Recent Trends In Enforcement of Intercreditor Agreements and Agreements Among Lenders in Bankruptcy

By Seth Jacobson, Ron Meisler, Carl Tullson and Alison Wirtz (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP)*

Over the last several decades, the enforcement of intercreditor agreements (“ICAs”) and agreements among lenders (“AALs”) that purport to affect voting rights and the rights to receive payments of cash or other property in respect of secured claims have played an increasingly prominent role in bankruptcy cases. On certain of the more complex issues that have arisen in the context of a bankruptcy, there have been varying interpretations and rulings by the bankruptcy courts. Some courts have enforced these agreements in accordance with their terms, while others have invalidated provisions in these agreements on policy and other grounds. Still others seem to have enforced agreements with a results-oriented approach.

In this article, we examine three recent leading cases: Energy Future Holdings (“EFH“), Momentive, and RadioShack. These cases addressed whether the bankruptcy court was the proper forum for intercreditor disputes, the ability of junior creditors to object to a sale supported by senior creditors, and whether an agreement providing only for lien subordination restricts a junior creditor’s ability to receive distributions under a plan of reorganization.

These leading cases illustrate three trends. First, bankruptcy courts are increasingly willing to insert themselves with respect to disputes among lenders that affect a debtor’s estate, thereby establishing that the bankruptcy court is the proper forum for interpreting ICAs and AALs. Second, the courts are applying the plain language of ICAs and AALs to the facts of the case to reach their conclusions. And, finally, senior creditors appear to continue to bear the risk of agreements that do not limit junior creditors’ rights in bankruptcy using clear and unambiguous language.

The full article is available here.

*Seth Jacobson is a partner and global co-head of the banking group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Ron Meisler is a corporate restructuring partner, Carl Tullson is a corporate restructuring associate and Alison Wirtz is a banking associate at Skadden. They are all based in the firm’s Chicago office. The opinions expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the authors and not of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Bankruptcy on the Side

By Kenneth Ayotte (University of California – Berkeley School of Law), Anthony J. Casey (University of Chicago Law School), David A. Skeel, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

 

Side agreements—such as intercreditor and “bad boy” agreements—are increasingly at the center of major bankruptcy disputes. Litigation around these disputes can be costly and the results of that litigation can dramatically alter the landscape within which the stakeholders bargain over reorganization.

These agreements commonly include a promise by one party to remain silent by waiving some procedural right they would otherwise have under the Bankruptcy Code. Those waivers are invoked at crucial points in the reorganization process, including the approval of debtor-in-possession financing and plan confirmation.

In our new paper, Bankruptcy on the Side, we show that while side agreements have beneficial potential, the parties entering them often impose negative externalities on outsiders. A promise not to extend new financing, for example, can affect the debtor’s reorganization prospects. Similarly, a promise not to object to a reorganization plan can rob the court of information that might benefit the other classes of creditors.

The paper presents a simple model to derive a proposal that is consistent with the intent of the parties to the side agreement but also limits negative externalities. The core of the proposal is that where there is a nontrivial potential for value-destroying externalities, the court should limit a nonbreaching party’s remedy to its expectation damages. On the other hand, if the agreement is unlikely to cause externalities, a court should enforce the agreement according to its terms. Our proposal is different and superior to the approach taken by most courts, which invokes a narrow interpretative standard to invalidate side agreements. We focus instead on enforcing the provisions under normal interpretative doctrines while limiting the use of special remedies like specific performance and stipulated damages.

The insights of our paper also provide a new answer to thorny questions involved in choosing which courts should resolve disputes over intercreditor agreements, and in deciding whether forum selection clauses should be enforced. Specifically, the bankruptcy courts have no specialized expertise for cases where the plaintiff seeks expectation damages. In those cases, the court should defer to default venue rules and forum selection clauses. Where specific performance or stipulated damages are at issue, by contrast, our model suggests that the dispute should be resolved exclusively in bankruptcy proceedings.

 

The Weakest Link in Intercreditor Agreements Breaks Again in Momentive

posted in: Valuation | 0

By Lawrence Safran, Mitchell A. Seider, Keith A. Simon, and Adam J. Goldberg of Latham & Watkins LLP

Intercreditor agreements among secured creditors with respect to common collateral are often limited to lien subordination, as opposed to claim subordination. The agreement governs each secured creditor’s rights over the common collateral, without imposing claim subordination, which would require junior creditors to subordinate their claims and turn over all of their recoveries, whether or not derived from proceeds of collateral. Intercreditor agreements that provide only for lien subordination typically include a reservation of rights for junior creditors to retain all of their rights as unsecured creditors; however, the formulation of this reservation varies from agreement to agreement, and the exact language used can be critical in a court’s analysis.

The recent decision in In re MPM Silicones, LLC, Case No. 14-22503 (RDD) (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2014) (Momentive) reflects the emerging trend of courts to narrowly interpret restrictions on junior creditors in these intercreditor agreements, where the restrictions are ancillary to the distribution of the common collateral’s value. In Momentive, the Bankruptcy Court found that the general reservation of rights as unsecured creditors serves to “ameliorate obligations that [junior secured creditors have] undertaken elsewhere in the agreement.”

This article explores recent case law arising from disputes over intercreditor agreements before bankruptcy courts, the issues and rulings in Momentive, and lessons that market participants should draw from the decision.

To read more, click here.