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New Saudi Restructuring Law in 2016?

posted by Jason Kilborn

SaudimoneyA pair of Squire Patton Boggs attorneys have reported that a new restructuring law may appear in Saudi Arabia next year. Their description of the current law is very lucid--one of the only such descriptions in English I've found in years of research--and their account of the proposed law is intriguing. The current Saudi law is totally creditor-oriented and limited to encouraging creditor-by-creditor settlement. This limited approach is likely driven by religious doctrinal reasons described in the sparse English language literature on Islamic bankruptcy (see, for example, my own piece on debt forgiveness in Islamic law, and a great piece by Abed Awad and Robert Michael on the contrast between Chapter 11 and the Saudi-Hanbali approach to Islamic bankruptcy). The new law will apparently change nothing with respect to individual insolvency, unfortunately. As for business reorganization, however, I was very surprised to see the suggestions in the report that this new law would (1) allow majority votes of creditors to impose restructuring arrangements on dissenting creditors, including secured creditors, and (2) a rehabilitation process would provide for a discharge of debt. This seems inconsistent with the fundamentals of Islamic law, which are "the ultimate sources of reference for ... the other laws of the State." It will be very interesting to see how the Saudi state religious authorities reconcile the proposed "modern" business rescue approach with the quite conservative interpretation of Islamic law that prevails in the Kingdom.

Saudi Riyal image courtesy of Shutterstock

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