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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Asquith & Robert Gertner & David Scharfstein, 1991. "Anatomy of Financial Distress: An Examination of Junk-Bond Issuers," NBER Working Papers 3942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3942 Note: CF
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael C. Jensen, 2010. "Active Investors, LBOs, and the Privatization of Bankruptcy," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 22(1), pages 77-85.
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    10. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. John, Kose & Ofek, Eli, 1995. "Asset sales and increase in focus," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 105-126, January.
    2. Lambrecht, Bart & Perraudin, William, 1996. "Creditor races and contingent claims," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 897-907, April.
    3. Weisbach, Michael S., 1995. "CEO turnover and the firm's investment decisions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 159-188, February.
    4. Lang, Larry & Poulsen, Annette & Stulz, Rene, 1995. "Asset sales, firm performance, and the agency costs of managerial discretion," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 3-37, January.
    5. David A. Butz, 1993. "Debt Financing and Manager-Shareholder Agency Costs," UCLA Economics Working Papers 687, UCLA Department of Economics.
    6. Gorton, G. & Khan, J., 1992. "The Design of Bank Loan Contracts, Collateral, and Renegociation," RCER Working Papers 327, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).

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