On 8 February 2018, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance (the “Hong Kong Court“) ruled in Re Supreme Tycoon Limited  HKCFI 277 that the common law power to recognise and assist foreign insolvency proceedings extends to voluntary liquidations. This is the first authority on this issue in Hong Kong. Continue Reading Hong Kong Court confirms common law recognition and assistance for foreign voluntary liquidations
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross sitting in Delaware recently approved J.G. Wentworth’s (the “Debtor’s”) Chapter 11 plan after overruling an objection from the U.S. Trustee regarding third-party releases. The Debtor’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan was the second it has brought before the Delaware bankruptcy court in the last ten years.
The Debtor is a consumer finance company that specializes in purchasing and selling structured settlements and other assets in exchange for insurance payouts. After restructuring $370 million in term loan debt in 2009, the Debtor filed for bankruptcy on December 12, 2017 and brought another prepackaged chapter 11 plan to Delaware bankruptcy court. The plan called for a restructure of nearly $450 million in secured debt whereby senior secured lenders’ claims would be satisfied by receiving 95.5% of the new common equity in the reorganized J.G. Wentworth in addition to roughly 46% of their claims in a cash payout.
While the Debtor and the U.S. Trustee worked through the vast majority of issues regarding the Debtor’s plan, the U.S. Trustee objected to the way third-party releases could be granted absent any affirmative action by a creditor. The U.S. Trustee argued that consent is typically given by creditors to third-party releases in the form of an opt-in or opt-out clause, but here, no such clause or provision existed. Instead, creditors had to file an objection. The U.S. Trustee argued that requiring creditors to file objections to oppose the release of such consent rights imposed an undue burden on creditors. Such an imposition would require the financial burden of hiring and retaining counsel.
In response, J.G. Wentworth noted that the plan received no opposition from any creditors regarding the releases or the plan generally. J.G. Wentworth further argued that creditors were fully aware of their rights since they received a notice explaining the releases with explanatory definitions of all terms for clarity purposes. The notice clearly stated releases within the plan could affect the creditors’ rights.
Although Judge Gross had denied certain third-party releases in the past, he approved these releases noting that they seemed consensual in the absence of any objections from creditors.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn recently decided that a fully-negotiated agreement would not be enforced in the absence of required signatures. The agreement contemplated a settlement between the General Motors bankruptcy trust and car purchasers and accident victims of General Motors cars following an alleged vehicle defect; both parties fully and unambiguously agreed to be bound by the terms of the agreement.
After filing for Chapter 11 protection in 2009, General Motors received $50 billion to operate its business, and the reorganized company was labeled by some as “New G.M.” While New G.M. resumed its business operations as a car manufacturer, Motors Liquidation Company, or “Old G.M.”, became a trust responsible for paying back creditors.
In 2014, G.M. became the target of a litigation whereby car accident victims accused the carmaker of defective ignition switches which led to the deaths of 124 people. In addition to recalling millions of cars, Old G.M. (or “the trust”) entered into a deal whereby it agreed to accept liability, make a $15 million payment and require the issuance of 30 million shares of common stock by New G.M. to its creditors. The combination of the $15 million payment and issuance of 30 million shares of stock totaled nearly a $1.02 billion settlement. Despite the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the trust agreeing to the deal, shortly thereafter New G.M. refused to cooperate. Instead, New G.M. brokered a deal with the trust whereby New G.M. would pay the trust’s legal fees in upcoming litigation with creditors in exchange for the trust withdrawing from the original agreement.
The plaintiffs argued that the settlement agreement should be binding under New York law. The plaintiffs argued that the trust’s constant communication regarding its intent to be bound by the settlement constituted partial performance. In opposition, the trust argued that the agreement was never executed and therefore was not binding.
Judge Glenn’s decision turned on whether a provision within the settlement agreement, which called for signatures in order for the agreement to become “effective and binding”, was an essential part of the agreement or merely a boilerplate contractual provision. Judge Glenn held that contract law allows parties to withdraw from unsigned settlements and ruled that he could not enforce the deal without the trust’s signature. Judge Glenn left open whether plaintiffs may have other remedies against the trust.
Hogan Lovells is representing Scottish Re in the implementation of a sale and restructuring plan for its Cayman Islands subsidiary, Scottish Annuity & Life Insurance Company (Cayman) Ltd. (SALIC), and SALIC’s U.S. subsidiary, Scottish Holdings, Inc. (SHI). The sale and restructuring plan is being implemented through the commencement by SALIC and SHI of U.S. Chapter 11 proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on January 28, 2018. The comprehensive restructuring of the companies’ debt and equity obligations is one of very few foreign insurance companies to seek relief under U.S. federal bankruptcy law.
The Hogan Lovells team is led by Business Restructuring and Insolvency practice partner Peter Ivanick, and also includes Lynn Holbert, John Beck, and Sean Feener.
For more details of the sale and restructuring please see Scottish Re’s press release.
On January 8, 2018, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2017. The bill would require that individual debtors file in the district where their domicile, residence, or principal assets are located, and would require corporate debtors to file in the district in which their principal assets or their principal place of business is located.
Currently, corporations are permitted to file in their places of incorporation or in districts where their affiliates have pending bankruptcy cases. This means that many cases are filed in the District of Delaware, where more than half of U.S. publicly-traded companies are chartered, or in the Southern District of New York, which “benefits from [New York City’s] status as a dominant financial center,” according to Reuters. Statistics released by USCourts.gov indicate that in the one year period ending September 30, 2017, the Southern District of New York saw 587 chapter 11 filings, making up 8% of total filings nationwide. Similarly, the District of Delaware saw 435 chapter 11 filings, or 6% of total filings over the same period.
In a joint press release, Senator Cornyn noted that the bill is meant to “clos[e] the loophole that allows corporations to ‘forum shop’ for districts sympathetic to their interests.” Bankruptcy Courts would be required to transfer or dismiss cases filed in the wrong district, which would prevent debtors from “cherry-picking courts that they think will rule in their favor,” according to Senator Warren. Delaware Governor John Carney (D), Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), and Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have released a joint statement in opposition to the bill.
The Second Circuit recently issued its decision on an appeal to the Momentive Performance Materials Inc. (“MPM”) bankruptcy case. Amongst other issues, the Court found that when determining the appropriate interest rate in a Chapter 11 cramdown, courts should consider market factors rather than strictly apply the Till formula. The Court’s decision will benefit secured creditors when a market rate is ascertainable, as they will no longer have to accept below-market take-back debt.
Another step towards a lender-friendly environment, but the new form of pledge is being delayed
The Italian Parliament passed law No. 155 of 19 October 2017 to delegate the Government to reform the rules on insolvency and financial distress. This has been commented widely in the press and between commentantors, as it is expected to bring about significant developments (we have previously reported here).
What has received less attention, is that the law also mandates Government to reorganise the system of legal priorities (privilegi), i.e. the rights of preference set out at law for given claims to have preference over other creditors. Further, the delegation includes the authority to introduce a form of non-possessory security over moveable assets. Continue Reading Italy to revamp the system of legal priorities, and introduce non-possessory security
On 9 November 2017, in a rare example of a contested recognition hearing, His Honour Judge Paul Matthews granted recognition of Agrokor’s extraordinary administration (EA) as a foreign main proceeding under the Cross-Border Insolvency Regulations 2006 (CBIR).
Agrokor d.d. is the holding company for a group of companies specialising in agriculture, food production and related activities in Croatia. Before its financial difficulties, the group’s annual revenue was estimated to amount to around 15% of Croatia’s GDP. On 6 April 2017, the Law on Extraordinary Administration Proceeding of Companies of Systemic Importance for the Republic of Croatia (the Law, also known as Lex Agrokor) became effective. On 10 April 2017, following an application by Agrokor, an order for extraordinary administration (EA) was made in respect of Agrokor itself and 50 of its affiliates. In July 2017, Agrokor applied to the English court for recognition of the EA as a foreign proceeding under the CBIR. A proceeding will be a foreign proceeding if it is “…a collective judicial or administrative proceeding in a foreign State…pursuant to a law relating to insolvency in which proceeding the assets and affairs of the debtor are subject to control or supervision by a foreign court, for the purpose of reorganisation or liquidation” The recognition application was challenged by one of Agrokor’s largest creditors, who had also brought arbitration proceedings in the English courts, on a number of grounds, all of which were dismissed by the court.
A Hogan Lovells team led by partner Tom Astle is acting for an adhoc committee of bondholders, and providers of a c€1bn super senior DIP facility to the Agrokor Group.
What has the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got in common with the U.S. banking agencies? Simple: the U.S. Government Accountability Office (the “GAO“), which investigates financial matters on behalf of Congress, has opined that both have wrongly published general statements of policy which are in fact rules under the Congressional Review Act (the “CRA“). The GAO issued an opinion on 19 October 2017 that the Leveraged Lending Guidance (being the final interagency guidance on Leveraged Lending issued on 22 March 2013 jointly by the US banking agencies) (“LLG”) is a rule subject to the requirements of the CRA, meaning that it should have been submitted to each House of Congress before it was implemented, and opening the door for the possibility of it being overturned. This is notwithstanding that the LLG explicitly states that it is not a rule – the GAO has reiterated that an agency’s characterization is not determinative of whether it is a rule under the CRA, and the LLG does not meet any of the CRA exceptions.
What does this mean? Read our full bulletin to find out!