Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WaMu bankruptcy

The Delaware bankruptcy court has authorized a study of the circumstances that led to the bankruptcy of Washington Mutual by Joshua Hochberg of the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.

This was part of those overly dramatic days of the fall of 2008. The FDIC seized the operating company, i.e. the actual bank, and unceremoniously sold it to JP Morgan Chase. This was all done hurriedly. As Sorkin wrote, "The FDIC typically conducts seizures of troubled banks on Friday evenings, to allow regulators time over the following weekend to readsy the institution to open under government oversight on Monday. But WaMu was deteriorating so rapidly -- nearly $17 billion had been withdrawn in ten days -- that the regulators had no choice," but to run the auction on Wednesday and effectuate the seizure on Thursday.

That didn't involve a bankruptcy court at all. But immediately thereafter its holding company (WMI) filed for bankruptcy protection. All this happened so quickly that no one had a chance to work out which assets belonged to WaMu and which to WMI, so they proceeded to argue that out in court. In a development that may have helped generate some changes in the law, JPMC sought full disclosure of all information called for by Bankruptcy Rule 2019(a), not just the names of the members of the WMI Noteholders Group and the aggregate value of their interests. Following the 2005 decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in In Re Northwest Airlines Corp., the court granted JPMC's motion and ordered full compliance back in December 2009.

It appears, though that the issue of disclosure in other forms is still bedevilling this particular bankruptcy proceeding.

Anyway, I look forward to an enlightening report from Hochberg.

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