REPORT: MANY CAN'T PAY THEIR DIRECT FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS
Just about four in 10 borrowers with direct federal student loans are paying them back, according to a report released yesterday that offers the first comprehensive snapshot of the program since the government created it in 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Many of the 27.8 million borrowers with these newer direct federal loans aren't yet required to make payments: About 35 percent are still in school or within a six-month grace period after graduation, the report said. But about 18 percent are in programs designed to help distressed borrowers or have returned to school. Nearly 8 percent are in default, meaning the borrower hasn't made a payment in at least a year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal regulator that released the report. The report indicates that a significant number of borrowers in the new program are unable to repay. Excluding borrowers who don't yet have to make payments because they are still in school or within the grace period, more than a fifth -- about 22 percent -- are in default or forbearance. Read more. (Subscription required.)
Detroit's unions have found an unlikely ally in Michigan's Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has taken up their argument that the state constitution precludes federal bankruptcy court from reducing pension benefits, according to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal today. If this view holds, according to the editorial, unions and politicians in financially strapped cities will be able to use chapter 9 as a new political default to shed their bond debts. The Detroit case is likely to set precedents because it's the first large city that has tried to force haircuts on pensioners through bankruptcy. Politicians in the bankrupt cities of Vallejo and Stockton, Calif., sidestepped the issue of whether federal bankruptcy law pre-empts state pension protections after the California Public Employees' Retirement System threatened an expensive legal fight. But with $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, Detroit can't afford to duck. While the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause would seem to give federal bankruptcy law the upper hand, Congress has traditionally sought to straddle the U.S. system of dual sovereignty by including explicit pre-emptory language in statutes that are intended to supersede state laws. Chapter 9's language doesn't explicitly pre-empt state laws, according to the editorial, but there's a strong case to be made that pre-emption is intrinsic to municipal bankruptcy. The legal tension comes because Michigan's constitution, which passed in 1963, holds that "accrued financial benefits of each pension plan and retirement system of the state and its political subdivisions shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby." Read more. (Subscription required.)
A similar commentary in yesterday's New York Times finds that while it isn't politically feasible for the federal government to bail out Detroit, President Obama and Congress must step in to avert the worst fiscal collapse in urban American history. The commentary makes the case that the government must intervene because the symptoms of the municipal illness that made Detroit, with an estimated $18 billion in liabilities, the largest city in American history to declare bankruptcy are showing up in other cities. Emergency response times are lengthening in cash-starved cities. Libraries, parks and recreation facilities are shortening their hours or closing. Potholes go unfilled, sidewalks unrepaired and trees untrimmed. All that makes urban life rewarding and uplifting is under increasing pressure, in large part because of unaffordable public employee pension and health care costs. Read the full commentary.
For the latest information and analysis about the Detroit case, be sure to visit ABI's dedicated website, http://news.abi.org/Detroit.
PRIVATE-EQUITY PAYOUT DEBT SURGES
Private-equity firms are adding debt to companies they own in order to fund payouts to themselves at a record pace, as fears are mounting that the window for these deals will close if interest rates rise, the Wall Street Journal reported today. So far this year, $47.4 billion of new loans and bonds have been sold by companies to pay dividends to the private-equity firms that own them, according to data provider S&P Capital IQ LCD. That is 62 percent more than the same period last year, which wound up being the biggest year on record, with $64.2 billion sold to fund private-equity payouts. The added debt, known as a recapitalization, can increase companies' risk of default, according to a recent study by Moody's Investors Service. As dividend deals increase, many also are unusually risky lately, carrying low credit ratings and paying historically low interest rates to investors. "This is the leveraged-finance debt market that you can't quite kill," said Richard Farley, a lawyer with Paul Hastings LLP who represents banks in buyouts. Read more. (Subscription required.)
ANALYSIS: RETURN OF MEGA-MERGERS REFLECTS GROWING CONFIDENCE IN ECONOMY
Analysts say that the recent spike in merger activity reflects the return of the mega-merger and a gradual uptick in business confidence in the economy, the Washington Post reported today. It has been most evident in the ongoing battle for Dell computers, with founder Michael Dell upping his bid for the company to $25 billion Friday, and the high-profile buyout of H.J. Heinz by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Although the number of mergers is down compared with the corresponding period last year, a series of mega-mergers has helped increase the value of merger activity in 2013 to $607 billion from $486 billion during the corresponding period in 2012. Activity is picking up after an uneventful 2012, when no mega-mergers were announced, analysts said. But it is still far from 2011 levels, when low valuations contributed to a rush for deals. Read more.
CONSUMER SPENDING, INCOME CLIMB IN JUNE
U.S. consumer spending increased and inflation pushed higher in June, which could strengthen expectations that the Federal Reserve will curtail its bond purchases later this year, Reuters reported on Friday. The Commerce Department said on Friday that consumer spending rose 0.5 percent, lifted by automobile purchases and higher gasoline prices. May's increase was revised down to 0.2 percent from a previously reported 0.3 percent. June's increase in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was in line with economists' expectations. With prices picking up, consumer spending adjusted for inflation nudged up 0.1 percent. The consumer spending numbers were included in the second-quarter GDP report on Wednesday, which showed that the economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual pace after expanding at a 1.1 percent rate in the first three months of the year. Read more.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT - abiLIVE WEBINAR DISCUSSING § 1111(b) ELECTION, PLAN FEASIBILITY AND CRAMDOWN ISSUES RECORDING IS NOW AVAILABLE!
If you were not able to attend ABI's recent abiLIVE webinar examining § 1111(b), a recording of the program is now available for downloading! Utilizing a case study, ABI's panel of experts explored the issues surrounding a lender's decision on whether or not to make an election under § 1111(b), plan feasibility and voting. The abiLIVE panel also walked attendees through the necessary mathematical analyses used to examine these issues. The 90-minute recording is available for the special price of $75 and can be purchased here.
abiLIVE WEBINAR ON AUGUST 20: HOW WILL THE NEW U.S. TRUSTEE FEE GUIDELINES IMPACT YOU?
The new U.S. Trustee Fee Guidelines will affect all attorneys and firms who work on larger chapter 11 cases filed on or after Nov. 1. ABI's Ethics & Professional Compensation Committee will present a panel of experts, including Clifford J. White, the director of the U.S. Trustee Program, to discuss 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. Register today to hear government, attorney and academic perspectives speak on this important and timely topic.
ABI GOLF TOUR UNDERWAY; NEXT STOP IS THE MID-ATLANTIC BANKRUPTCY WORKSHOP ON FRIDAY
The 5th stop for the ABI Golf Tour is the Hershey Country Club, held in conjunction with this week's Mid-Atlantic Bankruptcy Workshop. Final scoring to win the Great American Cup sponsored by Great American Group is based on your top three scores at seven scheduled ABI events, so play as many as you can before the tour wraps up at the Winter Leadership Conference in December. 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 Conference. There's no charge to register or participate in the Tour.
ASSOCIATES: ABI'S NUTS & BOLTS ONLINE PROGRAMS HELP YOU HONE YOUR SKILLS WHILE SAVING ON CLE!
Associates looking to sharpen their bankruptcy knowledge should take advantage of ABI's special offer of combining general, business or consumer Nuts & Bolts online programs. Each program features an outstanding faculty of judges and practitioners explaining the fundamentals of bankruptcy, offering procedures and strategies tailored for both consumer and business attorneys. Click here to get the CLE you need at a great low price!
NEW CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: CHARLES W. RIES V. SCARLETT & GUCCIARDO, PA, ET AL. (8TH CIR.)
Summarized by Michael Cooley of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Applying the plain language of Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1), the Eighth Circuit affirmed the principle that whether the party seeking to amend a pleading knew, when the original pleading was filed, of the identity of the party left out is irrelevant to the question of whether the amended pleading may relate back to the date of the original pleading. Rather, the ability to relate back an amendment to the date of the original pleading depends on whether the party to be added knew or should have known that, but for the mistake, it would have been named in the original pleading. Additionally, this case serves as an important reminder of the value in structuring settlement agreements to safeguard against the possibility that a bankruptcy filing thereafter could leave the nondebtor party to disgorge settlement payments as preferential transfers without the ability to resurrect the claims originally settled in consideration therefore.
There are more than 900 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: ONLY CONGRESS THINKS MAIN STREET BANKS ARE "TBTF"
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. Removing the arbitrary size designation for systemically important financial institutions would reduce costly regulation for regional banks, encourage industrywide competition and concentrate regulators' efforts on firms that actually warrant attention, according to a recent blog post.
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.
ABI Quick Poll
A class of claims should not be considered impaired for purposes of § 1129(a)(10) if the impairment results from the plan proponents' exercise of discretion (i.e., artificial impairment) and not driven by economic need. (In re Village at Camp Bowie I LP).
Click here to vote on this week's Quick Poll. Click here to view the results of previous Quick Polls.
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