PROMESA LITIGATION

LA TRIFULCA VENIDERA

 

La Junta de Supervisión Fiscal nos ha dicho que va a certificar un plan fiscal para el ELA para el 30 de marzo del corriente. La Junta revisó el plan fiscal que el Gobierno le entregó el 24 de enero y solicitó cambios;  entre ellos más reforma laboral, reforma fiscal, y muchos otros. Específicamente, la Junta requirió que aquellas pensiones donde el pensionado recibe del gobierno y Seguro Social más de $1,000 se reduzca en 25% para una reducción que sume el 10% del Sistema. En cuanto a los empleados públicos, la Junta requiere “that the Proposed Plan include specific reference to services that can be reduced, eliminated, externalized, or taken over by other entities, as well as which types of employees are currently fulfilling those services. Further, the Proposed Plan must include a specific implementation plan and timeline for such agency rightsizing.”

Como era de esperarse, el plan fiscal que envió el Gobernador a la Junta carece de todos estos elementos por la obvia razón del costo político de cumplir con la encomienda. ¿Que hará la Junta? Con toda probabilidad anunciará el 30 de marzo que el plan fiscal del gobierno no cumple con lo que ha requerido y certificará su propio plan fiscal que incluirá lo antes mencionado. ¿Que hará el Gobierno de Rosselló? Argumentará que no hay que hacerlo, que hay los fondos, se rehusará a cumplir con una retórica que haría orgulloso a Rubén Berríos. La Junta tendrá que demandar a Rosselló como ya lo hizo y solo otro huracán salvará al Gobierno de tener que cumplir con lo indicado en el plan fiscal impuesto por la Junta.

Ya la Juez Swain ha indicado que carece de jurisdicción para revisar el plan fiscal aprobado por la Junta. Más aún, cuando Martin Bienestock comenzó su argumento oral para imponer a Noel Zamot como CEO de la AEE, la Juez Swain le preguntó si era su contención que esta última no estaba cumpliendo con el plan fiscal. Bienestock dijo que no y lo demás es historia. Si la Junta incluye reducción de jornada y de pensiones en el plan fiscal, no me cabe duda que la Juez Swain los va a hacer cumplir. Recordemos que en la quiebra de Detroit también se redujeron las pensiones en 10% y en Chrysler se redujeron mucho más.

Quiero mencionar un detalle del plan fiscal de la AEE y la AAA, ninguno de los cuales ha sido hecho público por el “Gobierno de la Transparencia”. He mencionado en las redes sociales que el Proyecto de ley para la venta de la AEE es sumamente escueto sobre los asuntos importantes de la venta y el Gobernador y algunos senadores indican su preferencia por alianzas público privadas. Por el otro lado, el Sr. Carrión ha sido muy claro al indicar que la AEE se debe vender, algo con lo que concuerdo. ¿La pregunta es si como probablemente ocurra con al plan fiscal del ELA, la Junta impone el suyo en la AEE y éste requiere la venta de la misma, ¿si esto hace el Proyecto superfluo? Esto definitivamente traerá malestar entre la Junta y el ELA, aumentando enormemente los gastos en el caso de la quiebra de PR. Como le indiqué a todos lo que clamaban porque se radicará el Título III y ahora se quejan del costo, be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

Finalmente, y hablando de gastos, quiero mencionar el pleito radicado por la Comisión de Energía contra la Junta para que no pueda certificarse plan fiscal de la AEE sin la aprobación del ente regulador. Resulta que los abogados de la Comisión de Energía, que incluye a uno de USA, Scott Hempling, los abogados de la Junta, de AFFAF y del UCC, TODOS son pagados por lo contribuyentes de PR. Para colmo de males, nada de lo que se esta litigando tendrá utilidad alguna para los contribuyentes, aún si gana la Comisión. Es todo un “pissing contest” sobre quien determinará la transformación de la AEE. Pérdida de tiempo y de recursos que demuestra que los que clamaban por la quiebra de PR, que nunca han visto un caso, mucho menos uno federal o un caso de quiebras, no sabían de lo que hablaban.

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LA VENTA DE LA AEE

 

 

El Gobernador Ricardo Rosselló anunció el lunes 22 de enero que va a vender la AEE. Como todo anuncio de este tipo, la pregunta es cómo se va a hacer. El Gobernador indicó que iba a presentar legislación, proceder a la negociación y venta final, todo en 18 meses. Pero como dicen en inglés, the devil is in the details.

 

En primer lugar, el Gobierno de PR, una vez se apruebe la legislación, puede vender la AEE sin permiso del Tribunal ni de la Junta. Eso es así ya que en el Capítulo III no se adoptó la sección 363 de Quiebras que requiere aprobación del Tribunal en casos de ventas fuera del curso ordinario del negocio. Además, la Junta no tiene que aprobarlo ya que la Juez Swain, en su decisión sobre Zamot hizo claro lo siguiente:

 

The FOMB’s assertion that Title III creates or reinforces direct managerial power granted by Titles I and II rings hollow as well. PROMESA section 303 reserves the territory’s political and governmental powers to the territory or “any territorial instrumentality thereof, ”subject only to Titles I and II. See id. § 303.6 As the Court has explained, nothing in Titles I and II permits the FOMB to displace local government structures and authority by declaration. Similarly, sections 305 and 306 do not empower the FOMB to interfere unilaterally with the debtor’s political and governmental powers, or with the debtor’s property or revenues.

 

Se preguntarán, entonces, ¿por qué la Directora Ejecutiva de la Junta, Natalie Jaresko insiste que para la venta PR necesita la aprobación de la Junta y de la Juez Swain? Lo dice porque sabe que el Gobernador quiere vender la AEE libre de gravámenes y deudas. Para poder hacer eso, tiene que haber una determinación que los bonistas no tienen gravamen y eso solo lo puede hacer un Tribunal Federal. Y aún si el Tribunal así lo indicase, solo el Plan de Ajuste puede, de ser aprobado, reducir las deudas de la AEE que según el Plan Fiscal recién presentado suman $11.4 billones. Pero el Plan de Ajuste lo tienen que aprobar los acreedores cuyas acreencias sean modificadas por el Plan de Ajuste son los que pueden votar y si la mayoría no lo aprueba, el mismo no sería aprobado por el Tribunal excepto a través de un cramdown, cosa que nunca ha ocurrido en un Capítulo 9. Si el Tribunal no procede con el cramdown, bajo el 11 U.S.C. § 930, la petición de quiebra se tiene que desestimar.

 

Otro problema en todo este enredo es que el Gobernador, según la información que me ha llegado, aún no ha preparado la pieza legislativa para la venta de la AEE y eso no se hace en par de días. Además, cuando se radique, pueden estar seguros que los políticos se pondrán creativos requiriendo que no se aumente las tarifas, que no se despidan empleados y hasta poniendo precio mínimo a la venta, especialmente cuando el Plan Fiscal dice que la AEE vale $9.4 billones. Dudo alguien crea esa patraña, pero así son nuestros politicos.

 

Esto nos lleva al precio de venta. La AEE no vale ni $4 billones y un comprador no va a pagar lo que vale ya que tiene que invertir muchos más billones en nuevas plantas, etc. Irrespectivo de mi opinión, el dinero que se obtenga de la venta tiene que ir a pagar las deudas de los acreedores, no a engrosar las arcas del Gobierno. Claro, los fondos de retiro de la AEE es uno de los acreedores, pero los bonistas son muchos más y los pagos deben ser a pro rata.

 

Todo esto por supuesto está sujeto a que los bonistas no tengan, como reclaman, un gravamen sobre los ingresos de la AEE. Si el gravamen existe, cualquier venta de la AEE con toda probabilidad conllevaría una continuación de ese gravamen para el pago de los $8.3 billones que reclaman los bonistas.

 

Estos son algunos de los escollos en la venta de la AEE. Se pueden resolver, pero no va a ser fácil.

 

 

Monday Update –September 18, 2017

 

 

Welcome to your weekly Title III update for September 18, 2017. As Hurricane María bears down on Puerto Rico, we should recap several important things from the past week. Judge Swain denied the PREPA bondholders’ request to lift the stay to request the appointment of a receiver. Interestingly, the Court based its decision on only one of the Board’s arguments, making it clear that Judge Swain knows who the boss in these Title III cases is. At page 10 she stated:

 

“Section 305 of PROMESA provides that, “notwithstanding any power of the court, unless the Oversight Board consents or [the debtor’s Title III] plan [of adjustment] so provides, the court may not by any stay, order or decree, in the case or otherwise, interfere with – (1) any of the political or governmental powers of the debtor; (2) any of the property or revenues of the debtor; or (3) the use or enjoyment by the debtor of any income-producing property.” PROMESA § 305. The Debtor here, PREPA, is a government instrumentality of the Commonwealth, exercising governmental powers in providing electrical service to the inhabitants of the Commonwealth, using its property to generate that power and deriving income from the sale of the power so generated. The rates it charges for its services define the magnitude and impact of its principal revenues. The relief that Movants seek – permission to require the appointment of a receiver to manage PREPA’s operations and seek the approval of rates higher than those PREPA has thus far chosen to charge – is facially inconsistent with Section 305 of PROMESA. Section 305 bars the Court, “notwithstanding any power of the court,” from using “any . . . order or decree, in the case or otherwise,” to interfere with such basic functions and assets of PREPA absent the Oversight Board’s consent, which has not been given here.” (underlining added)

 

At page 13, she made the most important point of the opinion:

 

“Congress, similarly, denied the Title III court power to displace PREPA’s management, even for misconduct, by omitting Section 1104 of the Bankruptcy Code, which provides for the appointment of a trustee or an examiner in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, from the Bankruptcy Code provisions incorporated into PROMESA’s statutory scheme. Instead, Section 301(c)(7) of PROMESA specifically designates the Oversight Board as the sole “trustee” under PROMESA. See PROMESA § 301(c)(7).” (underlining added)

 

Anyone familiar with a Trustee in bankruptcy knows that when one is appointed for a debtor, she is the one who calls the shots. Hence, Judge Swain has made it clear that the Board, and not Puerto Rico’s elected officials, are in charge of the management of PREPA and the rest of the entities in Title III. Very telling. Board 2, Bondholders 0, but PREPA bondholders have vowed to appeal the decision. Peaje has already filed its notice of appeal.

 

Also this week, the COFINA agent answered the UCC’s complaint. As you remember from last week’s update, the UCC, as Commonwealth Agent filed a complaint against COFINA with 13 causes of action, including the unconstitutionality of the law. The COFINA agent came out swinging with a 71 page counterclaims, answer and defenses.

 

In addition to the oft repeated platitudes of legal opinions and legislative statements, COFINA’ First Cause of Action at page 29:

 

“[S]eeks a declaration that: (i) the statutes creating COFINA and directing transfer of the Pledged Sales Tax and the Dedicated Sales Tax Fund to COFINA are constitutional under the Constitution of Puerto Rico; (ii) the Pledged Sales Tax, including all Pledged Sales Tax revenue collected in the future, and the Dedicated Sales Tax Fund are the property of COFINA; and (iii) the Pledged Sales Tax and the Dedicated Sales Tax Fund are not “available resources” under the Constitution of Puerto Rico. In the alternative, Counterclaim Plaintiff seeks a declaration that: (i) COFINA has a perfected and unavoidable lien.”

 

Its Second Cause of Action states that Commonwealth actions violate the Takings Clause and Impairment of Contractual Obligations of both Constitutions. The Third Cause of Action that the Compliance law violates PROMESA, the Fourth Cause of Action that Act 84 violates PROMESA. The Fifth Cause of Action claims tortious interference with a contractual relation and the Sixth Cause of Action claims that if COFINA is unconstitutional, PR committed Fraud, which it likely did, since it should have known that the PR Constitution did not permit the surrendering of the power to tax and that GO’s had priority. The Seventh Cause of Action seeks an injunction but the Eighth Cause of Action claims that “GO Bonds, PBA Bonds and Other Debt Issued in Violation of the Debt Limit Set Forth in the Constitution of Puerto Rico Are Not Entitled to Priority Under the Constitution.”

 

The COFINA dispute promises to be an interesting slug-fest. The complaint was filed on September 8, but the UCC has already issued 22 subpoenas duces tecum including law firms, Banco Popular, Santander, Barclays and Moody’s, to name a few.

 

Also last week, Siemens Transportation Partnership, S.E., an HTA creditor, sought permission from the Court to conduct Rule 2004 discovery from the GDB, Carlos Vizcarrondo (GDB) and Hector Betancourt (AFAF). Ambac also sought leave to conduct discovery pursuant to Rule 2004 from the Board as representative of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth; and AAFAF and other parties. More specifically, Siemens, at page 5 of its motions, states:

 

“Siemens files this Motion to obtain information about the account and the funds therein, including GDB’s funding of the account and any withdrawals or transfers, to determine whether and to what extent: (i) Siemens’ claim against HTA Authority may be paid from funds that are not property of HTA or GDB; and (ii) any third parties have received funds from the account, and if so, whether such transfers may give rise to a claim for fraudulent transfer, conversion or other action, such that Siemens may recover on account of its claim against HTA from parties or assets other than the HTA, which is a Debtor in the above-captioned proceeding, under Title III of PROMESA.”

 

On this same subject, the UCC reported to Judge Dein that the Board was not cooperating on the coordination of Rule 2004 discovery, which the Board confirmed saying:

 

“Based on the meet and confer and the Initial Work Plan, the Oversight Board proposes that the UCC’s motion be deferred, and that no decision be made on the UCC’s request to conduct an investigation at this time. The Oversight Board makes this proposal based on its belief that there is no need for the UCC to conduct a separate, potentially duplicative investigation at this time. It would be premature for the UCC to conduct its own investigation given the Independent Investigator’s commitment to maintain open lines of communication with the UCC, to solicit input from the UCC, and to seek documents, including but not limited to those already sought by the UCC. The Investigation should proceed as outlined above and, if there comes a time when the UCC is not satisfied with the speed or substance of the Investigation, it should make an application to the Court to pursue its own investigation on the specific matters on which it is not satisfied.”

 

Translation: The Board wants to be the only one conducting any investigation on Puerto Rico’s debt and wants no interference. The UCC, in my humble opinion, showed that the Board was conflicted and that it was dragging its feet, which lead Judge Dein to say coordinate because the discovery will be done. Let’s see what happens.

 

Also this week, PREPA filed a motion requesting an order establishing a procedure to reject power purchasing agreements, of which it states more than 60 exists. Pretty normal procedure in a bankruptcy, except that these contracts are for renewable energy. Why does the Board want to reject them? Is it, as I have been saying, to level the playing field to sell PREPA as free of encumbrances as possible? Is it preparing to sell only the generation part of PREPA? Questions, questions.

 

On September 11, 2017, Judge Swain listened to oral arguments in the Municipality of San Juan’s request for an injunction against the GDB RSA. Absent from the argument was any real proof of irreparable harm, which is essential to any injunction. In addition, Judge Swain seemed to believe that the monies deposited by the Municipality were a loan and hence could be altered via Title VI. Judge Swain took the arguments under advisement and will render her opinion soon. In the meantime, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and the one filed by the Municipality of Caguas. Given the Judge’s comments and the Federal Courts view of a municipality, they may be granted.

 

Finally, on Friday, Judge Dein heard arguments on the UCC’s renewed motion to intervene in the NY Mellon-COFINA bondholders dispute. The UCC has filed motion to intervene in most of the adversary proceedings filed in the Commonwealth and COFINA cases. Judge Dein seems baffled by the arguments and will have to further study them.

 

Before I leave I want to make one thing clear about these weekly updates. This summary is merely what I believe are the more salient motions and decisions in the cases. I receive an average of 20 filings each day so it would be impossible to summarize everything. If you have legal interest in these cases, I urge you to hire an attorney to represent you.