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Taking Stock Of Chapter 11, David A. Skeel Jr. May 2021

Taking Stock Of Chapter 11, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In this Essay, written for a symposium honoring Sam Gerdano, I offer an assessment of current Chapter 11 theory and practice. The most distinctive feature of current Chapter 11 practice is the extent to which the parties now enter into intercreditor agreements, restructuring support agreements and other actual contracts governing their rights and responsibilities. One question raised by the dramatic shift in bankruptcy practice is whether the leading normative theory of bankruptcy, the Creditors’ Bargain Theory, is now obsolete, as some scholars have suggested. The Creditors’ Bargain Theory explains bankruptcy as a solution to coordination problems that might lead to ...


Unwritten Rules And The New Contract Paradigm, David A. Skeel Jr. May 2020

Unwritten Rules And The New Contract Paradigm, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In a recent essay—part of a larger book project-- Douglas Baird contends that the standard accounts of the history of corporate reorganization miss an essential feature: the extent to which both current and prior practice have been governed by unwritten rules (such as full disclosure and the opportunity for each party to participate in the negotiations) that “are well-known to insiders, but largely invisible to those on the outside.” According to Professor Baird, the unwritten rules, not bankruptcy’s distribution provisions or other features of the Bankruptcy Code, are the essence of corporate reorganization.

This essay is a short ...


Distorted Choice In Corporate Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2020

Distorted Choice In Corporate Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

We ordinarily assume that a central objective of every voting process is ensuring an undistorted vote. Recent developments in corporate bankruptcy, which culminates with an elaborate vote, are quite puzzling from this perspective. Two strategies now routinely used in big cases are intended to distort, and clearly do distort, the voting process. Restructuring support agreements (RSAs) and “deathtrap” provisions remove creditors’ ability to vote for or against a proposed reorganization simply on the merits.

This Article offers the first comprehensive analysis of these new distortive techniques. One possible solution is simply to ban distortive techniques, as several scholars advocate with ...


Christianity And Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr. Dec 2019

Christianity And Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Although the term “bankruptcy” is nowhere to be found in the Bible, debt and the consequences of default are a major theme both in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. In Israel, as in the ancient Near East generally, a debtor who defaulted on his obligations was often sold into slavery or servitude. Biblical law moderated the harshness of this system by prohibiting Israelites from charging interest on loans to one another, thus diminishing the risk of default, and by requiring the release of slaves after seven years of service. Jesus alluded to the lending laws at least ...


Bankruptcy For Banks: A Tribute (And Little Plea) To Jay Westbrook, David A. Skeel Jr. Oct 2018

Bankruptcy For Banks: A Tribute (And Little Plea) To Jay Westbrook, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In this brief essay, to be included in a book celebrating the work of Jay Westbrook, I begin by surveying Jay’s wide-ranging contributions to bankruptcy scholarship. Jay’s functional analysis has had a profound effect on scholars’ understanding of key issues in domestic bankruptcy law, and Jay has been the leading scholarly figure on cross-border insolvency. After surveying Jay’s influence, I turn to the topic at hand: a proposed reform that would facilitate the use of bankruptcy to resolve the financial distress of large financial institutions. Jay has been a strong critic of this legislation, arguing that financial ...


Reflections On Two Years Of P.R.O.M.E.S.A., David A. Skeel Jr. Jun 2018

Reflections On Two Years Of P.R.O.M.E.S.A., David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Essay draws both on my scholarly and on my personal experience as a member of Puerto Rico’s oversight board to assess the first two years of the Board’s existence. I begin in a scholarly mode, by exploring the question of where P.R.O.M.E.S.A., the legislation that created the Board, came from. P.R.O.M.E.S.A.’s core provisions are, I will argue, the product of two historical patterns that have emerged in responses to the financial distress of public entities in the United States. The first dates back to ...


The Empty Idea Of “Equality Of Creditors”, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2018

The Empty Idea Of “Equality Of Creditors”, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

For two hundred years, the equality of creditors norm—the idea that similarly situated creditors should be treated similarly—has been widely viewed as the most important principle in American bankruptcy law, rivaled only by our commitment to a fresh start for honest but unfortunate debtors. I argue in this Article that the accolades are misplaced. Although the equality norm once was a rough proxy for legitimate concerns, such as curbing self-dealing, it no longer plays this role. Nor does it serve any other beneficial purpose.

Part I of this Article traces the historical emergence and evolution of the equality ...


Foreword: Bankruptcy’S New And Old Frontiers, William W. Bratton, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2018

Foreword: Bankruptcy’S New And Old Frontiers, William W. Bratton, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Symposium marks the fortieth anniversary of the enactment of the 1978 Bankruptcy Code (the “1978 Code” or the “Code”) with an extended look at seismic changes that currently are reshaping Chapter 11 reorganization. Today’s typical Chapter 11 case looks radically different than did the typical case in the Code’s early years. In those days, Chapter 11 afforded debtors a cozy haven. Most everything that mattered occurred within the context of the formal proceeding, where the debtor enjoyed agenda control, a leisurely timetable, and judicial solicitude. The safe haven steadily disappeared over time, displaced by a range of ...


Insolvency Law As Credit Enhancement And Enforcement Mechanism: A Closer Look At Global Modernization Of Secured Transactions Law, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Jan 2018

Insolvency Law As Credit Enhancement And Enforcement Mechanism: A Closer Look At Global Modernization Of Secured Transactions Law, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This essay revisits earlier work on the relationship between insolvency law and secured credit, the role of secured transactions law reforms, and the benefits of secured credit. These complex relationships require a holistic approach toward reforms of secured transactions law and insolvency law. Merely enacting sensible secured transactions laws and insolvency laws may be insufficient to produce the intended benefits from either set of laws.

The essay is informed by an ongoing qualitative empirical study of business credit in Japan—the Japanese Business Credit Project. The JBCP involves interviews of representatives of Japanese financial institutions and governmental bodies and legal ...


Bankruptcy’S Uneasy Shift To A Contract Paradigm, David A. Skeel Jr., George Triantis Jan 2018

Bankruptcy’S Uneasy Shift To A Contract Paradigm, David A. Skeel Jr., George Triantis

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The most dramatic development in twenty-first century bankruptcy practice has been the increasing use of contracts to shape the bankruptcy process. To explain the new contract paradigm—our principal objective in this Article-- we begin by examining the structure of current bankruptcy law. Although the Bankruptcy Code of 1978 has long been viewed as mandatory, its voting and cramdown rules, among others, invite considerable contracting. The emerging paradigm is asymmetric, however. While the Code and bankruptcy practice allow for ex post contracting, ex ante contracts are viewed with suspicion.

We next use contract theory to assess the two modes of ...


The New Bond Workouts, William W. Bratton, Adam J. Levitin Jan 2018

The New Bond Workouts, William W. Bratton, Adam J. Levitin

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Bond workouts are a famously dysfunctional method of debt restructuring, ridden with opportunistic and coercive behavior by bondholders and bond issuers. Yet since 2008 bond workouts have quietly started to work. A cognizable portion of the restructuring market has shifted from bankruptcy court to out-of-court workouts by way of exchange offers made only to large institutional investors. The new workouts feature a battery of strong-arm tactics by bond issuers, and aggrieved bondholders have complained in court. The result has been a new, broad reading of the primary law governing workouts, section 316(b) of the Trust Indenture Act of 1939 ...


Bankruptcy On The Side, Kenneth Ayotte, Anthony J. Casey, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2017

Bankruptcy On The Side, Kenneth Ayotte, Anthony J. Casey, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This article provides a framework for analyzing side agreements in corporate bankruptcy, such as intercreditor and “bad boy” agreements. These agreements are controversial because they commonly include a promise by one party to remain silent – to waive some procedural right they would otherwise have under the Bankruptcy Code – at potentially crucial points in the reorganization process.

Using simplified examples, we show that side agreements create benefits in some instances, but parties to a side agreement may have incentive to contract for specific performance or excessive stipulated damages that impose negative externalities on non-parties to the agreement. A promise not to ...


A Two-Step Plan For Puerto Rico, Clayton P. Gillette, David A. Skeel Jr. Mar 2016

A Two-Step Plan For Puerto Rico, Clayton P. Gillette, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Few still believe that Puerto Rico is capable of meeting all of its financial obligations and continuing to provide basic services. The territory is already in default, and conditions are rapidly deteriorating. Is there a way forward? We think there is. In this short article, we outline a two-part plan for correcting Puerto Rico’s most urgent fiscal and financial problems.

The first step is to create an independent financial control board that has authority over Puerto Rico’s budgets and related issues. Notwithstanding concerns that an externally imposed financial control board (FCB) may interfere with the decision making processes ...


A No-Tribunal Sdrm And The Means Of Binding Creditors To The Terms Of A Restructuring Plan, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Jan 2016

A No-Tribunal Sdrm And The Means Of Binding Creditors To The Terms Of A Restructuring Plan, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The paper addresses two discrete but related and essential attributes of a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism (SDRM). It first considers the merits and feasibility of an SDRM that would provide a procedure for proposing and adopting a restructuring plan for a sovereign debtor’s debt which would not involve any tribunal or administrator (a No-Tribunal SDRM). The No-Tribunal SDRM would undertake the restructuring as if the sovereign debtor and its creditors were subject to the Model CAC regime. In addition to embodying a novel and interesting structure for an SDRM—and one that eliminates the difficult hurdle of identifying a ...


Everything’S Bigger In Texas: Except The Medmal Settlements, Tom Baker, Eric Helland, Jonathan Klick Jan 2016

Everything’S Bigger In Texas: Except The Medmal Settlements, Tom Baker, Eric Helland, Jonathan Klick

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Recent work using Texas closed claim data finds that physicians are rarely required to use personal assets in medical malpractice settlements even when plaintiffs secure judgments above the physician's insurance limits. In equilibrium, this should lead physicians to purchase less insurance. Qualitative research on the behavior of plaintiffs suggests that there is a norm under which plaintiffs agree not to pursue personal assets as long as defendants are not grossly underinsured. This norm operates as a soft constraint on physicians. All other things equal, while physicians want to lower their coverage, they do not want to violate the norm ...


Governmental Intervention In An Economic Crisis, Robert K. Rasmussen, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2016

Governmental Intervention In An Economic Crisis, Robert K. Rasmussen, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper articulates a framework both for assessing the various government bailouts that took place at the onset of Great Recession and for guiding future rescue efforts when they become necessary. The goals for those engineering a bailout should be to be as transparent as possible, to articulate clearly the reason for the intervention, to respect existing priorities among investors, to exercise control only at the top level where such efforts can be seen by the public, and to exit as soon as possible. By these metrics, some of the recent bailouts should be applauded, while others fell short. We ...


Governance Reform And The Judicial Role In Municipal Bankruptcy, Clayton P. Gillette, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2016

Governance Reform And The Judicial Role In Municipal Bankruptcy, Clayton P. Gillette, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Recent proceedings involving large municipalities such as Detroit, Stockton, and Vallejo illustrate both the utility and the limitations of using the Bankruptcy Code to adjust municipal debt. In this article, we contend that, to truly resolve the distress of a substantial city, municipal bankruptcy needs to do more than simply provide immediate debt relief. Debt adjustment alone does nothing to remedy the fragmented decision-making and incentives for expanding municipal budgets that underlie municipal distress. Unless bankruptcy also addresses governance dysfunction, the city may slide right back into financial crisis. Governance restructuring has long been an essential element of corporate bankruptcy ...


A Framework For A Formal Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism: The Kiss Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) And Other Guiding Principles, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Oct 2015

A Framework For A Formal Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism: The Kiss Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) And Other Guiding Principles, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Given the ongoing work on a multilateral restructuring process for sovereign debt in the UN, consideration of the content and implementation of a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism (SDRM) is timely. The framework and content of the SDRM proposed here differs from earlier proposals in several important respects. For the classification and supermajority voting of claims in the approval a restructuring plan, it would mimic the structure and operation of the model collective action clauses (Model CACs) proposed by the International Capital Markets Association. Restructuring under a qualified sovereign debt restructuring law (QSDRL) would be guided by four principles: (i) observe ...


The New Synthesis Of Bank Regulation And Bankruptcy In The Dodd-Frank Era, David A. Skeel Jr. May 2015

The New Synthesis Of Bank Regulation And Bankruptcy In The Dodd-Frank Era, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Since the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, U.S. bank regulation and bankruptcy have become far more closely intertwined. In this Article, I ask whether the new synthesis of bank regulation and bankruptcy is coherent, and whether it is likely to prove effective.

I begin by exploring some of the basic differences between bank resolution, which is a highly administrative process in the U.S., and bankruptcy, which relies more on courts and the parties themselves. I then focus on a series of remarkable new innovations designed to facilitate the rapid recapitalization of systemically important financial institutions: convertible ...


What Is A Lien? Lessons From Municipal Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2015

What Is A Lien? Lessons From Municipal Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

From the outset of Detroit’s bankruptcy, an unlikely set of issues kept coming up: What exactly is a lien? Who has a property interest or its equivalent in bankruptcy? Did general obligation bondholders have special status, due to Detroit’s promise to use its “full faith and credit” for repayment? What about Detroit’s pension beneficiaries, who could point to a provision in the Michigan Constitution stating that accrued pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired. In this Article, I explore these and related issues that have arisen in Detroit and other recent municipal bankruptcy cases.

Part I of ...


From Chrysler And General Motors To Detroit, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2015

From Chrysler And General Motors To Detroit, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In the past five years, three of the most remarkable bankruptcy cases in American history have come out of Detroit: the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors in 2009, and of Detroit itself in 2012. The principal objective of this Article is simply to show that the Grand Bargain at the heart of the Detroit bankruptcy is the direct offspring of the bankruptcy sale transactions that were used to restructure Chrysler and GM. The proponents of Detroit’s “Grand Bargain” never would have dreamed up the transaction were it not for the federal government-engineered carmaker bankruptcies. The Article’s second ...


Rediscovering Corporate Governance In Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2015

Rediscovering Corporate Governance In Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In this Essay on Lynn LoPucki and Bill Whitford’s corporate reorganization project, written for a symposium honoring Bill Whitford, I begin by very briefly describing its historical antecedents. The project draws on the insights and perspectives of two closely intertwined traditions: the legal realism of 1930s, whose exemplars included William Douglas and other participants in the SEC study; and the law in action movement at the University of Wisconsin. In Section II, I briefly survey the key contributions of the corporate governance project, which punctured the then-conventional wisdom about the treatment of shareholders in bankruptcy, managers’ principal allegiance, and ...


The (Il)Legitimacy Of Bankruptcies For The Benefit Of Secured Creditors, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Jan 2015

The (Il)Legitimacy Of Bankruptcies For The Benefit Of Secured Creditors, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper explores the legitimacy—or illegitimacy—of filing and maintaining a case under the Bankruptcy Code when the sole or principal beneficiary or beneficiaries of the case would be a secured creditor or secured creditors. In the situation posited here, the application of the usual distributional priority rules would not produce any distribution for the general, unsecured creditors of the debtor. In the prototypical case virtually all of the assets of the debtor would be subject to secured claims securing obligations that exceed the value of the collateral, i.e., the secured creditor would be undersecured and there would ...


Single Point Of Entry And The Bankruptcy Alternative, David A. Skeel Jr. Feb 2014

Single Point Of Entry And The Bankruptcy Alternative, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Essay, which will appear in Across the Great Divide: New Perspectives on the Financial Crisis, a Brookings Institution and Hoover Institution book, begins with a brief overview of concerns raised by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy about the adequacy of our existing architecture for resolving the financial distress of systemically important financial institutions. The principal takeaway of the first section is that Title II as enacted left most of these issues unanswered. By contrast, the FDIC’s new single point of entry strategy, which is introduced in the second section, can be seen as addressing nearly all of them. The ...


When Should Bankruptcy Be An Option (For People, Places Or Things)?, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2014

When Should Bankruptcy Be An Option (For People, Places Or Things)?, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

When many people think about bankruptcy, they have a simple left-to-right spectrum of possibilities in mind. The spectrum starts with personal bankruptcy, moves next to corporations and other businesses, and then to municipalities, states, and finally countries. We assume that bankruptcy makes the most sense for individuals; that it makes a great deal of sense for corporations; that it is plausible but a little more suspect for cities; that it would be quite odd for states; and that bankruptcy is unimaginable for a country.

In this Article, I argue that the left-to-right spectrum is sensible but mistaken. After defining “bankruptcy ...


Harmonizing Choice-Of-Law Rules For International Insolvency Cases: Virtual Territoriality, Virtual Universalism, And The Problem Of Local Interests, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Jan 2014

Harmonizing Choice-Of-Law Rules For International Insolvency Cases: Virtual Territoriality, Virtual Universalism, And The Problem Of Local Interests, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper explores the potential content and feasibility of a set of harmonized choice of law rules (HICOL Rules) that would apply in insolvency proceedings. It contemplates a main insolvency proceeding opened in a debtor’s center of main interests (“COMI”) and the existence of (or possibility of opening) one or more non-main (or secondary) proceedings. It also contemplates the possibility that an insolvency representative in a main or non-main proceeding may seek and be granted recognition in another state under the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency (codified as Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S ...


When Is A Dog’S Tail Not A Leg?: A Property-Based Methodology For Distinguishing Sales Of Receivables From Security Interests That Secure An Obligation, Steven L. Harris, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Jan 2014

When Is A Dog’S Tail Not A Leg?: A Property-Based Methodology For Distinguishing Sales Of Receivables From Security Interests That Secure An Obligation, Steven L. Harris, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

There are two principal ways in which a firm that is owed money payable in the future but needs the money now may use its rights to payment (“receivables”) to obtain the needed financing. It might sell its receivables, or it might borrow and use the receivables as collateral to secure the loan. Different legal consequences follow depending on whether the transaction is a true sale or is a security interest that secures an obligation (a “SISO”).

These legal consequences are particularly salient when the firm enters bankruptcy. If the transaction is a sale, then the buyer can collect the ...


The Bankruptcy Code’S Safe Harbors For Settlement Payments And Securities Contracts: When Is Safe Too Safe?, Charles W. Mooney Jr. Jan 2014

The Bankruptcy Code’S Safe Harbors For Settlement Payments And Securities Contracts: When Is Safe Too Safe?, Charles W. Mooney Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article addresses insolvency law-related issues in connection with certain financial-markets contracts, such as securities contracts, commodity contracts, forward contracts, repurchase agreements (repos), swaps and other derivatives, and master netting agreements. The Bankruptcy Code provides special treatment—safe harbors—for these contracts (collectively, qualified financial contracts or QFCs). This special treatment is considerably more favorable for nondebtor parties to QFCs than the rules applicable to nondebtor parties to other contracts with a debtor. Yet even some strong critics of the safe harbors concede that some special treatment may be warranted. This Article offers a critique of the safe harbor for ...


Can Pensions Be Restructured In (Detroit’S) Municipal Bankruptcy?, David A. Skeel Jr. Oct 2013

Can Pensions Be Restructured In (Detroit’S) Municipal Bankruptcy?, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper, which was written as a White Paper for the Federalist Society, describes and assesses the question whether public employee pensions can be restructured in bankruptcy, with a particular focus on Detroit. Part I gives a brief overview both of the treatment of pensions under state law, and of the Michigan law governing the Detroit pensions. Part II explains the legal argument for restructuring an underfunded pension in bankruptcy. Part III considers the major federal constitutional objections to restructuring, Part IV discusses arguments based on the Michigan Constitution, and Part V assesses several Chapter 9 arguments against restructuring. None ...


Bankruptcy And Economic Recovery, Thomas H. Jackson, David A. Skeel Jr. Jul 2013

Bankruptcy And Economic Recovery, Thomas H. Jackson, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

To measure economic growth or recovery, one traditionally looks to metrics such as the unemployment rate and the growth in GDP. And in terms of figuring out institutional policies that will stimulate economic growth, the focus most often is on policies that encourage investment, entrepreneurial enterprises, and reward risk-taking with appropriate returns. Bankruptcy academics that we are, we tend to add our own area of expertise to this stable— with the firm belief that thinking critically about bankruptcy policy is an important element of any set of institutions designed to speed economic recovery. In this paper, written for a book ...