The deadline to submit a bankruptcy filing to the Southern District of New York is around midnight, which probably explains why even as MF Global is proceeding at a feverish pace to sell parts or all of it to what appear increasingly skittish investors (who, like China will likely wait until the stalking horse auction to show their bids), it has, as the WSJ has just reported, hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers in the face of Weil Gotshal, best known for collecting hundreds of millions in hourly legal fees for its work on the Lehman bankruptcy case, as well as Skadden Arps. It appears that the sale process has not gone quite as well as hoped for, and now the company is bracing for the worst with just under 6 hours left to iron out a going concern solution.
Per the WSJ: "MF Global Holdings Ltd., the troubled securities firm, has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers, said people familiar with the matter, as it races to sell all or part of its broker-dealer in an effort to survive. MF Global, whose shares have plummeted amid investor concerns over its exposure to European government debt, has hired law firms Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Weil, Gotshal & Manges to prepare potential restructuring options, the people said. A bankruptcy filing or other restructuring transaction remains an option for MF Global should it be unable to get a sale done, one of the people said." Why two restructuring legal counsels? "Skadden joins restructuring and deal bankers at Evercore Partners advising MF Global. Other Skadden lawyers that don't specialize in restructuring are also advising the investment firm. Weil, meanwhile, would represent MF Global's U.K. subsidiary should it need to pursue some kind of formal restructuring proceeding overseas, a separate person familiar with the matter said. In addition, Sullivan & Cromwell's restructuring practice has also joined the fray advising MF Global, people familiar with the matter said. Non-restructuring lawyers at Sullivan are also working on the situation." And here comes, naturally, the hedge: "The hiring of restructuring advisers doesn't mean MF Global will necessarily seek bankruptcy protection. Such advisers work on a range of transactions, including raising new debt or equity or trying to find other out-of-court solutions to a company's woes. Still, a federal bankruptcy court could provide a venue for a potential sale of MF Global's assets. MF Global has been focused on trying to find buyers without resorting to bankruptcy."
And while we, and most likely everyone else in the world, wishes Jon Corzine all the best, just in case all the best does not happen, we are confident there will be numerous reporters around the main entrance of Southern District of New York at 1 Bowling Green where the bankruptcy petition still has to be handed in physically should all else fail. Well, not all else: Corzine will have succeeded in handing over the firm he has headed for just about two years to Goldman Sachs on a bankruptcy, read 35 cents on the dollar, platter.