NEWS AND ANALYSIS
ACADEMICS WANT CONGRESS TO GIVE CHAPTER 14 A CHANCE
Members of Stanford University's Hoover Institution's "resolution project" say that the environment is right to revisit their proposed modification of the Bankruptcy Code that adds a section, dubbed "Chapter 14," to address large financial institutions, Dow Jones Newswires reported yesterday. When the official debate on Capitol Hill ended in July 2010 with the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform, it looked as though the Hoover Institution had lost its battle to keep the job of unwinding a failing financial institution out of the hands of government. Their proposal, presented at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, never gained traction, and Dodd-Frank's Title II tasks the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. with intervening should the collapse of a financial institution threaten the economy. However, the academics now argue in a new book, Bankruptcy Not Bailout: A Special Chapter 14, that their proposal still has a chance at becoming law. The book's authors also have an unlikely supporter: the FDIC. "The FDIC would support improvements to the Bankruptcy Code that would better allow for the failure of a large complex financial institution without broad systemic disruption," said Andrew Gray, a spokesman for the FDIC, characterizing Title II as a last resort. "Constructive efforts to improve the bankruptcy law and reduce the likelihood that Title II would be necessary are positive." Acknowledging that the repeal of all or part of Dodd-Frank is unlikely, the authors argue that Dodd-Frank and chapter 14 could coexist, providing the government and companies with another option. Read more.
REGULATORS TRY TO BEAT THE CLOCK IN RATE PROBE
U.S. prosecutors are seeking more time to complete their investigation of alleged interest-rate fixing, while banks ensnared in the probe are trying to turn the clock to their advantage as they battle lawsuits claiming damages from rate-rigging, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The Justice Department recently asked several banks to sign "tolling" agreements, in which the companies promise they will not challenge any enforcement action on the grounds that the alleged wrongdoing occurred beyond the statute of limitations. The requests were sent to all the major banks under investigation including Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and UBS AG. Read more. (Subscription required.)
ANALYSIS: CRIMINAL AND CIVIL MORTGAGE-FRAUD CASES HAVE EXPLODED SINCE HOUSING CRISIS
The problem of mortgage scams involving attorneys is growing, according to experts, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Joseph Dunn, executive director of the State Bar of California, said that more than 100 lawyers in California have been disbarred or otherwise disciplined, while about 200 others are facing charges or are under investigation. The California Bar has received more than 11,000 mortgage-related complaints about lawyers since early 2009. John Berry, director of the legal division of the Florida Bar, calls the involvement of attorneys in alleged mortgage scams "one of the most difficult issues we have had to deal with." In a national database of 25,000 homeowner complaints regarding suspected mortgage-related frauds, more than a quarter relate to activities by lawyers or law firms, said Yolanda McGill, a senior counsel at the nonprofit Washington-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, which began collecting the complaints in 2010. The committee has filed eight lawsuits against parties for allegedly cheating homeowners with false promises of help with their mortgages. Read more. (Subscription required.)
REPORT: PAY GAPS WIDENING AMONG PARTNERS
According to a new survey conducted by legal search consultant Major, Lindsey & Africa and Am Law Daily affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence, partners at Am Law 200, NLJ 350, and American Lawyer Global 100 firms saw their annual compensation rise, on average, 6.4 percent to $681,000 over the past two years. The jump was apparently driven, at least in part, by an uptick in the average rate those partners are billing, from $555 per hour in 2010 to $585 today. The survey, which drew 2,228 responses from attorneys at the firms in question, shows that not all partners have benefited equally from the increase. On average, equity partners are better compensated than their non-equity counterparts, male partners make more than their female colleagues, corporate partners earn more than litigators, and partners in open compensation systems are paid better than those in closed compensation systems. Read more.
FORMER GM CEO: TIME FOR "GOVERNMENT MOTORS" TO HIT THE ROAD
Until the government sells its shares of GM, the company won't be master of its own destiny and will remain wrongly tagged a failure, according to a commentary in today's Wall Street Journal by former GM CEO Ed Whitacre. The government has been an active participant in GM's management for more than three years, according to Whitacre, and it is time for Treasury to step out of the way so that GM can fully focus on what it does best: designing, building and selling the world's best vehicles. The government's authority over GM today is not concentrated in the 500 million shares it still owns, which amount to a hefty but not controlling 26.5 percent ownership stake, according to Whitacre. Rather, the government's power comes from the management apparatus of TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, from which the $50 billion bailout originally came. The result: GM spends an awful lot of time checking in with the people who administer TARP over everything from hiring to executive compensation and management. Read more. (Subscription required.)
HIGH-SPEED TRADING IN THE CONGRESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT
An insider of the secretive world of high-frequency trading is set to attack that industry today on Capitol Hill, giving lawmakers a potential road map to address practices that critics say can put ordinary investors at a disadvantage and the financial system at risk, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Since rapid-fire trading firms now provide many of the buy-and-sell orders that support the market, investors are at the mercy of automated systems that can run amok during volatile times, according to Dave Lauer, who last year quit his job as a trader for an elite Chicago high-frequency trading outfit. Lauer is part of a growing chorus of industry insiders blowing the whistle on approved trading techniques that they say are designed by the traders who derive the most benefit. Lauer is now a consultant on market-structure issues for Better Markets, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group funded by a hedge fund. He testified today before the Senate Banking committee about how he came to believe that high-speed trading has made the market less fair for many investors. One way sophisticated firms get an edge over other investors is the use of complex order types, which are commands that traders use to tell exchanges how to handle their buy-and-sell orders, according to Lauer's testimony. Regulators are looking into whether exchanges, in a rush to gain the business of high-frequency firms, have provided advantages to some sophisticated trading firms that allow them to trade profitably at the expense of other investors. High-frequency trading accounts for some two-thirds of all trading volume, experts say. Read more. (Subscription required.)
Click here for prepared testimony from today's Senate Banking Committee hearing.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR STEVEN GOLICK, A FELLOW COLLEAGUE AND ABI MEMBER
Our friend Steven Golick (Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Toronto) is facing a medical crisis. He has been diagnosed with a serious brain tumor, requiring complex surgery and treatment. Steven’s spirits are very strong and he and his family remain optimistic, but he can use our support. A prominent international restructuring attorney and an ABI member since 1994, Steven is also a founding member of the ABI house band, the Indubitable Equivalents. Because the band is important to Steven, his fellow band-mates have organized a new Blog site for Steven's friends and colleagues to show their love and support at this critical time. Please click on this link to enter and share your thoughts, and post as often as you'd like.
ABI LAUNCHES FIFTH ANNUAL WRITING COMPETITION FOR LAW STUDENTS; PARTICIPANTS RECEIVE ONE-YEAR ABI MEMBERSHIP
Law school students are encouraged to submit a paper now through March 1, 2013, for ABI’s Fifth Annual Bankruptcy Law Student Writing Competition. ABI will extend a complimentary one-year membership to all students who participate in this year's competition. Eligible submissions should focus on current issues regarding bankruptcy jurisdiction, bankruptcy litigation, or evidence issues in bankruptcy cases or proceedings.
The first-place winner, sponsored by Invotex Group, Inc., will receive a cash prize of $2,000 and publication of his or her paper in the prestigious ABI Journal. The second-place winner, sponsored by Jenner & Block LLP, will receive a cash prize of $1,250 and publication of his or her paper in an ABI committee newsletter. The third-place winner, sponsored by Thompson & Knight LLP, will receive a cash prize of $750 plus publication of his or her paper in an ABI committee newsletter. For competition participation and submission guidelines, please visit http://papers.abi.org.
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: STATE OF NEVADA V. MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEM INC. (9TH CIR.)
Summarized by Richard Corbi of Lowenstein Sandler PC
Because the defendants had no "obligation" to record assignments or other documents relating to securing property, the prosecution failed to state a claim of liability under Nevada False Claims Act section 357.040(1)(g).
There are more than 600 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: SECOND CIRCUIT SUMMARILY REVERSES CLAIMS-TRADING DECISION
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent blog post examines a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Longacre Master Fund v. ATS Automation Tooling Systems. The Second Circuit summarily reversed a district court decision that will likely strengthen the hand of specialized firms that look to buy claims in large chapter 11 cases, according to the 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
Bankruptcy courts should have unfettered discretion in adjusting fee applications, even when no party-in-interest has raised objections.
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