On April 2, 2009, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced a bill entitled the "Business Reorganization and Job Protection Act of 2009." The bill has been co-sponsored by Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law of the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. As of the date of this post, the bill’s official text has not been printed but the National Association of Credit Management has made available on its website what appears to be a final or near-final draft of the legislation, which you can access by clicking here. I plan to provide an update on the blog once the official version of the bill as introduced becomes available.
Introduction of the bill follows testimony before the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law by a number of bankruptcy professionals and law professors, including my partner and the Chair of Cooley Godward Kronish LLP‘s Bankruptcy & Restructuring Group, Lawrence Gottlieb. Click here for a prior post about his September 26, 2008 testimony, which focused on the disappearance of reorganizations of retailers since the passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (known as "BAPCPA"). A link to Representative Nadler’s press release on the bill’s introduction can be found here.
The Legislation’s Proposed Changes. The Business Reorganization and Job Protection Act of 2009, introduced as H.R. 1942, would make several major amendments to the Bankruptcy Code. The common theme is that the proposed bill would repeal certain changes made by BAPCPA and restore the statutory language that was in place before BAPCPA was enacted in 2005. The four principal changes are as follows:
- Real Estate Leases. The bill would change Section 365(d)(4) of the Bankruptcy Code by repealing the maximum 210-day period within which debtors could assume or reject non-residential real property leases. Instead of the current 120-day initial period and up to a 90-day extension, the statute would revert back to the initial 60-day period under the prior law but, more importantly, would allow the bankruptcy court, for cause, to grant further extensions without any time limit.
- Utilities. Similarly, the bill would repeal Section 366(c) of the Bankruptcy Code, which now requires a deposit of cash or certain cash equivalents to provide adequate assurance of payment to utilities. If enacted, the bill would allow debtors to establish adequate assurance of payment with something short of a monetary deposit, as had been the case under the pre-BAPCPA law.
- 20-Day Goods Administrative Claim. The bill would also make changes to the law relating to shipments by vendors prior to a bankruptcy filing. It would repeal Section 503(b)(9) of the Bankruptcy Code, added by BAPCPA, which gives an administrative claim to vendors for the value of goods received by a debtor in the ordinary course of business during the 20 days before the bankruptcy petition.
- Reclamation. Another change the bill proposes to make is to go back to the pre-BAPCPA language in Section 546(c) of the Bankruptcy Code governing reclamation claims, specifically to repeal language that had expanded the potential reclamation claim for vendors to the 45 days before a bankruptcy petition. The bill would reinstate the pre-BAPCPA provisions restricting reclamation to that provided for under the Uniform Commercial Code (generally only a 10 day period) and permitting an administrative claim or secured claim to be provided to a reclaiming vendor in lieu of a return of the goods pursuant to a valid reclamation claim.
- Effective Date. Finally, the bill proposes that its changes would apply to cases commenced on or after the date of its enactment, meaning it would apply to cases filed after the bill became law but not to cases filed before it became law.
Conclusion. If the Business Reorganization and Job Protection Act of 2009 were enacted, it could have a major impact on Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases, in particular those involving retailers. As explained in a recent article by several of my colleagues, the cumulative changes made by BAPCPA have had a profound impact on retail Chapter 11 cases. Repealing them could enable retailers the opportunity to emerge from Chapter 11 — the way they often did in the years before the BAPCPA amendments were adopted. Otherwise, we are likely to continue to see more retailers forced into going of out business sales in Chapter 11.