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Anatomy of Financial Distress: An Examination of Junk-Bond Issuers

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  • Paul Asquith
  • Robert Gertner
  • David Scharfstein

Abstract

This paper examines the events following the onset of financial distress for 102 public junk bond issuers. We find that out-of-court debt relief mainly comes from junk bond - holders; banks almost never forgive principal, though they do defer payments and waive debt covenants. Asset sales are an important means of avoiding Chapter 11 reorganization; however, they may be limited by industry factors. If a company simply restructures its bank debt, but either does not restructure its public debt or does not sell major assets or merge, the company goes bankrupt. The structure of a company's liabilities affects the likelihood that it goes bankrupt; companies whose bank and private debt are secured as well as companies with complex public debt structures are more prone to go bankrupt. Finally, there is no evidence that more profitable distressed companies are more successful in dealing with financial distress; they are not less likely to go bankrupt, sell assets, or reduce capital expenditures.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3942.

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Date of creation: Dec 1991
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Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 109, no. 3 (1994): 625-658.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3942

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  1. Gertner, Robert & Scharfstein, David, 1991. " A Theory of Workouts and the Effects of Reorganization Law," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(4), pages 1189-1222, September.
  2. Takeo Hoshi & Anil Kashyap & David Scharfstein, 1990. "The Role of Banks in Reducing the Costs of Financial Distress in Japan," NBER Working Papers 3435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Warner, Jerold B, 1977. "Bankruptcy Costs: Some Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 337-47, May.
  4. Michael C. Jensen, 1989. "Active Investors, LBOs, and the Privatization of Bankruptcy," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 2(1), pages 35-44.
  5. Gilson, Stuart C., 1990. "Bankruptcy, boards, banks, and blockholders : Evidence on changes in corporate ownership and control when firms default," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 355-387, October.
  6. Gilson, Stuart C. & John, Kose & Lang, Larry H. P., 1990. "Troubled debt restructurings*1: An empirical study of private reorganization of firms in default," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 315-353, October.
  7. Myers, Stewart C., 1977. "Determinants of corporate borrowing," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 147-175, November.
  8. Gilson, Stuart C., 1989. "Management turnover and financial distress," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 241-262, December.
  9. Weiss, Lawrence A., 1990. "Bankruptcy resolution: Direct costs and violation of priority of claims," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 285-314, October.
  10. Haugen, Robert A & Senbet, Lemma W, 1978. "The Insignificance of Bankruptcy Costs to the Theory of Optimal Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 33(2), pages 383-93, May.
  11. Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1991. "Asset Sales and Debt Capacity," NBER Working Papers 3618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Michelle J. White, 1980. "Public Policy Toward Bankruptcy: Me-First and Other Priority Rules," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(2), pages 550-564, Autumn.
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