Section 365, Mandatory Bankruptcy Rules and Inefficient Continuance
Yale Law School
Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code prohibits enforcement of the once common "ipso facto" clause." The clause excuses the solvent party from performance of the contract when the other party becomes insolvent. We show that the ability of insolvent firms to continue bad projects is enhanced by the absence of ipso facto clauses. Without such a clause, the firm can exploit the inability of courts always to assess expectation damages accurately to compel a solvent party to stay in a bad deal. An ipso facto clause would preclude this outcome because the clause permits the solvent party to exit costlessly. Further, an ipso facto clause improves the managers' incentive to exert effort to avoid financial distress. These results have two broader implications. First, that the important mandatory rule regulating the ability of solvent parties to exit is inefficient suggests that the justifications for the Bankruptcy Code's other mandatory rules should be rethought. Second, under free contracting, the inefficient continuance of insolvent firms would be less of a problem than it now is because the ability of contract partners to withhold future performances sometimes would stop bad projects.
JEL Classification: G33, G34,G38, K22working papers series
Date posted: June 24, 1998
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