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Who Should Pay for Bankruptcy Costs?

  • Ivo Welch
  • Arturo Bris
  • Alan Schwartz

The fees of experts (financial advisors, lawyers, accountants) are a substantial fraction of bankruptcy costs. Scholars have considered how best to reduce these costs, but have not considered how they should be allocated among creditors. The allocation issue is important because creditors can spend redistributionally (to violate or uphold absolute priority) and productively (to increase the value of the bankrupt firm). An efficient bankruptcy cost allocation scheme should discourage redistributional and encourage productive creditor spending. We consider the desirability of various allocation schemes in a model in which senior and junior creditors can engage in both types of spending but the bankruptcy court cannot distinguish productive from rent seeking activities. We suppose that the senior claim is at or in the money. This implies that the seniors have an incentive to spend only to defend their position while the juniors have both good and bad incentives: to spend productively on value improvement because they are residual claimants and to spend redistributionally because they are partly or totally out of the money under absolute priority. A good bankruptcy cost allocation scheme thus should induce the seniors to spend more and the juniors to spend less. We show: (i) The current US cost allocation system is unsatisfactory because the scheme partially reimburses junior expenses on experts but does not reimburse seniors at all; (ii) Full reimbursement scheme

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File URL: http://icfpub.som.yale.edu/publications/2477
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Paper provided by Yale School of Management in its series Yale School of Management Working Papers with number ysm365.

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Date of creation: 01 May 2003
Date of revision: 01 Sep 2004
Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm365
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://icf.som.yale.edu/

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  1. Altman, Edward I, 1984. " A Further Empirical Investigation of the Bankruptcy Cost Question," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1067-89, September.
  2. Warner, Jerold B, 1977. "Bankruptcy Costs: Some Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 337-47, May.
  3. Ang, James S & Chua, Jess H & McConnell, John J, 1982. " The Administrative Costs of Corporate Bankruptcy: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 37(1), pages 219-26, March.
  4. Povel, Paul, 1999. "Optimal "Soft" or "Tough" Bankruptcy Procedures," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 659-84, October.
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