NEWS AND ANALYSIS
COMMENTARY: SCHWAB CASE CASTS SPOTLIGHT ON SECURITIES ARBITRATION AND ITS FLAWS
A skirmish between the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and brokerage firm Charles Schwab & Company has brought unwelcome attention to the investor arbitration process and its flaws, according to a commentary in yesterday’s New York Times DealBook Blog. The dispute started in 2011, when Schwab added a clause to its customer agreement requiring customers not to pursue or participate in class-action suits against the company. This removed an option allowing groups of investors to sue a firm, established by the Supreme Court’s 1987 ruling in Shearson v. McMahon. FINRA objected, filing a disciplinary action against Schwab last year to force the removal of the clause, and a final resolution on the matter will be heard before an adjudicatory panel next Wednesday. But the dispute has roused state securities regulators, investor advocates, and Democratic members of Congress, all demanding that the clause be done away with, no matter how the ruling goes. One investor advocate, F. Paul Bland Jr. of Public Justice, says that "If Schwab succeeds, investor protection will be enormously damaged." Click here to read the full commentary.
COMMENTARY: YOUR CITY MIGHT BE THE NEXT DETROIT...BUT THAT’S NOT ALL BAD
Detroit’s bankruptcy has sent shivers through cities all around America. That is both understandable and may not be all bad, says Benjamin R. Barber, author of the forthcoming book If Mayors Ruled the World, in a commentary in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Detroit’s problems are shared by many cities. Barber says that "cities have become gargantuan unfunded mandates where much of the nation’s productivity, innovation and prosperity are generated without adequate support from the outside." He believes that federal government spending still skews towards rural areas, "even though cities represent over three quarters of the American population and the absolute electoral majority." But the problems that Detroit faces, though shared by other cities, are not insurmountable. Barber’s prescriptions:
"Detroit’s fate may in time be Miami’s, Atlanta’s and San Diego’s," Barber says. "But that’s fine." Cities face many challenges, but they are here to stay. After all, Barber notes, "London, Rome, Alexandria and Boston are much older than England, Italy, Egypt and the United States." Click here to read the full commentary (subscription required).
- Declining manufacturing base: Outsourcing of jobs is a national problem, Barber says, but "cities have proven more resilient than nations, finding ways to transition from the old to the new economy."
- A redefinition of city limits: Maps conceived in the 19th century don’t reflect today’s realities, Barber notes. Detroit has lost two-thirds of its population, but the 10 surrounding counties have grown by more than 5.3 million, along with 2 million jobs.
- Pensions: Many cities have bigger pension costs than Detroit’s, but the answer, Barber thinks, is for residents to shoulder more of the costs of services they enjoy, and to stop putting pension obligations behind obligations to bondholders.
DETROIT DEFENDS CONTESTED SWAPS DEAL AS KEY TO CITY’S SURVIVAL
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has asked Steven Rhodes, the federal judge overseeing its bankruptcy case, to allow a swaps deal completed with Merrill Lynch and UBS AG just prior to the filing of their chapter 9 case, according to a report from Reuters yesterday. Creditors, led by bond insurer Syncora Guarantee have objected to the deal, which would give the city unfettered access to casino tax revenue, arguing that it favors the swap counterparties over other creditors and eliminates the possibility of including the revenue some $180 million a year as a potential source for paying Detroit’s obligations. In a sworn deposition, Orr’s top outside financial consultant, Kenneth Buckfire, said he believed the city was in a "life and death" predicament at the time the swaps deal went through. Read more.
A BANKING BANKRUPTCY THAT TAKES A DIFFERENT PATH
When bank holding companies file for bankruptcy usually after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has taken away its banking subsidiary the only thing left to do is marshal any assets, including a typically large tax refund, pay out the results to creditors, and liquidate. But a small Wisconsin bank holding company, Anchor BanCorp Wisconsin, plans to use chapter 11 to recapitalize rather than liquidate, according to a story by Stephen Lubben in today’s New York Times DealBook blog. The company had received more than $100 million from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program during the financial crisis, but it still faced the prospect of losing its bank. Filing for chapter 11 will allow it to pay off more than $180 million in debt owed to other banks for just $49 million. It will also allow the company to convert the United States Treasury’s preferred stock received as part of the TARP bailout into a small equity stake, worth about $6 million, the holding company. Most important, according to Lubben, "Anchor said it would cancel its existing shares and sell the remaining new equity to investors, leading to the recapitalization of the holding company." Although federal regulators still need to sign off on the plan, the bankruptcy judge has approved it. This speedy trip through bankruptcy, Lubben says, was the result of a prepackaged bankruptcy case that "included the creditors voting on the plan before the bankruptcy filing." It may well "provide another template for use of chapter 11 in connection with other financial institutions," Lubben concludes. Read more.
ANALYSIS: HOSPITALS, DEBT COLLECTORS RUSH TO CREATE STANDARDS FOR COLLECTING PATIENT DEBT
Facing pressure from both the Congress and the IRS that would severely limit the ability to collect patient medical debt, The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), which comprises hospital and other healthcare financial professionals, last December joined forces with ACA International, the leading organization of debt collection professionals, to develop guidelines for dealing with patient medical debt, according to a post yesterday on Forbes.com. The stated purpose of the task force guidelines "is intended to identify a standardized process for resolving the patient portion of medical bills that should be adhered to and to provide a framework for educating patients about the patient balance resolution process," according to the task force’s recommendations. The new guidelines outline a proposed timeline for payment of patient debts. Once a bill "drops," patients would have 120 days before a health-care company would take "extraordinary collection action." The guidelines also propose removing medical debt from credit reports within 45 days, a key component of the Medical Debt Responsibility Act currently before Congress. Click here to read the full analysis.
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: DANIELSON V. FLORES (IN RE FLORES) (9TH CIR.)
Summarized by Kevin M. Baum of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Affirming the Bankruptcy Court, the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, held that a Bankruptcy Court may confirm a chapter 13 plan of reorganization under § 1325(b)(1)(B) only if the plan’s duration is at least as long as the applicable commitment period under section 1325(b)(4), without regard to whether the debtor has positive, zero, or negative projected disposable income. In reaching its decision, the court expressly overruled the portion of its previous decision in Maney v. Kagenveama (In re Kagenveama), 541 F.3d 868, 875 (9th Cir. 2008) in which the Ninth Circuit had previously held that § 1325(b)(1)(B) does not impose a minimum duration for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan if the debtor has no "projected disposable income," as such term is defined in the Bankruptcy Code.
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 reported that Dance New Amsterdam, a financially troubled nonprofit dance education and performance center in New York, had staved off, at least temporarily, a shutdown by raising $50,000 it owed.
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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