United States: US Bankruptcy Fee Flip: Legal Expenses For Unsecured Creditors; Considerations For Lenders And Administrative Agents

Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Chapter 11 filing earlier this year has highlighted an issue that is well settled but sometimes overlooked: Unsecured creditors generally have no right to receive immediate payment of their legal fees from a bankrupt borrower, regardless of any contractual rights they might otherwise have absent the bankruptcy. Further complicating this issue, courts are divided as to whether legal fees incurred post-petition are eligible to be allowed as valid unsecured claims (and therefore eligible to share in any estate property that will be available to satisfy unsecured claims). Administrative agents should keep these issues in mind in respect of distressed unsecured facilities, including considering how and when to protect and enforce their indemnification rights.

Creditors' Rights to Payment of Legal Expenses

Under most standard credit agreements,1 borrowers are required to pay the legal expenses of the lenders. The model credit agreement published by the Loan Sales and Trading Association ("LSTA") contains a typical formulation:

The Borrower shall pay (i) all reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the Administrative Agent and its Affiliates (including the reasonable fees, charges and disbursements of counsel for the Administrative Agent) . . . in connection with the syndication of the Facilities, the preparation, negotiation, execution, delivery and administration of this Agreement and the other Loan Documents, or any amendments, modifications or waivers of the provisions hereof or thereof (whether or not the transactions contemplated hereby or thereby shall be consummated), (ii) all reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by any Issuing Bank in connection with the issuance, amendment, extension, reinstatement or renewal of any Letter of Credit or any demand for payment thereunder, and (iii) all out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the Administrative Agent, any Lender or any Issuing Bank (including the fees, charges and disbursements of any counsel for the Administrative Agent, any Lender or any Issuing Bank) . . . in connection with the enforcement or protection of its rights (A) in connection with this Agreement and the other Loan Documents, including its rights under this Section, or (B) in connection with the Loans made or Letters of Credit issued hereunder, including all such out-of-pocket expenses incurred during any workout, restructuring or negotiations in respect of such Loans or Letters of Credit [emphasis added].2

Particular language will vary across credit agreements, and in syndicated facilities legal fees are typically payable if incurred by the agent on behalf of the lenders, rather than the borrower paying the legal expenses of each separate lender. Lenders may of course retain their own counsel in relation to a syndicated facility, and might wish to do so if they require additional advice, if they are otherwise entitled to be reimbursed by the borrower, or if they believe that their interests might not align with those of the others in the lender group. However, lenders will commonly forgo retaining separate counsel and instead rely on the agent and the agent's counsel to advance the interests of the lender group. If legal expenses are incurred by the agent in connection with the administration of the facility, lenders would generally expect the borrower to pay directly such expenses. This expectation is important to bear in mind, because most credit agreements also contain a pari passu indemnification of agent expenses by the lenders. Again, a typical formulation can be found in the model credit agreement published by the LSTA as follows:

To the extent that the Borrower for any reason fails to indefeasibly pay any [amounts, including legal expenses, as required by the credit agreement], each Lender severally agrees to pay to the Administrative Agent . . . such Lender's pro rata share (determined as of the time that the applicable unreimbursed expense or indemnity payment is sought based on each Lender's Applicable Percentage at such time) of such unpaid amount (including any such unpaid amount in respect of a claim asserted by such Lender)...

In practice, this indemnification is seldom called upon because borrowers pay the agent's counsel's fees and expenses directly. Upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition, however, this process becomes prohibited.

Secured Creditors' Rights

Upon a filing of a bankruptcy petition,3 a wide variety of actions and claims are automatically stayed,4 and the debtor is generally barred from making post-petition payments on non-essential obligations such as lender fees and expenses. However, if secured lenders are over-secured, then such lenders may be able to receive direct periodic payment of post-petition legal fees as "adequate protection" for the debtor's use of lender collateral5 or as part of the lender's secured claim.6 Most commonly, debtors will request access to cash collateral in order to facilitate operations and/or effectuate their restructuring goals in exchange for a package of protections against the diminution in value of such collateral, and secured creditors will require the periodic payment of legal expenses.7 If approved by the court, the net effect to secured lenders is that the debtor remains obligated, post-petition, to pay the lenders' legal expenses, subject to the terms of the original contractual arrangement between the lenders and the debtor and the Bankruptcy Code's requirements as to the reasonableness of allowed expenses.

Additionally, outside of the adequate protection regime, it is also possible to have certain attorneys' fees paid by the debtor if such fees can be justified as qualified administrative expenses.8 These administrative expenses would be paid under the plan of reorganization on a preferential basis over general unsecured claims.9

Footnotes

1 Some structured credits, repurchase agreements and other forms of borrowing may not have such a requirement.

2 See www.lsta.org

3 11 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.

4 11 U.S.C. § 362(a).

5 11 U.S.C. § 361.

6 11 U.S.C. § 506(b).

7 11 U.S.C. § 361(1).

8 11 U.S.C § 503(b). Note that under § 361(3), compensation allowable under § 503(b)(1) is not permitted as a form of "other relief" granted as adequate protection.

9 11 U.S.C. § 507(a).

To view the full article click here

Visit us at mayerbrown.com

Mayer Brown is a global legal services provider comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the "Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP and Mayer Brown Europe – Brussels LLP, both limited liability partnerships established in Illinois USA; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales (authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered in England and Wales number OC 303359); Mayer Brown, a SELAS established in France; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership and its associated entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.

© Copyright 2019. The Mayer Brown Practices. All rights reserved.

This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions