With the lengthy holiday being celebrated in the United States, a few stories may have slipped past usually eagle-eyed credit professionals. Here are some happenings of note:
The “Big Three” credit ratings agencies (Standard 7 Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investment Services) experienced a significant legal setback last week in the U.S. Supreme Court. It was ruled that the ratings agencies were not protected from lawsuits based on invoking rights under the First Amendment. The three had tried to use such a defense to protect itself from suits brought by investors who were burned after using the companies’ ratings information, which turned out to be far from accurate, about a half-decade ago. Still, two of the three agencies (Moody’s, Fitch) were cleared in said suit because of a lack of evidence.
In the Harrisburg Chapter 9 bankruptcy case, Judge U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary France found the Pennsylvania state law (Act 46) to be constitutional, ending the council's hopes of continuing the bankruptcy proceedings and avoiding state conservatorship. Act 46 forbids “third-class” (by population totals) Pennsylvania cities from declaring municipal bankruptcy prior to July 2012. (Story at http://blog.nacm.org). A judge also intimated that a lack of cooperation/aggrement on the filing between the council and the embattled mayor made the filing inappropriate.
In Jefferson County, AL, where the largest U.S. bankruptcy filing the nation’s history is proceeding, Judge Thomas Bennett said he will not remove an appointed receiver charged with working on the county’s massive debt tied to a sewer renovation project. However, the judge intimate he could limit the receiver’s powers somewhat to give the county a little more influence over the Chapter 9 proceedings.
In the area of free trade agreements, South Korean lawmakers ignored a significant portion of the voter base fighting its pact with the United States over in fear of job losses or economic hits, and its ruling party called a hasty, surprise Wednesday vote. As a result, the FTA, one started during the Bush Administration and signed by President Barack Obama about one month ago, passed overwhelmingly but not before some unrest, including one opposing politician allegedly letting off some form of tear gas or pepper spray in parliament’s chambers. The deal’s value is estimated at nearly $90 billion. (Story at http://blog.nacm.org).
Struggling newspaper publisher Tribune Co., which has become a symbol of struggles in the newspaper/old media industry as well as a bit of a laughing stock based off of what looked like reckless and “old-boys’ club” internal policies, saw yet another reorganization plan filed in its bankruptcy. There’s no telling at this point if its prospects are any better than several other failed efforts of the past in the languishing proceedings.
Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer