About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

High Finance, Part I

So on Friday the 8th, I get a call from a company identified as Epiq Systems asking for my fax number so they can send over some documents related to a bankruptcy. Now, that's not the kind of call you get every day, and they won't tell me whose bankruptcy they have in mind.

It turns out when papers start to come on Monday to be that of a company called Haights Cross Communication, which is the parent company of the prominent long-time audio publisher Recorded Books. Which publishes Charlaine Harris, Brandon Sanderson, Kat Richardson and Peter V. Brett from the JABberwocky list, and you can figure with authors like that, there are some royalties Recorded owes me.

But the bankruptcy is actually a good thing. I think.

Haights Cross took on too heavy a debt load four or five years ago, as many people and places did. Unlike many of them, they were able to enter negotiations with their major lendors and come to an agreement, announced in September, for a debt-for-equity swap involving a significant haircut for the lendors, with the intention to file for a pre-packaged bankruptcy petition and to continue doing business as usual all the way through. Motion 8 is for an Order Authorizing the Debtors to Pay Prepetition Claims of Trade Creditors [I think that's me] in the Ordinary Course of Business.

So as bankruptcies go...

But the interesting thing is all of the things that come out of the woodwork.

Even before the official Notice of Filing for which Epiq needed my fax number -- and there Epiq is, Motion 9 of the First Day Motions, Docket No. 11, authorizing retention of Epiq as the Claims and Noticing Agent -- I get a fax from a credit arbitrage company called Credit Liquidity, LP, which is offering to buy out my claim for 74.6 cents on the dollar. First Come, First Served, Must Respond by January 15. Why, if you didn't read the documents carefully, you'd think this was an official communication. The fax cover sheet blares in very big letters "LEGAL DOCUMENT REGARDING HAIGHTS CROSS COMMUNICATIONS BANKRUPTCY."

If you get around to reading the FAQ, they do hide in question #4 that CL is not related in any way to the company. They also have enough caveats in the FAQ to hide a very large emptor. They'll pay my 74.6 cents "unless issues develop in the bankrupty court proceedings which ay delay us in processing the claim or purchasing the claim." They "may not purchase the claim ... due to ... specific case issues, litigation or other perceived problems with the bankruptcy proceedings."

Which is to say that if you don't look carefully, you can give Creditor Liquidity a quick profit as they pay 74.6 cents in a two or three weeks and then get paid a dollar in two or three months, but if anything happens where it looks like the pre-packaged bankruptcy proceeding won't actually result in business as usual, they'll back away from their offer. Quickly.

Then on Tuesday, it's an attorney in a Florida affiliate of my accounting firm that wants to invite me to throw my hat into the ring for serving on the Creditor Committee.

In a contentious bankruptcy, this group of creditors with their own counsel and experts and staff all paid for by the debtor company as part of the proceeding, would keep an eye on things and represent the interests of the creditors. Because US bankruptcy law gives current management the first shot at reorganizing the company, this is a little weight on the other side of the scale to be sure they aren't doing things that help themselves more than the people who hope to get some recovery out of the bankruptcy proceeding.

But the call from the attorney isn't about me. Rather, if I volunteer and am chosen -- well, I'll need to have somebody actually looking after my interests because I'm not going to head off to Wilmington for every hearing, and those billable hours are a court-protected cost out of the debtor's pocket.

So it's nice to be wanted. I would certainly volunteer, because JABberwocky does have a decent amount listed as owed in the filings, I'm as good an agent as any to speak up for agents that are owed money on this (Scovil Galen Ghosh is one of a handful of others with solid amounts listed). It would be an interesting experience to be part of the process, maybe even more interesting than jury duty. So there's more to be gained experientially from this than from selling my claim for 74.6 cents on the dollar, but let's be clear that isn't about me.

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