Debt Restructuring in English Law: Lessons from the US and the Need for Reform
29 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2013 Last revised: 13 Feb 2014
Date Written: January 30, 2014
This paper assesses the debt restructuring mechanisms available to companies in English law, compares these mechanisms with the Chapter 11 procedure in the US, and makes some suggestions for reform of the English system in this context. Rehabilitating a company in financial difficulties will almost always be preferable to liquidation for companies and their creditors, at least where the company is merely financially distressed, i.e. it is cash flow insolvent but nevertheless economically viable, so that there is a business worth saving. Five debt restructuring mechanisms are available to companies in English law: workouts, Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs), schemes of arrangement, administration and, lastly, a recent innovation of practitioners has been to twin a scheme of arrangement with administration. None of these devices are ideal as debt restructuring tools, as explained in this paper. Lessons can be learned from the US Chapter 11 process, although a simple transplantation of this procedure into English law is not recommended, as there are also disadvantages to the US procedure. Instead it is suggested that the English scheme of arrangement be reformed to allow a cramdown of whole classes to take place, to attach a moratorium to this procedure and to enhance the valuation process where restructuring takes place. Making these changes would provide English law with a stronger and more effective debt restructuring procedure.
Keywords: debt restructuring, schemes of arrangement, administration, CVAs, Chapter 11, financial distress
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