Financial Problems of Municipalities

Investing in Southern Europe

Leaving aside the drama of the Greek crisis, Southern Europe is in recovery from a long recession.  Our recent panel of experts discussed investment opportunities in Italy, Spain and  Portugal.

Topics covered include the nature of the opportunities they are working on and the commercial environment facing investors who are looking to undertake  new money debt,  equity and distressed debt investments in the region. The audience was updated on the significant recent developments in the  insolvency laws in Spain and Italy which are designed to facilitate corporate restructuring. We also addressed some of the English law restructuring procedures which investors have used where local law measures have not proved suitable.

The live video presentation from this event is available here, and the presentation materials from this seminar are also available at this link.

The Restructuring Mid-Summer Review: Europe and the Emerging Markets

For those focused on the debt restructuring market, the Greek sovereign crisis (covered extensively in our recent updates1) has drowned out news of other debt restructuring matters this year. Our Alert below addresses key trends in Europe and the Emerging Markets this year which may have gone unnoticed given the understandable emphasis on Greece.

Opportunities for Distressed Debt Funds to buy attractively priced distressed corporate assets and work them out have been few and far between in recent terms. Prices of distressed assets have been high, and often par lenders have decided to extend and amend loans (rather than engage in loan sales to funds or effect fundamental work outs of problem loans). Risk has not been fairly reflected in the price of either primary or secondary market debt. The risk/reward dynamic has been skewed in favour of high risk and low yields; not an attractive combination. The main driver of the activities of Distressed Debt Funds is the default rate. In the 2015 Deutsche Bank Annual Default Survey, Deutsche Bank commented, ‘We can’t overstate how low defaults are…the 2010-2014 cohort [of High Yield Bonds] is the lowest 5 year period for HY defaults in modern history’. Hence, the low level of distressed debt activity.

Poor European growth rates, the difficult backdrop of the Greek debt restructuring talks, and major geopolitical risk, have yielded surprisingly few loan defaults and insolvencies in recent times. In Europe, restructuring activity has tended to be concentrated more in Southern than Northern Europe.

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First Circuit Rules Bankruptcy Code Preempts Puerto Rico’s Recovery Act

On Monday, July 6, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the February 6, 2015 order and injunction of the Puerto Rico District Court and held that section 903(1) of the Bankruptcy Code preempts the Puerto Rico Debt Enforcement and Recovery Act (the “Recovery Act”).  Franklin Cal. Tax Free Trust, et al. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, et al., (1st Cir. July 6, 2015) (Case No. 15-1218): On February 10, 2015, we reported on the district court’s decision holding that the Recovery Act was unconstitutional.

As a result of amendments to the Bankruptcy Code in 1984, Puerto Rico, unlike states, may not authorize its municipalities, including its public utilities like PREPA or PRASA, to seek federal bankruptcy relief under chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code. In considering the appeal of the district court’s order, the Court first confirmed that it had jurisdiction to consider the bondholders’ claims of preemption, that those claims were ripe and that they had become ripe immediately upon adoption of the Recovery Act. The Court then ruled that the Commonwealth’s effort to allow its public corporations to restructure their debt by enacting the Recovery Act is expressly preempted by the federal Bankruptcy Code. Rejecting the Commonwealth’s arguments that the 1984 amendments made the preemption provisions of section 903(1) of the Bankruptcy Code inapplicable, the Court stated that “§ 903(1) has applied to Puerto Rico since the predecessor of that section’s enactment in 1946. The statute does not currently read, nor does anything about the 1984 amendment suggest, that Puerto Rico is outside the reach of § 903(1)’s prohibition. Op. at 4. Because the Court affirmed the district court’s order and injunction, the Court declined to consider the Commonwealth’s appeal of the district court’s order denying motions to dismiss the bondholders’ Contracts Clause and Takings Claims. Op. at 21.

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Bank Resolution in Greece

The result of Sunday’s referendum (July 5, 2015) which rejected the latest proposed bailout by the European authorities was unequivocal. The next steps in this crisis are far less clear, ranging from a swift renegotiation of the terms of the bailout together with an injection of liquidity into the Greek banking system in the most benign scenario to, at the other end of the spectrum, Greece exiting the Eurozone and attaining “pariah status” in the international capital markets.

In this client alert we focus on one aspect of the issues facing Greece – the liquidity crisis facing the Greek banks. We discuss bank resolution procedures available to the Greek authorities.

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Implications for the Imposition of Capital Controls in Greece

Introduction

Following the recent event over the weekend (27/28 June 2015), we set out below a short guide on the current status in Greece.

Background

Months of negotiations on a deal to restructure Greece’s debts appear to have failed. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a referendum for 5 July 2015 on the draft bailout proposals (the “Proposals“) from the EU[1]. Mr Tsipras government will campaign against the Proposals which required a number of measures relating to VAT increases, budgetary restraints, pension reforms and privatisation measures.  On Saturday 27 June 2015 Eurozone finance ministers refused to extend the current EU bailout programme which expires on 30 June 2015. In response on Sunday 28th July 2015 the Greek government announced the imposition of capital controls.

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Orrick Ranked Among Top Ten Bankruptcy Law Firms

2015Q1_250x150_Bnk_COrrick has been ranked a Top Ten Bankruptcy Law Firm by The Deal Pipeline. These rankings are compiled on a quarterly basis through comprehensive deal intelligence to identify the top law, crisis management, investment, and non-investment firms and professionals involved in bankruptcy transactions throughout the United States.

Recent highlights for Orrick’s restructuring team include advising the City of Stockton, California on the confirmation of its chapter 9 plan of adjustment and its successful exit from bankruptcy; representing the bidding lenders in a potential $400 million post-petition DIP financing for the City of Detroit; and advising several of the world’s largest banks in the $6 billion restructuring of the Indiana Toll Road—the largest toll-road debt restructuring to date. For their work on these and other matters, the Orrick team was recognized by Law360 as one of the publication’s Bankruptcy Practice Groups of the Year.

To see the full list of rankings, please click here.

Rep. Pierluisi Introduces Bankruptcy Code Amendment to Permit P.R. Municipalities to File Under Chapter 9

Just days after the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico struck down the Commonwealth’s efforts to pass its own insolvency regime, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi introduced the “Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act of 2015” into the U.S. House of Representatives last week.  The bill, which is substantively similar to one introduced in 2014, would allow the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to authorize its insolvent public corporations to file a chapter 9 petition; they currently are not able to do so.  The bill, H.R. 870, has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law on February 26th.  H.R. 870, 114th Cong. (1st Sess. 2015)

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Puerto Rico Debt Recovery Act Ruled Unconstitutional

On Friday February 6, the Puerto Rico Federal District Court ruled the Debt Enforcement and Recovery Act (the “Recovery Act”) unconstitutional.  Franklin Calif. Tax-Free Trust, et al. v. Comm. Of Puerto Rico et al., (D.P.R., Feb. 6, 20150)(Case No. 3:14-cv-01518-FAB).

The opinion is extensive and addresses each of the constitutional challenges raised by both Blue Mountain and the Franklin/Oppenheimer plaintiffs, and the Commonwealth’s request that the bondholder complaints be dismissed as being “unripe”, among other defenses.  The Court confirmed federal jurisdiction and ripeness of the bondholders’ claims of preemption, impairment of contracts and certain of the taking clause claims. The Court said that those claims became ripe immediately upon adoption of the Recovery Act. Most importantly, the Court has ruled that the entire act is preempted expressly by the federal Bankruptcy Code and is therefore void pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The Court further ruled that the Commonwealth is permanently enjoined from enforcing the Recovery Act.

A summary of the key findings by the Court is provided below. The Court also dismissed the claims against PREPA. The Court held that the mere fact that PREPA may commence an action under the Recovery Act at some future time is not sufficient to assert claims against PREPA. The Court noted that “if PREPA’s filing for debt relief pursuant to the Recovery Act were imminent, this could be a sufficient injury traceable to PREPA.”   (Decision at 26-27).

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Detroit Confirms Chapter 9 Plan of Adjustment

Approximately 16 months after filing the largest chapter 9 bankruptcy in history, Detroit received approval November 7 of its chapter 9 plan of adjustment.  Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes of the Eastern District of Michigan Bankruptcy Court, confirmed the plan at a several-hour hearing where he read into the record an “oral opinion.”  Judge Rhodes held that the plan “meets the legal requirements for confirmation” and lauded the plan, describing it as an “extraordinary accomplishment in bankruptcy and an ideal model for future municipal restructurings.”  In re City of Detroit, Case No. 13-53846 (Bankr. E.D. Mich., November 7, 2014).  Read More.

A Special Report on the Nigerian Banking System: The Ripple Effects of Lehman – A Tale of Sin and Redemption?

​This article focuses on the banking sector crisis which engulfed the Nigerian financial sector from 2008 to 2011, and the steps taken by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in restoring financial stability. We discuss the impact and the opportunities for international and domestic investors resulting from the crisis.  Read More.