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Monday, June 8, 2009

The Supreme Court Weighs in on the Chrysler Bankruptcy?

Our court system is designed in an ingenuous manner. As such, there are several stages of appeal. This makes for several layers of appeal to any decision. The problem with analyzing our court system is that you can never tell when a decision is an important one. That's what may or may not have happened today with the decision by Ruth Bader Ginsberg today.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a stay in the Chrysler hearing, delaying its proposed sale to Fiat.

The Supreme Court extended the current stay on the sale to hear arguments against the merger, at the behest of groups that comprise Chrysler’s senior secured lenders. The primary opponents of the deal include three Indiana employee pension funds, the widow of a Chrysler employee and several consumer advocacy organizations who filed emergency applications to the Supreme Court Saturday.

The stay will allow the court to vote on whether or not the matter should be heard. The senior secured lenders need five justices to vote in favor of hearing the case. The court had the option of issuing a ruling or letting the deadline pass without ruling on the matter.


Now, the decision by Ginsberg may prove to be critical or it may prove to only delay the inevitable. Ginsberg could still decide to let the sale go through tomorrow. She could have the court look at the matter, and the full court could decide not to look at the case (and thus the sale could go through). It could also take a look at the case which would be critical.

By pure coincidence, because this case originated out of the district that Ginsberg serves, it was Ruth Bader Ginsberg that initially decided whether the Supreme Court should intervene. That she decided to issue the stay is of interest because one would have assumed she would have sided with Chrysler.

The issue stems from a group of pension funds represented by the state of Indiana. The state believes that they, the secured creditors, were leap frogged by unsecured creditors when the bankruptcy was structured. Furthermore, the state of Indiana is arguing that TARP funds can't be used for auto bailouts in the first place.

So, there are two potential arguments that the court could hear. If Chrysler loses on either, their entire bankruptcy deal would be in jeopardy. Right now, Fiat can pull out of the deal if it isn't finalized by the 15th of the month. Of course, given that Fiat isn't putting in any capital into the deal, one could argue that Chrysler could come out of the bankruptcy without them.

If the Supreme Court rules the federal government overstepped their bounds, that would have reverberations throughout our economy and politics. That would put in jeopardy not only the bankruptcies of Chrysler and GM, but the entire domestic agenda of the Obama administration.

Many, like me, believe that the administration has gone way beyond their Constitutional authority. By imposing their will on a private bankruptcy they have exerted power the Constitution never intended for them. If the Supreme Court were to rule against them on either point I mentioned earlier, they would agree with that view.

Folks like me believe that the President and his administration are totally out of control and drunk on power. The only branch that can stop them now is the judicial branch. This may just be the case to finally put that power in check. On the other hand, tomorrow the court may decide not to even hear the case.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Democrats say that the 'interstate commerce' clause gives them Constitutional authority over any business that so much as buys a postage stamp...

Anonymous said...

From what I heard, these parties represent less than 1% of Chrysler's secured creditors. If that were the case, even if the Supreme Court didn't simply say "cert is denied", they could avoid the issue of TARP constitutionality simply by saying "lack of standing."

This is revenge for Tipton, plain and simple. Indiana's governor Mitch Daniels (fmr. Bush budget director) has gone overboard offering public funds for any company willing to build a factory in Indiana. When Chrysler went Chater 11, Getrag abandoned the DSG factory the city of Tipton, Indiana was building for them. The plant was supposed to build Dual-Clutch Transmissions for Chrysler.

mike volpe said...

Everything you just said is irrelevant and beside the point. They may account for a small part of the overall pie, but try and tell that to the people that have the pensions.

You are basically saying, tough, you aren't big enough to matter.

This is not revenge or payback. The Treasurer or Indiana has a fiduciary responsibility to represent the pensions and make sure they get the best deal possible. That's why he's bringing this. Also on this suit is Tom Lauria, who has already squabbled with the WH on this.

We will see what the SC does, but this is being done because these people are representing the interests they serve.

Anonymous said...

If they were representing the interests of the people they served, they never would have invested in Chrysler debt in the first place...

mike volpe said...

That's a totally inaccurate statement. As a secured creditor, they had almost no chance of losing on the deal. their debt was covered by billions in assets. Second, by that assumption, any investment in any junk bond is a bad investment. Without junk bonds, companies that have had troubled pasts would never be able to recover.

What you have been trying to do is demonize the creditors in an effort to deflect from what the President is doing. Rather than defending the administration's actions, you attack the creditors. You can only be doing this because you know that the president's actions are indefensible.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that junk bonds are automatically bad investments, but aren't there laws forbidding pension funds from investing in anything lower than investment grade?

Besides, as a mortgage banker yourself you should realize that the collateral doesn't always cover the debt.

mike volpe said...

I don't know what the laws are about where a pension can invest. I know that in Chicago they are investing in a very risky land deal, so I don't think that these folks were that risky.

It's true that collateral doesn't always cover debt but in this case I believe most was covered.

I think that arguing about whether or not their initial investment was proper is beside the point.

That's not the argument at hand. That's between the pension fund and the state of Indiana.

The argument at hand is whether or not Obama acted properly in procuring this deal.