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.
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