BIG U.S. BANKS GET THREE-MONTH EXTENSION FOR "LIVING WILLS"
The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. gave large U.S. banks an additional three months to draw up "living wills" to assist regulators in winding them down in case of a future insolvency, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. The agencies also provided new details on what information the living wills should contain, including obstacles that might arise from taking the banks apart safely under the Bankruptcy Code, according to a statement today from the regulators. The documents, originally due July 1, are now due Oct. 1. Institutions with non-bank assets greater than $250 billion had to file their plans last year. Those 11 banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., must now provide a second version of the living will, and a group of the next-largest banks must file for the first time. Regulators are looking for more detailed information on "global issues, financial market utility interconnections, and funding and liquidity… to provide analysis to support the strategies and assumptions contained in the firms' resolution plans," according to the statement. Read more.
COMMENTARY: PUBLIC PENSIONS IN BANKRUPTCY COURT
Devastated by the recession, the city of Stockton, Calif., is trying to renegotiate its debts in a bankruptcy case that could set an important precedent on whether courts can forcibly reduce the pensions of government employees, according to a New York Times editorial on Sunday. Even after drastic cuts to city services that have sent the crime rate soaring, the city of 300,000 people about 80 miles east of San Francisco has an annual budget deficit of $26 million. It has laid off a quarter of its police force, which has meant that officers often respond only to crimes in progress. To fix its finances, Stockton is asking the bankruptcy court to restructure debts totaling about $250 million. But the city’s creditors, which include bondholders and insurance companies that have guaranteed some of its bonds, want the city to reduce the $30 million it spends annually on pension benefits for its 2,400 retirees. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which manages Stockton’s pensions, argues that the state’s Constitution and court rulings forbid state and local governments from ever lowering the pensions of retirees and current employees. The creditors assert that federal bankruptcy law, which lets judges break contracts, should trump state law. So far, city officials have said they do not intend to trim pensions, though they have reduced health benefits for retirees. Many legal analysts say that the Stockton case could eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court. While a Supreme Court decision would help clarify an important area of the law, a drawn-out court case is the last thing Stockton needs, according to the editorial. The way to get the city back on its feet is for city officials, creditors and retirees to negotiate a fair settlement quickly. Read the full editorial.
AMERICAN DREAM ELUDING THOSE WITH STUDENT DEBT BURDENS
Two-thirds of student loans are held by people under the age of 40, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, blocking millions of them from taking advantage of the most affordable housing market on record, Bloomberg News reported on Saturday. The number of people in that age group who own homes fell by 4.6 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, the biggest drop in records dating to 1982. The issue is being exacerbated by an explosion in the $150 billion private market for student debt, with interest rates for some existing loans surpassing 12 percent. Unlike mortgage-holders, borrowers have little hope of refinancing at lower rates. Interest on some new federal loans is set to double to 6.8 percent in July if Congress does not extend the current rate, as it did last year. Read more.
COMMENTARY: CAN DODD-FRANK FIX MORTGAGE SERVICING IF WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT WENT WRONG?
A new obstacle has arrived for those seeking justice for past wrongdoing in the mortgage-servicing industry and those looking to prevent trouble in the future: federal regulators blocking the release of records they have collected documenting illegal abuses, according to a commentary in the Washington Post on Sunday. A heated exchange broke out at a Senate hearing last week, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked regulators from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve why they were not sharing the results of their investigations into mortgage-servicing abuses and illegal activities with Congress and the people who were subject to abuses. These investigations began two years ago, after the OCC found that there were "violations of applicable federal and state law" that had "widespread consequences" in the servicer markets at 14 large banks. This Independent Foreclosure Review (IFR) wrapped up suddenly earlier this year, and it is not clear what it found, according to the commentary, although the servicers did manage to spend $2 billion on consultants. According to the latest letter from Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), regulators at the Federal Reserve argued that their documents showing illegal behavior are "trade secrets" of mortgage-servicing companies, while the OCC argues that this violates disclosure requirements. Click here to read the full commentary.
RECORD-LOW DEFAULTS MAY NOT BE GOOD NEWS
In December 2008, investors expected a default Armageddon after global "junk" bond yields spiked to over 20 percent, but the last decade has seen the lowest default rate on record in the modern era, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal today. The power of central banks and governments lies behind this remarkable turnaround—but it may come with a price. The average annual Moody's default rate since 2003 for single-B rated companies, the largest part of the high-yield market, stands at just 1.6 percent, Deutsche Bank noted. That's the lowest rolling 10-year rate since the market became full-fledged in the early 1980s, and compares with an annual average of 5 percent since 1983. In fact, nine of the past 10 years have seen single-B defaults mostly at below average, with six of them defaults of 1 percent or below—a rate never achieved between 1980 and 2003. The decade falls into two halves: From 2003 to 2007, the credit bubble drove default rates down, but since early 2009, central banks and governments have re-inflated this bubble, pushing down yields and making refinancing possible on easy terms for high-yield companies—despite sharply lower growth and, indeed, a renewed recession in Europe. Read more. (Subscription required.)
LATEST ABI PODCAST EXPLORES THE DEPTHS OF DEEPENING INSOLVENCY
The latest ABI podcast features ABI Resident Scholar Prof. Scott Pryor talking with Prof. Jack Williams and Kathy Phelps, the authors of ABI's publication The Depths of Deepening Insolvency: Damage Exposure for Officers, Directors and Others. Williams and Phelps offer a historical analysis of the “deepening insolvency” principle, its significance in calculating damages in a variety of liability scenarios, and the interplay of the doctrine with the fiduciary duties of company executives. Click here to listen to the podcast.
To order a copy of The Depths of Deepening Insolvency: Damage Exposure for Officers, Directors and Others, click on the banner below:
ASM MOBILE WEB APP NOW AVAILABLE FOR SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS!
The official Annual Spring Meeting mobile web app, sponsored by Diamond McCarthy LLP, is now available for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices! Utilize the app during ASM next week to view your personal schedule, browse what programs are taking place or to search for information related to the meeting. The mobile web app stores the schedule data locally on your phone for offline access too.
Haven’t registered for next week’s Annual Spring Meeting? Hurry, the hotel block at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., is almost sold out! 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!
NEW ABI LIVE WEBINAR ON MAY 29 WILL FOCUS ON CONSUMER CLASS ACTIONS
Class action lawsuits in chapter 13 cases are becoming more prevalent. Are you wondering whether your client's claims would be better pursued in a class action? If your client is a defendant in a consumer class action, do you know what your client's best defenses are against class certification? ABI's panel of experts on May 29 from 1-2:15 p.m. ET will explore the potential benefits and pitfalls of class actions by debtors/trustees against creditors in chapter 13 cases by highlighting two recent appeals court decisions. Special ABI member rate available! Click here to register.
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: STEPHEN V. MAY (IN RE STEPHEN; 9TH CIR.)
Summarized by Emil Khatchatourian of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California
Affirming the bankruptcy court, the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that the bankruptcy court did not err in dismissing the debtor's case because the debtor did not establish that he was entitled to relief from automatic dismissal for his failure to file a complete list of creditors and schedule of assets and liabilities within 45 days of the filing of his bankruptcy petition.
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: SECTION 903 - IN CHAPTER 9, DOES FEDERAL LAW TRUMP STATE LAW, OR VICE VERSA?
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent post examines the fight that is brewing in San Bernardino, Calif., regarding the scope of §903 of the Bankruptcy Code. It stems from the motions filed by the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA), the San Bernardino Police Officers Association (SBPOA) and the San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters (SBCPF) in response to the city’s motion to reject collective bargaining agreements with these unions.
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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