Uh, oh: Detroit’s bankruptcy filing may be rejected
posted at 12:41 pm on November 15, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
Back in July, the city of Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States’ history, with the city owing more than $18 billion in debt and liabilities following decades of purely blue leadership. The city’s appointed financial managers have already gotten to work on digging the city out of the massive hole into which it dug itself over the years, but not without the requisite challenges and lawsuits from unions and pension funds irate about the major losses that are going to be foisted upon everyone involved — and all of the work the city has done so far to save itself could be undone if a federal judge decides that Detroit is actually ineligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy after all. Via the AP:
After a nine-day trial, Judge Steven Rhodes must decide whether Detroit really qualifies for the court’s help to fix its awful long-term finances — including $18 billion debt. Although they haven’t offered specifics, officials predict a “free-fall crisis” if the city is found ineligible and warn that the improved services, such as those streetlights, could suffer. …
“If the bankruptcy is disallowed, frankly, expect all hell to break loose,” said Anthony Sabino, a lawyer who teaches business law at St. John’s University in New York. “Detroit will be at the mercy of its creditors in individual lawsuits spread amongst federal and state courts. That chaos alone could doom the city.”
He compares it to animals in the wild — “wolves rending the carcass piece by piece.”
Emergency manager Kevyn Orr, the state appointee who now controls Detroit’s checkbook, acknowledges things will get worse if bankruptcy is rejected, but he’s not saying exactly how bad.
“The city would go back to where it was. We can’t go back,” he told a business group Tuesday.
The judge’s decision is expected any day now. The opposing unions in the case essentially tried to argue that the pre-bankruptcy negotiations weren’t really attempted in good faith by Orr and his financial team, who had basically already made up their minds to shoot for bankruptcy — but I imagine it would have been rather difficult to negotiate with groups that are still holding on to attitudes like this:
Ed McNeil, special assistant to the president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25, downplays the urgency expressed by Orr’s team.
“Eighteen billion dollars — that’s down the road. You’re not talking about money due today,” McNeil said.