Bankruptcy Lawyers See Land Of Opportunity In Detroit Crisis
July 21 (Reuters) – With more than $18 billion at stake in Detroit’s restructuring, big law firms and other advisers are clamoring to represent the city’s many creditors – including some advisers not exactly known for municipal work.
The city, which filed the largest-ever U.S. municipal bankruptcy on Thursday, tapped high-priced lawyers from Jones Day, financial advisers from Ernst & Young and restructuring consultants from Conway MacKenzie, court papers show.
For creditors and related parties, there is clearly a lot at stake. That means bondholders, insurers, retirees and others are sure to be accompanied in court by platoons of lawyers.
Detroit owes more than $8 billion in bond debt, and the insurers likely on the hook for those costs have already retained big-name law firms to take their cases.
Federal Guaranty Insurance Co tapped Weil Gotshal & Manges, according to a source close to the matter, who declined to be named because the information was not public as of Saturday. An attorney for Weil declined to comment.
David Dubrow, a lawyer at Arent Fox, confirmed on Saturday that he has been tapped by Ambac Financial Group.
And, according to the court’s electronic docket, Syncora hired Kirkland & Ellis, known for its corporate bankruptcy work, while Assured Guaranty retained Winston & Strawn, and National Public Finance Guarantee Corp hired Sidley Austin.
Bond insurers will play a key role in Detroit’s case. While a portion of the city’s $1.13 billion in general obligation bonds are secured by city assets, about $651 million of it is secured only by the ability to raise taxes. The city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has said he will treat that portion of the debt as an unsecured claim.
That classification, which has been largely untested in federal courts, is likely to be hotly contested and possibly litigated by bondholders or their insurers.
Detroit also owes $5.7 billion in unfunded healthcare and other benefits to retirees, and has asked the judge to form a committee to look out for their interests. The Department of Justice may also appoint a committee of unsecured creditors in the case. Both moves would mean opportunities for professional advisers.
The city needs to negotiate new labor deals with unions, and its pension funds are underfunded by $3.5 billion, providing yet more opportunities for attorneys to advise creditors. Continue to HuffPost…