Legal Challenges

  • Catching up on Detroit’s bankruptcy news…and Puerto Rico’s

    Detroit’s blight

    The Detroit Land Bank Authority will receive nearly $12 million from the city’s general fund, following a split City Council vote last week. Land bank officials say they needed the monies to operate and continue demolition of vacant and abandoned properties.

    The council also transferred nearly 38,000 city-owned residential properties to the Land Bank, which seeks to put them back into productive use or clear them.

    The Detroit News reported:

    Council President Brenda Jones, who along with members Raquel Castaneda-Lopez and Janee Ayers voted against the subsidy, said she’s reluctant to take on the financial responsibility.

    Detroit, she said, is operating under the oversight of a Financial Review Commission that will go away if officials budget responsibly and avoid deficits for three years.

    “My concern is this; we just emerged from a bankruptcy,” Jones said. “The city looks pretty good. I don’t want a deficit to occur in three years because the city is going to be responsible for what the land bank does if the land bank doesn’t have any money.”

    The city’s blight was a major issue of the bankruptcy case, with several city officials testifying it was one of the top concerns as they looked to revitalize Detroit.

    Orr’s pay in Atlantic City

    Former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr collected a higher hourly wage in his consulting role in Atlantic City than most of the attorneys who worked on the Detroit bankruptcy case, according to published reports.

    Orr, who was appointed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a consultant for the financially challenged casino town, charged $950 an hour during his three months of work. His total collected: about $70,000, the Press of Atlantic City reports.

    Bankruptcy watchers have sights on Puerto Rico

    Like Detroit did two years ago, the sunny island of Puerto Rico is facing a debt crisis: $73 billion owed to financial creditors, NPR reports. With four times the debt that purged Detroit into bankruptcy, the sunny paradise destination is looking for any solution out.

    With a junk status rating, Puerto Rico is trying to negotiate a new bond sale with Wall Street investors. At the same time, the island’s troubled energy company, PREPA, is desperately trying to stave off default. … To deal with its debt, Puerto Rico passed a law that would allow troubled agencies like the state-owned power company to seek bankruptcy protection. A federal judge struck down the law, though, ruling it violated the federal Bankruptcy Code. The commonwealth is appealing that decision. It’s also pushing for a law in Congress to amend the Bankruptcy Code to include Puerto Rico. In the meantime, the island needs to find money to pay its creditors. And that means raising taxes.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Judge: If they’d asked, media “likely” could have broadcast, recorded bankruptcy trial

    Judge Steven Rhodes says he wishes the court proceedings would have been broadcast live so that the public could have had better access to them. If the media had asked, he says he would have “likely” approved the request. Now retired, Rhodes spoke at a breakfast in Ann Arbor.

  • Detroit: Police command officers violated terms of bankruptcy order

    Attorneys for the city of Detroit claim the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association violated the terms of Judge Steven Rhodes’s Confirmation Order in the bankruptcy case by seeking the addition of association members’ spouses, who are city retirees, to active association members’ health care plans.

    In the motion filed in bankruptcy court this week, the city’s attorneys write that the association “sought more favorable treatment” for the spouses than was provided for in the Plan of Adjustment. According to the plan, city retirees will receive health insurance through a Voluntary Employment Benefit Association, and not through any other city-provided plan. The city’s motion alleges the association has sought to have members’ spouses who are retirees covered under the health care plan of the active association members.

    They are asking Judge Thomas Tucker to enter an order enjoining the association from seeking the coverage through the Michigan Employment Security Commission and the state courts.

    Tucker replaced Rhodes after he retired earlier this year.

     

    Here’s the motion:

  • The Year(end) in Bankruptcy

    Detroit had an historical year in 2014, to say the least and to say it again.

    The city’s bankruptcy – history’s largest municipal case, as we’ve said, written and blogged countless times — monopolized local news, and 2014 brought Detroit and the bankruptcy to the forefront of all local and some national news outlets. Former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes captured headlines, and the “grand bargain” became a household phrase.

    Here is a look at some of the year-end news recaps as well as into what 2015 might hold for Detroit:

    The city’s past and the future were discussed on 2014’s final Flash Point with optimism reigning supreme. Former City Council Shelia Cockrel, however, “cautions city officials that hard work is on the horizon as the return from bankruptcy continues.”

    The WDIV program’s guests included  Portia Roberson, the city’s group executive for civil rights and ethics, Cockrel, political consultant  Adolph Mongo and The Detroit News’s Nolan Finley. The picture painted of the future is bright but not without bumps in the road.

    Roberson predicts 2015 will “undoubtedly be a better year for the city of Detroit, thanks to the emergence from bankruptcy and resulting financial flexibility.” But Cockrel cautions city officials that there is plenty of work left. Mongo suggested ways the city can avoid past mistakes, Finley recommend focusing on raising revenues.

    The Detroit Free Press provided comprehensive coverage throughout 2014 about the bankruptcy. Through their extensive reporting, Freep reporters composed a bit “manifesto” chronicling Detroit, the bankruptcy and how it got there. “And, ultimately, it’s the story of how, one by one, like soldiers switching sides in the midst of battle, the major players and creditors who had been at war with the city dropped their objections and joined a “grand bargain” to save Detroit.” It was published in November, but we think it’s worthy of a re-post at year’s end.

    Crain’s Detroit Business named Orr and Rhodes Newsmakers of the Year for 2014. Their work doing what many believe to be impossible earned them this titled.

    USA Today, in a year-end wrap up of the single biggest news stories in all 50 states, named the bankruptcy as Michigan’s. “The nightmare is over,” they wrote.

    Still, the bankruptcy didn’t solve all of the city’s problems. An Agence France-Presse piece, published in Business Insider, outlines the great progress the city has had but also makes note of problems that still lie ahead.

    The venerable New York Times also points out that many questions remain to be answered as the city moves forward.

    For the local take on what remains, here are the Freep’s answers to those questions.

  • On Michigan Radio: As Orr goes, where will Detroit head?

    Appearing on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program, Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes characterizes Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s tenure, saying he was “judicious” in using the power he had under Michigan law. He told host Lester Graham that Orr could have stripped pay and power from Detroit’s mayor and City Council, and could have been more aggressive about extracting concessions from the city’s unions in bankruptcy court.

  • The Bankruptcy Bonanza: WXYZ-TV7 reports on attorneys’ fees, expenses

    While the true cost of Detroit’s bankruptcy won’t be known likely for months, one local media outlet has jumpstarted its investigation into at least a preliminary estimate based on what’s been submitted to the fee examiner in the case. (The fee examiner, who is appointed by the court, reviews billings for professional fees and submits to the judge a critique of the reasonableness of them.)

    WXYZ-Channel 7′s Jim Kiertzner, an investigative reporter, and Adam Brewster, a producer, have been reviewing thousands of pages of attorneys fees and expenses charged to the city in the case.

    Here’s Kiertzner’s first report, which aired Nov. 14. The second, found here, aired a few days later.  Their findings are, well, you decide the adjective. The station is calling the ongoing series of reports the “Bankruptcy Bonanza.”

    One attorney charged $450 to WALK from the Westin Book Cadillac to Detroit’s federal courthouse. A block away.

    Jones Day attorneys, working at the firm where Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has been a partner, billed for chauffered rides from Cleveland.

    Kiertzner got a microphone in front of Gov. Rick Snyder to ask if the state would chip in for the expenses, which could approach $200 million when the trial is counted. Here’s that report.

    For his part, Mayor Mike Duggan tells the Channel 7 reporter that the city will “fight hard” against the fees, calling these early billings the “tip of the iceberg.”

    Does that make the city’s taxpayers, who are ultimately footing the bill, the proverbial Titanic? We’ll ask Kiertzner, he’ll be on WDET’s Detroit Today program Wednesday.

     

  • The Civil Rights Creditors: What the judge’s ruling means for them

    In approving Detroit’s Plan of Adjustment, bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes is allowing a group of lawsuits to go forward against the city. WDET/NextChapterDetroit.com’s Sandra Svoboda spoke with Attorney Bill Goodman about his clients, their civil rights claims against the city and what the bankruptcy judge decided about their cases.

    Goodman: What Judge Rhodes did in his opinion was to say that those people who have sued the city of Detroit and Detroit police officers and other Detroit public officials for violations of their constitutional rights may not go forward in those actions against the city of Detroit itself. The city of Detroit itself can only be sued under this federal civil rights statute for its policies, its practices, its customs. Those cases cannot go forward. But the cases against the individual officers can go forward, the bankruptcy proceeding does not impede those cases from going forward. People can rectify to some extent the wrongs that were done to them, that they can get justice in that way, and the city has to indemnify those police officers. That is if one of my clients sues a Detroit police officer and gets a million-dollar verdict, the city itself has to pay for that police officer’s verdict so that the police officer himself or herself cannot be personally attacked for that.

    Svoboda: And when you say they have civil rights complaints, civil rights claims, tell me a little bit about what some of these cases involve.

    Goodman: Really, our flagship example is Walter Swift, a man who spend 26 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit and that everyone knows he didn’t commit and was exonerated and released. Still, he has been waiting since this bankruptcy, has been waiting before, cannot go forward with his case, cannot get justice, is personally impoverished and has had his life taken from him. He’s one example. There are others. There are people who have been falsely arrested at raids conducted by the Detroit police department.

    Svoboda: So most of what he hear from Judge Rhodes and what we report about the bankruptcy have to do with these complex financial settlements or bankruptcy law itself. Where do these individuals fall within this case?

    Goodman: They’re what’s called unliquidated creditors. They’re like anybody whose garbage can was destroyed by a garbage truck and said, you know, “Hey, you guys have to pay for this” Or someone who was in a bus accident. That’s who they are. The difference that they have and that we have asserted is these people are people whose constitutional rights have been violated. And the constitution of the United States in a democracy should be supreme. It should not fall under the wheels of a bankruptcy proceeding.

    Svoboda: But Judge Rhodes disagreed with you in his ruling on that piece of it.

    Goodman: And I disagree with Judge Rhodes, right back at him.

    Svoboda: But your cases now can go forward because in confirming the Plan of Adjustment, as you described at the beginning, discussed how the individual cases could proceed. What’s next for you?

    Goodman: Next for us is that our cases start proceeding. In Walter Swift’s case we start taking depositions. We go forward. We go to trial if we need to, and Walter gets to present his case to a jury and have a jury decide whether he’s right or not. That’s how we go, and our case is based upon what he said, and I’m looking for his written opinion. I take it that the stay of proceedings in those cases is going to be lifted as to the individual cops.

    Svoboda: What’s the legal history for these claims and how does it play in to the greater legal sense going forward?

    Goodman: The Civil Rights Act under which these people have brought their claims is called Section 1983 of the federal code 42 USC. It really is known as the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and it was passed, it was really originally passed in 1866 just at the time the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed. It was passed during a period of huge turmoil in the United States, of the Ku Klux Klan riding high, a birth of a nation racism rampant throughout much of the nation, and it was meant to correct that and hold public officials responsible for what they did. That need, that impulse is still of critical importance not just in 1871, not just in 1961 when that law was made to be really effective by the United States Supreme Court. But today, we need to have a rule of law, and in the United States, in a democracy which we claim to be, that means under the United States Constitution.

  • The Closing Arguments: Detroit’s Bankruptcy Trial

    Judge Steven Rhodes is on the bench, and closing arguments have begun. Here’s the lineup attorneys predicted last week.

    This morning, city attorney Bruce Bennett has been outlining why the latest Plan of Adjustment should be confirmed, focusing so far on the settlements and moves that reduce city expenditures. This afternoon, additional attorneys supported the plan while two individual objectors spoke against it.

    5:32 p.m.

    Detroit’s bankruptcy trial is done. Judge Rhodes will give his opinion at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7.

    Assuming he confirms it, he said he will schedule a hearing to discuss the form of the confirmation order and implementation issues.

    4:58 p.m.

    Individual objector Michael Karwoski also objected to the city’s plan, arguing to the judge he should reject it and require the city to file another plan.

    Karwoski filed this objection and 98 people filed joinders. During the trial, Karwoski questioned witness Cynthia Thomas. She’s the executive director of the city’s retirement systems, the General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System. Karwoski’s questions for her covered topics of pension fund governance, investment interest rate assumptions and the annuity savings fund recoupment.

    He disputes the city’s contention that some retirees received “excess interest” on their annuity savings fund accounts, calling the city’s plan to reclaim some of the money an “illegal and unjust” measure.

    4:46 p.m.

    After attorneys supporting the city’s plan spoke, individual objector John Quinn, an attorney, argued against adopting it. He objects specifically to pension cuts and the “clawback” of some annuity savings fund monies from general service retirees.

    Here’s the background: the annuity savings fund was a program that allowed non-uniform city employees (everyone but police and fire) to invest 3, 5 or 7 percent of their after-tax income in a fund co-mingled with the general pension funds. The annuities had a guaranteed rate of interest regardless of how the fund actually performed.

    As part of the bankruptcy negotiations between the city and creditors, several employee and retiree groups agreed to allow a partial recoupment of “excessive” interest payments on the annuity savings fund. The provision was in the plan that the pensioners approved in their vote on the Plan of Adjustment. The recouped funds would be put back into the pension fund to make up what the city calls “excess interest payments” made to pensioners who have collected their annuity savings funds.

    Here is the objection Quinn filed in the case.

    4:08 p.m.

    Barbara Patek, representing the Detroit Police Officers Association, spoke in support of the plan. She said police officers were uniquely positioned to observe the bankruptcy’s real effects in the city.

    “We didn’t need a bus tour or a complicated set of spreadsheets to understand the insolvency. Our members lived it every day in their work,” Patek said.

    4:02 p.m.

    Robert Gordon, of Clark Hill law firm, represents the pension systems. He also spoke in support of the Plan of Adjustment and its settlements for pensioners.

    “These settlements vary in their treatments and their projected recovery reflecting the varying rights of creditors groups,” Gordon said. “Somewhat miraculously a consensual plan is now before the court. … All of Michigan should be proud.”

    He was followed by Ryan Plecha, who represents the Detroit Retired City Employees Association and the Detroit Retired Police and Fire Fighter Association. He credited the mediation process as the “only way” settlements were reached.

    “I must also note the courage and the dedication of the DRPFFA … along with the same efforts of the DRCEA … in making the difficult choice to reach an agreement withe the city,” Plecha said.

     

    3:50 p.m.

    Representing the Official Committee of Retirees, Claude Montgomery urged Judge Rhodes to adopt the plan. “The official request comes only from the city but we would ask you to approve the global settlement,” Montgomery said.

    Here are highlights of what else he said:

    On the varying impacts of the cuts of cost-of-living allowances (COLA) for retirees, depending on their age:

    “If you don’t have very long to live, COLA doesn’t mean very much to you. If you have a long time to live, COLA means a lot to you.”

    On the 6.75 percent rate presumed for pension investments:

    “It’s a negotiated number.  A higher number means fewer benefits cuts but greater city susceptibility to financial risks.”

    2:40 p.m.

    Representing the state, Steven Howell, of Dickinson Wright, made some closing statements in support of the Plan of Adjustment. “Although the filing of Chapter 9 has not been popular, there’s no question it was the right thing to do,” Howell said. “In this confirmation hearing, many of the city’s witnesses has since testified to the strides the city has made in improving services to its residents. … We cannot allow the city to fall back and continue its downward spiral.”

    The state is providing $195 million to the city’s two pension funds and has financial oversight of city operations and pension fund management, according to terms of the Plan of Adjustment that were passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year.

    Also in the courtroom audience: Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, who chaired the committee that first considered the “grand bargain” bills in the Michigan Legislature.

    2:28 p.m.

    Judge Rhodes asked Bennett what he thought the two or three top risks were to the feasibility of the Plan of Adjustment. Here’s how Bennett answered:

    Everyone recognizes that there has to be flexibility in implementing the (restructuring initiatives) going forward, and it’s impossible sitting here in 2014 to decide exactly how money is appropriated in like 2018 or 2019 should be spent. I know that your Honor has confidence in Mayor Duggan and his administration – it’s a very impressive group. We don’t know how long they’re going to stay. We have to make guesses about who’s going to be there in the future. I would say the risks that are controllable are sticking with the plan and using the money, the huge amount of budget surpluses are projected and earmarked … earmarked for critical investments in critical areas. To the extent that they’re deployed or adjusted in any way, it’s got to stay for that: critical purposes in critical areas that may evolve over time to a degree but what we don’t need is the use of that money for other purposes that someone might decide is more politically expedient.

    Bennett also said a risk is if there is misspending or the perception of misspending of the $1.7 billion budgeted over the next decade for improving city services. “Either would be a huge problem,” Bennett said.

    He also said the city needs to regularly invest in critical infrastructure and services, for example, an information management system.

    When Rhodes asked about how the city can ensure pension obligations are met, Bennett said:

    The national labor organizations have to put pension funding high on the bargaining list.

    12:09 p.m.

    Before breaking for lunch, Judge Rhodes told Bennett he wanted him to clarify what the plan intends to do with respect to 1983 claims. The “1983” refers to the Civil Rights Act, and the creditors include litigants who have lawsuits against the city relating to, for example, police misconduct and wrongful convictions.

    Here’s some background about those cases:

    Bankruptcy v. The Constitution? Detroit attorney argues for civil rights creditors

    Civil Rights on Credit: Beyond the bankruptcy’s biggest headlines

    11:16 a.m.

    The presumed interest rate for pension investments was an often-visited topic during witness testimony during the bankruptcy trial, and Bennett re-visited it during his closing statements.

    (The Plan of Adjustment sets the presumed rate of return at 6.75 percent, which is at the low end of large public pension funds nationally.)

    Bennett said in his closing arguments that the interest rate should be considered a reflection of how much risk the city is taking, and given the city’s situation, having low risk is the “reasonable” approach.

    10:47 a.m.

    Bennett made an economic, cause-and-effect argument against the city raising taxes to pay debt, as some creditors had suggested during the trial.

    “Municipalities in today’s world are really competitors with other municipalities,” Bennett said. “It’s happening every day when people are deciding where they are going to live. … It’s important: what does the community offer and what does it cost to live there.”

    He recounted Mayor Mike Duggan’s testimony, who said the city is just “10 percent” of where it needs to be in terms of providing city serices.

    “He started talking about the fact that people are going to compare us with what’s going on in the suburbs,” Bennett said. “Your Honor … in many places we have shown you that Detroit’s taxes are the highest of any city in Michigan and in places we’ve shown you and the record has shown you that our services are not. … Far from it, unfortunately. Hopefully we’ll get there.”

    Raising taxes would only drive away residents, Bennett said, and existing ones may choose to not pay any more.

    “We already have a delinquency problem. It would only get worse,” he said.

    10:31 a.m.

    Raising taxes to generate more income is “not sensible” for Detroit, city attorney Bruce Bennett said.

    He reviewed testimony that the Michigan Legislature is not likely to pass measures that would allow Detroit to raise taxes, a necessary provision because the city is near its taxing limits under state law.

    “I think we all know that to be right,” Bennett said.

    10:27 a.m.

    The city did “extensive” work to determine how to monetize its assets to reduce debts, sometimes paying creditors, sometimes creating other deals, city attorney Bruce Bennett, of Jones Day.

    One example: “The entire cost of Belle Isle came off the city’s books. Therefore, money was saved … and generated to be used for other purposes,” Bennett said.

    He also discussed the creation of the regional water authority, the Great Lakes Water Authority, which was a product of bankruptcy-related negotiations about the future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).

    “The city looked at DWSD from a variety of different perspectives,” Bennett said, with a focus on raising money for the city’s general fund.

    “Certainly the city did tons of work in this area. Others, of course, had very strong views about whether DWSD or any part of DWSD’s value could ultimately make it to the general fund because of its special status essentially as a utility that performs work for fees.”

    But not every city asset was part of a settlement in the case, Bennett pointed out. He cited the Coleman A. Young International Airport, commonly known as City Airport.

    “There really isn’t an immediately available alternative but it has to be kept alive for other good reasons. So that’s a failure, couldn’t accomplish anything significant there but it wasn’t for lack of trying,” Bennett says.

    10:15 a.m.

    City attorney Bruce Bennett, of Jones Day, is addressing the reasons why the Detroit Institute of Arts collection does not need to be sold to pay debt. He recounted what some of the witnesses said when they testified earlier in the trial.

    “There really isn’t a dispute that the DIA is a nationally recognized cultural institution that contributes to the city. It contributes to the image of the city. It contributes to the city’s rehabilitation. It might even contribute to bringing residents back,” Bennett said. “It is most assuredly a reasonable decision for Detroit to make to keep a world class art museum.”

    Judge Rhodes interrupted Bennett’s statement to pose a question.

    “What do we say to the pension claimant whose pension is impaired as a result of that decision?” the judge asked.

    “We say to pension claimants in this what we say to other creditors,” Bennett said. “There’s no law that says a pension creditor has to be paid by causing a city to sell its assets.”

    9:41 a.m.

    Judge Rhodes has taken a break to take a phone call. He also requested a meeting in the jury room with city attorney Thomas Cullen, of Jones Day, and a representative from the city law department.

    He’ll resume closing arguments at 10 a.m.

    9:35 a.m.

    When city attorney Bruce Bennett, of Jones Day, said no one was continuing to object to the protection from sale of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection, the judge interrupted him.

    “I think many of our pro se objectors do object to the DIA settlement in the way that it protects the art in this context, in this bankruptcy, from their pension claims,” Rhodes said.

    “I’m going to cover it. We’ll cover it very thoroughly,” Bennett said.

    9:30 a.m.

    City attorney Bruce Bennett told Judge Rhodes that the Detroit bankruptcy case proves that municipal bankruptcy is not about simply distributing city assets to pay claims. Bennett praised the settlements the city’s reached with creditors – totally about $7 billion of the city’s $18 billion in debt – because they don’t sell off the assets.

    “Instead they are deployed in a way they are used only in the context that the creditor receiving the asset is going to have to invest money, participate in the city’s rehabilitation in order to extract assets,” Bennett said.

    For example, the FGIC settlement includes the bond insurer, or its development partner, receiving the land where the Joe Louis Arena currently sits, with the provision they will develop the site as a hotel, office and retail space and condos.

    9:22 a.m.

    City attorney Bruce Bennett, of Jones Day, began his closing argument by pointing out how quickly the Detroit Chapter 9 case moved from filing to trial conclusion … and why the speedy schedule is good for the city.

    “Few if any press accounts about this case, and frankly even every article about the city of Detroit published outside the city of Detroit, refers to the fact that the city is in bankruptcy case,” Bennett said. “This isn’t good. It isn’t helping. It doesn’t do much to attract residents and business to the city, which as we’ll see later is extremely important to the city’s overall recovery.”

    Finishing the bankruptcy trial is important for the city’s image, Bennett said.

    “Even today many people who read articles which have reported the parade of settlements, … don’t fully understand the extent of progress already made or fully understand that the end really is in sight,” Bennett.

    He repeatedly praised the relatively short time frame from filing to today’s closing arguments.

    “It was a priority very early on for the debtor, the emergency manager, the entire professional team that we were going to put his case on a fast track,” Bennett said. “We think we’ve succeeded in this regard with your help. … The fact that we’re going to have an ultimate conclusion in this kind of time frame is terrific.”

    The Plan of Adjustment now is “very broadly consensual” Bennett said, with all major financial creditors supporting it.

    “Of course the case did not start out that way. It’s hard to think of any major constituency that was not involved in major litigation concerning some aspects of its rights with the city,” Bennett said.

    9:09 a.m.

    Before closing arguments began, attorneys for bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. and holders of some pension debt reported they had finalized a settlement with the city.

    “Just in the nick of time we’ve resolved each and every one of the pending issues. We, did reach agreement on language that reservation of rights language, that would go into the confirmation order,” said Alfredo Perez, FGIC attorney from the Weil Gotshal & Manges firm.

    FGIC also filed an updated term sheet, which was read into the record.

    Department of Financial Services waived notice period so FGIC has the ability to enter into the settlement, Perez said.

    Jonathan Wagner, of Kramer Levin, who represents holders of about $1 billion in pension debt through the Certificates of Participation, said his clients also were now supporting the city’s Plan of Adjustment.

    “I don’t think there’s any suspense here but i’m happy to report that we’r withdrawing our objection,” Wagner said. “My two-hour statement is now reduced to zero.”

     

  • FGIC’s Settlement: A roundup of news coverage

    This week’s announcement that Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. had settled its $1.4 billion claim with the city as part of the bankruptcy case was, obviously, big news. Here’s a roundup of what a variety of media outlets broadcast and published about it.

    Bloomberg’s Steven Church (based in Delaware) and Chris Christoff (based in Lansing) teamed up for a highly readable piece focused on the finances of the deal. They write:

    Requiring creditors to invest more in the city is at least rare, and may be unprecedented in a municipal bankruptcy, attorney James E. Spiotto said in an interview. The deal resembles a corporate restructuring, he said. “To some degree it’s a lot like Chapter 11, where they are giving them a chance to buy equity in the debtor,” Spiotto said. “They have to put something into it to get something out.”

    The Detroit News’ business columnist Daniel Howes analyzed the deal as moving the creditors from cash payouts to investments in the future of the city. Indeed there has been courtroom rhetoric about “adversaries becoming partners” with the city over the course of the trial, the adversaries being FGIC and bond insurer Syncora, which settled last month in a similar deal. Howes writes:

    The city’s deal with its last major holdout creditor yokes another adversary — and its capital — to revitalization of the city, turning a tough bond insurer into the kind of investor Detroit needs. The agreement, reached early Thursday, gives Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. options to acquire Joe Louis Arena, its adjacent parking deck and allows it to enter into a development agreement culminating in a riverfront hotel, retail and condos. Not a bad turn for the largest city in American history to go bankrupt: a creditor into the city for more than $1 billion, its leaders desperate to recoup their losses, gets a prime, strings-attached tract overlooking an international border.

    Meanwhile, speaking of development, the Detroit City Council and Mayor Mike Duggan disagree about a proposed city ordinance that would require community involvement in projects that receive tax breaks or other city subsidies. In a Detroit Free Press piece today, city hall reporter Joe Guillen writes:

    The proposed law, backed by City Council President Brenda Jones, aims to make sure Detroiters have access to jobs and other benefits associated with new developments. Community leaders already have collected 2,500 signatures in support of the law, Jones said. But Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration on Thursday joined critics in the business community in opposing the ordinance. “We absolutely believe every developer, every company should deliver a community benefit,” said Duggan’s chief of staff, Alexis Wiley. “But this ordinance is not the right answer.”