In re MPM Silicones, LLC, No. 15-1771 (2d Cir. 2017)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Three groups of creditors appealed MPM's substantially consummated plan of reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The Subordinated Notes holders challenged the lower courts' conclusions that their claims were subordinate to the Second-Lien Notes holders' claims; the Senior-Lien Notes holders contended that the lower courts erroneously applied a below-market interest rate to their replacement notes; the Senior-Lien Notes holders challenge the lower courts' rulings that they were not entitled to a make-whole premium; and debtors argued that the court should dismiss these appeals as equitably moot. The Second Circuit found merit only in the Senior-Lien Notes holders' contention with respect to the method of calculating the appropriate interest rate for the replacement notes. The court held that the Second-Lien Notes stand in priority to the Subordinated Notes; held that the Senior-Lien Notes holders were not entitled to the make-whole premium; declined to dismiss any of the appeals as equitably moot; and remanded to the bankruptcy court to assess whether an efficient market rate could be ascertained, and if so, applied to the replacement notes.

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15-1771; 15-1682; 15-1824 In re MPM Silicones, LLC 1 In the 2 United States Court of Appeals 3 For the Second Circuit 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 ________ August Term, 2016 ____________________________________________________________ In the Matter of: MPM Silicones, L.L.C. ____________________________________________________________ Nos. 15-1682 (L); 15-1824 (CON) MOMENTIVE PERFORMANCE MATERIALS INCORPORATED, APOLLO GLOBAL MANAGEMENT, LLC, AD HOC COMMITTEE OF SECOND LIEN HOLDERS, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. BOKF, NA, AS FIRST LIEN TRUSTEE, WILMINGTON TRUST, N.A., AS 1.5 LIEN TRUSTEE, Defendants-Appellants. ____________________________________________________________ No. 15-1771 U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AS INDENTURE TRUSTEE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 WILMINGTON SAVINGS FUND SOCIETY, FSB, AS SUCCESSOR INDENTURE TRUSTEE, MOMENTIVE PERFORMANCE MATERIALS INCORPORATED, AD HOC COMMITTEE OF SECOND LIEN NOTEHOLDERS, APOLLO MANAGEMENT, LLC, AND CERTAIN OF ITS AFFILIATED FUNDS, Defendants-Appellees. ____________________________________________________________ 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 ________ Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Vincent L. Bricetti, Judge. Submitted: November 9, 2016 Decided: October 20, 2017 ________ Before: CABRANES, POOLER, and PARKER, Circuit Judges. ________ Three groups of creditors separately appeal a judgment of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York (Bricetti, J.) affirming the confirmation of Debtors’ Chapter 11 reorganization plan by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (Drain, J.). The creditors argue that the plan improperly eliminated or reduced the value of notes they held. Debtors argue that the plan was properly confirmed and that these appeals should be dismissed as equitably moot. With one exception, we conclude that the plan confirmed by the bankruptcy court and affirmed by the district court comports with the provisions of Chapter 11. We remand so that the bankruptcy court can address the single deficiency we identify with the proceedings below which is the process for determining the proper interest rate under the cramdown provision of Chapter 11. We decline to dismiss these appeals as equitably moot. ________ 2 1 2 3 4 5 DOUGLAS HALLWARD-DRIEMEIER, Ropes & Gray LLP, Washington D.C.; MARK R. SOMERSTEIN, MARK I. BANE , Ropes & Gray, New York, NY, for Wilmington Trust, National Association as Indenture Trustee for the 1.5 Lien Notes. 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 DANIELLE SPINELLI, JOEL MILLAR, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, D.C.; PHILIP D. ANKER, ALAN E. SCHOENFELD, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, New York, NY; MICHAEL J. SAGE, BRAIN E. GREER, Dechert LLP, New York, NY, G. ERIC BRUNSTAD, JR., Dechert LLP, Hartford, CT, for BOKF, NA as First Lien Trustee. SUSHEEL KIRPALANI, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, New York, NY; ROY T. ENGLERT, JR., MARK T. STANCIL, ALAN E. UNTEREINER, MATTHEW M. MADDEN, Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, Washington, D.C., for U.S. Bank National Association, as Indenture Trustee. IRA S. DIZENGOFF, ABID QURESHI, BRIAN T. CARNEY, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, New York, NY; PRATIK A. SHAH , JAMES E. TYSSE, Z.W. JULIUS CHEN, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Washington, D.C., for Momentive Performance Materials Inc. and Apollo Management, LLC, and certain of its affiliated funds. JOSEPH T. BAIO, JAMES C. DUGAN, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, New York, NY, for Momentive Performance Materials Inc. DENNIS F. DUNNE, MICHAEL L. HIRSCHFELD , Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, New York, NY, for Ad Hoc Committee of Second Lien Noteholders. 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 SETH H. LIEBERMAN, PATRICK SIBLEY, Pryor Cashman LLP, New York, NY, for Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB, as Successor Indenture Trustee. 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 BARRINGTON D. PARKER, Circuit Judge: These appeals by three groups of creditors challenge various aspects of Appellee Momentive Performance Materials, Inc.’s (“MPM,”) substantially consummated plan of reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.1 With one exception, we conclude that the reorganization plan (the “Plan”) confirmed by the bankruptcy court and affirmed by the district court comports with Chapter 11. We remand so that the bankruptcy court can address the single deficiency we identify in the proceedings below, which is the process for determining the proper interest rate under the cramdown provision of Chapter 11. 23 I 24 25 MPM, a leading producer of silicone, faced serious financial problems after it took on significant new debt obligations beginning in RONALD J. MANN, Columbia Law School, New York, NY, for Amici Curiae Loan Syndications and Trading Association, the Managed Funds Association, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. ________ 1 Momentive Performance Materials, Inc.’s “MPM,” and with affiliated debtors, “Debtors”. 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 the mid-2000s.2 See 15-1771 JA 286-88; 15-1682 JA 1605-06.3 Following these debt issuances, MPM was substantially overleveraged, and ultimately filed a petition under Chapter 11. The four relevant classes of notes issued by MPM are as follows: Subordinated Notes. In 2006, MPM issued $500 million in subordinated unsecured notes (the “Subordinated Notes”) pursuant to an indenture (the “2006 Indenture”). 15-1771 JA 303. Appellant U.S. Bank is the indenture trustee for the Subordinated Notes. In 2009 MPM issued secured second-lien notes and offered the Subordinated Notes holders the option of exchanging their notes for the newly-issued second-lien notes. The second-lien notes were offered at a 60% discount but were secured. 15-1771 JA 2241. Holders of $118 million of the Subordinated Notes accepted the offer, leaving $382 million in unsecured Subordinated Notes outstanding. 15-1771 JA 2241. Second-Lien Notes. In 2010, MPM issued approximately $1 billion in “springing” second-lien notes (the “Second-Lien Notes”). 15-1682 JA 1616; 15-1771 JA 476. The Second-Lien Notes were to be unsecured until the $118 million of previously exchanged Subordinated Notes were redeemed, at which point the “spring” in the lien would be triggered. 15-1771 JA 517, 580-81. Once triggered, the Second-Lien Notes would then (but only then) obtain a security interest in the Debtor’s collateral. The exchanged Subordinated Notes were redeemed in November 2012, 15-1771 JA 721, at which point the trigger occurred and the Second-Lien Notes became secured with secondpriority liens junior to other pre-existing liens on the Debtors’ 2 The facts recounted herein derive principally from the bankruptcy court’s decision confirming Debtors’ reorganization plan, In re MPM Silicones, LLC, 2014 WL 4436335 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Sept. 9, 2014), aff’d 531 B.R. 321 (S.D.N.Y. 2015), as well as the public disclosures made part of the record. We rely on the facts recounted in the bankruptcy court’s ruling in light of our “oblig[ation] to accept the bankruptcy court’s undisturbed findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.” Brunner v. New York State Higher Educ. Servs. Corp., 831 F.2d 395, 396 (2d Cir. 1987). 3 As discussed, infra note 4, we resolve with this opinion three separate appeals. Our citations to the respective records will begin with the relevant docket number on appeal, and references to “JA” are to the respective joint appendices filed with that appeal. For example, our citation to “15-1771 JA 286-88" is to pages 286-88 of the joint appendix filed in the appeal brought by U.S. Bank, docketed No. 15-1771. 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 collateral. A primary issue on this appeal is whether the Second-Lien Notes have priority over the Subordinated Notes . Senior-Lien Notes. In 2012, MPM again issued more debt, this time in the form of two classes of senior secured notes. Specifically, MPM issued $1.1 billion in first-lien secured notes (the “First-Lien Notes”), and $250 million in 1.5-lien secured notes (the “1.5-Lien Notes,” and, with the First-Lien Notes, the “Senior-Lien Notes”). 151682 JA 1615. Appellants BOKF and Wilmington Trust are the indenture trustees for the First-Lien Notes and 1.5-Lien Notes, respectively. Pursuant to the governing indentures (the “2012 Indentures”), the Senior-Lien Notes were to be repaid in full by their maturity date of October 15, 2020. They carried fixed interest rates of 8.875% and 10%, respectively. The 2012 Indentures also called for the recovery of a “make-whole” premium if MPM opted to redeem the notes prior to maturity. Because the Second-Lien Notes and the SeniorLien Notes are secured by the same collateral, the holders of those notes executed an intercreditor agreement (the “Intercreditor Agreement”), which provided that the Senior-Lien Notes stood in priority to the Second-Lien Notes as to their respective liens, but that each was junior to pre-existing liens on MPM’s collateral. 15-1771 JA 691-718. Other primary issues on this appeal are whether the SeniorLien Note holders are entitled to the make-whole adjustment and the cramdown interest rate they are entitled to if their Notes are replaced under the Plan. 25 II 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 After these notes were issued, MPM experienced significant financial problems. See 15-1771 JA 284-88. In April 2014, MPM filed a petition under Chapter 11 and ultimately submitted a reorganization plan to the bankruptcy court. 15-1682 JA 3841-912. Several elements of that Plan are at issue on these appeals. The Plan provided for (i) a 100% cash recovery of the principal balance and accrued interest on the Senior-Lien Notes; (ii) an estimated 12.8%-28.1% recovery on the Second-Lien Notes in the form of equity in the reorganized Debtors; but (iii) no recovery on the Subordinated Notes. 15-1771 JA 271-74. The Plan also gave the Senior-Lien Notes holders the option of (i) accepting the Plan and immediately receiving a cash payment of the 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 outstanding principal and interest due on their Notes (without a makewhole premium), or (ii) rejecting the Plan, receiving replacement notes “with a present value equal to the Allowed amount of such holder’s [claim],” and then litigating in the bankruptcy court issues including whether they were entitled to the make-whole premium and the interest rate on the replacement notes. 15-1771 JA 271-72; 15-1682 JA 3873-75. The Senior-Lien Notes holders rejected the Plan, and, thus, elected the latter option. The appellants here—the Subordinated Notes holders and the Senior-Lien Notes holders—opposed the Plan. (The Second-Lien Notes holders unanimously accepted it.) The Subordinated Notes holders, who were to receive nothing, contended that, under relevant indenture provisions, their Notes were not subordinate to the Second-Lien Notes holders and, consequently, they were entitled to some recovery. The Senior-Lien Notes holders opposed the Plan on the ground that the replacement notes they received did not provide for the make-whole premium, and carried a largely risk-free interest rate that failed to comply with the Code because it was well below ascertainable market rates for similar debt obligations and thus was not fair and equitable because it failed to give them the present value of their claim. Despite these objections, the bankruptcy court confirmed the Plan following a four-day hearing. In re MPM Silicones, LLC, 2014 WL 4436335 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Sept. 9, 2014), aff’d, 531 B.R. 321 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). Confirmation was facilitated by Chapter 11's “cramdown” provision, which allows a bankruptcy court to confirm a reorganization plan notwithstanding non-accepting classes if the plan “does not discriminate unfairly, and is fair and equitable, with respect to each class of claims or interests that is impaired under, and has not accepted, the plan.” 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b)(1). The bankruptcy court concluded that the Plan was fair to the Subordinated Notes holders, despite no recovery, because the 2006 Indenture called for their subordination to the Second-Lien Notes. In re MPM Silicones, LLC, 2014 WL 4436335, at *2-*11. It held the plan was fair to the Senior-Lien Notes holders because the 2012 Indentures did not require payment of the make-whole premium in the bankruptcy context and because the interest rate on the proposed replacement 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 notes, even though well below a “market” rate, was determined by a formula that complied with the Code’s cramdown provision. Id. at *11*32. The bankruptcy court’s confirmation order triggered an automatic 14-day stay during which Debtors could not consummate the Plan. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 3020(e). Appellants aggressively took advantage of this period and attempted to block the implementation of the Plan. Specifically, prior to the expiration of the automatic stay, appellants moved in the bankruptcy court to extend the stay pending their appeal of the confirmation order, which the court denied. See 151682 JA 4099, 4173. They then promptly moved the district court for a stay, which was also denied. See 15-1682 JA 183, 185. Appellants then appealed the denial of the stay to this Court, and we dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. 15-1682 JA 4872-73. Despite these efforts, the Debtors contend this appeal is equitably moot, a contention with which we do not agree. The appellants appealed the confirmation order to the district court which affirmed the bankruptcy court’s confirmation order. 531 B.R. 321. The district court essentially agreed with the bankruptcy court, concluding that: (i) the relevant indentures unambiguously prioritize the Second-Lien Notes over the Subordinated Notes, id. at 326–31; (ii) the below market interest rate selected by the bankruptcy court complied with the Code, id. at 331–34; and (iii) under their indentures, the Senior-Lien Notes holders are not entitled to the makewhole premium in the context of a bankruptcy, id. at 335–38. The Subordinated Notes holders, the First-Lien Notes holders, and the 1.5Lien Notes holders separately appealed.4 4 The appeals by the First-Lien Notes holders (No. 15-1682) and 1.5-Lien Notes holders (No. 15-1824) were consolidated and heard in tandem with the appeal by the Subordinated Notes holders (No. 15-1771). 8 III 1 2 “We exercise plenary review over a district court’s affirmance of 3 a bankruptcy court’s decisions, reviewing de novo the bankruptcy 4 court’s conclusions of law, and reviewing its findings of facts for clear 5 error.” In re Lehman Bros., Inc., 808 F.3d 942, 946 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal 6 quotation marks omitted). IV 7 8 These appeals raise four issues. First, the Subordinated Notes 9 holders challenge the lower courts’ conclusions that their claims are 10 subordinate to the Second-Lien Notes holders’ claims. Second, the 11 Senior-Lien Notes holders contend that the lower courts erroneously 12 applied a below-market interest rate to their replacement notes. Third, 13 the Senior-Lien Notes holders challenge the lower courts’ rulings that 14 they are not entitled to a make-whole premium. Finally, Debtors argue 15 that we should dismiss these appeals as equitably moot. We find merit 16 only in the Senior-Lien Notes holders’ contention with respect to the 17 method of calculating the appropriate interest rate for the replacement 18 notes. We reject the others. 19 A 20 The lower courts concluded that the Plan, which provided no 21 distribution to the Subordinated Notes holders, complied with the 22 governing 2006 Indenture. The Subordinated Notes holders argue this 23 conclusion was erroneous because, under the terms of 24 Indenture, their claims are not subordinate to the Second-Lien Notes, 25 whose holders recovered under the plan. The Debtors, on the other 26 hand, contend that the 2006 Indenture gives the Second-Lien Notes 27 priority over the Subordinated Notes. We agree with the Debtors, 28 although for somewhat different reasons from the lower courts which 29 found the relevant indenture provisions unambiguous. We find them 30 to be ambiguous, but resolve the ambiguities in favor of the Debtors. 31 9 the 2006 1 The Subordinated Notes holders’ argument begins with Section 2 10.01 of the 2006 Indenture, which states that the Subordinated Notes 3 are “subordinated in right of payment . . . to the prior payment in full 4 of all existing and future Senior Indebtedness of the Company,” and 5 that “only Indebtedness of the Company that is Senior Indebtedness of 6 the Company shall rank senior to the Securities in accordance with the 7 provisions set forth herein.” 15-1771 JA 404. Accordingly, the Second- 8 Lien Notes stand in priority to the Subordinated Notes only if they 9 constitute “Senior Indebtedness.” 10 “Senior Indebtedness” in the 2006 Indenture begins with what 11 the parties refer to as the “Baseline Definition,” which defines Senior 12 Indebtedness as: 13 all Indebtedness . . . unless the instrument creating or 14 evidencing the same or pursuant to which the same is 15 outstanding expressly provides that such obligations are 16 subordinated in right of payment to any other 17 Indebtedness of the Company . . . 18 15-1771 JA 341. 19 It is undisputed that the Second-Lien Notes are not subordinated 20 in right of payment to any other indebtedness and that therefore they 21 satisfy the Baseline Definition of Senior Indebtedness. However, the 22 Baseline Definition is then subject to six enumerated exceptions, the 23 fourth of which (the “Fourth Proviso”) excepts from Senior 24 Indebtedness: 25 any Indebtedness or obligation of the Company . . . that 26 by its terms is subordinate or junior in any respect to any 27 other Indebtedness or obligation of the Company . . . 28 including any Pari Passu Indebtedness. 29 15-1771 JA 342 (emphasis added). 10 1 The Subordinated Notes holders argue that the Fourth Proviso 2 carves out the Second-Lien Notes from the Baseline Definition, i.e., that 3 the Second-Lien Notes are an “[i]ndebtedness or obligation of the 4 Company . . . that by its terms is subordinate or junior in any respect to 5 any other Indebtedness of the Company.” The Subordinated Notes 6 holders rely heavily on the “in any respect” language. They argue that 7 the Second-Lien Notes are subordinate to, for example, the First-Lien 8 Notes—because, pursuant to the Intercreditor Agreement, the liens 9 supporting the Second-Lien Notes are junior to the liens supporting the 10 First-Lien Notes—and that they are therefore subordinate to other 11 Indebtedness of the company. 12 The lower courts rejected this argument, and concluded that the 13 Second-Lien Notes unambiguously constitute Senior Indebtedness 14 despite the Fourth Proviso. They did so in reliance on a distinction 15 between “lien subordination” and “payment (or debt) subordination,” 16 concluding that the Fourth Proviso unambiguously carves out from the 17 Baseline Definition only the latter and not the former.5 Because the 18 Second-Lien Notes are not subordinate in payment to other note 19 classes—but 20 subordinate—the lower courts concluded that the Second-Lien Notes 21 are not covered by the Fourth Proviso. rather, the liens supporting their notes are 22 We do not agree with the lower courts that the Fourth Proviso 23 unambiguously incorporates a distinction between lien subordination 24 and payment subordination. Rather, we conclude that the Fourth 25 Proviso renders the definition of Senior Indebtedness ambiguous as to 26 whether it includes the Second-Lien Notes. Nevertheless, we conclude 5 The district court discussed in some detail the distinction between lien subordination and payment/debt subordination. 531 B.R. at 328. In short, “[l]ien subordination involves two senior creditors with security interests in the same collateral, one of which has lien priority over the other. . . . By contrast, in payment subordination, the senior lender enjoys the right to be paid first from all assets of the borrower or any applicable guarantor, whether or not constituting collateral security for the senior or subordinated lenders.” Id. 11 1 that this ambiguity should be resolved in Debtors’ favor given the 2 plethora of evidence in the record that the parties intended the Second- 3 Lien Notes to be Senior Indebtedness. 1 4 5 As discussed, the lower courts concluded that the Second-Lien 6 Notes are unambiguously Senior Indebtedness. Under New York law, 7 which governs the Indenture, a fundamental objective of contract 8 interpretation is to give effect to the expressed intention of the parties. 9 The initial inquiry is whether the contractual language, without 10 reference to sources outside the text of the contract, is ambiguous. 11 Contract language is ambiguous if it is capable of more than one 12 meaning. 13 We are not persuaded by the Debtors’ (and lower courts’) 14 conclusion that the Fourth Proviso’s reference to “subordinate . . . in 15 any respect” unambiguously refers only to payment subordination and 16 not to lien subordination. The Debtors read the Fourth Proviso as if it 17 states “subordinate . . . in right of payment,” which of course it does not. 18 In so doing, the Debtors disregard the breadth of the term “in any 19 respect,” a term which is generally thought to be as broadly 20 encompassing as possible.6 And, as a practical matter, it seems to us 21 illogical to believe that a second-lien holder does not possess an 22 obligation that is meaningfully subordinate in some respect to a first- 23 lien holder. These sophisticated parties knew how to cabin the type of 24 subordination to which they refer; the indenture uses the term 25 “subordinate . . . in right of payment” many times, including in the 26 Baseline Definition itself. 27 Moreover, the Debtors’ interpretation renders language in the 28 indenture superfluous, which is a common sign of ambiguity. See RJE 6 Debtors’ attempt to downplay the significance of the term “in any respect” in this context is unconvincing given that the term appears nowhere else in the indenture other than in the Fourth Proviso. 12 1 Corp. v. Northville Indus. Corp., 329 F.3d 310, 314 (2d Cir. 2003) (in 2 assessing ambiguity, courts consider the entire contract “to safeguard 3 against adopting an interpretation that would render any individual 4 provision superfluous” (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also 5 Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection of State of N.Y. v. Bank Leumi Trust Co. 6 of New York, 94 N.Y.2d 398, 404 (N.Y. 2000) (concluding that an 7 interpretation that renders a portion of a contract superfluous is 8 “unsupportable: under standard principles of contract interpretation). 9 Specifically, if the Fourth Proviso only excepts debt subordinate in right 10 of payment, there is no purpose for the “in right of payment” carve-out 11 in the Baseline Definition. We disagree with the lower courts’ attempts 12 to interpret away this superfluity by finding a distinction between 13 “expressly” (in the Baseline Definition) and “by its terms” (in the 14 Fourth Proviso). We see no meaningful distinction between those 15 terms. 16 Nevertheless, we also conclude that the Subordinated Notes 17 holders’ interpretation, that the Fourth Proviso unambiguously 18 excludes the Second-Line Notes from the definition of Senior 19 Indebtedness, is incorrect. As the lower courts correctly concluded, the 20 Subordinated Notes holders’ interpretation renders key parts of the 21 Baseline Definition superfluous. Under their reading, that definition 22 excludes from Senior Indebtedness only obligations subordinate “in 23 right of payment,” but the Fourth Proviso excludes all obligations that 24 stand behind any type of other obligation. 25 Definition’s more limited carve-out for debt subordinate “in right of 26 payment” would be unnecessary, because all such debt would be 27 carved out from the definition of Senior Indebtedness by the Fourth 28 Proviso. If so, the Baseline 29 As the Subordinated Notes holders correctly acknowledge, “[f]or 30 this indenture, it simply is not possible to avoid superfluity.” 15-1771 31 Br. of Appellant 54 (internal quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, 32 varying interpretations render contractual language superfluous, we 13 1 are not obligated to arbitrarily select one as opposed to another. 2 Because the 2006 Indenture is open to differing reasonable 3 interpretations as to whether the Second-Lien Notes constitute Senior 4 Indebtedness, we conclude that it is ambiguous as a matter of law. 5 6 2 7 Where a contract term is ambiguous, we look to extrinsic 8 evidence to determine the intention of the parties. That evidence can 9 include the parties’ apparent intention, Walk-In Medical Centers, Inc. v. 10 Breuer Capital Corp., 818 F.2d 260, 264 (2d Cir. 1987), what would be 11 commercially reasonable, Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings, LLC v. 12 Cammeby’s Funding LLC, 20 N.Y.3d 438, 445 (2013), and the “parties’ 13 interpretation of the contract in practice, prior to litigation,” Ocean 14 Transp., Inc. v. American Philippine Fiber Indus., Inc., 743 F.2d 85, 91 (2d 15 Cir. 1984). Applying these tools, we conclude, as did the district court, 16 that the parties understood that the Second-Lien Notes constituted 17 Senior Indebtedness. See 531 B.R at 331 n.7. 18 First, MPM repeatedly represented to the Securities Exchange 19 Commission and to the financial community that the Second-Lien 20 Notes were Senior Indebtedness. It did so in its prospectuses, 8-Ks and 21 10-Ks. For example, it disclosed in a November 2010 8-K that the 22 Second-Lien Notes are “senior indebtedness of the Company . . . and 23 will rank . . . senior in right of payment to all existing and future 24 subordinated indebtedness.” 15-1771 JA 3057; see also 15-1771 JA 2231. 25 It went further when it subsequently resold certain Subordinated 26 Notes. In a May 2013 prospectus, MPM restated that the Subordinated 27 Notes “are subordinated to all our existing and future senior debt, 28 including the . . . Second-Priority Springing-Lien Notes.” MPM also 29 specifically identified as the first risk related to the Subordinated Notes 30 that those holders’ “right to receive payments on the Notes is junior to 31 those lenders who have a security interest in our assets.” 15-1771 JA 32 3007, 3010. MPM further asserted that in the event it were to file for 14 1 bankruptcy and were unable to repay its secured debt, “it is possible 2 that there would be no assets remaining from which your claims could 3 be satisfied.” 15-1771 JA 3010. The Subordinated Note holders knew 4 all of this because the Debtors were contractually obligated, pursuant 5 to Section 4.02 of the 2006 Indenture, to provide copies of its 10-Ks, 10- 6 Qs, 8-Ks, and all other required disclosures both to the Subordinated 7 Note holders as well as to their Trustee—a highly sophisticated group 8 of investors. 15-1771 JA 357. There is no dispute that these disclosures 9 occurred. Consequently, it was widely understood in the investment 10 community that the Second-Lien Notes had priority. 11 Second, the Subordinated Notes holders’ interpretation generates 12 the irrational outcome that the springing of the Second-Lien Notes’ 13 security interest, which was meant to enhance the note holders’ 14 protection, would actually strip those notes of their status as Senior 15 Indebtedness and therefore their priority over the Subordinated Notes. 16 As the bankruptcy court concluded, “[t]here is no logical reason for 17 such a distinction, notwithstanding the subordinated noteholders’ 18 attempt to find one.” 2014 WL 4436335, at *9. 19 Third, the Subordinated Notes holders’ proposed interpretation 20 that “in any respect” covers all junior liens would mean that no senior 21 note classes would qualify as Senior Indebtedness because each was 22 secured in some respect by a junior lien. For example, the First-Lien 23 Notes were secured in part by a second priority lien on collateral 24 securing a prepetition revolving credit facility. See 15-1771 JA 2425-26. 25 We think it highly improbable that anyone understood this 26 interpretation to be correct. Certainly MPM did not. For example, in a 27 December 2012 prospectus MPM represented to the SEC that the Senior- 28 Lien Notes were Senior Indebtedness. 15-1771 JA 3725. Because those 29 note classes are subordinate to pre-existing liens as to the Debtors’ 30 collateral, they, too, would seemingly not qualify as Senior Indebtedness 31 under the Subordinated Notes holders’ interpretation. In light of these 32 factors, we have little trouble concluding that the extrinsic evidence 15 1 establishes that the most reasonable interpretation of the Indenture is 2 that the Second-Lien Notes are Senior Indebtedness. The judgment of 3 the district court on that issue is, therefore, affirmed. B 4 5 As a consequence of rejecting the Plan, the Senior-Lien Notes 6 holders received replacement notes which pay out their claim over time. 7 The Code permits debtors to make such “deferred cash payments” to 8 secured creditors (i.e., to “cramdown”). 11 U.S.C. § 1129(b)(2)(A)(i)(II). 9 However, those payments must ultimately amount to the full value of 10 the secured creditors’ claims. Id. To ensure the creditor receives the full 11 present value of its secured claim, the deferred payments must carry an 12 appropriate rate of interest. See Rake v. Wade, 508 U.S. 464, 472 n.8 13 (1993). 14 The rate selected by the lower courts for the Senior-Lien Note 15 holders’ replacement notes was based on the “formula” rate. The 16 bankruptcy court selected interest rates of 4.1% and 4.85%, respectively, 17 which were largely risk-free rates slightly adjusted for appropriate risk 18 factors. It is not disputed that this rate is below market in comparison 19 with rates associated with comparable debt obligations. The Debtors 20 defend the application of the “formula” method on the ground that it is 21 required by the plurality opinion in the Chapter 13 case of Till v. SCS 22 Credit Corp., 541 U.S. 465 (2004). 23 The Senior-Lien Notes holders contend that because this rate is 24 too low, the Plan is not “fair and equitable” as required by § 1129(b). 25 They argue that the lower courts should have applied a market rate of 26 interest which is the rate MPM would pay to a contemporaneous 27 sophisticated arms-length lender in the open market. The Senior-Lien 28 Notes holders argued in the bankruptcy court that such a market exists 29 and would generate interest in the 5-6+% range. See 15-1682 JA 464, 16 1 1941.7 2 The bankruptcy court rejected this approach, and concluded that 3 a cramdown interest rate should “not take market factors into account.” 4 2014 WL 4436335, at *25. Viewing itself as “largely governed by the 5 principles enunciated by the plurality opinion in Till v. SCS Credit Corp., 6 541 U.S. 465 (2004),” it concluded that the proper rate was what the 7 plurality in Till referred to as the “formula” or “prime-plus” rate 8 (discussed more fully below). Id. at *24, *26. The district court agreed. 9 531 B.R. at 332–34. The Senior-Lien Notes holders argue on appeal that 10 the lower courts erred in concluding that the Till plurality opinion is 11 wholly applicable to this Chapter 11 proceeding. In substantial part, we 12 agree. 13 At issue in Till was a Chapter 13 debtor’s sub-prime auto loan, 14 carrying an interest rate of 21% and providing the creditor with a $4,000 15 secured claim. As with Chapter 11, Chapter 13 allows debtors to 16 provide secured creditors with future property distributions (such as 17 deferred cash payments) whose total ‘value, as of the effective date of 18 the plan, . . . is not less than the allowed amount of such claim.” 11 19 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii). The question became, as here, how to calculate 20 the interest on the deferred payments such that the creditor would 21 receive the full value of its claim. No single interest-calculation method 22 secured a majority vote on the Court, resulting in a plurality opinion 23 endorsing the “formula” method. 24 The “formula” approach endorsed by the Till plurality instructs 25 the bankruptcy court to begin with a largely risk-free interest rate, 7 Debtors’ reorganization plan proposed interest rates of 3.6% and 4.09%. See 2014 WL 4436335, at *24. However, the bankruptcy court concluded that those rates should be increased by 0.5% and 0.75%, respectively, in light of the fact that the base interest rate was pegged to the Treasury rate, rather than the prime rate (which reflects additional risk). Id. at *32. On appeal to the district court, the Senior-Lien Notes holders argued the bankruptcy court erred in not requiring the prime rate, an argument the district court rejected. 531 B.R. at 334-35. The Senior-Lien Notes holders do not press this argument here. 17 1 specifically, the “national prime rate . . . which reflects the financial 2 market’s estimate of the amount a commercial bank should charge a 3 creditworthy commercial borrower to compensate for the opportunity 4 costs of the loan, the risk of inflation, and the relatively slight risk of 5 default.” 541 U.S. at 479. The bankruptcy court should then hold a 6 hearing to determine a proper plan-specific risk adjustment to that 7 prime rate “at which the debtor and any creditors may present 8 evidence.” Id. Using this approach, “courts have generally approved 9 adjustments [above the prime rate] of 1% to 3%.” Id. at 480.8 10 The Till plurality arrived at the “formula” rate after rejecting a 11 number of alternative methods relied on by the lower courts. 12 Significantly, it rejected methods relying on purported “market” rates 13 of interest because those rates “must be high enough to cover factors, 14 like lenders’ transactions costs and overall profits, that are no longer 15 relevant in the context of court-administered and court-supervised 16 cramdown loans.” 541 U.S. at 477. The plurality then identified the 17 only factors it viewed as relevant in properly ensuring that the sum of 18 deferred payments equals present value: (i) the time-value of money; (ii) 19 inflation; and (iii) the risk of non-payment. Id. at 474. The plurality 20 concluded that the “formula” or “prime-plus” method best reflects 21 those considerations. 22 Although Till involved a Chapter 13 petition, the plurality 23 intimated that the “formula” method might be applicable to rate 24 calculations made pursuant to other similarly worded Code provisions. 25 In fact, it cited the Chapter 11 cramdown provision, 11 U.S.C. § 26 1129(b)(2)(A)(i)(II), among many other provisions, when it noted that 8 Here, the bankruptcy court applied risk adjustments of 2.0% and 2.75%, which it added to the Treasury rate of 2.1% to arrive at interest rates of 4.1% and 4.85%, respectively. 2014 WL 4436335, at *32. Debtors assert in their briefing that the Treasury rate dropped by approximately 0.2% between the confirmation date and the plan’s effective date, which thereby further lowered their notes’ interest rate. 15-1682 Br. of Appellee at 11 n.3. 18 1 “[w]e think it likely that Congress intended bankruptcy judges and 2 trustees to follow essentially the same approach when choosing an 3 appropriate interest rate under any of these [Code] provisions.” Id. at 4 474 & n.10. 5 Despite that language, however, the plurality made no conclusive 6 statement as to whether the “formula” rate was generally required in 7 Chapter 11 cases. And, notably, the plurality went on to state, in the 8 opinion’s much-discussed footnote 14, that the approach it felt best 9 applied in the Chapter 13 context may not be suited to Chapter 11. 10 Specifically, in that footnote , the Court stated that in Chapter 13 11 cramdowns “there is no free market of willing cramdown lenders.” 541 12 U.S. at 476 n.14. It continued: “[i]nterestingly, the same is not true in the 13 Chapter 11 context, as numerous lenders advertise financing for 14 Chapter 11 debtors in possession. Thus, when picking a cramdown rate 15 in a Chapter 11 case, it might make sense to ask what rate an efficient 16 market would produce.” Id. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis in 17 original).9 18 Many courts have relied on footnote 14 to conclude that efficient 19 market rates for cramdown loans cannot be ignored in Chapter 11 cases. 20 Most notably, the Sixth Circuit, “tak[ing] [its] cue from Footnote 14” of 21 the Till plurality, adopted a two-part process for selecting an interest 22 rate in Chapter 11 cramdowns: 23 [T]he market rate should be applied in Chapter 11 cases 24 where there exists an efficient market. But where no 25 efficient market exists for a Chapter 11 debtor, then the 26 bankruptcy court should employ the formula approach 27 endorsed by the Till plurality. 9 The Supreme Court has not subsequently spoken about the interest-calculation method to be applied in a Chapter 11 case. Nor have we. 19 1 In re American HomePatient, Inc., 420 F.3d 559, 568 (6th Cir. 2005). In 2 applying this rule, courts have held that markets for financing are 3 ‘efficient’ where, for example, “they offer a loan with a term, size, and 4 collateral comparable to the forced loan contemplated under the 5 cramdown plan.” In re Texas Grand Prairie Hotel Realty, L.L.C., 710 F.3d 6 324, 337 (5th Cir. 2013).10 7 We adopt the Sixth Circuit’s two-step approach, which, in our 8 view, best aligns with the Code and relevant precedent. We do not read 9 the Till plurality as stating that efficient market rates are irrelevant in 10 determining value in the Chapter 11 cramdown context. And, 11 disregarding available efficient market rates would be a major departure 12 from long-standing precedent dictating that “the best way to determine 13 value is exposure to a market.” Bank of Am. Nat’l Trust and Sav. Ass’n v. 14 203 N. LaSalle St. P’ship, 526 U.S. 434, 457 (1999) (assessing a Chapter 11 15 cramdown); see also United States v. 50 Acres of Land, 469 U.S. 24, 25 & n.1 16 (1984) (“fair market value” is “what a willing buyer would pay in cash 17 to a willing seller” (internal quotation marks omitted)). In Bank of 18 America, the Court noted that “one of the Code’s innovations [was] to 19 narrow the occasions for courts to make valuation judgments,” and 20 expressed a “disfavor for decisions untested by competitive choice . . . 21 when some form of market valuation may be available.” Bank of America, 22 526 U.S. at 457-58. 23 The Senior-Lien Notes holders presented expert testimony in the 24 bankruptcy court that, if credited, would have established a market rate. 25 This evidence showed that if the Senior-Lien Noteholders were to have 26 approved the Plan and accepted a cash-out payment for their notes, 27 MPM would have had to secure exit financing to cover the lump-sum 28 payment. In preparation for that possible eventuality (which did not 10 Numerous courts, included in this Circuit, have followed the American HomePatient approach. See, e.g., In re 20 Bayard Views, LLC, 445 B.R. 83, 108-09 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (collecting cases and deciding to “follow the majority approach” first outlined in American HomePatient). 20 1 come to pass in light of the Senior-Lien Notes holders’ rejection of the 2 Plan), MPM went out into the market seeking lenders to provide that 3 financing. Those lenders quoted MPM rates of interest ranging between 4 5 and 6+%. See In re MPM Silicones, LLC, 2014 WL 4436335, at *29. 5 At these rates, the First-Lien Note holders contend that they 6 would have received around $150 million more than the Plan offered, 7 Br. of First-Lien Appellant 25, 33. The 1.5-Lien Note holders claim that 8 the interest rate chosen by the lower courts led them to receive notes 9 “valued by the market at less than 93 cents on the value of the secured 10 claims,” Br. of 1.5-Lien Appellant 20.11 The Plan was objectionable to the 11 Senior-Lien Notes holders because, in essence, it required them to lend 12 Debtors a significant sum of money and receive a much lower rate of 13 interest than any other lender would have received for offering the same 14 loan to MPM on the open market. 15 When dealing with a sub-prime loan in the Chapter 13 context, 16 “value” can be elusive because the market is not necessarily efficient 17 and the borrower is typically unsophisticated. However, where, as 18 here, an efficient market may exist that generates an interest rate that is 19 apparently acceptable to sophisticated parties dealing at arms-length, 20 we conclude, consistent with footnote 14, that such a rate is preferable 21 to a formula improvised by a court. See Bank of America, 526 U.S. at 457; 22 see also In re Valenti, 105 F.3d at 63 (the goal of the cramdown rate “is to 23 put the creditor in the same economic position that it would have been 24 in had it received the value of its allowed claim immediately”); see also 25 15-1682 JA 3428 (First-Lien Notes holders’ expert testifying that because 26 the First-Lien Notes holders “are pricing it at the market . . . they’re 27 being compensated for the underlying risk that they are taking,” and 28 not for any “imbedded profit”). 11 The Senior-Lien Notes holders offered evidence that the market price for their notes dropped, respectively, from 101.375% and 104.000% six days prior to the bankruptcy court’s oral decision, to 94.375% and 92.563% nine days after that decision. 15-1682 JA 3991 ¶¶ 5-6, 8-9. 21 1 We understand that the complexity of the task of determining an 2 appropriate market rate will vary from case to case. In some cases the 3 task will be straightforward, in others it will be more complex. But, at 4 the end of the day, we have no reason to believe the task varies 5 materially in difficulty from the myriad tasks which we regularly rely 6 on the expertise of our bankruptcy courts to resolve. 7 We therefore conclude that the lower courts erred in categorically 8 dismissing the probative value of market rates of interest. We remand 9 so that the bankruptcy court can ascertain if an efficient market rate 10 exists and, if so, apply that rate, instead of the formula rate.12 We arrive 11 at no conclusion with regard to the outcome of this inquiry. C 12 13 The 2012 Indentures governing the Senior-Lien Notes contain 14 Optional Redemption Clauses, which provide for the payment of a 15 make-whole premium13 (referred to as the “Applicable Premium” in the 16 indentures) if MPM were to “redeem the Notes at its option” prior to 17 October 15, 2015. 15-1682 JA 2322.14 The make-whole premium was 12 We acknowledge that the lower courts grappled with the Senior-Lien Notes holders’ evidence regarding MPM’s quoted exit financing, and made express their view that the rate produced by that process may not in fact have been produced by an efficient market. 2014 WL 4436335, at *26, *29; 531 B.R. at 334 n.9. Nevertheless, Judge Drain left no ambiguity that he applied the “formula” approach for Chapter 13 individual bankruptcy cases as dictated by the Till plurality and, in so doing, explicitly declined to consider market forces. See 2014 WL 4436335, at *25-*26; see also id. at * 28 (“I conclude that [the American HomePatient] twostep method, generally speaking, misinterprets Till”). Judge Briccetti agreed with this approach. 531 B.R. at 334. As discussed, this was in error. The bankruptcy court should have the opportunity to engage the American HomePatient analysis in earnest. 13 A make-whole premium is a “contractual substitute for interest lost on Notes redeemed before their expected due date.” In re Energy Future Holdings Corp., 842 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2016) (“EFH”). As stated by the bankruptcy court, its purpose “is to ensure that the lender is compensated for being paid earlier than the original maturity of the loan for the interest it will not receive . . . .” 2014 WL 4436335, at *15. 14 We cite in this section to the indenture for the First-Lien Notes; the indenture for the 1.5Lien Notes is identical for relevant purposes. 22 1 intended to ensure that the Senior-Lien Notes holders received 2 additional compensation to make up for the interest they would not 3 receive if the Notes were redeemed prior to their maturity date. 4 In October 2014, the Debtors, pursuant to the Plan, issued 5 replacement notes to the Senior-Lien Notes holders, which did not 6 account for the make-whole premium. These holders contended that 7 the failure to include that premium violated the 2012 Indentures. The 8 bankruptcy court concluded that the Senior-Lien Notes holders were 9 not entitled to the premium. It reasoned that under the 2012 Indentures 10 the make-whole premium would be due only in the case of an “optional 11 redemption” and not in the case of an acceleration brought about by a 12 bankruptcy filing. 2014 WL 4436335, at *11-*15. The district court 13 agreed. 531 B.R. at 335-38. We too agree. 14 The Senior-Lien Notes holders claim entitlement to the make- 15 whole premium for essentially three reasons: (i) they are entitled to the 16 make-whole under the 2012 Indentures’ Optional Redemption Clauses; 17 (ii) they are entitled to it under the 2012 Indentures’ Acceleration 18 Clauses; and (iii) even if the indentures did not allow for a make-whole 19 premium upon acceleration, they should not have been permanently 20 barred from exercising their contractual right to rescind acceleration and 21 thereby obtain the make-whole premium. 1 22 23 The Senior-Lien Notes holders’ principal argument is that they 24 are entitled to the make-whole premium because when MPM issued the 25 replacement notes under the Plan, it “redeemed” the Notes “at its 26 option” prior to maturity. This argument fails for the same reasons we 27 rejected nearly identical arguments in In re AMR Corp., 730 F.3d 88 (2d 28 Cir. 2013). There we rejected the note holders’ argument that they were 29 entitled to a make-whole premium following a debtor’s bankruptcy 30 filing. We concluded that: 23 1 American’s bankruptcy petition triggered a default, and 2 this default automatically accelerated the debt. 3 acceleration changed the date of maturity from some point 4 in the future . . . to an earlier date based on the debtor’s 5 default under the contract. . . . When the event of default 6 occurred and the debt accelerated, the new maturity for 7 the debt was November 29, 2011 [the date of the 8 bankruptcy petition]. Consequently, American’s attempt 9 to repay the debt in October 2012 was not a voluntary 10 prepayment because [p]repayment can only occur prior to 11 the maturity date. 12 That Id. at 103 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). 13 The Senior-Lien Notes holders argue AMR is inapplicable because 14 it spoke only to “prepayment” rather than “redemption.” As the district 15 court noted, the principle of AMR does not turn on the distinction 16 between “prepayment” and “redemption.” 531 B.R. at 336-37. In fact, 17 in AMR we stated that because “American’s debt was accelerated . . . 18 upon its bankruptcy filing [it] is not now voluntarily redeeming the 19 notes.” AMR, 730 F.3d at 109. 20 We also held in AMR that acceleration brought about by a 21 bankruptcy filing changes the date of maturity of the accelerated notes 22 to the date of the petition. 730 F.3d at 103. Therefore, any payment on 23 the accelerated notes following a bankruptcy filing would be a post- 24 maturity payment. And, as the First-Lien Notes holders concede, the 25 “plain meaning of the term ‘redeem’ is to ‘repay[] . . . a debt security . 26 . . at or before maturity.’” 15-1682 Br. of First-Lien Appellant 39 (emphasis 27 added). Here, Debtors’ payment was post-maturity, not “at or before” 28 maturity. But see In re Energy Future Holdings Corp., 842 F.3d 247, 255 (3d 29 Cir. 2016). 30 replacement notes was a “redemption,” it would not have been “at 31 [MPM’s] option,” as required to trigger the Optional Redemption Moreover, even assuming MPM’s issuance of the 24 1 Clauses. Rather, the obligation to issue the replacement notes came 2 about automatically by operation of separate indenture provisions, the 3 Automatic Acceleration Clauses. A payment made mandatory by 4 operation of an automatic acceleration clause is not one made at MPM’s 5 option. See AMR, 730 F.3d at 100–01. 2 6 7 As discussed, the 2012 Indentures each contain an Acceleration 8 Clause, which calls for the acceleration of payment of the Senior-Lien 9 Notes under certain conditions constituting an Event of Default. 10 Pursuant to Section 6.01(g), one such event is MPM’s filing of a 11 voluntary bankruptcy petition. Although most Events of Default allow 12 the Senior-Lien Notes holders the option of accelerating payment, a 13 default brought about by MPM’s voluntary bankruptcy petition leads 14 to an automatic acceleration under Section 6.02.15 15 The Senior-Lien Notes holders argue that the term “premium, if 16 any” in the Acceleration Clauses requires that the make-whole premium 17 is due upon an automatic acceleration. This argument fails in light of 18 our conclusion that the Senior-Lien Notes holders are not entitled to the 19 make-whole premium under the Optional Redemption Clauses. In 20 other words, the make-whole premium is not due pursuant to the 21 Acceleration Clauses’ reference to “premium, if any,” for the simple 22 reason that the more specific Optional Redemption Clauses which grant 23 the make-whole are not triggered and thus no premium has been 24 generated. See Aramony v. United Way of Am., 254 F.3d 403, 413 (2d Cir. 25 2001) (noting that “it is a fundamental rule of contract construction that 26 specific terms and exact terms are given greater weight than general 27 language” (internal quotation marks omitted)). 15 Section 6.02 provides: “If an Event of Default specified in Section 6.01(f) or (g) with respect to MPM occurs, the principal of, premium, if any, and interest on all the Notes shall ipso facto become and be immediately due and payable without any declaration or other act on the part of the Trustee or any Holders.” 15-1682 JA 2260. 25 3 1 2 Finally, the Senior-Lien Notes holders argue that the lower courts 3 erred in disregarding their contractual right to rescind acceleration,16 a 4 right that if invoked would have reinstated the original maturity date 5 and thereby kept the Optional Redemption Clauses (and therefore the 6 make-whole premium) in effect. 7 AMR forecloses this argument as well. There, considering nearly 8 identical indenture language, we concluded that a creditor’s post- 9 petition invocation of a contractual right to rescind an acceleration 10 triggered automatically by a bankruptcy filing is barred because it 11 would be “an attempt to modify contract rights and would therefore be 12 subject to the automatic stay.” 730 F.3d at 102; see also id. at 102-03 (“any 13 attempt by U.S. Bank to rescind acceleration now—after the automatic 14 stay has taken effect—is an effort to affect American’s contract rights, 15 and thus the property of the estate”). 16 The Senior-Lien Notes holders again attempt to distinguish AMR 17 by relying on the fact that the acceleration provision there, unlike the 18 one here, expressly disavowed the make-whole premium. According 19 to the 1.5-Lien Notes holders, our concern in AMR was therefore with 20 not allowing the creditors “an end-run around their bargain by 21 rescission.” 15-1682 Br. of 1.5-Lien Appellant 45. This argument fails 22 because, although the provisions at issue here do not expressly disallow 23 the make-whole premium, the Optional Redemption Clauses, as we 24 have seen, achieve this result. Therefore, just as in AMR, because the 25 right to rescind acceleration here would serve as “an end-run around 26 their bargain by rescission,” the lower courts correctly concluded that 27 the automatic stay barred rescission of the acceleration of the Notes. 16 “Holders of a majority in principal amount of outstanding Notes by notice to the Trustee may rescind any such acceleration with respect to the Notes and its consequences.” 15-1682 JA 2260. 26 V 1 2 Debtors seek dismissal of these appeals under the principle of 3 equitable mootness, a “prudential doctrine that is invoked to avoid 4 disturbing a reorganization plan once implemented.” In re Metromedia 5 Fiber Network, Inc., 416 F.3d 136, 144 (2d Cir. 2005).17 The doctrine 6 “allows appellate courts to dismiss bankruptcy appeals ‘when, during 7 the pendency of an appeal, events occur’ such that ‘even though 8 effective relief could conceivably be fashioned, implementation of that 9 relief would be inequitable.’” In re Motors Liquidation Co., 829 F.3d 135, 10 167 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting In re Chateaugay Corp., 988 F.2d 322, 325 (2d 11 Cir. 1993) (“Chateaugay II”)). The doctrine requires us to “carefully 12 balance the importance of finality in bankruptcy proceedings against the 13 appellant’s right to review and relief.” In re Charter Commc’ns. Inc., 691 14 F.3d 476, 481 (2d Cir. 2012). With these principles in mind, we decline 15 to dismiss any of these appeals as equitably moot. 16 Where, as here, a reorganization plan has been substantially 17 consummated, we presume that an appeal of that plan is equitably 18 moot. In re BGI, Inc., 772 F.3d 102, 104 (2d Cir. 2014). That presumption, 19 however, gives way where five factors first identified in Chateaugay II 20 are met. They are, where: (i) effective relief can be ordered; (ii) relief 21 will not affect the debtor’s re-emergence; (iii) relief “will not unravel 22 intricate transactions”; (iv) affected third-parties are notified and able 23 to participate in the appeal; and (v) appellant diligently sought a stay of 24 the reorganization plan. In re Charter, 691 F.3d at 482. 17 Debtors filed with the district court a motion to dismiss the appeal of the bankruptcy court’s confirmation order on the basis of equitable mootness. 15-1771 JA 4570-88. The district court made no ruling on the motion, concluding it was “mooted by this Court’s decision to affirm the Orders of the Bankruptcy Court.” 531 B.R. at 338 n.14. Debtors then filed motions to dismiss on equitable mootness grounds with this Court, 15-1682 Doc. 58; 151771 Doc. 62 , which we summarily denied without prejudice to Debtors “rais[ing] the issue . . . in their merits brief,” 15-1682 Doc. 159; 15-1771 Doc. 102. 27 1 Although we require satisfaction of each Chateaugay II factor to 2 overcome a mootness presumption, we have placed significant reliance 3 on the fifth factor, concluding that a “chief consideration under 4 Chateaugay II is whether the appellant sought a stay of confirmation.” 5 In re Metromedia, 416 F.3d at 144. Along these lines, we concluded that 6 “[i]f a stay was sought, we will provide relief if it is at all feasible, that 7 is, unless relief would ‘knock the props out from under the 8 authorization for every transaction that has taken place and create an 9 unmanageable, uncontrollable situation for the Bankruptcy Court.’” Id. 10 (quoting Chateaugay II, 10 F.3d at 953). 11 A special emphasis on this factor is sound. Equitable mootness 12 issues only arise in earnest following a judicial determination that some 13 facet of a reorganization plan violates the Code. 14 considered inappropriately harsh to deny relief to which one is entitled 15 on the purportedly equitable ground that the unfair (or illegal) plan has 16 been put into effect, especially where a creditor took all appropriate 17 steps to secure judicial relief. In such a case, we have held that it is 18 proper to “provide relief if it is at all feasible.” Id. It is generally 19 Here, the appellants immediately objected to various provisions 20 of the Plan and promptly and consistently sought a stay in three 21 different courts. Thus their diligence is not in question. Debtors 22 nevertheless argue that these appeals should be dismissed as moot 23 because of the cascading effects of rewriting the plan were the 24 appellants to prevail. 25 Noteholders’ relief would alter a critical piece of the Plan resulting from 26 the intense-multi-party negotiation, thereby impact[ing] other terms of 27 the agreement and throw[ing] into doubt the viability of the Plan,” and 28 that according such relief “would cause debilitating financial 29 uncertainty” to the emergent Debtor. 15-1682 Br. of Appellees 69, 71 30 (internal quotation marks omitted). Specifically, they argue that “granting the 31 In light of the limited nature of the remand we order, we do not 32 believe these concerns will materialize. On remand, the bankruptcy 28 1 court will only be called on to re-evaluate the interest to be received on 2 the replacement notes held by the Senior-Lien Notes holders. The 3 Debtors acknowledge that this might require, at most, $32 million of 4 additional annual payments over seven years. 15-1682 Br. of Appellees 5 69. The Debtors will not have to pay out the nearly $200 million they 6 assert would be required to pay the Senior-Lien Notes holders’ make- 7 whole premium, nor will any redistribution be required to the 8 Subordinated Notes holders, as to which the plan is fair. In fact, our 9 judgment allows for no redistribution other than that from the Debtors 10 to the Senior-Lien Notes holders. 11 Given the scale of Debtors’ reorganization, we are not persuaded 12 that a payment of, perhaps, $32 million in annual payments over seven 13 years, with no other redistribution from other creditors or third parties, 14 would unravel the plan, threaten Debtors’ emergence, or otherwise 15 materially implicate the concerns identified in Chateaugay II. 16 Our conclusion is supported by the findings of the lower courts, 17 which had intimate familiarity with the Debtors’ financial condition and 18 the transactions that will arise from the reorganization. Although it 19 made no determinative ruling as to equitable mootness, the bankruptcy 20 court opined that “the risk of equitable mootness is not strong here for 21 either set of movants . . . the senior secured lender set of movants and the 22 senior subordinated noteholder movants.” 15-1682 JA 4165 (emphasis 23 added). The district court agreed. 15-1682 JA 4837 (“I agree with Judge 24 Drain that the risk of equitable mootness here is not very great . . .”). 25 Debtors’ request that we dismiss these appeals as equitably moot is 26 denied. 27 28 29 29 VI 1 2 To summarize, we conclude as follows: 3 4 5 6 7 1. The Second-Lien Notes stand in priority to the Subordinated Notes. 2. The Senior-Lien Notes holders are not entitled to the makewhole premium. 8 3. The lower court erred in the process it used to calculate the 9 interest rate applicable to the replacement notes received by 10 the Senior-Lien Notes holders. On remand, the bankruptcy 11 court should assess whether an efficient market rate can be 12 ascertained, and, if so, apply it to the replacement notes. 13 4. We decline to dismiss any of these appeals as equitably 14 moot. 15 16 For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the District Court’s order in 17 part, with respect to the priority of the Subordinated Notes and the 18 Senior-Lien Notes holders’ entitlement to a make-whole premium; 19 REVERSE the order in part, with respect to the method of calculating 20 the interest rate on the Senior-Lien Notes holders’ replacement notes; 21 and REMAND the matter for further proceedings consistent with this 22 opinion. 23 30

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