Confirmation Standards in Chapter 9 — Bankruptcy Law Basics
The standards for plan confirmation in chapter 9 cases are a combination of the statutory requirements of 11 U.S.C. § 943(b) and those portions of 11 U.S.C. § 1129 (the chapter 11 confirmation standards) made applicable by 11 U.S.C. § 901(a). Section 943(b) lists seven general conditions required for confirmation of a plan. The court must confirm a plan if the following conditions are met:
- the plan complies with the provisions of title 11 made applicable by sections 103(e) and 901;
- the plan complies with the provisions of chapter 9;
- all amounts to be paid by the debtor or by any person for services or expenses in the case or incident to the plan have been fully disclosed and are reasonable;
- the debtor is not prohibited by law from taking any action necessary to carry out the plan;
- except to the extent that the holder of a particular claim has agreed to a different treatment of such claim, the plan provides that on the effective date of the plan, each holder of a claim of a kind specified in section 507(a)(1) will receive on account of such claim cash equal to the allowed amount of such claim;
- any regulatory or electoral approval necessary under applicable nonbankruptcy law in order to carry out any provision of the plan has been obtained, or such provision is expressly conditioned on such approval; and
- the plan is in the best interests of creditors and is feasible.
11 U.S.C. § 943(b).
Section 943(b)(1) requires as a condition for confirmation that the plan comply with the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code made applicable by sections 103(e) and 901(a) of the Bankruptcy Code. The most important of these for purposes of confirming a plan are those provisions of 11 U.S.C. § 1129 (i.e., § 1129(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6), (a)(8), (a)(10)) that are made applicable by 11 U.S.C. § 901(a). Section 1129(a)(8) requires, as a condition to confirmation, that the plan has been accepted by each class of claims or interests impaired under the plan. Therefore, if the plan proposes treatment for a class of creditors such that the class is impaired (i.e., the creditor's legal, equitable, or contractual rights are altered), then that class's acceptance is required. If the class is not impaired, then acceptance by that class is not required as a condition to confirmation. Under 11 U.S.C. § 1129(a)(10), the court may confirm the plan only if, should any class of claims be impaired under the plan, at least one impaired class has accepted the plan. If only one impaired class of creditors consents to the plan, plan confirmation is still possible under the "cram down" provisions of 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b). Under "cram down," if all other requirements are met except the § 1129(a)(8) requirement that all classes either be unimpaired or have accepted the plan, then the plan is confirmable if it does not discriminate unfairly and is fair and equitable.
The requirement that the plan be in the "best interests of creditors" means something different under chapter 9 than under chapter 11. Under chapter 11, a plan is said to be in the "best interest of creditors" if creditors would receive as much under the plan as they would if the debtor were liquidated. 11 U.S.C. § 1129(a)(7)(A)(ii). Obviously, a different interpretation is needed in chapter 9 cases because a municipality's assets cannot be liquidated to pay creditors. In the chapter 9 context, the "best interests of creditors" test has generally been interpreted to mean that the plan must be better than other alternatives available to the creditors. See 6 COLLIER ON BANKRUPTCY § 943.03 (15th ed. rev. 2005). Generally speaking, the alternative to chapter 9 is dismissal of the case, permitting every creditor to fend for itself. An interpretation of the " best interests of creditors" test to require that the municipality devote all resources available to the repayment of creditors would appear to exceed the standard. The courts generally apply the test to require a reasonable effort by the municipal debtor that is a better alternative for its creditors than dismissal of the case. Id.
Parties in interest may object to confirmation, including creditors whose claims are affected by the plan, an organization of employees of the debtor, and other tax payers, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission. 11 U.S.C. §§ 901(a), 943, 1109, 1128(b).
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