All items from Bankruptcy Law Insights

Energy Future Holdings (EFH), f/k/a TXU Corp., an energy company centered in Texas, was taken private in 2007 in the largest leveraged buyout transaction that has ever taken place.  The deal was largely predicated on an anticipated rise in natural gas prices; when prices instead plummeted the company, which had borrowed nearly $40 billion, was left with a massively unbalanced capital structure.  The chapter 11 cases of EFH and its subsidiaries commenced earlier this year have been proportionately contentious and complex.  (Kelley Drye & Warren LLP represents a creditor of certain EFH subsidiaries, but has taken no part in the matters discussed here). 
EFH conducts business through two separate holding companies.  Through its subsidiary Energy Future Intermediate Holding Company LLC (EFIH), it owns an 80% interest in Oncor, a regulated electricity transmission and distribution company.  Through its indirect subsidiary Texas Competitive Electric Holdings Company LLC (TCEH), it engages in competitive energy market activities, including electricity generation, wholesale and retail electricity sales, and commodity trading.

Posted 6 days 13 hours ago

One month ago, Judge Christopher Klein ruled in the city of Stockton, CA bankruptcy case that public employee pension obligations can be impaired in municipal bankruptcy cases under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code.  Last week, however, Judge Klein approved the plan of adjustment for Stockton that left public pension obligations intact over the vociferous objection of Franklin Investments, a major city bondholder whose claim was substantially reduced.  The confirmation of the Stockton plan underscores that even as there now appears to be a sound legal foundation for distressed municipalities to utilize Chapter 9 to reduce public pension claims, achieving such a result will remain an arduous process

Posted 6 weeks 9 hours ago

The perception that public employee pension obligations cannot be impaired in bankruptcy suffered a damaging blow several months ago in the City of Detroit bankruptcy case, and has now been fatally wounded by the recent ruling of Judge Christopher Klein in the Chapter 9 case of Stockton, California.  Although Judge Klein’s decision is not likely to lead to a spate of municipal bankruptcy filings in an effort to escape burdensome pension liabilities (indeed, it may not even lead to the actual diminishment of pension claims in the Stockton case itself), this is an important decision.  Unless reversed on appeal, it will alter the legal landscape for distressed municipalities.  Together with the similar Detroit decision, the Stockton ruling will affect negotiations among municipalities, employee unions, pension system representatives and financial creditors across the country. 

Posted 9 weeks 9 hours ago

General Motors LLC (“New GM”) came into being in the summer of 2009, when it acquired substantially all of the assets of General Motors Corporation (“Old GM”) in a sale undertaken pursuant to section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code.  The July 2009 Sale Order approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber transferred the assets to New GM “free and clear” of claims against Old GM (other than a narrow range of expressly assumed liabilities), and contained an express injunction to prevent Old GM creditors from proceeding against New GM.  (Kelley Drye & Warren LLP represents certain major creditors of Old GM.)

Posted 15 weeks 2 days ago

Three years ago, in Stern v. Marshall, a case that arose out of the endless litigation between Anna Nicole Smith and the son of her late husband, the Supreme Court stunned the commercial legal community by reopening what many had believed were long-settled questions regarding the constitutionality of the United States bankruptcy courts.  Although the Court’s opinion in Stern purported to be limited, its analysis made clear that the jurisdictional underpinnings of the entire bankruptcy court system rested on shaky ground.  Since then, practitioners and lower courts have struggled to deal with the ramifications of that decision.   

Posted 20 weeks 11 hours ago

Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York last week ruled that the U.S. Bankruptcy Code does not permit a bankruptcy trustee to recover foreign transfers.  Specifically, Judge Rakoff refused to allow Irving Picard, the trustee of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“BLMIS”), to recoup monies initially transferred from BLMIS to non-U.S. investment firms that were direct investors in BLMIS, and then subsequently transferred to such firms’ non-U.S. customers.  Picard argued that Section 550(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code empowers a bankruptcy trustee to recover fraudulently transferred funds from subsequent transferees of the initial recipient.  Judge Rakoff declined, however, to give that provision extraterritorial application, and denied recovery against the non-U.S. indirect BLMIS investors.  (Kelley Drye & Warren LLP represents certain alleged subsequent transferees.) 

Posted 22 weeks 16 hours ago

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, in Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkinson, limited somewhat the ramifications of its landmark opinion two years ago in Stern v. Marshall.  The Court in Executive Benefits could have thrown the entire federal bankruptcy court system into disarray by advancing Stern’s hard line view on the limited powers of Article I bankruptcy judges.  Instead, it issued a simple and pragmatic decision that will have only minimal impact.  However, by not addressing certain key questions, the Court ensured that uncertainty will continue to hover over issues pertaining to bankruptcy court jurisdiction.    

Posted 27 weeks 2 days ago

A recent ruling in the Chapter 11 case of Free Lance-Star Publishing limited the credit bidding rights of a secured creditor.  The ruling has called into question the ability of the holder of secured debt to utilize such debt to acquire companies on a going concern basis in bankruptcy cases, particularly in instances where the debt was acquired at a discount for such express purpose.  Because this has been a common strategy of numerous hedge funds and investment vehicles that have found no shortage of willing sellers among commercial banks and other traditional lenders holding large portfolios of troubled loans, the Free Lance-Star Publishing decision and an earlier substantially similar ruling in the Chapter 11 case of Fisker Automotive have justifiably received wide attention.

Posted 30 weeks 10 hours ago

For the past two years, Charles Ergen, chairman and co-founder of Dish Network, and Philip Falcone, manager of Harbinger Capital Partners, have been doing battle in the Chapter 11 case of mobile communications company LightSquared Inc.  LightSquared, primarily owned by Harbinger and controlled by Falcone, holds spectrum rights potentially worth billions of dollars, but was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in 2012 following its failure to obtain crucial FCC approvals. 

Posted 31 weeks 1 day ago

A few months ago, a ruling in the Chapter 11 case of Fisker Automotive narrowed a secured creditor’s right to credit bid its debt in connection with a sale of the debtor’s assets.  The decision surprised many observers and resurrected uncertainty about a debtor’s ability to limit a secured lender’s credit bidding rights (a dispute that appeared to have been firmly resolved in favor of secured creditors only two years ago by the Supreme Court’s decision in RadLax Gateway Hotel).  Fisker Automotive put the issue of credit bidding back on the table, particularly in so-called “loan to own” situations where secured debt is purchased at a substantial discount for the purpose of effecting the acquisition of a distressed borrower.  An opinion issued last week in the Chapter 11 case of Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. is certain to further the uncertainty.  

Posted 34 weeks 3 days ago