After rejecting the proposed ‘cramdown’ changes to the bankruptcy code, the Senate may be slowly waking up to the need to respect contracts. One cannot rebuild trust and confidence in our markets, while at the same type trying to destroy the trust that underlies contractual relations. Were the cramdown legislation approved, the message to investors, or any market participants, would be that the enforceability and terms of your private agreements will be subject to the direction of the political winds.
Proponents of cramdown claimed that the bankruptcy code favored one’s vacation home or yacht over one’s primary residence, as the mortgages on these assets could be reduced to reflect their current value. Such a claim is at best misleading, if not outright false. One’s primary residence is already the most favored asset in bankruptcy – due to the very simple fact that one generally gets to keep their home, while one usually has to give up their boat or vacation home in order to satisfy one’s debts. There simply is no ‘yacht-stead’ exemption. In fact, under Chapter 13, primary residences whose equity values are greater than the homestead exemption are crammed-down, and the home is transferred to the lender.
Our economy will only turn around once families, investors, entrepreneurs and other market participants believe the rules of the game will be fair and certain, and not constantly subject to political manipulation. Voluntary consensual agreements are one of the basic pillars of our society, and should be respected as such. They should not be written solely as a means of taking from one groups of citizens and giving to another.