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Oil Rig Firm Seadrill Risks Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Rig firm Seadrill, battling with $14 billion in debt and liabilities, said today that it may have to file for chapter 11 protection if it fails to reach a restructuring agreement with its lenders, Reuters reported. Once the crown jewel in the empire of shipping tycoon John Fredriksen, Oslo-listed Seadrill's shares have fallen 92 percent in the past three years as plunging crude prices and drastic spending cuts by oil companies hammered rig rates. Seadrill's problems mirror those of another Fredriksen business, tanker firm Frontline, which had to be rescued in 2012 after a prolonged slump in rates by Hemen Holding, which manages his holdings in the listed companies he controls. The Norwegian-born billionaire announced plans on Tuesday to beef up the tanker business and update its fleet while prices for vessels are low to position it for an expected recovery in rates from 2018. But the scale of Seadrill's liabilities dwarf those of Frontline, and the rig company said it would be challenging to find a "fully consensual agreement" before an April 30 deadline. More than 40 banks are involved, in addition to bondholders. Read more

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Cumulus Media Refinancing Plan Rejected by U.S. Judge

A U.S. judge on Friday rejected Cumulus Media Inc.’s bid to proceed with a refinancing plan that the second-largest U.S. radio network hoped would help reduce its $2.4 billion debt load, but was opposed by some lenders, Reuters reported. The decision by U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla in Manhattan came in a lawsuit the Atlanta-based company filed in December, accusing JPMorgan Chase & Co. of withholding consent to parts of its refinancing plan. In its lawsuit, Cumulus said that JPMorgan's actions in its role as administrative agent under a 2013 credit agreement had threatened a deal it reached with bondholders that would deleverage the company by up to $305 million. But JPMorgan and a group creditors who objected to the deal million of the company's loans disagreed and argued the transaction was not permitted under the credit agreement, a position Judge Failla adopted.

Former SunEdison Executives File Whistleblower Lawsuits

Two former executives at SunEdison Inc., the solar-power company that filed for bankruptcy protection last year, filed whistleblower lawsuits claiming they were fired after sounding the alarm about the company’s precarious finances, the Wall Street Journal reported. Carlos Domenech and Pancho Perez, who held senior positions at two SunEdison subsidiaries, last week sued their former employers and top officials including former SunEdison Chief Executive Ahmad Chatila. They are seeking back pay and damages for what they say were retaliatory firings after they voiced concerns to senior management and the board.

SEC Advances Regulation Efforts Even as White House Signals Rollback

The Securities and Exchange Commission said it is marching ahead with inspections, company filing reviews and enforcement of financial regulations, even though the new administration is painting a future free from such rules, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform rules remain on the books despite President Donald Trump’s executive orders aimed at rolling back the law and overhauling federal regulations. SEC staff spent two days at the Practicing Law Institute’s “SEC Speaks” Conference in Washington D.C. recapping a year of progress on financial reforms likely to be stripped away by a new president and Republican-led Congress. And they also stressed continued enforcement of those rules. Many of the rules enforced by the SEC were mandated by the Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley laws, which can only be revoked by Congress.

Automakers Knew of Takata Airbag Hazard for Years, Suit Says

At least four automakers knew for years that Takata’s airbags were dangerous and could rupture violently but continued to use those airbags in their vehicles to save on costs, lawyers representing victims of the defect asserted in a court document filed yesterday, the New York Times reported. The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Takata’s rupture-prone airbags has so far painted automakers as unwitting victims duped by a rogue supplier that manipulated safety data to hide a deadly defect, linked to at least 11 deaths and over 100 injuries in the U.S. But the fresh allegations against Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota, made as part of a class-action lawsuit in Florida and based on company documents, point to a far deeper involvement by automakers that used Takata’s defective airbags for years. Honda vehemently denied the new allegations on Monday. The three other automakers either declined to comment or said a response would come through legal channels.

Senate Confirms Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary

The Senate yesterday confirmed Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary, an appointment key to enabling President Donald Trump to make progress on a campaign promise to overhaul U.S. trade policy, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Ross faced questions during his confirmation process about potential conflicts of interest from his web of investments around the world. He has said he would sell at least 80 business assets and investment funds if confirmed, but he plans to retain some holdings, including an investment made alongside the Chinese government in an oil-tanker operator.

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