Sunday, 28 June 2009

Restructuring and bankruptcy

The Economics of Contempt has a nice historical summary:
the first major restructuring that I can remember being significantly hindered by CDS was Marconi, and that was back in 2001-2002. Marconi was negotiating a restructuring with a bank syndicate, but for a long time certain syndicate participants (cough, UBS, cough cough) refused to agree to any restructuring that didn't constitute a "credit event" under the 1999 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions. The holdout banks had purchased CDS on Marconi to hedge their exposure, and if they were going to agree to a pretty drastic restructuring, they wanted to make sure they got the benefit of their hedges. After more than a year of restructuring negotiations, the banks agreed to a debt-for-equity swap that qualified as a credit event under most of the CDS contracts, but also pretty much wiped out shareholders.

Mirant Corp.'s 2003 bankruptcy was also largely a result of CDS. Several creditors had purchased CDS protection on Mirant, and one major creditor in particular, which rhymes with Pitigroup, was relatively open about the fact that it didn't agree to a restructuring because it needed a bankruptcy filing to trigger its CDS contracts referencing Mirant. The bank that rhymes with Pitigroup's refusal to agree to a restructuring (which came at the last minute and was a big surprise, if I remember correctly) effectively torpedoed any chance Mirant had of avoiding bankruptcy.
I'm not personally familiar with Mirant, but the Marconi example is certainly a good one. There is a definitely a good case that rights to sit at the creditors table should sit with the risk holder, not the bond holder.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Charles Butler said...

David,

Step two in the process a few years later would have been shorting AIG to protect the default insurance you'd purchased.

8:50 am  
Blogger David Murphy said...

Charles

Absolutely right. Or indeed buying a weighted about of CDS on it - this is sometimes known as the double negative basis trade. (Own bond, own CDS on bond, own CDS on CDS writer.)

10:34 am  

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