Those following the Chrysler bankruptcy know that the final holdouts are a set of Indiana pension funds, who have appealed the bankruptcy judge’s approval of the restructuring plan, attempting to force the company to explore other alternatives under a trustee who is independent of the government. They were lustily cheered on by The Wall Street Journal, elated to find good sturdy workingmen and -women willing to stand up to the Obama Administration and its “disdain for legal contracts,” and who could not be dismissed as speculators.
The pension funds in question bought the Chrysler debt in question last July for 43 cents on the dollar. (They stand to get 29 cents on the dollar in the restructuring.) I guess the difference between that and speculation is that “speculation” is something that bad people do; when pension funds by distressed debt, it’s called “investment.” I have no problem with pension funds buying modest amounts of risky investments, but they are taking the same risks that hedge funds are taking, and if they lose money on bad investments, that’s the fault of the pension fund managers.
I was talking to an old friend last night about the Chrysler bankruptcy and, in particular, whether Chrysler (and Treasury, and the UAW) will be able to get around the order of priority of creditors in bankruptcy – which ordinarily would favor the senior secured lenders who are trying to block the proposed plan. I thought I would do a little research, but then (again via Calculated Risk) I found Steve Jakubowski’s analysis of precisely this issue, which apparently everyone on the Internet has already been linking to. It’s actually Part 3 of a series; you may want to start with Part 1.
My summary, for those who don’t like reading citations from court opinions: The issue with the “restructuring initiative” agreed-upon by Chrysler, the government, Fiat, and the UAW, is that it only pays the senior secured creditors $2 billion in cash for $6.9 billion in secured debt; since secured creditors’ claims should come first, they argue they would get more from a liquidation. In particular, the VEBA created to fund retiree benefits is owed $8.5 billion; it is getting $4.6 billion debt and 55% of the equity in New Chrysler.