Mexican Glassmaker Case May Export U.S. Bankruptcy Rules

Mexican glassmaker Vitro SAB is heading to a U.S. appeals court to save its restructuring at home from an assault by U.S. creditors in a case that could transport the U.S. bankruptcy code beyond that nation's borders, Reuters reported. The case pits one of Monterrey, Mexico's powerful and politically connected "Group of 10" businesses against U.S. hedge funds, which Latin American critics have reviled as "vultures" for their battle against Argentina's sovereign debt restructuring. Hanging in the balance is the use of Chapter 15. Foreign companies have used this 7-year-old piece of the U.S. bankruptcy code about 600 times to get an overseas insolvency proceeding enforced in the United States. Many creditors have come to view Chapter 15 as little more than a rubber-stamp process that allows U.S. assets to be folded into a foreign proceeding. However, some legal experts say the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals could improperly recast it as a tool to impose U.S. bankruptcy law abroad. Vitro's appeal stems from a ruling this month by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale of Dallas, who refused to enforce the company's Mexican restructuring against U.S. hedge funds led by Aurelius Capital Management and Elliott Management Corp. The hedge fund bondholders had said the restructuring plan violated a bedrock rule of U.S. bankruptcy by rewarding shareholders before repaying creditors in full. They also attacked Vitro for effectively engineering support for its restructuring by issuing debt, which included voting power, within its corporate family and then using these "insider" votes to outnumber objecting outside creditors. Hale's ruling has won praise from financial experts and investors for giving a measure of certainty to cross-border finance. Read more.