Muni Retirees Face 90% Loss Under Detroit's Pending "Free-Fall" Bankruptcy

Tyler Durden's picture


The odds of an out-of-court settlement between Detroit's emergency manager and its creditors are "extremely slim," as the WSJ reports that the troubled city's D-Day draws ever closer to becoming the largest muni default in US history. The last straw on Detroit's camel's back of bankruptcy was following discussions last week between Kevyn Orr (Detroit's emergency manager) and the White House as any hope of a federal bailout to evert bankruptcy fizzled. Folowing Detroit's default in June - demonstrating its insolvency - and its "negotiations in full faith" with creditors set the scene for a pending day in court. The current plan (for now rejected by creditors) means a 90% loss for muni-worker retirees, 81% loss for unsecured creditors, and a 75% loss for secured creditors leaving a "free fall" bankruptcy filing - one without a clear plan or much agreement beforehand with creditors - the most  likely outcome "because there is no other way out of here if we don't reach consensus."


Via WSJ,

This automobile capital and onetime music-industry powerhouse could within days become the country's largest-ever municipal bankruptcy case, people familiar with the matter said, as the city's emergency manager accelerates his plan for restructuring nearly $20 billion of long-term liabilities.




Detroit's strategy, unveiled last month, is to pay off the majority of what secured creditors such as certain bondholders are owed while offering pennies on the dollar to unsecured bondholders, unions and pension funds. The moves are likely to prompt heated debates before a bankruptcy judge as each group argues its case for why it deserves a bigger payout.




Most at risk under the expected bankruptcy case is the city's $11 billion in unsecured debt. That includes almost $6 billion in health and other benefits for retirees; more than $3 billion for retiree pensions; and about $530 million in general-obligation bonds.


Municipal-worker retirees are set to get less than 10% of what they are owed under the plan.




The decision by the nation's 18th largest city by population is being closely watched by other states and municipalities burdened by steep pension and retiree health costs.




But aides to Mr. Orr said the odds of an out-of-court settlement are extremely slim. So far, the city has an agreement to pay some secured creditors 75 cents on the dollar on nearly $340 million in debt. In exchange, the city would get back $11 million a month in tax revenue from the city's three casinos originally used as collateral to back the debt. But negotiations with unsecured creditors who were offered about $2 billion to cover $11 billion in debt remain stalled.




Mr. Orr "has taken such a hard line with creditors that a bankruptcy filing is inevitable,"




A "free fall" bankruptcy filing - one without a clear plan or much agreement beforehand with creditors - is a likely outcome.




"a bankruptcy gives Detroit some breathing room and some new tools to try to resolve their problems." But just because a city files for bankruptcy, "that doesn't mean it will be successful."


But Mr. Orr said a Chapter 9 filing may go more smoothly for Detroit than other municipalities "because there is no other way out of here if we don't reach consensus."

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