Tag: Bondholders

Comment Letter of 18 Law Professors on the Trust Indenture Act

Adam J. Levitin is Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, specializing in bankruptcy, commercial law, and financial regulation. This post contains the text of a letter spearheaded by Prof. Levitin, and co-signed by 18 professors of bankruptcy and corporate finance law, regarding a proposed omnibus appropriations rider that would amend the Trust Indenture Act of 1939. The complete letter is available here.

We are legal scholars of corporate finance. We write because we are concerned by a proposed omnibus appropriations rider that would amend the Trust Indenture Act of 1939 without any legislative hearings or opportunity for public comment on the proposed amendment.

As you may know, the Trust Indenture Act is one of the pillars of American securities regulation. Congress passed the Trust Indenture Act in the wake of the Great Depression to protect bondholders in restructurings. Among other things, the Trust Indenture Act provides that no bondholder’s right to payment or to institute suit for nonpayment may be impaired or affected without that individual bondholder’s consent. These provisions are intended to protect bond investors by requiring any restructuring of bonds to occur subject to the transparency of a court supervised bankruptcy process, absent bondholder consent to a debt restructuring.


Incentive Alignment through Performance-Focused Shareholder Proposals on Management Compensation

The following post comes to us from Steve Fortin of the Accounting Area at McGill University; Chandra Subramaniam of the Department of Accounting at the University of Texas at Arlington; Xu (Frank) Wang of the Department of Accounting at Saint Louis University; and Sanjian Bill Zhang of the Department of Accountancy at California State University, Long Beach. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about CEO pay includes: The CEO Pay Slice by Lucian Bebchuk, Martijn Cremers, and Urs Peyer (discussed on the Forum here); Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here); and Lucky CEOs and Lucky Directors by Lucian Bebchuk, Yaniv Grinstein and Urs Peyer (discussed on the Forum here).

Corporate boards are conscious of the role that executive pay practices play in improving corporate governance and increasing shareholder wealth (Gammeltoft, 2010). Economic theory suggests that the key to aligning managerial compensation with shareholder interest is to increase the sensitivity of executive compensation to firm performance (Core et al., 2005; Jensen and Meckling, 1976). Firms finance their operations, however, with funds from both shareholders and creditors, e.g., bondholders. Thus, agency theory also concerns shareholder-bondholder agency conflict and the difficulty of concurrently aligning the interests of shareholders, bondholders, and managers (Ahmed et al., 2002; Jensen and Meckling, 1976; Ortiz-Molina, 2007). In the past decade, the business press has focused on excessive CEO pay, observed during the 2001 Enron/Worldcom scandals as well as the recent 2007–2008 credit crisis, e.g., AIG. Critics contend that contracting between CEOs and boards has been shadowed by pervasive managerial influence (Bebchuk and Fried, 2005; Crystal, 1992). Consistent with these concerns, shareholders have begun to use the “shareholder proposal rule” (Rule 14a-8) established by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to defend their interest and have submitted hundreds of proposals to many of the largest U.S. corporations.


Bondholders and Securities Class Actions

The following post comes to us from James Park, Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law. Recent work from the Program on Corporate Governance about securities litigation includes: Rethinking Basic by Lucian Bebchuk and Allen Ferrell (discussed on the Forum here) and Negative-Expected-Value Suits by Lucian Bebchuk and Alon Klement.

Prior studies of corporate and securities law litigation have focused almost entirely on cases filed by shareholder plaintiffs. Bondholders are thought to play little role in holding corporations accountable for poor governance that leads to fraud. My article, Bondholders and Securities Class Actions, challenges that conventional view in light of new evidence that bond investors are increasingly recovering losses through securities class actions.

Drawing upon a data set of 1660 securities class actions filed from 1996 through 2005, I find that bondholder involvement in securities class actions is increasing. Bondholder recoveries were rare for the first five years covered by the data set, averaging about 3% of settlements from 1996 through 2000. The rate of bondholder recoveries increased to an average of 8% of settlements from 2001 through 2005. Bondholder recoveries have not only become more frequent, they are disproportionately represented in the largest settlements of securities class actions. For the period covered by the data set, bondholders recovered in 4 of the 5 largest settlements and 19 of the 30 largest settlements.


Banks, Government Bonds, and Default

The following post comes to us from Nicola Gennaioli, Professor of Finance at Bocconi University; Alberto Martin, Research Fellow at the International Monetary Fund; and Stefano Rossi of the Finance Area at Purdue University.

Recent events in Europe have illustrated how government defaults can jeopardize domestic bank stability. Growing concerns of public insolvency since 2010 caused great stress in the European banking sector, which was loaded with Euro-area debt (Andritzky (2012)). Problems were particularly severe for banks in troubled countries, which entered the crisis holding a sizable share of their assets in their governments’ bonds: roughly 5% in Portugal and Spain, 7% in Italy and 16% in Greece (2010 EU Stress Test). As sovereign spreads rose, moreover, these banks greatly increased their exposure to the bonds of their financially distressed governments (2011 EU Stress Test), leading to even greater fragility. As The Economist put it, “Europe’s troubled banks and broke governments are in a dangerous embrace.” These events are not unique to Europe: a similar relationship between sovereign defaults and the banking system has been at play also in earlier sovereign crises (IMF (2002)).


Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital

The following post comes to us from Irwin H. Warren, senior partner in the Securities Litigation practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and is based on a Weil alert authored by Mr. Warren, Ted Posner, and Adam Banks.

The Supreme Court issued its decision yesterday [June 16, 2014] in Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, No. 12-842, holding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not limit the scope of discovery available to a judgment creditor in post-judgment execution proceedings against a foreign sovereign.

As part of NML’s efforts to collect on various litigation judgments entered against Argentina following its default on bond obligations, NML sought discovery of Argentina’s assets around the world in an attempt to locate Argentine property that might be subject to attachment and execution. Those efforts included subpoenas served on Bank of America and Banco de la Nacion Argentina, both of which had offices in New York. The subpoenas generally sought information about Argentina’s accounts, balances, transaction histories and funds transfers. Argentina and the banks sought to quash the subpoenas, contending that they violated the FSIA by seeking discovery of Argentina’s extraterritorial assets that were beyond the reach of U.S. courts. The district court denied the motion to quash, and the Second Circuit affirmed. Only Argentina sought review in the Supreme Court.


Argentina and Exchange Bondholders File Certiorari Petitions

The following post comes to us from Antonia E. Stolper, partner in the Capital Markets-Americas group at Shearman & Sterling LLP, and is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication by Ms. Stolper, Henry Weisburg, and Patrick Clancy.

On February 18, both Argentina and the Exchange Bondholders Group filed petitions for writs of certiorari with the Supreme Court, seeking review of the Second Circuit’s rulings in the pari passu litigation. We discuss below the certiorari procedure, followed by comments on substantive arguments raised by Argentina and the Exchange Bondholders.

Our many prior comments on Argentina’s pari passu litigation, as well as all of the material pleadings and decisions (including the two February 18 certiorari petitions), can be found on our Argentine Sovereign Debt webpage, at http://www.shearman.com/argentine-sovereign-debt.


Don’t Cry for Me Argentine Bondholders: Avoiding Supreme (Court) Confusion

The following post comes to us from Antonia E. Stolper, partner in the Capital Markets-Americas group at Shearman & Sterling LLP, and is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication by Ms. Stolper, Henry Weisburg, Stephen J. Marzen, and Patrick Clancy.

Argentina is in hot pursuit of multiple audiences before the Supreme Court: two petitions for writs of certiorari filed by Argentina are pending in the NML v. Argentina cases, and another is almost certainly on the way. In addition, a writ of certiorari has already been issued in another case against Argentina. With so much action involving Argentina in the high court, there is the potential for confusion between these multiple proceedings, which we clarify in this post.

NML Capital, Ltd. v. Argentina (Supreme Court Docket No. 12-1494): Review of the Second Circuit’s October 26, 2012 Decision (Pari Passu)

On June 24, 2013, Argentina filed a certiorari petition with respect to the Second Circuit’s October 26, 2012 decision, in which the Second Court affirmed Judge Griesa’s interpretation of the pari passu clause, his determination that the plaintiffs were entitled to a “Ratable Payment,” and his conclusion that the Injunction did not violate the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). However, the Court remanded the case to Judge Griesa to address certain issues relating to the operation of its Injunction.


Central European Distribution Corporation’s Chapter 11 Plan Incorporates Dutch Auction

The following post comes to us from Mark S. Chehi, a partner in the Corporate Restructuring Group of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and is based on a Skadden memorandum by Mr. Chehi, Glenn S. Walter, Jay M. Goffman, and Mark A. McDermott.

On May 13, 2013, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware confirmed a prepackaged Chapter 11 plan of reorganization in the case of Central European Distribution Corporation (CEDC) [1] that incorporated an unmodified reverse Dutch auction. A reverse Dutch auction is a type of auction employed when a single buyer accepts bids from numerous sellers, and lowest-priced seller bids are accepted as winning bids.

The CEDC plan is perhaps the first instance of a Dutch auction process being incorporated successfully into a Chapter 11 reorganization plan. This precedent provides guidance for the use of Dutch auctions that may offer creditors distribution alternatives and maximize the utility of limited cash (or other limited property) available for distribution under a plan.


Aligning Incentives at Systemically Important Financial Institutions

Christopher Small is co-editor of the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation. This post is based on a memo received from members of the Squam Lake Group. The Squam Lake Group is a non-partisan group of academics who offer guidance on the reform of financial regulation. The members of the group include Martin N. Baily of the Brookings Institution, John Y. Campbell of Harvard University, John H. Cochrane of the University of Chicago, Douglas W. Diamond of the University of Chicago, Darrell Duffie of Stanford University, Kenneth R. French of Dartmouth College, Anil K. Kashyap of the University of Chicago, Frederic S. Mishkin of Columbia University, David S. Scharfstein of Harvard University, Robert J. Shiller of Yale University, Matthew J. Slaughter of Dartmouth College, Hyun Song Shin of Princeton University, and René M. Stulz of Ohio State University. The members of the group disclose their outside activities either directly on their web sites or as part of their curriculum vitae, available on their web sites.

UBS recently announced it would pay part of the bonuses of 6,500 highly compensated employees with bonds that would be forfeited if the bank does not meet its capital requirements. Taxpayers should applaud this initiative. Other financial institutions should be rewarded for emulating it.

As the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 reminds us, the impairment of large interconnected intermediaries can have devastating effects on economic activity. This threat can induce governments to bail out distressed financial institutions. The direct costs to taxpayers of these bailouts are apparent. Beyond the direct costs, the prospect of bailouts removes much of the downside risk that the owners and employees of financial institutions should bear, distorting their financing and investment decisions, as well as increasing the likelihood and expected magnitude of future bailouts. The UBS “bonus bonds,” which echo a recommendation we made in The Squam Lake Report (French et al, 2010), mitigate these distortions.


Exit Consents in Restructurings – Still a Viable Option?

The following post comes to us from David J. Billington, partner focusing on international financing transactions and restructuring transactions at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum; the full text, including footnotes and appendices, is available here.

Exit consents are often used as a restructuring tool by issuers of bonds. Issuers invite bondholders to exchange their existing bonds for new bonds (usually with a lower principal amount). In order to participate in the exchange, bondholders must agree to vote in favour of a resolution that amends the terms of the existing bonds so as to negatively affect (or, in Assénagon, [1] substantially destroy) their value. This is referred to as ‘covenant-stripping’. If the issuer does not achieve the majority needed to pass the resolution, the covenant-strip and the exchange do not happen. But if the resolution is passed, each participating holder’s bonds are exchanged for the new bonds, and the terms of the old bonds are amended to remove most of the protective covenants. This incentivises bondholders to participate in the exchange: accepting the new bonds (even though they will usually have a lower face amount than the existing bonds) may be preferable to being ‘left behind’ in the old bonds, which will cease to have any meaningful covenant protection.

Facts of the case

Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited (the “Bank”) suffered severe financial difficulties as a result of the financial crisis, and was nationalised in January 2009. As part of its restructuring, the Bank proposed an exchange offer whereby: