Building Legal Indexes to explain Recovery Rates: An Analysis of the French and UK Bankruptcy Codes
The main aim of this paper is to find the legal characteristics that impact on the recovery rates. Previous studies (LLSV, Doing Business Report, World Bank) have usefully used a set of legal indexes to rank the bankruptcy law prevalent within the country. But they fail to identify the characteristics of bankruptcy procedures that create more recoveries. We give here elements of answer by taking into consideration two countries that are good representatives of the two main legal systems prevailing in Europe: France (Civil Law) and United Kingdom (Common Law). To enable this, we built original legal indexes comprising of 158 binary questions that highlight ten major dimensions of corporate bankruptcy procedures: (1) accessibility, (2) exclusivity, (3) bankruptcy costs, (4) production of information, (5) protection of the debtor’s assets, (6) protection of claims, (7) coordination of creditors, (8) decision power, (9) sanction of faulty management, and (10) inclination towards liquidation / reorganization. We then propose a mapping of procedures that shows a clear specialization between them. The French procedures (“redressement judiciaire” and “liquidation judiciaire”) are more protective of the debtor’s assets and favor more the coordination of secured claims, public claims, and unsecured claims. In UK, we find strong opposition between the procedures oriented to liquidation and the other procedures. We then use an original database of 833 French and UK bankruptcy files to measure the recovery rates that are generated by each procedure. We find strong differences be tween them. We then turn to OLS regressions and use our legal indexes to isolate the characteristics of bankruptcy law that significantly impact on the total recovery rate. By controlling for the value of assets, the structure of claims, the origins of default, and the firm characteristics, we test for several hypotheses. We first isolate the legal features of bankruptcy procedures that are associated to higher total recovery rates: namely, accessibility of the procedure, protection of the debtor’s assets, protection and coordination of claims, orientation towards reorganization, and bankruptcy costs. From that perspective, these costs are not sunk cost only, but can be viewed as the counterpart of a service provided by the practitioners that eventually serve the creditors’ recoveries. On the contrary, we find that the production of information under bankruptcy has a negative impact on total recoveries, probably due to the breach in confidentiality. Last, some dimensions of corporate bankruptcy law are not significantly related to total recovery rates (inclination towards liquidation, severity towards faulty management).
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