Bankruptcy’s Endowment Effect

posted in: Cramdown and Priority | 0

By Anthony J. Casey (University of Chicago Law School)

The notion of endowments and entitlements has a powerful effect on corporate bankruptcy policy. Scholars and lawyers generally assume a creditor endowed with a right outside the bankruptcy system must receive the equivalent of that right when its debtor is within the bankruptcy system. Proponents of this idea often assert that the result is required by the foundational theory of bankruptcy.

In a forthcoming essay, “Bankruptcy’s Endowment Effect,” I demonstrate that this is false. The idea of sacred creditor endowments is an untenable position that misunderstands the fundamental principles of bankruptcy. Corporate bankruptcy is, at its core, a system that alters nonbankruptcy endowments according to a hypothetical bargain that all creditors of a firm would have entered if bargaining were costless. The entire point of that hypothetical bargain is to suspend and alter some nonbankruptcy endowments to maximize the value of the bankruptcy estate and the firm as a whole. Indeed, if every stakeholder retained all of its nonbankruptcy endowments, the Bankruptcy Code would have no provisions at all.

Of course, altering nonbankruptcy endowments can impose costs. Foremost among those costs is the risk of opportunistic behavior that is costly for the estate as a whole. Bankruptcy policy will, therefore, be designed to maximize estate value while minimizing opportunistic bankruptcy behavior. Thus, the guiding principle for optimal bankruptcy design should be not the preservation of nonbankruptcy rights but rather the minimization of opportunistic behavior that reduces the net value of a firm.

With that principle in hand, we can resolve many difficult questions of bankruptcy policy. In the essay, I focus on applying the principle to the debate over what interest rate a senior creditor should get in a chapter 11 cramdown. In particular, I analyze the dispute in In re MPM Silicones, LLC (“Momentive”), where the bankruptcy court mistakenly reached its final decision by importing a creditor-endowment framework from consumer bankruptcy law (where the framework might make more sense). I show that an optimal rule for corporate bankruptcy supports a cramdown interest rate based on the prevailing market rates for similar loans, which reduces the risk of opportunistic behavior by both debtor and creditor.

Post-Petition Interest: Not Very Predictable

posted in: Cramdown and Priority | 0

By Vicki Harding, Pepper Hamilton, LLP

hardingvIn a recent case a mortgagee battled the debtor over post-petition interest:  When did the lender become oversecured and thus entitled to interest?  Was it entitled to the default rate?  Should interest be compounded?

Some may be surprised to learn that a lender must do more than simply show that it is oversecured to receive its contract rate for the period between the petition date and confirmation.  Most courts hold that a bankruptcy court has at least limited discretion to use another rate.

Here the debtor filed a plan of reorganization that proposed to pay its senior lender in full with interest at 4.25% from the effective date of the plan, but did not include any post-petition, pre-effective date interest.

The lender argued that it was entitled to post-petition interest at the 14.5% contract default rate accruing from the petition date.  The debtor responded that the lender became oversecured only after a sale of its collateral and the default rate was unenforceable and inequitable.

Generally post-petition interest is not allowed, but there is an exception for oversecured creditors.  The 1st Circuit concluded that a bankruptcy court is not required to accept the contract rate, although there is a presumption that the contract rate (including default rate) applies if it is enforceable under state law and there are no equitable considerations leading to a different result. See here for a more detailed discussion of Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. SW Boston Hotel Venture, LLC (In re SW Boston Hotel Venture, LLC), 748 F.3d. 393 (1st Cir. 2014).

“Trade Away!”—Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York Decides That Original Issue Discount From Fair Value Exchanges Is Allowable in Bankruptcy

posted in: Claims Trading | 0

Authors: Richard L. Wynne and Lance Miller, Jones Day

Debt exchanges have long been utilized by distressed companies to address liquidity concerns and to take advantage of beneficial market conditions.  A company with burdensome debt obligations might seek to exchange existing notes for new notes with the same outstanding principal but with borrower-favorable terms (a “Face Value Exchange”).   Alternatively, the company could attempt to exchange existing notes for new notes with a lower face amount (a “Fair Value Exchange”).  Under either scenario, a debt exchange will create “original issue discount” (“OID”) equal to the difference between the face amount of the new notes and the value generated by the exchange for the company (i.e., the fair market value of the old notes).  For tax and accounting purposes, OID is treated as interest that is amortized over the life of the note, with the face amount scheduled to be paid on maturity.

When a company files for bankruptcy, however, unaccrued OID should arguably be disallowed under section 502(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code as “unmatured interest.”  However, to encourage out-of-court restructurings, both the Second and Fifth Circuit Courts of Appeal have ruled that unaccrued OID from Face Value Exchanges should not be disallowed.  In In re Residential Capital , LLC, 501 B.R. 549 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2013), the court expanded that rationale to apply to Fair Value Exchanges.  If interpreted broadly and adopted by other courts, the decision will bring certainty to the markets that OID resulting from a debt-for-debt exchange will be allowed in bankruptcy, regardless of how the exchange is structured.

A more detailed discussion of the ruling is available here.