Wednesday, April 1, 2009

U.S. Hopes to Ease G.M. to Bankruptcy

Look at the post on Cerberus above.

The government may seek to ease General Motors into what it calls a “controlled” bankruptcy, somewhere between a prepackaged bankruptcy and court chaos, by persuading at least some creditors to agree to a plan that would cleave the company into two pieces, according to people briefed on the matter.

Instead of signing on every creditor as is typically required in prepackaged deals, administration officials are using as leverage the promise of taxpayer financing. Many regard the government as the only lender willing to step up with money — in bankruptcy or out.

Obviously the government is the only lender left.

“They’re going to have tremendous power,” said Lynn M. LoPucki, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They can call off the money and the whole thing fails.”

It no longer seems ridiculous or reckless to consider bankruptcy.

G.M.’s new chief, Fritz Henderson, also said that the pressure from the government pushed the automaker closer to bankruptcy. “By no later than June 1, if we’re not able to accomplish this outside bankruptcy, we’ll be in bankruptcy,” he said at a news conference in Detroit on Tuesday. “It’s pretty clear. The government was unequivocal.”

Under a plan being worked out by the administration, G.M. would file for prearranged bankruptcy, according to these people. It would then use a sale authorized under Section 363 of the bankruptcy code to quickly sell off the desirable assets to a new company financed by the government. These good pieces might include Cadillac and Chevrolet, as well as assets the company needs to run the business.

Less desirable assets, brands like Hummer and underperforming factories, would be left in the old company. Proceeds from the sales, including stock in the new company, would be given to the old G.M., helping to settle claims.

Elements of the government’s plans for G.M. are in some ways similar to the demise of Lehman Brothers last fall. A day after filing for Chapter 11 protection, the securities firm agreed to sell the bulk of its North American business to Barclays Capital, the British bank. The sale was completed in a little more than three days.

The administration hopes to win support from some of G.M.’s creditors, notably the United Automobile Workers, which would be forced to pare its health care benefits and whose pension obligations would probably remain in the old company. But the bankruptcy code allows a judge to approve a sale even over creditor objections in an emergency under Section 363, legal experts say. Such was the case with the Lehman sale.

History offers almost no precedent for a G.M. bankruptcy filing. Companies like Continental Airlines and the Delphi Corporation, the auto parts maker, have used the courts to transform their businesses and reduce their costs. But none matched the size and interconnectedness of G.M.

Delphi used a bankruptcy judge’s threat to void union contracts to wring concessions out of its workers, said Gary N. Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “That’s a very potent threat, to withdraw from the collective agreement in bankruptcy,” Mr. Chaison said.

“The hope is that if we call it a controlled bankruptcy, that’s what it will be,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment