Global Forum Shopping – Shipping Companies Seek Shelter in U.S. Chapter 11 Proceedings
U.S. bankruptcy judges purport to wield vast power, such as issuing purportedly global stays of all litigation pending against a debtor. Some would say that due process is improperly tossed out the door in such proceedings, but others would argue to the contrary. The market place suggests that the broad orders are desired by debtors, as evidenced by this recent article from three lawyers at Holland and Knight. The outcomes of cases in this sort may impact the extent to which the U.S does or does become a refuge for non-U.S. entities facing mass tort issues.
In recent months, U.S. bankruptcy filings – such as Omega Navigation (filed July 8 in Houston) and Marco Polo Seatrade (filed July 29 in New York) – have caught the attention of the worldwide shipping community. It is no surprise that some shipping companies have sought bankruptcy protection resulting from financial distress. Rather, the cause for surprise is that non-U.S. shipping companies have sought protection in U.S. bankruptcy courts. High-profile secured creditors in these cases have contested the exercise of the jurisdiction of U.S. bankruptcy courts on grounds that the debtor shipping companies lack sufficient assets in, and connections to, the United States.