In bankruptcy, firms incur expenses for services provided by lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. Such expenses can be quite high, especially for complex resolutions. The direct costs of bankruptcy proceedings reduce a firm’s value below its fundamental level, thus constituting a “deadweight loss.” Bankruptcy also carries indirect costs, such as the loss in value of assets trapped in bankruptcy—a subject discussed in our previous post (link). In this post, we provide the first comprehensive estimates of the direct costs of resolving Lehman Brothers’ holding company (LBHI) and its affiliates under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and of Lehman’s broker-dealer (LBI) under the Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA).
Expectations of creditor recovery were low when the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy process started. On the day the firm filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, the average price of Lehman’s senior bonds implied a recovery rate of about 30 percent for senior creditors. A month later the bond price was implying a recovery rate of 9 percent, consistent with results from Lehman’s CDS auction. Two and a half years later, Lehman’s estate estimated that the recovery rate for holding company creditors would be just 16 percent. So, ten years after the filing, how much did creditors actually recover?