In what is becoming an annual June ritual, the Senate deadlocked today over federal student loan interest rates, with no consensus in sight on how to prevent rates on certain loans from doubling for about 7 million borrowers on July 1, the Washington Post reported today. Amid a swirl of competing proposals from lawmakers and the White House, preliminary votes showed that no Senate bills have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Democratic-led chamber. A Republican bill to peg rates on a variety of loans to the yield on the government’s 10-year Treasury bill, plus 3 percentage points, was blocked today on a 40 to 57 vote. A Democratic bill to freeze for two years the current 3.4 percent rate for subsidized loans to students in financial need also was thwarted. A procedural vote on the bill was 51 to 46, nine short of the 60 needed. The votes were largely symbolic measures expected to fail short of an agreement. Read more.
SEC PROPOSES CHANGES TO MONEY-MARKET FUND RULES
The portion of the money-market fund industry that suffered extreme disruptions during the financial crisis would be revamped under a plan proposed yesterday by federal regulators, who have been struggling to address the industry’s vulnerabilities for years, the Washington Post reported today. The nearly $3 trillion industry has fiercely opposed major changes to money-market funds, but regulators have persisted, citing the losses and panic they sparked during the crisis. These mutual funds have been popular with investors because they have been perceived to be as reliable as savings accounts. But that perception was shattered in September 2008, when a major money-market fund “broke the buck,” meaning its value fell below $1 a share. A run on money-market funds ensued, with investors withdrawing $300 billion in a week. The government intervened and temporarily guaranteed that investors would be repaid. The SEC said that its plan is designed to avoid a repeat of the meltdown. The agency offered two alternatives focused solely on “prime” funds, which invest in short-term corporate debt. The options could be adopted separately or in combination, depending on the public feedback the SEC receives during the next three months. A plan could be finalized this year, experts tracking the issue said. Read more.
INVESTORS RETURN TO RISKY "SYNTHETIC CDOS"
Investors are once again clamoring for a risky investment blamed for helping unleash the financial crisis: synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), the Wall Street Journal reported today. In a sign of how hard Wall Street is trying to satisfy voracious demand for higher returns amid rock-bottom interest rates, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley bankers in London are moving to assemble the synthetic CDOs. Basic CDOs pool bonds and offer investors a slice of the pool. Synthetic CDOs pool insurance-like derivative contracts on the bonds, rather than the bonds themselves. Like their crisis-era predecessors, the new CDOs would be sliced up into different levels of risk and returns. Investors who want a chance at the highest returns would have to buy the riskiest slice. While spreading risk in some ways, synthetic CDOs also can multiply the financial damage if companies fall behind on their debt payments. During the financial crisis, CDOs pegged to soured mortgage loans caused losses to careen around the world. Some details of the deals being worked on at J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley aren't clear, including the size of the CDOs and which investment firms have expressed an interest in buying slices of them. Read more. (Subscription required.)
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra), Wall Street's self-regulatory body, last month sent 15 examination letters to operators of "dark pools"—lightly regulated, off-exchange trading venues that have been a rising concern for regulators and some investors as more activity shifts away from exchanges, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Finra is seeking details about how the increasingly popular venues operate, what they disclose to clients and whether they adequately police trades. It could bring enforcement actions against dark-pool operators or issue recommendations for tighter oversight, depending on the answers it receives and additional examinations, said John Malitzis, executive vice president of market regulation at Finra. The letters are a follow-up to an initial round of questions the regulator circulated last fall. "We want to understand whether [dark pools] are disclosing to their customers how their orders work [and] whether customers are informed who their orders will interact with," Malitzis said in an interview. "A big part of this is to get an understanding of practices that may or may not be problematic." Read more. (Subscription required.)
U.S. HOUSEHOLD WORTH TOPS PRE-RECESSION PEAK FOR FIRST TIME
Household wealth in the U.S. jumped to a record in the first quarter, exceeding its pre-recession peak for the first time, bolstered by gains in the stock and housing markets that are helping Americans mend finances, Bloomberg News reported today. Net worth for households and nonprofit groups increased by $3 trillion from January through March, or 4.5 percent from the previous three months, to $70.3 trillion, the Federal Reserve said today in its financial accounts report, previously known as the flow-of-funds survey. Household wealth eclipsed its pre-recession level as gains in the stock and housing markets are helping Americans withstand an increase in the payroll tax this year. Household net worth is $2.29 trillion above its pre-recession peak of $68.1 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2007. It was at $67.3 trillion in the last three months of 2012. Read more.
REPORT: ENTITLEMENT CHANGES TO PUT SENIORS AT FINANCIAL RISK
The Economic Policy Institute reported that nearly half of the nation’s elderly population is “economically vulnerable” and would be particularly hard hit by even modest changes in the Social Security and Medicare programs being considered to slow the growth of the nation’s long-term debt, the Washington Post reported today. The report said that 48 percent of the elderly population earns less than double the supplemental poverty threshold, putting those seniors at financial risk if their income is cut even slightly. Older blacks and Hispanics are especially vulnerable, the report said, as the vast majority of them live on the financial edge. Read more.
LIVE WEBCAST AVAILABLE FOR ABI'S CHAPTER 11 REFORM COMMISSION HEARING TOMORROW LOOKING AT USE OF EXAMINERS, LABOR ISSUES AND PROBLEMS IN RESTRUCTURING TODAY'S COMPANIES
ABI’s Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11 will hold its seventh public hearing of 2013 on Friday from 3-5 p.m. CT (4-6 p.m. ET) at the Association of Insolvency & Restructuring Advisors (AIRA) 29th Annual Bankruptcy Restructuring Conference at the Westin Chicago River North; Chicago, Ill. The hearing will feature witness testimony from two leading scholars on the use of examiners in bankruptcy and labor issues including § 1113 and 1114. A panel of experts from the AIRA will also identify current problems faced by financial advisors. To view the witness list and watch a live webcast of the hearing tomorrow, please visit http://commission.abi.org.
ABI WEBSITE (ABI.ORG) WILL BE DOWN THIS WEEKEND FOR SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE
From 10 p.m. ET on Friday, June 7, through Sunday evening, June 9, the ABI homepage (abi.org) will be down for scheduled maintenance. During this period, members will not be able to access certain features, including registering for conferences, printing and viewing CLE certificates, and purchasing publications. Other ABI sites, like Search.abi.org, Volo.abi.org, Journal.abi.org, law.abi.org, blogs.abi.org and news.abi.org, will be operational during this time, but users may experience limited functionality. ABI intends to limit this downtime as much as possible. If you have any questions, please email [email protected]
NEW ABI LIVE WEBINAR ON JULY 15 WILL FOCUS ON THE § 1111(b) ELECTION, PLAN FEASIBILITY AND CRAMDOWN ISSUES
Utilizing a case study, ABI's panel of experts on July 15 will explore issues surrounding a lender’s decision on whether or not to make an election under § 1111(b), plan feasibility and voting. The abiLIVE panel will also walk attendees through the necessary mathematical analyses used to analyze these issues. The webinar will take place from 1-2:15 p.m. ET. Special ABI member rate available! Click here to register.
ABI GOLF TOUR UNDERWAY; NEXT STOP IS CENTRAL STATES BANKRUPTCY WORKSHOP NEXT WEEK
Rob Schwartz and Scott Gautier are tied at 34 Stableford Points atop the closely bunched leaderboard after the ABI Golf Tour's first stop at Lake Presidential Golf Club. Next up for the Tour is the famed Bear course at the Grand Traverse Resort at the Central States Bankruptcy Workshop on June 14. Final scoring to win the Great American Cupsponsored by Great American Groupis 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! There's no charge to register or participate in the Tour, and women are most welcome.
NEW ABI "BANKRUPTCY IN DEPTH" ON-DEMAND CLE PROGRAM LOOKS AT PRINCIPLES OF PROPERTY OF THE ESTATE: DEMYSTIFYING EQUITABLE INTERESTS
In this 90-minute seminar, Profs. Andrew Kull of Boston University School of Law and Scott Pryor of Regent University School of Law provide an in-depth analysis of a legal principle that has become, in their words, "a long-lost area of the law": § 541 of the Bankruptcy Code. Seeking to demystify what is meant by "property of the estate" and, in particular, the distinction between legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property, Kull and Pryor describe the legal entanglements that ensue when legal title belongs to one person but the equitable title belongs to someone else. The cost of the seminar, which includes written materials and qualifies for 1.5 hours of CLE, is $95. To order or to learn more, click here.
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: STEINBERG V. BANK OF AMERICA N.A. (IN RE STEINBERG; 10TH CIR.)
Summarized by Andrew Johnson of Onsager, Staelin & Guyerson
The Tenth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed the bankruptcy court's order granting relief from stay to Bank of America to foreclose on the debtor's house because the bankruptcy court failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing on whether Bank of America was in possession of the note secured by debtor's residence, or if Bank of America had some other legal basis to enforce the note. The court rejected Bank of America's argument that a debtor's failure to schedule a debt as disputed estops the debtor from challenging relief from stay.
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: FURTHER EXAMINATION OF GE AND CITI'S SETTLEMENTS WITH FHFA
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A new blog post takes a closer look at the reason behind GE and Citi's recent settlements with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).
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
Bankruptcy courts should implement constructive trusts in any case where applicable state law would recognize them.
Click here to vote on this week's Quick Poll. Click here to view the results of previous Quick Polls.
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