How do bankruptcy systems perform in Eastern Europe?
For post-socialist countries that have undertaken long phases of economic and judicial transitions, an important aspect of attractiveness is based on the performances of their bankruptcy systems. Those performances are all the more essential in a context of non-mature capital markets. Precisely, bankruptcy procedures should, first generate substantial recoveries for the whole set of investors, and second share those recoveries in an adequate way – e.g. in a way that improves the investors’ individual incentives (in terms of monitoring, control, support, etc.). This article uses an original hand-collected database of 554 closed bankruptcy cases in three Eastern European countries (Hungary, Poland, and Romania) to evaluate the determinants of bankruptcy systems’ performances during the post-transition era (from year 2003 to 2010/11). In particular, we investigate whether the specificities of these local bankruptcy environments are significant enough to influence the creditors’ total recoveries. We also wonder whether those recoveries are impacted by the presence of private/public creditors and/or the concentration of their claims. This paper goes beyond a mere analysis of the creditors’ overall repayment, by focusing on the competition effects between them. Implementing competition is actually a core issue for post-transition economies, which have to mimic rivalry effects that usually prevail in more mature market economies. Precisely, we measure the priority order of repayment among competing classes of creditors (public, social, and private claims) and investigate the nature of competition (rivalry vs. ripple effects) among these classes. (1) We first confirm that the design of bankruptcy law “matters”: the creditors’ repayment is not independent from the type of bankruptcy procedure, and depends on the national environment in which such procedure is engaged. (2) On all three countries, the total recoveries do not benefit from the presence of public claimholders, even when those are in position of being residual claimants. Following Satjer (2010), this result suggests some passivity from the state, which has lost bargaining power under bankruptcy. On the contrary, the private claimholders exert a contrasting influence on total recoveries: positive for the junior ones (more involved under bankruptcy, to compensate their lack of protection), and negative for the secured ones (confirming the “lazy argument” attached to collaterals). (3) We also find that repayments are lower when the claims are concentrated: despite easier coordination, concentration may generate excessive influence from the largest creditors, willing to run bankruptcy adjudicat ion in their sole interests. (4) We show that the Eastern European bankruptcy systems provide stronger protection for private secured claims than for public claims. From that angle, the post-socialist economies mimic the prioritization of secured creditors that characterizes most Western European bankruptcy systems. (5) Last, we confirm that Eastern European bankruptcy systems have successfully implemented competition among the classes of creditors, which we interpret as a sign of maturity.
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