As many doctors struggle to keep their practices financially sound, some are buckling under money woes and are being pushed into bankruptcy, CNNMoney.com reported yesterday. It is a trend that has accelerated in recent years, industry experts say, with potentially serious consequences for doctors and patients. Some physicians are still able to keep practicing after bankruptcy, but for others, it's a career-ending event. Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings by physician practices have spiked recently, noted Bobby Guy, co-chair of the American Bankruptcy Institute's Health Care Committee, who tracks bankruptcy trends tied to distressed businesses. The weak economy has taken a toll on doctors' revenue, as consumers cut back on office visits and lucrative elective procedures, said Guy. Doctors also blame shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, and the rising costs of malpractice insurance, drugs and other business necessities for making it harder to keep their practices afloat. Read more.
For more on medical insolvencies, be sure to pick up a copy of ABI’s Health Care Insolvency Manual, Third Edition, of which Mr. Guy is a co-author. Click here for more information.
NEW FEE ON BANKRUPTCY TRADES WILL BOOST COURTS' REVENUE
A new fee tied to trades of bankruptcy claims will bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the nation's bankruptcy courts when it takes effect next month, Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review reported yesterday. Starting May 1, those who trade claims against companies under bankruptcy court protection will have to pay a $25 fee for each transaction they file with the court, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Last year saw 18,632 trades of claims worth more than $41 billion in 500 bankruptcy cases, according to SecondMarket Inc. If the fees had been in effect, bankruptcy courts would have earned $465,800 from those trades. For more information from the AOUSC on the fees, effective May 1, please click here.
REGULATORS CONCERNED ABOUT MUNICIPAL-BOND DEALS
U.S. regulators are probing whether securities firms are circumventing the rules that were implemented in the wake of the financial crisis to protect municipalities against potentially biased investment advice, the Wall Street Journal reported today. At issue is whether banks are attempting to skirt post-crisis rules, including those restricting firms that provide financial advice to municipalities from underwriting certain municipal-bond transactions. Lawmakers and regulators implemented the changes to avoid situations similar to those leading up to the crisis in which some municipalities were steered into risky and complex deals that municipal officials did not fully understand. The 2010 Dodd-Frank law stipulates that banks hired as financial advisers act as fiduciaries, or in their clients' best interests. Regulators have also restricted banks from underwriting municipal-bond transactions if they were initially hired to advise on the deals. Yet the Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned that banks may be mischaracterizing their role in order to preserve their ability to underwrite bonds. The SEC is investigating several municipal contracts entered into by banks, including such banks as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Piper Jaffray Cos., Robert W. Baird & Co. and Stifel Financial Corp. Read more. (Subscription required.)
INVESTORS PUT UP MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO FUND LAWSUITS
A new generation of investors is plunging into "litigation finance" opportunities, putting up millions of dollars to fund lawsuits in hopes of collecting when the verdicts come down, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. Established financiers are expanding into new areas, including loans to law firms, and are finding clients among the biggest American companies. Law firms themselves are starting to jump on the bandwagon, seeking funding arrangements for clients who need help going after opponents with deeper pockets or who simply want to keep litigation costs off their balance sheets. Critics complain that the trend will enable frivolous lawsuits, and they have argued—including at a congressional hearing last month—that the government should step in to regulate funders of litigation. But as corporate legal budgets shrink, litigation-finance options are proliferating. One of the latest entrants is Gerchen Keller Capital LLC, a Chicago-based team that includes former lawyers from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP. The group has raised more than $100 million and says there is plenty of room for newcomers given the size of the U.S. litigation market, which they put at more than $200 billion, measuring the money spent by plaintiffs and defendants on litigation. Read more. (Subscription required.)
DEMAND RETURNS FOR COMMERCIAL MORTGAGE-BACKED SECURITIES
Growing demand for subordinated commercial-mortgage debt is the latest example of investors seeking new opportunities for yield, the Wall Street Journal reported today. After years of near-zero benchmark interest rates, under which most fixed-income investments offer little return, some investors are becoming more willing to take risks. Despite the risks of subordinated commercial-mortgage debt, Cerberus Capital Management and other hedge funds are being lured by annual returns that typically top 20 percent for the least-safe portions of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Cerberus is the latest large hedge fund to expand into this emerging hot market, which is raising concerns that lenders may make loans on properties with weak credit profiles to produce volume—a phenomenon that spun out of control in the mortgage markets during the years leading up to the financial crisis. The firm aims to launch the "Cerberus CMBS Opportunities Fund," which plans to both buy up and short commercial mortgage debt. Read more. (Subscription required.)
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIR MOVES TO RESHAPE TAX CODE
Last month, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) summoned members of the committee to a closed-door meeting to discuss the first full-scale rewrite of the 5,600-page U.S. tax code in more than 25 years, the Washington Post reported yesterday. Baucus agrees with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking Republican on the panel, that the committee should aim to produce a tax-reform plan by August, when Congress will once again need a deal to justify raising the legal limit on the $16.8 trillion in federal debt. Privately, senior Democrats dismiss Baucus's activities, saying that tax reform will not happen unless President Obama strikes a broad deal with Republicans that includes $600 billion more in taxes over the next decade. But Republicans are unlikely to agree to higher revenue without a tax code rewrite; aides said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is pressing GOP leaders to demand tax reform in exchange for supporting a higher federal debt limit. Read more.
TOMORROW! DON’T MISS ABI’S LIVE WEBINAR, "STUDENT LOANS: BANKRUPTCY MAY NOT HAVE THE ANSWERS – BUT DOES CONGRESS?"
ABI's Consumer Bankruptcy Committee tomorrow presents the "Student Loans: Bankruptcy May Not Have the Answers – But Does Congress?" webinar from noon-1:15 ET. A panel of experts will provide an overview of the student loan industry, examine the numbers behind and causes of student loan debt, and discuss federal loan programs as well as federal consolidation and forgiveness programs. Faculty on the webinar includes:
• Prof. Daniel A. Austin of Northeastern University School of Law (Boston)
• Edward "Ted" M. King of Frost Brown Todd LLC (Louisville, Ky.)
• Craig Zimmerman of the Law Offices of Craig Zimmerman (Santa Ana, Calif.)
CLE credit will be available for the webinar. Register now for the special ABI member rate of $75!
HOTEL BLOCK FOR ABI'S ANNUAL SPRING MEETING ALMOST SOLD OUT! REGISTER TODAY!
The hotel block at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., is almost sold out for ABI’s 2013 Annual Spring Meeting! Held April 18-21, 2013, ASM features a roster of the best national speakers, while the depth and scope of topics offer something for everyone. Specifically, four concurrent workshops will cover various “tracks,” including programs for attorneys in commercial cases, a track for restructuring professionals, a track of professional development programming and a track dealing solely with consumer issues. More than 16 hours of CLE/CPE is offered in some states, along with ethics credit totaling 3 hours, making the cost only about $50 per credit. In addition, committee sessions will drill down on other topics to provide you with the most practical and varied CLE/CPE experience ever. Sessions include:
• 17th Annual Great Debates
• Mediation: An Irrational Approach to a Rational Result
• Creditors’ Committees and the Role of Indenture Trustees and Related Issues
• Current Issues for Financial Advisors in Bankruptcy Cases
• The Individual Conundrum: Chapter 7, 11 or 13?
• The Power to Veto Bankruptcy Sales
• Real Estate Issues in Health Care Restructurings
• How to Be a Successful Expert
• The Ethical Compass: Multiple Ethical Schemes Applicable to Financial Advisors
• Chapter 9s, Nonprofits and Other Nontraditional Restructuring Processes
• And much more!
The Spring Meeting will also feature a field hearing of the ABI Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11, a report from the ABI Ethics Task Force, a luncheon panel discussion moderated by Bill Rochelle of Bloomberg News, and a Final Night Gala Dinner featuring a concert by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts!
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION V. WALSH (2D CIR.)
Summarized by Carrie Hardman of Winston & Strawn LLP
The Second Circuit held that (1) securities fraud victims may be considered "similarly situated" for purposes of pro rata distributions when they are similarly situated in relationship to the fraud, losses, fraudsters and nature of their investments in a uniform Ponzi scheme; (2) absent further disparate treatment of the victim-investors, for purposes of distribution, there is no difference between victims that invested in a regulated entity versus a related non-regulated entity, as the protections afforded by regulation were designed not for the victim investors' benefit, but for the benefit of others; and (3) Till v. SCS Credit Corp., 541 U.S. 465, 477 (2004), does not apply in the securities fraud context, and no statutory provision exists to require the receiver to adjust distributions on account of inflation.
There are more than 800 appellate opinions summarized on Volo, and summaries typically appear within 24 hours of the ruling. Click here regularly to view the latest case summaries on ABI’s Volo website.
NEW ON ABI’S BANKRUPTCY BLOG EXCHANGE: EXPLORING WHEN CONSUMERS SHOULD FILE FOR CHAPTER 11 VS. CHAPTER 13
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent blog post explores situations in which a consumer should consider filing for chapter 11 protection rather than chapter 13.
Want to explore further perspectives on consumer filing choices? Be sure to register for ABI's Annual Spring Meeting, which will feature a session on the Consumer Bankruptcy Track titled "The Individual Conundrum—Chapter 7, 11 or 13?" For more information or to register, be sure to click here.
Be sure to check the site several times each day; any time a contributing blog posts a new story, a link to the story will appear on the top. If you have a blog that deals with bankruptcy, or know of a good blog that should be part of the Bankruptcy Exchange, please contact the ABI Web team.
TEE OFF ON THE NEW ABI GOLF TOUR!
Starting with the Annual Spring Meeting, ABI will offer conference registrants the option to participate in the ABI Golf Tour. The Tour will take place concurrently with all conference golf tournaments. The Tour is designed to enhance the golfing experience for serious golfers, while still offering a fun networking opportunity for players of any ability. As opposed to the format used at ABI’s regular conference events, Tour participants will "play their own ball." They will be grouped on the golf course separately from other conference golf participants and will typically play ahead of the other participants, expediting Tour play. Tour participants will be randomly grouped in foursomes, unless otherwise requested of the Commissioner in advance of each tournament. Prizes will be awarded for each individual Tour event, which are sponsored by Great American Group. The grand prize is the "Great American Cup," also sponsored by Great American Group, which will be awarded to the top player at the end of the Tour season. Registration is free. Click here for more information and a list of 2013 ABI Golf Tour event venues.
ABI Quick Poll
The scope of protection of "financial contracts" in bankruptcy should be rolled back to what it was before BAPCPA expanded it in 2005.
Click here to vote on this week's Quick Poll. Click here to view the results of previous Quick Polls.
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