Second Circuit Rules on § 316(b) in Marblegate

posted in: Workouts and Pre-Packs | 0

Last week, the Second Circuit decided Marblegate Asset Management, LLC v. Education Management Corp., holding that § 316(b) of the Trust Indenture Act (“TIA”) protects only bondholders’ formal, legal right to repayment, not their practical ability to recover. The Second Circuit’s 2–1 decision thus resolves uncertainty surrounding out-of-court bond workouts and returns to the pre-Marblegate practice.

The majority viewed the statute’s text as ambiguous and consulted the legislative history; it emphasized legislative history supporting the idea that § 316(b) protects only against the formality of a bondholder vote altering payment terms and discarded legislative history to the contrary as shards. The dissent concluded that the transaction “annihilated” a bondholder’s right to payment and, hence, ran afoul of statute’s plain language — which requires that a bondholder’s right to payment cannot be affected or impaired without the affected bondholder’s consent.

Law firms reacted rapidly to the decision. Wachtell Lipton, which represented the winning appellant, and Weil Gotshal both extoll the opinion. Paul, Weiss and Morgan Lewis see in the decision a clear rule that bars only express changes to core terms. Several firms, such as Shearman & Sterling and White & Case, emphasized that the decision will facilitate out-of-bankruptcy restructurings.

Squire Patton Boggs highlights limitations, arguing that the law remains “neither clear nor predictable” on when an out-of-court restructuring goes so far as to impair bondholders’ right to repayment. They caution against assuming that any action short of a direct alteration of core repayment terms is now permissible.

In his American Bankruptcy Institute column, Bill Rochelle notes that the decision’s focus on legislative history, including views contemporaneous with the statute’s passage, was unusual and, by implication, indicates that the dissent’s textual decision-making mode fits better with current Code interpretation. Seyfarth Shaw notes the decision’s limited practical effect because of the widespread use of binding votes in pre-packaged Code restructurings, which avoid § 316(b)’s restrictions.


The Roundtable has posted previously on Marblegate and § 316(b). In one post, Mark Roe argued that bondholders should not be barred by statute from choosing in their indenture whether to be allowed to reposition their bonds via a fair vote. Other posts include a summary of the National Bankruptcy Conference’s proposed amendments to the Bankruptcy Code to facilitate bond restructuring; a 28-law firm legal opinion white paper on transactional complications arising from the Marblegate district court decision; and an international perspective on the TIA’s prohibition on collective action clauses.

Federal District Court Reinstates Fraudulent Transfer Challenge to Lyondell LBO

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Richard G. Mason, David A. Katz, and Emil A. Kleinhaus (Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz)

In situations where leveraged buyouts prove unsuccessful, and the companies subject to the buyouts file for bankruptcy, it is not unusual for debtors or creditors’ committees to seek to challenge the LBOs on fraudulent transfer grounds.  In recent years, however, it is has become increasingly difficult to mount such challenges — at least in certain jurisdictions — as a result of judicial decisions that have broadly applied the Bankruptcy Code’s “safe harbor” for securities transactions to protect LBO participants from fraudulent transfer liability.

In a significant set of decisions, the District Court for the Southern District of New York has reinstated a fraudulent transfer claim to recover approximately $6.3 billion in distributions made to Lyondell Chemical shareholders in connection with Lyondell’s 2007 leveraged buyout. The decisions demonstrate that, despite the broad reach of the Bankruptcy Code’s “safe harbor,” LBOs may still be subject to challenge on fraudulent transfer grounds where the seller’s management is alleged to have acted with the actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud creditors.

The full memo is available 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.

Supreme Court Permits Bankruptcy Courts to Issue Final Judgments with Parties’ Consent

By Harold S. Novikoff, Douglas K. Mayer, Ian Boczko, Emil A. Kleinhaus, and Alexander B. Lees of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

The Supreme Court’s latest decision regarding the power of bankruptcy judges to resolve claims between bankruptcy estates and their creditors is Wellness International Network, Ltd. v. Sharif, handed down on May 26, 2015. In its landmark 2011 ruling in Stern v. Marshall, the Court held that bankruptcy judges have limited authority under Article III of the Constitution to determine claims asserted by an estate against creditors. However, Stern left open the question, which has split lower courts, whether parties can nonetheless consent to bankruptcy court adjudication. In Wellness, the Supreme Court held that bankruptcy litigants may waive Article III rights, and suggested that parties may forfeit untimely objections to a bankruptcy court’s lack of authority.

For a fuller analysis and summary, click here for our memo on Wellness.

Update on Directors’ and Officers’ Insurance in Bankruptcy

By Douglas K. Mayer, Martin J.E. Arms, and Emil A. Kleinhaus of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
110915.wlrk.dMayer.3477.web 110913.wlrk.mArms.1503.web120221.wlrk.kleinhaus-1009.webD&O insurance policies typically combine coverage for certain liabilities and defense costs of individual directors and officers (“A” coverage) and of their companies (“B” and “C” coverage). In recent years D&O policies also typically state that payments to insured individuals under their A coverage take priority over payments of B or C coverage to the insured company.

After commodities broker MF Global filed for bankruptcy in 2011, insured individual directors and officers asked the bankruptcy court to allow them to request payment of their A coverage for their defense costs in ongoing litigation, but were opposed by the contention that all access to the D&O insurance policy, including the individuals’ A coverage, was subject to the automatic bankruptcy stay due to the policy’s B and C coverages. [The B and C coverage of the company was directly subject to the stay; the personal A coverage was argued to be sufficiently related to the B and C coverage that it was also stayed.]

The bankruptcy court ultimately allowed the individuals to access their A coverage by honoring the policy’s priority of payment language, but in the interim granted the individuals only limited access to insurance money while the coverage litigation was ongoing. The MF Global D&O insurance dispute illustrates the significant risk that individuals may be barred, or at least significantly delayed, in gaining access to their personal A coverage under a typical directors and officers insurance policy issued to a company that subsequently enters bankruptcy, and highlights the usefulness of separate A-only or Difference in Condition coverage for individual directors and officers.

For the full memo, navigate here.