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Bankruptcy Court Is Latest Battleground for Traders

•  Recent Cases     updated  2010/09/08 09:20


In Six Flags Inc.'s bankruptcy case last fall, a hedge fund that owned senior bonds negotiated the theme-park company's reorganization plan, then dumped lower-ranking bonds it figured would lose value under the deal.

Other creditors cried foul. The hedge fund had used knowledge learned during its negotiations to gain an unfair edge, they suggested, accusing the fund of a "hijacking of the reorganization process."

So it goes in the rough-and-tumble new world of bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy process was created decades ago as a way to give ailing businesses a chance to heal and creditors a shot at repayment. Hedge funds and other big investors have transformed it into something else: a money-making venue where, after buying up distressed companies' debt at a deep discount, they can ply their sophisticated trading techniques in quest of profits. The "bankruptcy exchange," some call it.

This is perfectly legal, but is raising questions of transparency and fairness as the "distressed debt" investors joust with bankruptcy judges and others over what they must disclose as they trade in and out of a company's debt, even while trying to influence its reorganization.


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