The Microeconomics of Chapter 11
Stephen J. Lubben
Seton Hall University - School of Law
January 3, 2006
Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 47
Several recent studies have put the level of professional fees in large chapter 11 cases at about 2.5 percent of assets or less. This compares favorably with other significant corporate transactions. But little attention has been given to the issue of how professional fees are allocated within chapter 11 cases. Examining this issue is important because a significant strain of bankruptcy scholarship is premised on the notion that chapter 11 is excessively expensive, notwithstanding the existing evidence that suggests otherwise. In particular, these theorists employ the long-recognized principle that lenders will recoup anticipated losses through higher ex ante interest rates to support the argument that altering or even replacing chapter 11 will reduce the costs of debt financing and thus promote efficiency. But if most of the supposed costs of chapter 11 are in fact exogenous to the Bankruptcy Code, reductions in the cost of chapter 11 may have only a modest correlation with reductions in the cost of financial distress.
This paper thus offers the first look at the intra-debtor distribution of professional fees. I analyze a new sample of almost 4,000 attorney time entries, from more than 30 law firms, in 27 very large chapter 11 cases filed between 2001 and 2003 to look at several basic questions regarding the allocation of attorney's fees within chapter 11 cases. I find that up to 60% of the professionals fees in a bankruptcy case may be exogenous to chapter 11. I then develop the broader argument that ex ante costs are virtually irrelevant to current discussions of chapter 11.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: Chapter 11, debt costs, professional fees, Lubben, bankruptcy, financial distress
Date posted: December 14, 2005