Non-Debtor Releases

posted by Adam Levitin

I have an op-ed in Bloomberg Law about the abuse of non-debtor releases. Many chapter 11 attorneys argue that non-debtor releases are an essential all-purpose deal lubricant and that the excesses of a few cases—Purdue Pharma, Boy Scouts—shouldn't result in throwing out the baby with the bath water. I disagree. There's no question that non-debtor releases can grease a deal (and let's put aside the questionable practice of attorneys negotiating plans that give them releases as well). But so what? There's also a little thing called due process. It's only within the tunnel vision of chapter 11 that reorganization trumps all. Hopefully the Nondebtor Release Prohibition Act, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last month will become law and clarify the matter. 

Indeed, are non-debtor releases actually so important for practice? Chapter 11 lived with them for years before Mansville and even after Mansville it was years before they started being used in non-asbestos cases. Indeed, can anyone actually point to a case where a debtor would have had to liquidate and jobs would have been lost but for non-debtor releases? Perhaps there is such a case, but if so, it's the exception.

Take Purdue Pharma. What would have been the alternative to boughten releases for the Sacklers?  Perhaps a liquidating plan, but I'm not sure that it would have resulted in any job loss, just a going-concern sale. And the estate could have sold its own litigation claims against the Sacklers or put them into a litigation trust. To be sure, one might argue that the boughten releases for the Sacklers are a better deal economically for the estate, and that's the proper measure when considering a settlement of estate claims, but I do not see how the estate—or any bankruptcy judge—can constitutionally impose a settlement of creditors' direct claims against non-debtors. It doesn't comport with due process and it's pretty clearly an uncompensated taking.

I'm sure some readers will disagree, and comments are welcome. Further affiant sayeth not. 

What attorneys' general talk about when they talk about bankruptcy

posted by Melissa Jacoby

FroshSurely not the only thing that state attorneys' generals talk about when they talk about bankruptcy, but a common thing. To wit: 43 sign a letter advocating for a change to venue law in federal bankruptcy cases. Press release here.  

 

Shocking Business Bankruptcy Law

posted by Melissa Jacoby

Another quick announcement that I have posted a draft essay on some under explored intersections between big business bankruptcy and big shocks here. The abstract is short, yes, but so is the essay. It also discusses ice cream. Thanks for reading! 

Who extracts the benefits of big business bankruptcy?

posted by Melissa Jacoby

NBRCThe Deal has a new podcast called Fresh Start hosted by journalist Stephanie Gleason. Stephanie and I recently chatted about big bankruptcies with litigation management at their core and the stakes those cases raise. We covered a lot of ground along the way, including non-debtor releases and the SACKLER Act, notice and voting, forum shopping, equitable mootness, the homogeneity of the restructuring profession, bankruptcy administrators and the United States Trustee system, and the skinny clause of the Constitution at the heart of all of this. We begin by reminiscing about the mass tort and future claims discussion during the deliberations of the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, for which Elizabeth Warren was the reporter, and how much has changed. Check it out here.

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