Newsletter – May 2020

Subchapter V of the Bankruptcy Code and How This Can Help Small Businesses

The unprecedented crisis brought on by the coronavirus has hit every facet of the economy. Companies that were operating profitably and with robust growth expectations have been decimated by the impact on the health of employees and customers, of stay at home orders and disruptions to supply chains. Federal and state plans to mitigate the impact continue to roll out, but it is clear that the economy will experience devastation not seen since the Great Depression.

In this time of uncertainty, companies must plan for every conceivable outcome. Small companies in particular are especially vulnerable and must assess all tools at their disposal in order to survive.

The purpose of this newsletter is to highlight a new provision of the Bankruptcy Code which can be a lifeline to small businesses. We intend to provide you with an overview of the features of the newly enacted Subchapter V of the Bankruptcy Code so you can understand this alternative as a means to survive the current crisis. The information presented below is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or opinion, which should only be sought from an attorney.

Subchapter V is part of the federal Bankruptcy Code that came about from a new law called the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 on February 19, 2020. Subchapter V is aimed at small business corporate and individual debtors, and it is intended at reducing the complexities of Chapter 11 by increasing efficiency, lowering costs and easing the plan confirmation process.

Initially, Subchapter V was limited to a person or entity with total debt of less than $2,725,625. The CARES Act raised this amount to $7.5 million; this higher amount will only remain in effect until one year after the effective date of the CARES Act, i.e. March 27, 2021. The one exclusion to Subchapter V is single asset real estate entities.

The advantage of a Subchapter V filing over a Chapter 11 filing includes the following:

There are no fees, apart from an initial filing fee. Also, administrative expenses may be paid over the life of the plan (as opposed to the date of the plan confirmation as with Chapter 11 filings).
Filing requirements are the business’ most recent balance sheet, statement of operations, statement of cash flow and tax returns, or a sworn statement that such documents do not exist.
Subchapter V has no creditor committee, unless the court orders otherwise.
The petitioner will submit the plan to the court and, if it meets certain requirements, it will be accepted by the Court.

Under a typical Subchapter V filing, the chronology of events is as follows:
A status conference will be held in bankruptcy court within 60 days of filing;
The debtor must file a report detailing efforts to reach a consensual plan of reorganization no later than 14 days prior to this conference, and;
The plan must be submitted for approval within 90 days. Extensions may be granted where there are circumstances for which the debtor cannot be held accountable.

The plan will generally be confirmed as long as all disposable income for the ensuing 3-5 years will be used to repay creditors.

If creditors can’t agree on the petitioner’s proposed plan, the Bankruptcy Court Judge may be asked to order the plan approved (a “cram down”). The success of the proposed plan would need to be demonstrated to be more attractive to unsecured creditors than a conversion to a Chapter 7 liquidation plan, which is usually very easy to be made.

A small business owner may continue to operate post filing as a debtor-in-possession and must continue to file the schedules and statements required of all debtors under the applicable section of the Bankruptcy Code. However, the court can strip a small business debtor of its debtor-in-possession powers for cause such as fraud, dishonesty, incompetence or gross mismanagement, either before or after the bankruptcy case or for failure to perform the obligations specified under a confirmed plan. In such an event, a Small Business Trustee would take over the operation of the business.

In summary, the advantages of Subchapter V over a Chapter 11 filing are costs, ease of filing requirements, ability of the owner to prepare the reorganization plan without having the involvement of a creditor committee and relative ease of confirmation by the Court as long as certain hurdles are met.

For business owners who are undergoing challenges, we hope that your firm will be able to successfully withstand the current crisis and be able to return to normalcy in the near future, and that you will not need to consider Subchapter V. However, we encourage you to consider this alternative if it can result in your firm’s survival. CFO Consulting Partners can assist you in seeking legal advice and assistance from our broad network of contacts in the legal field.

Finally, we wish the best to you and your loved ones for safety and continued good health.

The content of this newsletter is meant for general information purposes and is not to be considered legal advice or opinion. As with any bankruptcy or restructuring filing, you need to consult with an attorney to cover your own unique situation and circumstances.

By Mark Sloan, Director, CFO Consulting Partners,
David DeMuth, Sr. Managing Director, CFO Consulting Partners,