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Employment preservation vs. creditors' repayment under bankruptcy law: The French dilemma?

By Régis Blazy, Bertrand Chopard, Agnès Fimayer and Jean-Daniel Guigou

Abstract

The paper investigates the French dilemma associated with court administered resolution of corporate financial distress. In such a legal system, the courts seek a double objective: maintaining job positions through continuation, and determining the best outcome for the claimants. We discuss this dilemma empirically, using a unique sample of bankruptcy files on French SMEs. We address successively three critical questions. First, we highlight the determinants of the final bankruptcy outcome (continuation through reorganization or sale, or piecemeal liquidation): does continuation (the most employment-friendly outcome) depend on the firm's characteristics, and/or on the way the procedure is managed? Second, we study the determinants of the creditors' recovery rates: do the courts play an active role in increasing recoveries? Third, we address the dilemma directly by focusing on sales as a going concern. We model the court administered selection process between rival buyout offers: do the courts balance the social content against the financial content of each offer? Is there an explicit arbitrage between employment preservation and creditor recoveries? Our main results are: (1) the French courts actively work to facilitate continuation against liquidation, and thus play a role in employment preservation. Besides, we find continuation is more likely to prevail when default is an outcome of specific difficulties (outlets, finance, and production). (2) We confirm the Radulovic (2008) findings: the global recovery rate mainly depends on the firm's ex ante characteristics at the time of triggering, while the way the procedure is managed by the court has little impact. Similarly to LoPucki and Doherty (2007), continuation via reorganization does not generate lower recovery rates on average than the other outcomes. (3) Last, the courts' choice between rival buyout offers confirms that social considerations prevail in the arbitration. Yet, the courts still consider financial issues as well (a higher sale price increases the chances that an offer is selected), but without clear connection with the amount of due claims (one direct consequence is a moderate recovery rate on sales).Bankruptcy Reorganization Liquidation Employment Recovery rate

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