1 posts from September 2022

Unbundling Business Bankruptcy Law

posted by Melissa Jacoby

A long-in-process draft article has just become available to be downloaded and read here. Comments remain welcome.  The Weinstein Company bankruptcy features prominently in this draft article. 

Every contract in America contains an invisible exception: different enforcement rules apply if a party files for bankruptcy. Overriding state contract law, chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code gives bankrupt companies enormous flexibility to decide what to do with its pending contracts. Congress provided this controversial tool to chapter 11 debtors to increase the odds that a company can reorganize. To promote this objective while also preventing abuse and protecting stakeholders, Congress embedded this tool and others in an integrated package deal, including creditor voting. The tool was not meant as a standalone benefit for solvent private parties to pluck from the process for their own benefit, like an apple from a tree.

In recent decades, the chapter 11 package deal has been unbundled in practice, typically on grounds of economic urgency. While scholars and policymakers have attended to the quick going-concern sales of companies featured in unbundled bankruptcies, they have not sufficiently explored the challenges associated with a contract-intensive business.

To help fill that gap, this draft article illustrates how the ad hoc procedures used to manage quick sales of contract-intensive businesses can undercut two major chapter 11 objectives: maximizing economic value and fair distribution. They amount to a wholesale delegation of a substantial federal bankruptcy entitlement to a solvent third party. In addition to the impact on economic value and distribution, this draft article also explores a Constitutional problem with this practice: it arguably exceeds the scope of the federal bankruptcy power.

 

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.

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