postings by Melissa Jacoby

Sorting Bugs and Features of Mass Tort Bankruptcy

posted by Melissa Jacoby

I have posted a short draft article about mass tort bankruptcy. If you would like to send me comments on the draft, that would be lovely, but please keep two caveats in mind. First, I must submit the revisions by February 9. Second, the article must not exceed 10,000 words. For every addition, some other thing must be subtracted. The required brevity means the article does not and cannot canvas the large volume of scholarship about the topic, let alone the mini-explosion in recent years. 

For the Credit Slips audience I would like to particularly highlight Part I of the article, which contextualizes debates about current mass tort bankruptcy by reviewing two sets of sources from the 1990s and early 2000s. The first is the 1997 final report of the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. The second is scholarship, including two Federal Judicial Center books published in 2000 and 2005, of Professor Elizabeth Gibson, whose expertise lies at the intersection of civil procedure, federal courts, and bankruptcy.  If you are working on or talking a lot about mass bankruptcy but have not reviewed these materials in a while (or ever), then I hope you will be incentivized to check those out for yourselves. 

New Resource on Uniform Commercial Code Reform for Digital Assets including Crytocurrency

posted by Melissa Jacoby

Earlier this fall I linked to a variety of resources, including webinars, on amendments to the Uniform Commercial Code to account for various types of digital assets. The scope includes but is not limited to commercial transactions involving cryptocurrency.

To add to these resources, a version of the amendments that includes official comments is now available.  

Because there will not be a uniform effective date, and some states have gotten an early start by implementing prior drafts of the amendments (see prior post), these could swiftly become relevant to transactions and disputes, including those that land in bankruptcy court. 

New Book Alert: Delinquent

posted by Melissa Jacoby

Cover ImageThe University of California Press has published Delinquent: Inside America's Debt Machine by Elena Botella. 

Botella used to be "a Senior Business Manager at Capital One, where she ran the company’s Secured Card credit card and taught credit risk management. Her writing has appeared in The New RepublicSlate, American Banker, and The Nation."

Here's the description from the publisher between the dotted lines below: 

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A consumer credit industry insider-turned-outsider explains how banks lure Americans deep into debt, and how to break the cycle.

Delinquent takes readers on a journey from Capital One’s headquarters to street corners in Detroit, kitchen tables in Sacramento, and other places where debt affects people's everyday lives. Uncovering the true costs of consumer credit to American families in addition to the benefits, investigative journalist Elena Botella—formerly an industry insider who helped set credit policy at Capital One—reveals the underhanded and often predatory ways that banks induce American borrowers into debt they can’t pay back.

Combining Botella’s insights from the banking industry, quantitative data, and research findings as well as personal stories from interviews with indebted families around the country, Delinquent provides a relatable and humane entry into understanding debt. Botella exposes the ways that bank marketing, product design, and customer management strategies exploit our common weaknesses and fantasies in how we think about money, and she also demonstrates why competition between banks has failed to make life better for Americans in debt. Delinquent asks: How can we make credit available to those who need it, responsibly and without causing harm? Looking to the future, Botella presents a thorough and incisive plan for reckoning with and reforming the industry.

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Looking forward to reading this book! Also expecting to see more from the University of California Press of direct interest to Credit Slips readers in the years ahead. 

Getting Ready for Uniform Commercial Code Reform?

posted by Melissa Jacoby

2022 amendmentsIAs digital assets and emerging technologies become common in commercial transactions, state commercial law must rise to the challenge - that's the driving force behind a new set of amendments to the Uniform Commercial Code, including Article 9 governing secured transactions in personal property - such as in virtual currencies and nonfungible tokens.

No state has enacted the amendments yet,* but prior reforms to Article 9, at least, have been remarkably successful at achieving broad enactment. Consider, for example, the visual of the 2010 amendments to Article 9. Blue=enacted!

2010 amendments

How to track developments? Here are some publicly available resources courtesy of the Uniform Law Commission:

First, here is where to find the actual amendments as finally approved by the Uniform Law Commission and the American Law Institute. 

Second, here is a summary. Note the mention at the bottom of transition rules for lenders who followed existing law in perfecting security interests, etc. (by the way, there is not a prospective uniform effective date for these amendments). 

Third, videos! Here's one highlighting the changes for digital assets. And here's another on other matters covered in the amendments

Fourth, here's where proposed bills and enactment information will be tracked.

*According to the digital assets video, some states adopted earlier versions of part or all of these amendments (New Hampshire, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas) but are expected to update those to conform with the final versions. Wyoming and Idaho went their own way on commercial transactions in digital assets.  

Fake and Real People in Bankruptcy

posted by Melissa Jacoby

This draft essay, Fake and Real People in Bankruptcy, just posted on SSRN, is considerably less far along than Unbundling Business Bankruptcy Law, posted last week. Fake and Real starts with a Third Circuit case that tends to be less well known: it upheld the dismissal of an individual bankruptcy filer whose primary asset was a home he had built with his own hands. Perhaps you will find that story relevant to current debates about what is permissible in large chapter 11 cases. Like Unbundling Business Bankruptcy Law, Fake and Real reflects some of my in-depth research on The Weinstein Company.  

Here is the abstract: 

This draft essay explores how the bankruptcy system is structurally biased in favor of artificial persons - for-profit companies, non-profit enterprises, and municipalities given independent life by law - relative to humans. The favorable treatment extends to foundational issues such as the scope and timing of permissible debt relief, the conditions to receiving any bankruptcy protections, and the flexibility to depart from the Bankruptcy Code by asserting that doing so will maximize economic value. The system's bias contributes to the "bad-apple-ing" of serious policy problems, running counter to other areas of law have deemed harms like discrimination to be larger institutional phenomena. These features also make bankruptcy a less effective partner in the broader policy project of deterring, remedying, and punishing enterprise misconduct.

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.

 

Tort Law, Social Policy... and Bankruptcy

posted by Melissa Jacoby

DePaulI cannot tell you what to think about the fact that the long-running Clifford Symposium on Tort Law and Social Policy, at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, kicks off with a bankruptcy panel this year.  The official title of the conference this year is Litigating the Public Good: Punishing Serious Corporate Misconduct. Much of the June 2-3 conference is scheduled to occur in person but online observation is available and free: register here. 

Harmony or Mismatch? A virtual event on mass torts and bankruptcy on February 28

posted by Melissa Jacoby

Just wanted to make sure Credit Slips readers were aware of this virtual event at noon Eastern/3 Pacific on February 28. Bonus: a link to a masterful analysis of the topic by Professor Elizabeth Gibson that the Federal Judicial Center published in 2005. (click here for information and registration)

Event

Just posted: Other Judges' Cases

posted by Melissa Jacoby

This article has been in the works a long time. During the Detroit bankruptcy, I wrestled with some of its topics on Credit Slips.  

The case studies involve bankruptcy. The mediators in those cases are life-tenured judges.

The footnotes make it long; the text is short.  

Other Judges' Cases remains in the edits stage and is scheduled to be published later this year.  

Please read it. Thank you!

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