Recent high-profile bankruptcies involve the use of Chapter 11 proceedings to resolve mass tort claims. In these cases, debtors have employed controversial maneuvers to facilitate global resolution and to minimize operational disruptions that can result from bankruptcy filings. Most notorious among these maneuvers are the third-party release (a key feature in every mass tort bankruptcy) and the two-step bankruptcy (a recent innovation in asbestos cases, also known as the “Texas” two-step).
While most bankruptcy courts have blessed the use of Chapter 11 to resolve mass torts claims, scholars, policymakers, and media commentators have argued that bankruptcy proceedings provide an improper forum for resolving these cases. Critics have taken special aim at the use of the third-party release and the two-step bankruptcy.
In an Essay forthcoming in the Chicago Law Review, we argue that Chapter 11 proceedings provide an appropriate and often superior forum in which to resolve mass tort claims. We further argue that legal innovations such as the two-step bankruptcy and the third-party release can reduce bankruptcy costs and preserve value for all claimants. As a result, these maneuvers and others like them should be welcomed as long as courts are attentive to the potential for opportunistic abuse.
Read more at The Harvard Law School Bankruptcy Roundtable