There was settlement negotiations between EC and debtors in June. On this point, I agree with some posters, especially iHUB’s Williams48, based on the information scanned from Susman’s June billing statement. I also think the settlement negotiations happened right around mid-June, during “meet and confer” period. But after June 17th hearing, the buzz on the settlement became quiet. It looked like there was a breakdown in negotiations.
So what happened?
My guess is, on June 10, EC received some sort of “offer” from the debtor (see Justin’s 6/10 entry “reviewing offers”). On the same day, Justin immediately made effort “conferring with opposing counsel”. One can argue the “offer” and “conferring” referred to debtors’ work products. But based on multiple mentioning of “settlement” or “settlement negotiations” in the subsequent entries between 6/10 and 6/20, it was likely the “offer” was related to settlement talks. Interestingly, on 6/11, Susman made two length calls to EC, one lasted two hours and another one hour. On 6/12, Susman conferred with EC again for another hour. In a few days, Susman made several phone calls to EC (including one to EC chairman M. Willingham), totaling 6 hours, which was ½ of Susman’s total billing hours in June (12 in total). My guess is there was an intense negotiations going on during the period. Susman was likely giving EC status reviews and mapping out new strategies based on debtors’ offer, EC’s input, P. J. Solomon’s valuation presentation, and other available information. Meanwhile, on 6/11 EC counsel (Sargent) started to ask P.J. Solomon for valuation presentation. Based on recent PJS billing statement, we know the firm logged in hundreds of hours analyzing debtors’ assets. But this was the first time we had some confirmation that PJS worked out an asset valuation presentation. It was very likely that EC counsel needed PJS numbers as a base to compare notes with debtors’ offer. When all those activities took place, we can recall Rosen said to the Court prior to and during 6/17 hearing there was on-going “good faith negotiations” between debtors and EC. They were not coincident.
Contrary to Williams48’s estimate, however, I think debtor’s June offer was very low. You can tell that by observing the stagnant share prices during that time. (If the offer was large enough, I think there would be inevitably some leaks. Big boys always knew first. You can understand this by recalling/observing the steady rise of wmi bond prices since 11/2009). I also think that the fund for the June settlement offer likely came from tax refund dollars. If you study the billing statement carefully, you will notice just prior to 6/10, EC counsel did intense researches on tax issues, including “documentary evidence of tax issues”. My guess is EC counsel possibly poked some serious holes in debtors’ tax argument. Because of serious pressures from the Court and discovery/examiner issue, together with their indefensible positions on tax issues, debtors were forced to show its hands first by offering some of the tax refunds for settlement with EC. (At this point, I am neither able to nor going to speculate on what the forms of that settlement offer could be. No matter cash only, rights/shares in newly emerged company, or a combination of both).
The reasons that EC rejected the debtors’ offer were obvious: the offer was way below the acceptable level by shareholders. It was inevitable that there were great discrepancies between debtors’ offer and PJS asset valuation. Based on PJS valuation presentation, EC and its counsel rightfully rejected debtors’ offer. (I also noticed somewhere in the billing statement there is an EC asset valuation too. M. Willingham, being a number guy himself, I’ll not be surprised to know he and other EC member worked out some numbers themselves for Susman team and PJS’ references. So it would be more accurate to say EC rejected debtors’ offer based on PJS valuation, EC members’ own researches, and EC legal counsel’s guidance). Equally if not more importantly, the offer was also rejected because it was lack of business tort claims against JPMC. If you scan the billing statement, entries for researches on tort claims were all over the place. During 6/10-6/20 period, some entries specifically mentioned “Fraudulent transfer” and “unjust enrichment”. The EC, its legal counsel, and business consultant will not let JPMC (with debtor counsel’s assistance) get away from the unjust enrichment and intentional fraud.
I think the recent active pursuit of TPS issue is somewhat related to June settlement talks too. It possibly worked this way: debtors were willing to throw TPS off the bus and offered small bones to EC from tax refund dollars. EC rejected the offer based on PJS valuation and the lack of tort claims. Debtors’ counsel then stacked the EC with TPS and “Third Party claims” just like they did it all along. It could be indicated by debtors that you (EC) better take the offer and go away. To do that, we (debtors) will go around TPS claims. If you (EC) refuse the offer, you will find a mountain of TPS and third party claims in front of you. Then you will end up with nothing. This is what I call “divide and conquer”, also “carrots and big sticks” . EC is the most dangerous party to debtors, JPM, and FDIC. They recognize that and need EC to go away badly. As I said EC rightfully rejected the offer. Meanwhile, you can see during this couple weeks EC’s interests and researches on TPS issue intensified. I think TPS got a wind of debtors-EC negotiations, and started pursuing debtors/JPMC for discovery and compensation relentlessly than ever before. I think TPS and EC (EC contacted TPS counsel during this period according to the billing) are in agreement that TPS value goes with its underlying assets. JPMC as the asset holder should pay for it. And subsequently a huge burden of nearly $4 billion will be lifted from the estate balance sheet, which benefits the equity holders immediately.
It’s also interesting to notice there were several entries for claims against “auditor malpractice” and other “intentional” frauds. They were likely the by-products of the settlement negotiations when EC was reviewing and comparing debtors’ offer and PJS valuations. The settlement talks seemed getting off track by later June. But I am not upset with it if that’s what happened. It’s nonetheless a promising beginning. The EC and its counsel did the right thing. As I said debtors were forced to negotiate with the EC on settlement because of the pressures from the Court and discovery/examiner issues. It was also possible a tactic by debtors to find out what’s the bottom line of EC demands. I don’t think EC fell into their tricks. EC might show debtors a few relevant numbers but no way the complete PJS report. The full scale of PJS valuation, in my view, will be reserved for the final showdown when the examiner completes its report.
It’s encouraging to read Susman’s June billing statement. The battle is far from over yet. But I am very happy with our team and what EC legal counsel, EC, and PJS are doing. I said before, don’t be obsessed with Rosen’s antics. If you want to know how we are going to win, look and pay attention to what Susman’s doing.