Reasonability of Fees

We want to apologize for an issue related to last week's newsletter; we failed to recognize that the (Amazon Web Services') link embedded in our feature (apparently) expires with time. Sorry about that. 

The right information could be found all week on our website (hint, hint) and we encourage you all to visit it here. The upshot is that an Iowan judge gave Weil a beating because of redonk fees. But don't take our word for it: the opinion is worth a read if for no reason other than its sheer comedy. We enjoyed where the Court indicates that Weil argued that the fees were reasonable because, well, they're Weil, damn it, and they damn well said the fees were reasonable. 

On the subject of fees and billing, the opinion wasn't nearly as amusing (or bemusing, depending on your POV) as this quote from a Caesars-related story from Q4 '16: "The advisory firms have adopted the attitude that every possible land grab that is is worth chasing. These firms have no capital markets businesses and just outsource the work to JP Morgan and the like. These fees are just a tax on the estate. The creditors are doing most of the work here and these restructuring proposals are really ours [creditors]. But the legal departments of these investment banks are crafty. Debtors have to be more responsible on the front end of an engagement. The problem is that the debtors’ lawyers are completely and utterly conflicted. The bankers are often former restructuring lawyers themselves and they are all just referring each other business. This has become a feeding frenzy." 

In many ways, the problem stems from information dislocation. The buyside appears to be getting sick of WSJ headlines about fees - whether they're in Caesars or Lehman Brothers. And so tighter and tighter DIP budgets are becoming the norm and professionals are increasingly expected to agree, upfront, to some fee concessions. But company management teams aren't nearly as savvy; they don't know where to find out what "market" engagement terms are. Certain resources that track this information are firewalled unless you pay tens of thousands of dollars for access. So, who is going to educate management? Debtor's counsel? If the quote above is any indication - and referrals truly are traded like chips - that may be asking for a lot. And so don't be surprised if there are more activist judges opining on the reasonability of fees going forward.