written memos summarizing this impactful decision. Weil summarizes the history of the Ultra Petroleum series of cases. Davis Polk suggests that the decision may have far-reaching consequences on the market use of make-whole provisions given the popularity of the Southern District of Texas as a forum for bankruptcy petitions. Proskauer notes that the Fifth Circuit’s decision addressed only the rights of an unsecured creditor with respect to a make-whole provision and suggests that Section 506(b) provides a legal basis for recovery of a make-whole provision by an oversecured creditor.
(This post was authored by Wesley Sheker, J.D. ’23.)