TELECONFERENCE RECORDING NOW AVAILABLE: EXPERTS EXAMINE DETROIT'S CHAPTER 9 FILING AND WHAT LIES AHEAD
ABI held a media teleconference yesterday to examine Detroit's chapter 9 filing and what lies ahead for the bankrupt city. Experts on the teleconference discussed some of the factors that led to Detroit's filing and the early legal issues over the city's eligibility to file. Speakers on the program included Bankruptcy Judge Christopher M. Klein (E.D. Calif.; Sacramento), who is presiding over the chapter 9 case of Stockton, Calif.; Deborah L. Fish of Allard & Fish PC (Detroit); and Patrick Darby of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (Birmingham, Ala.), who represents Jefferson County, Ala., the largest chapter 9 case prior to Detroit's filing with more than $4 billion of municipal debt. The program was moderated by Prof. Juliet M. Moringiello of Widener University School of Law (Harrisburg, Pa.). To listen to a recording of the media teleconference, please click here.
While Michigan Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's rulings to stop Detroit's chapter 9 did not stand before a state court of appeals panel and the federal bankruptcy judge assigned to the case, Judge Aquilina did correctly identify public pension promises as the key issue in the case, according to a commentary by Prof. David Skeel of the University of Pennsylvania Law School in the Wall Street Journal today. As recently as three years ago, the conventional wisdom held that public-pension promises, no matter how extravagant, are sacrosanct even if a city files for chapter 9 protection. The first hint that this thinking might be impractical came after Vallejo, Calif., filed for bankruptcy in 2008, according to Skeel. Vallejo successfully restructured its collective-bargaining agreements, and, as then-City Manager Robert Stout reported, the city believed that chapter 9 gave Vallejo the legal authority to alter its pensions as well. But CalPERS, which administers California's state and local pensions, threatened litigation. The city concluded that any reduced pension costs wouldn't be great enough to offset the legal costs, so it backed off. Since Vallejo, the pension question has become increasingly hard to avoid. When Central Falls, R.I., filed for bankruptcy in 2011, the small town made it clear that significant pension cuts were its only hope for recovery. In the end, Central Falls reduced its pension costs by 50 percent. The status of pension obligations is also at issue in the bankruptcies of the California cities of Stockton and San Bernardino, so it is possible that Detroit Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will have the benefit of previous rulings on the issue when he rules on the Detroit case. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has signaled that every constituency needs to sacrifice, and Detroit's public workers to this point aren't yielding an inch. If Detroit can make at least modest adjustments to its pensions, and restructure its other obligations as well, Skeel says that the city and other municipalities in dire financial straits may have a fighting chance. Read more. (Subscription required.)
ANALYSIS: PENSION BONDS RAISE RED FLAGS ON MUNIS
Of the $18 billion pile of liabilities Detroit faces in its bankruptcy proceedings, $1.4 billion of it consists of bonds issued in 2005 and 2006 to shore up the city's pension systems, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The fact that Detroit -- or any municipality -- issued these bonds could have been a red flag to investors that there was potential trouble brewing ahead. With Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, the city's retirees could see their pensions slashed, officials have warned. And Detroit says its pensions are still underfunded by another $3.5 billion. Some of the other municipalities that have issued similar pension bonds in recent years are among the most problematic: Stockton, Calif., which filed for bankruptcy last year; Puerto Rico, which has struggled through a prolonged recession and was recently downgraded to near junk; and Illinois, which was charged with securities fraud for misleading investors about how it funds its pensions. In fact, Illinois holds the record for the largest pension bond deal ever, selling $10 billion in bonds in 2003, according to Thomson Reuters. If successful, a municipality that sells pension bonds can save money on its pension costs. But if returns on the pension investments are lower than expected, the municipality can actually lose money. In December, credit-rating firm Moody's Investors Service went so far as to say that pension bonds "rarely improve the credit quality of the state or the local government that issues them." Read more. (Subscription required.)
EDITORIAL: THE STUDENT LOAN DEBACLE
Over the last decade, Congress sensibly replaced a system of variable-rate loans with fixed rates that allowed families to know what their loans would cost, according to a New York Times editorial yesterday. It set the rate on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans at 6.8 percent, but later ordered the rate on subsidized loans -- two-thirds of which go to families with incomes under $50,000 -- to gradually decline by half. The refusal, according to the editorial, of Republicans in both houses to renew the lower rate means that students who start college this fall and finish in four years will be saddled, on average, with an extra $4,000 in debt. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the new, higher rate would earn the government about $184 billion over the next decade after taking into account program costs, including potential defaults. The editorial advocates that in the long term, the loan program needs to be restructured so that the loans are closely linked to the government's actual cost of borrowing, which could reduce rates for students. Read more.
HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE APPROVES HOUSING FINANCE BILL
The House Financial Services Committee approved a Republican housing bill that would liquidate U.S.-owned financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and limit government mortgage guarantees, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. The bill, offered by House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), was passed on a mostly party-line vote of 30-27. Hensarling's legislation would eliminate Washington-based Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within five years and replace them with a National Mortgage Market Utility to securitize mortgages. Unlike a similar bill in the Senate, the House measure would not include U.S. backing for securitized loans, though it would let the Federal Housing Administration play an expanded guarantee role in the event of an economic crisis. Hensarling said that he is eager to bring his measure to a vote on the House floor and will meet with House Republican leaders next week. Read more.
COMMENTARY: TREASURY'S FANNIE MAE HEIST
The federal government currently is seizing the substantial profits of government-chartered mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taking for itself the property and potential gains of private investors that the government induced to help prop up these companies, according to a commentary yesterday by former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson in the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this month Olson filed a lawsuit to stop this seizing of profits, now known as Perry Capital v. Lew, and other lawsuits challenging the government's authority to demolish private investment are stacking up. When the nationwide mortgage crisis first took hold in 2007 and 2008, Fannie and Freddie shored up their balance sheets with some $33 billion in private capital, much of it from community banks, which had been encouraged by federal regulators to invest in the companies. As the crisis deepened, the government determined that Fannie and Freddie also needed substantial assistance from taxpayers. Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and under that law the government ultimately plowed $187 billion into the companies. Taxpayers should get their investment back, but once they do, according to Olson, so should the private investors who first came to Fannie and Freddie's aid. Read more. (Subscription required.)
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 join Monday's well-attended 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 SEPT. 24 TO EXAMINE THE COMPLEX REQUIREMENTS AND ETHICAL DUTIES OF REPRESENTING CONSUMER DEBTORS
The abiLIVE webinar on Sept. 24 will feature a panel of experts discussing the ethical and compensation issues that can arise while representing chapter 7 and 13 debtors as well as individual chapter 11 debtors. Topics covered include client fraud and an attorney's duty to verify client information, attorney fee structures, and complex issues in individual chapter 11 cases. The panel includes perspectives from the attorneys and trustees, as well as the academic reporter for the ABI Ethics Task Force. Click here to register.
ABI GOLF TOUR UNDERWAY; NEXT STOP IS THE MID-ATLANTIC BANKRUPTCY WORKSHOP IN AUGUST
The 5th stop for the ABI Golf Tour is the Hershey Country Club, in conjunction with the 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 last week at Amelia Island, Fla.! There's no charge to register or participate in the Tour.
NORTON JUDICIAL EXCELLENCE AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN UNTIL JULY 29
Nominations are now open for the 8th Annual Judge William L. Norton Judicial Excellence Award, to be presented during the ABI luncheon at the annual meeting of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges on Nov. 1, 2013. The award is presented by ABI and Thomson Reuters each year to the current or retired bankruptcy judge whose career embodies the same continued dedication and outstanding contributions to the insolvency community as the award’s namesake, Judge Norton. Nominations are considered by a committee made up of representatives from the Norton treatise and past ABI presidents. Nomination forms, which must be submitted by July 29, are available from Clay Mattson at Thomson Reuters ([email protected]).
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: MORT RANTA V. GORMAN (4TH CIR.)
Summarized by John Bollinger of the Boleman Law Firm, PC
Holding that "for both above-median income and below-median income debtors, Social Security income is excluded from the calculation of 'projected disposable income' under § 1325(b)(2)," the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the order of the district court and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to remand to the bankruptcy court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.
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: TIME TO DUST OFF THE OLD "GOOD BANK-BAD BANK" PLAN
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent blog post said that governments need to consider the advantages of a good bank-bad bank restructuring as loan assets currently have determinable and probably higher values than earlier in the financial crisis.
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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