Category Archives: Bankruptcy & Financial Distress

Delaware Court of Chancery Revisits Creditor Derivative Standing

Paul K. Rowe and Emil A. Kleinhaus are partners at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Rowe, Mr. Kleinhaus, William Savitt, and Alexander B. Lees. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In a significant decision, the Delaware Court of Chancery has rejected several proposed limitations on the ability of creditors to maintain derivative suits following a corporation’s insolvency. In doing so, however, the Court reaffirmed the deference owed to a board’s decisions, regardless of the company’s financial condition, and the high hurdles faced by creditors in seeking to prove a breach of fiduciary duty. Quadrant Structured Prods. Co. v. Vertin, C.A. No. 6990-VCL (May 4, 2015).

Quadrant, a creditor of Athilon Capital, brought a derivative action claiming that when Athilon was insolvent, its directors violated their fiduciary duties, including by authorizing repayments of debt owed to Athilon’s equity owner. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that Quadrant lacked standing to sue under the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc. v. Gheewalla (see memo of May 24, 2007), which permits creditors to sue directors for breach of fiduciary duty only on a derivative basis, and only once the corporation is insolvent.

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Gold or Fool’s Gold?

Douglas P. Bartner is partner in the Financial Restructuring & Insolvency Group, Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Bartner, Fredric Sosnick, and Cynthia Urda Kassis that first appeared in the Mining Journal.

By mid-2014 the consequences of several years of significant liquidity constraints in the traditional sources of funding for the mining sector, combined with depressed commodity prices, became increasingly evident.

Official corporate announcements and market rumours appeared sporadically at first and then with disturbing regularity as major and mid-tier companies began selling “non-core” assets and juniors tried to sell themselves or entered into insolvency proceedings when that was not an option. This increased level of distressed transaction activity in the mining sector which began in 2014 looks set to continue through 2015.

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Financial Distress, Stock Returns, and the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act

Dirk Hackbarth is Associate Professor of Finance at Boston University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Hackbarth; Rainer Haselmann, Professor of Finance, Accounting, and Taxation at Goethe University, Frankfurt; and David Schoenherr of the Department of Finance at London Business School.

In our article, Financial Distress, Stock Returns, and the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act, forthcoming in The Review of Financial Studies, we examine how bargaining power in distress affects the pricing of corporate securities. The nature of Chapter 11 makes bargaining an important factor in distressed reorganizations. Reorganization outcomes depend on the relative bargaining power of the parties involved. A number of papers document that shareholders receive concessions in distressed reorganization even when creditors are not paid in full despite of their contractual (junior) status as residual claimants (Franks and Torous 1989; Eberhart, Moore and Roenfeldt 1990; Weiss 1990). To this end, our research exploits an exogenous variation in the allocation of bargaining power between shareholders and debtholders due to the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act to examine how the ex post allocation of cash flows in distress affects the ex ante pricing (return and risk) of corporate securities, such as risky debt and levered equity.

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Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever

Holger Spamann is an assistant professor at Harvard Law School. This post is based on the article Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever recently published in the UCLA Law Review and co-authored by Professor Spamann and James Naughton of Kellogg School of Management.

Detroit’s bankruptcy highlighted the precarious financial situation of many states, cities, and other localities (collectively referred to as municipalities). In an article just published in the UCLA Law Review, we argue that part of the blame for this situation lies with the outdated and ineffective financial reporting regime for public entities and that fixing this regime is a necessary first step toward fiscal recovery. We provide concrete examples of advisable changes in accounting rules and advocate for institutional changes, particularly involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Resolution Preparedness: Do You Know Where Your QFCs Are?

The following post comes to us from Dan Ryan, Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Frank Serravalli, Dan Weiss, John Simonson, and Daniel Sullivan. The complete publication, including appendix, is available here.

In January, the US Secretary of Treasury issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPR”) that would establish new recordkeeping requirements for Qualified Financial Contracts (“QFCs”). [1] US systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”) and certain of their affiliates [2] will be required under the NPR to maintain specific information electronically on end-of-day QFC positions, and to be able to provide this information to regulators within 24 hours if requested. This is a significant expansion in both scope and detail from current QFC recordkeeping requirements, which now apply only to certain insured depository institutions (“IDIs”) designated by the FDIC. [3]

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Enhancing Prudential Standards in Financial Regulations

The following post comes to us from Franklin Allen, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and Imperial College London; Itay Goldstein, Professor of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania;
 and Julapa Jagtiani and William Lang, both of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The recent financial crisis has generated fundamental reforms in the financial regulatory system in the U.S. and internationally. In our paper, Enhancing Prudential Standards in Financial Regulations, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we discuss academic research and expert opinions on this vital subject of financial stability and regulatory reforms.

Despite the extensive regulation and supervision of U.S. banking organizations, the U.S. and the world financial systems were shaken by the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression, largely precipitated by events within the U.S. financial system. The new “macroprudential” approach to financial regulations focuses on both the risks arising in financial markets broadly and those risks arising from financial distress at individual financial institutions.

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Financial Market Utilities: Is the System Safer?

The following post comes to us from Dan Ryan, Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and is based on a PwC publication.

It has been two and a half years since the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) designated select financial market utilities (FMUs) as “systemically important.” These entities’ respective primary supervisory agencies have since increased scrutiny of these organizations’ operations and issued rules to enhance their resilience.

As a result, systemically important FMUs (SIFMUs) have been challenged by a significant increase in regulatory on-site presence, data requests, and overall supervisory expectations. Further, they are now subject to heightened and often entirely new regulatory requirements. Given the breadth and evolving nature of these requirements, regulators have prioritized compliance with requirements deemed most critical to the safety and soundness of financial markets. These include certain areas within corporate governance and risk management such as liquidity risk management, participant default management, and recovery and wind-down planning.

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Ten Key Points from the FSB’s TLAC Ratio

The following post comes to us from Dan Ryan, Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Kevin Clarke, Roozbeh Alavi, and Dan Weiss. The complete publication, including appendix, is available here.

On November 10th, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) issued a long-awaited consultative document that defined a global standard for minimum amounts of Total Loss Absorbency Capacity (TLAC) to be held by Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs). TLAC is meant to ensure that G-SIBs have the loss absorbing and recapitalization capacity so that, in and immediately following resolution, critical functions can continue without requiring taxpayer support or threatening financial stability.

The FSB’s document requires a G-SIB to hold a minimum amount of regulatory capital (Tier 1 and Tier 2) plus long term unsecured debt that together are at least 16-20% [1] of its risk weighted assets (RWA), i.e., at least twice the minimum Basel III total regulatory capital ratio of 8%. In addition, the amount of a firm’s regulatory capital and unsecured long term debt cannot be less than 6% of its leverage exposure, i.e., at least twice the Basel III leverage ratio. In addition to this “Pillar 1” requirement, TLAC would also include a subjective component (called “Pillar 2”) to be assessed for each firm individually, based on qualitative firm-specific risks that take into account the firm’s recovery and resolution plans, systemic footprint, risk profile, and other factors.

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ABI Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11 Report

The following post comes to us from Donald S. Bernstein, Partner and head of the Insolvency and Restructuring Practice at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk memorandum authored by Mr. Bernstein, Marshall S. Huebner, Damian S. Schaible, and Kevin J. Coco. The complete publication is available here.

On December 8, the American Bankruptcy Institute Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11 released its Final Report and Recommendations. The American Bankruptcy Institute organized the 23-member Commission in 2011 to study and address how financial markets, products and participants have evolved and, in some respects, outgrown the current chapter 11 framework, enacted in 1978. Since the 19th century, Congress has overhauled the corporate reorganization provisions of the federal bankruptcy law approximately every 40 years, and the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the 1978 Bankruptcy Code is just four years away. The Commission Report, which spans nearly 400 pages, recommends significant changes that seek to reconfigure our corporate insolvency system.

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New ISDA Protocol Limits Buy-Side Remedies in Financial Institution Failure

The following post comes to us from Stephen D. Adams, associate in the investment management and hedge funds practice groups at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray publication by Mr. Adams, Leigh R. Fraser, Anna Lawry, and Molly Moore.

The ISDA 2014 Resolution Stay Protocol, published on November 12, 2014, by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA), [1] represents a significant shift in the terms of the over-the-counter derivatives market. It will require adhering parties to relinquish termination rights that have long been part of bankruptcy “safe harbors” for derivatives contracts under bankruptcy and insolvency regimes in many jurisdictions. While buy-side market participants are not required to adhere to the Protocol at this time, future regulations will likely have the effect of compelling market participants to agree to its terms. This change will impact institutional investors, hedge funds, mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds, and other buy-side market participants who enter into over-the-counter derivatives transactions with financial institutions.

Among the key features of the Protocol are the following:

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