COMMENTARY: THE LESSONS OF LEHMAN: ARE WE READY FOR THE NEXT MELTDOWN?
It's been five years since Lehman Brothers failed, setting off a chain of unanticipated consequences that came perilously close to melting down the world's financial system. Had the Federal Reserve, other central banks and the U.S. government not intervened and thrown trillions of dollars at the crisis to keep financial markets afloat, we would be talking about Great Depression II. The true lesson to take from Lehman is that a simple move that was praised by free-market types at the time letting Lehman fail set off unanticipated consequences that brought the financial world to its knees within days. It was an object lesson about how things that seem simple on the surface can come back to bite you in unanticipated places in unanticipated ways, according to an editorial in Friday's Washington Post. When Lehman went under, the Reserve Fund, a big money-market fund, had to take losses because it owned Lehman paper, and some hedge funds that used Lehman's London office as their "prime broker" found their assets frozen as a result of its bankruptcy. That triggered a mad scramble in the U.S. as hedge funds pulled their accounts out of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, neither of which had full access to the array of Fed lending programs that commercial banks did. Both firms would have gone under inflicting catastrophic pain on the financial system by setting off a worldwide cascade of failures had the Fed not made Goldman and Morgan Stanley bank holding companies and given them access to unlimited cash to meet customer withdrawals. These two Lehman side effects, which many people have forgotten, typify the problems of dealing with financial crises. We've forced giant, too-big-to-be-allowed-to-fail financial institutions to beef up their capital relative to their assets, which is a good thing. However, we've gravely weakened the ability of the Federal Reserve by taking away key powers that it had used to stabilize things. This problem, combined with the unhappy fact that much of the rest of the federal government is dysfunctional, will cost us dearly when the next financial crisis hits, according to the editorial. And there always is a next one. Click here to read the full commentary.
ABI will host a media call on Sept. 12 at 2:00 p.m. ET on lessons learned at the Lehman anniversary, featuring guests Bankruptcy Judge James M. Peck (S.D.N.Y.; New York) and Harvey R. Miller (Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; New York). Contact (703) 739-0800 for more information.
ANALYSIS: BIG DREAMS, BUT LITTLE CONSENSUS, FOR A NEW DETROIT
There are 78,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit standing in various levels of decay. Services have fallen into dysfunction, and debts are piling ever higher. Yet for all the misery, Detroit's bankruptcy gives an American city a rare chance to reshape itself from top to bottom, according to an analysis in the New York Times yesterday. But reinventing a city so devastated is hardly a sure thing, and the questions about how to proceed loom as large as the answers: Should its areas of nearly vacant blocks be transformed into urban farms, parks and even ponds made from storm water? Could its old automobile manufacturing economy be shifted into one centering on technology, bioscience and international trade? Should Detroit, which lost a million residents over the last 60 years, pin its sharpest hopes on luring more young people here, counting on an influx of artists and entrepreneurs? Some have long been searching for solutions to the hollowing out of Detroit, a city that measures six times the landmass of Manhattan but is now home to only 700,000 people, down from 1.8 million at its peak. No single economic answer will be enough to rescue Detroit on its own, experts say. Instead, leaders have their hopes set on a range of fields, many of which have already found some success here. They have pushed for new medical and science-related businesses near the city's universities and new technology companies and start-ups in the city's downtown. And some are pondering prospects for expanding international trade, given plans for a new bridge to Canada. Click here to read the full analysis.
COMMENTARY: THE NATION'S FUTURE DEPENDS ON ITS CITIES
The residents of Minneapolis-St. Paul suffer, collectively, from a serious insecurity complex. They're always talking about how no one knows anything about their "twin" cities on the upper Mississippi River. Yet the Twin Cities' identity crisis has also proven to be one of their greatest economic strengths. One can't quite put one's finger on exactly what's there because, well, there's an awful lot there. Diversity, in a word, is the secret sauce that creates urban success, according to a commentary in last week's National Journal. Detroit, of course, never suffered from an identity crisis. Everyone always knew what the Motor City stood for: the Big Three automakers. But a lack of diversity was one of Detroit's biggest problems, contributing to its bankruptcy filing. What also sank Detroit, according to the commentary, was that its leaders failed to connect with the sprawl around it and turn the suburbs into part of a unified economic base. In the Detroit area, the city and its suburbs became virtual enemies. Ironically, given the nature of our high-tech, super-connected age, the future will look increasingly like the city-states that ruled the world for millennia. The future, in other words, is going medieval. The rise of the city-state has been a long-term trend, but it's gaining speed. Today, the 388 metro areas in the United States make up 84 percent of the nation's population and 91 percent of its gross domestic product. Urban centers are estimated to generate 80 percent of economic growth in the world, and the percentage may be growing because of the way well-built urban areas with good infrastructure can better apply resources and make more efficient use of tight public funds. Read the full commentary (subscription required).
ANALYSIS: CAN KODAK REINVENT ITSELF AFTER BANKRUPTCY?
Eastman Kodak Co. scientists are tinkering with a new technique, called Stream Inkjet Technology, to improve printing performance, and are working on further perfecting SquareSpot laser-writing technology and potentially toward breakthroughs in spatial atomic layer deposition. The hope is that these kinds of technologies can save a 121-year-old company emerging from 20 months of bankruptcy this week, according to an analysis in Sunday's Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle. The question of whether Kodak can succeed will take years to answer. But sink or swim, the company is now officially entering its next era with a much smaller workforce, dramatically cut costs and a narrower focus on a specific set of markets and offerings. Kodak has bet its immediate survival in part on commercial printing. But for tomorrow, it has its atomic layer research and other similar technology, bonding microscopically thin materials to surfaces. If all of Kodak's plans pan out, it will stop a slide in revenues that dates back to 2005 the last year Kodak grew. Kodak projections have it bottoming out this year with sales of $2.5 billion, and then slowly growing to $3.2 billion in 2017. However, the company has a lengthy history of promising that it's finally turned the corner and that starting next year, things are going to be better. Kodak has argued that bankruptcy gave it the ability to essentially catch its breath and unload a variety of costs including retiree health care coverage and some pensions and that it is ready to soar. Now comes the challenge of taking that revamped and slimmed-down Kodak and making it into something the old Kodak has not been for years: consistently profitable. Click here to read the full analysis.
NEW LIFELINE FOR HOME BUYERS
The Obama administration wants to create a mortgage market that is more forgiving to borrowers who lost their homes due to the recession, an effort that could widen the pool of potential homeowners, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. A recent rule change lets certain borrowers who have gone through a foreclosure, bankruptcy or other adverse event but who have repaired their credit become eligible to receive a new mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration after waiting as little as one year. Previously, they had to wait at least three years before they could qualify for a new government-backed loan. To be eligible for the new FHA loans, borrowers must show that their foreclosure or bankruptcy was caused by a job loss or reduction in income that was beyond their control. Borrowers also must prove that their incomes have had a "full recovery" and complete housing counseling before getting a new mortgage. But it isn't clear whether banks will be eager to offer loans with the new terms at a time when they are facing a wave of lawsuits and investigations related to other government-backed loans. In addition, over the past four years, banks have had to buy back tens of billions of defaulted loans as Fannie, Freddie and the FHA faced mounting losses. Because of uncertainties about these "put-backs," lenders have imposed more conservative standards than what the federal entities require. The FHA says it has a separate effort under way to provide greater clarity about when banks could face put-backs. However, lenders say those changes haven't been specific enough to change their lending posture. Click here to read the full article.
EQUIFAX: AUTO, STUDENT LENDING EACH RISE MORE THAN 10%
Student and auto lending surged in the 12-month period ended in July, according to an Equifax report released Thursday, American Banker reported Friday. The total balance on federal and private student loans increased to $884.2 billion in July 2013, up 11.3% from a year earlier, according to the Atlanta credit bureau's National Consumer Credit Trends Report. However, Americans also took out fewer student loans in the first half of the year. The total number of loans originated between January and May fell 9.3% to 4.2 million. Auto loans rose 10.9% to $826.8 billion in July from a year earlier. Meanwhile, bank credit card balances rose for the first time in five years to $536.6 billion, a scant 0.6%. New credit opened between January and May rose 6% to $77.7 billion the highest level since 2008. "In all other segments, consumers are reducing their debt burdens," Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts said. Total balances on first mortgages, home-equity installments and home-equity revolving all fell, and severely delinquent balances for each loan type were at five-year lows. Click here to read the full article.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS PUBLISHED FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
The Judicial Conference Advisory Committees on Bankruptcy and Civil Rules have proposed amendments to their respective rules and requested that the proposals be circulated to the bench, bar and public for comment. The following proposed amendments were approved for publication by the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure in June 2013:
Preliminary Draft of Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy and Civil Procedure: The public comment period is open for proposed amendments to Bankruptcy Rules 2002, 3002, 3007, 3012, 3015, 4003, 5005, 5009, 7001, 9006 and 9009; Official Forms 17A, 17B, 17C, 22A-1, 22A-1Supp, 22A-2, 22B, 22C-1, 22C-2, 101, 101A, 101B, 104, 105, 106Sum, 106A/B, 106C, 106D, 106E/F, 106G, 106H, 106Dec, 107, 112, 113, 119, 121, 318, 423 and 427; and Civil Rules 1, 4, 6, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 55, 84 and Appendix of Forms. The public comment period closes on Feb. 15, 2014. Your comments are welcome on all aspects of each proposal. The advisory committees will review all timely comments, which are made part of the official record and are available to the public. Click here to read the proposed amendments and submit comments.
NEW ABILIVE WEBINAR OCT. 3: THE INTERSECTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND BANKRUPTCY: KODAK, NORTEL AND OTHER CASES
IP experts will shed light on the mysteries of understanding IP law and navigating the often puzzling sales processes, drawing from their experiences in Nortel, Kodak and other important cases, in an abiLIVE webinar on Oct. 3 from 1:00-2:15 p.m. ET. Speakers will include David Berten (Global IP Law Group, LLC; Chicago), Pauline K. Morgan (Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP; Wilmington, Del.), Cassandra M. Porter (Lowenstein Sandler LLP; Roseland, N.J.), Kelly Beaudin Stapleton (Alvarez & Marsal; New York) and Christopher Burton Wick (Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP; Cleveland). To register, click here.
RECORDING NOW AVAILABLE OF THE ABILIVE WEBINAR EXAMINING THE NEW U.S. TRUSTEE FEE GUIDELINES!
If you were not able to join ABI's recent well-attended abiLIVE webinar examining the U.S. Trustee Fee Guidelines for chapter 11 cases filed on or after Nov. 1, a recording of the program is now available for downloading! A panel of experts, including Clifford J. White, the director of the U.S. Trustee Program, discussed some of the ways the new guidelines could change day-to-day operations in firms, issues relating to the new market rate benchmarks, and how these changes might alter insolvency practice. The 90-minute recording is available for the special ABI member price of $75 and can be purchased here.
ABI GOLF TOUR UNDERWAY; LAST STOP FOR 2013 IS WINTER LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE IN DECEMBER
The 7th and final stop for the 2013 ABI Golf Tour is on Dec. 5 at the Trump National Golf Club, held in conjunction with ABI’s Winter Leadership Conference. Final scoring to win the Great American Cup sponsored by Great American Group is based on your top three scores from the seven ABI events. See the Tour page for details and course descriptions. The ABI Golf Tour combines networking with fun competition, as golfers "play their own ball." Including your handicap means everyone has an equal chance to compete for the glory of being crowned ABI's top golfer of 2013! A 22-handicapper won the tour event at July’s Southeast Bankruptcy Workshop. There's no charge to register or participate in the Tour.
NEW CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: IN RE TOWNE (3D CIR.)
Summarized by Terry Hall of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
In an opinion marked "Not Precedential," the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the bankruptcy and district courts' holdings that the law firm hired as special counsel to the chapter 11 debtors was not entitled to payment of its fees and expenses from the secured creditor's collateral sale proceeds under § 506(c) following a sale conducted by a chapter 7 trustee after conversion of the case because (a) the law firm's efforts were not necessary to preserve or dispose of the collateral and there was no direct benefit to secured creditor, (b) the secured creditor was not estopped from refusing payment from the proceeds, and (c) conduct by the secured creditor, either lawful or unlawful, is not relevant to the analysis under § 506(c).
There are more than 1,000 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: COMING RULES COULD CUT OFF BANKS FROM AFFILIATES
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent blog post discusses the Fed's preparation of a proposal to toughen Regulation W, which governs how banks do business with their subsidiaries and affiliates.
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.
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