Judge Swain


            On June 30, 2021, the Financial Oversight and Management Board filed its 4th (or 5th) Plan of Adjustment and Disclosure Statement. Although it has received no press in PR, this is significant for several reasons. Not only is it longer by 141 pages but it also has points of interest.

            In the section entitled Conditions Precedent to the Effective Date, the new disclosure statement and plan state as to conditions precedent to the effective date:

(xvii) Provide that neither the Governor nor the Legislature shall enact, adopt, or implement any law, rule, regulation, or policy that impedes, financially or otherwise, consummation and implementation of the transactions contemplated by the Plan; and

(xviii) Provide that the Governor and the Legislature, individually and jointly, as appropriate, shall take any and all actions necessary to consummate the transactions contemplated by the Plan.

This language was pointed out by AAFAF in its reservation of rights as to the latest plan. Their point, and a valid one, is that this condition precedent seems to imply that Judge Swain, by approving the plan, is ordering the Commonwealth to legislate the necessary legislation to effectuate the plan, which would include legislation for the issuance of new bonds. Problem is, that nowhere in PROMESA is it specifically spelled out that Judge Swain has that power.

Obviously this new language is precipitated by AAFAF’s own objection to the previous plan, where it said that the Board did not explain how it would get around the Legislature’s refusal to legislate if the plan included pension cuts. The Board, upped the ante by specifying what it implied with requesting an order pursuant to Section 305 of  PROMESA. To this controversy we have to add the Board’s complaint to invalidate law 7-2021, which it says is contrary to PROMESA for it includes a plan of adjustment where bondholders receive less and the Legislature prohibits the Government from supporting a plan that includes pension cuts. Since the case was filed last Friday, it will not be decided by the time the disclosure statement approval hearing is held on July 13, 2021.

This is nothing short of a mess. The Legislature has challenged the Board, saying it will not approve legislation if the plan of adjustment includes pension cuts, which it does, modest as they may be. AAFAF warned the Board of this, requiring an explanation of how it would deal with it and the Board did just that. It is an open question, in my opinion, whether Judge Swain would agree to order the Government and Legislature to enact the legislation or to otherwise waive the requirement of said legislation. If she does not, however, the plan cannot be confirmed and pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 930, the Title III would be dismissed. The question is whether the Government or Legislature is willing to risk said dismissal.

I am sure the Governor would not risk it but the Legislature is not controlled by his party. The House is in the hands of the Popular Democratic Party and has a plurality in the Senate. Both Legislative presidents have, in my opinion, an eye on their party’s candidacy for Governor. Hence, it is entirely possible that they could, with the battle cry of “No Cuts to Pensions” let the Title III be dismissed and blame the Governor.

On the other hand, will Judge Swain let 5 years of PROMESA go down the tubes because of party politics? Your guess is as good as mine.


El día 15 de junio de 2021 era el último día para objetar a la información que presentó la Junta en el Disclosure Statement que presentó. Este documento se rige bajo el 11 U.S.C. § 1125 y requiere que contnga “adequate information”, la cual se define así:

“adequate information” means information of a kind, and in sufficient detail, as far as is reasonably practicable in light of the nature and history of the debtor and the condition of the debtor’s books and records, including a discussion of the potential material Federal tax consequences of the plan to the debtor, any successor to the debtor, and a hypothetical investor typical of the holders of claims or interests in the case, that would enable such a hypothetical investor of the relevant class to make an informed judgment about the plan, but adequate information need not include such information about any other possible or proposed plan and in determining whether a disclosure statement provides adequate information, the court shall consider the complexity of the case, the benefit of additional information to creditors and other parties in interest, and the cost of providing additional information.

El disclosure statement y el plan constan de sobre 2,200 paginas, más un best interest analysis presentado a última hora. A pesar del corto tiempo disponible, varias entidades como mi cliente, Servicios Integrales en la Montaña, el Comité de Acreedores no Asegurados y la aseguradora Ambac, radicaron mociones cuestionando la falta de información del documento.

Sorpresivamente, AAFAF radicó una objeción al mismo argullendo que la Junta no había explicado adecuadamente como iba a aprobar el plan si la Legislatura no iba a favorecer legislación que el mismo requería. La Junta dijo en el Disclosure Statement que no era seguro que la Legislatura la aprobará y si era así acudiría al Tribunal bajo la sección 305 de PROMESA que prohíbe al mismo interferir con la propiedad y poderes del deudor sin la autorización de la Junta.

El miércoles 16 de julio se celebró la vista Omnibus de PROMESA y durante la misma se le pide a la Junta dar un informe, el cual ya se había radicado. Sorpresivamente, la Juez Swain, luego que la Junta dijo que no tenía nada que añadir nada al informe, dijo que iba a señalar algo. Dijo que ya que la Junta seguía que era obvio que este no era un plan consensual y no iba a permitir el enviar las papeletas para votar por el plan (si no se envían las papeletas, el plan no se puede aprobar) a menos que la Juez Houser, jefa del grupo de mediadores, certifique unos días antes de la vista del 13 de julio de 2021 que las partes han negociado de buena y de no ser así, quien no lo ha hecho. Esto podría interpretarse que la Juez Swain quiere que las diferencias entre la Junta y el Gobierno de PR se resuelvan, cosa poco probable ya que la Junta se ha mantenido firme en el recorte a las pensiones y el Gobierno en su oposición al más mínimo cambio a las mismas. Lo cual trae varias preguntas.

¿Está dispuesto el Gobierno de Puerto Rico a arriesgar la desestimación del Título III por defender a ultranza la pensiones? ¿Estará la Juez Swain dispuesta a ignorar o invalidar selectivamente la ley de Puerto Rio que requiere legislación  para la aprobación de nuevas emisiones de bonos? ¿Si la Juez Swain aprueba el plan de ajuste como esta, lo pondrá en vigor el Gobierno o nuevamente tomará la defensa a ultranza de las pensiones? ¿Si la Junta transa y elimina el recorte a las pensiones, lo aceptará la Juez Swain? ¿Si la Juez Swain aceptará este cambio, exigirá más cambios la Legislatura como la cancelación del contrato de LUMA?

Yo no tengo las respuestas pero entiendo que sus implicaciones tienen gran importancia, máxime que la prensa no ha reportado nada de esto.  




”All politics are local.” Thomas “Tip” O’Neill


For several weeks now, the Board has admonished the  Commonwealth stating that some of the laws it has approved violate  PROMESA in some way. It also informs the Commonwealth that these laws are not in effect. Although the Commonwealth knows that pursuant to PROMESA and Judge Swain’s decision of April 15, 2020 on Law 29, the Board must go to the Federal District Court in order to invalidate any law, on June 12, 2020, it filed not one but SIX complaints against the agency. In essence, the six complaints argue that the  Board’s actions are  “unreasonable from a public policy standpoint” but if not checked, “the  people of Puerto Rico will be disenfranchised because their local elected Government will be stripped of its policy making powers.” Although they are six complaints having to do with six different local laws, the legal argument is the same; the Commonwealth explained in compliance with PROMESA section 204 why these laws did not “substantially inconsistent with the fiscal plan.” Obviously, the Board did not agree.


What will happen now? After the proper briefing, the Court will likely dismiss these cases, probably sometime after August 9. In the law 29 case, decided on April 15, 2020, Judge Swain discussed the process for the certifications by the Commonwealth of laws that are not inconsistent with the Fiscal Plan. She decided that the Board’s decision was reviewable but that the standard of review is to be the deferential “arbitrary and capricious” standard used to review federal agencies’ interpretation of its own laws. PROMESA does not define what evidence is sufficient for the Board to be convinced that a particular law is not “substantially inconsistent with the Fiscal Plan” and she will give great deference to the Board’s interpretation. Since I was not privy to the evidence the Commonwealth presented to the Board, I cannot comment on it, but it seems likely Swain will side with the Board. Moreover, we must remember that in the Aurelius SCOTUS decision, Judge Breyer stated at page 17 “[i]n short, the Board possesses considerable power—in­cluding the authority to substitute its own judgment for the considered judgment of the Governor and other elected offi­cials.” Since that is precisely what the Board is  doing here, likelihood of success for the Commonwealth is not high. If so, why file not one but six complaints? I will explain.

I have the highest regard for Peter Friedman, the  Commonwealth’s attorney, who successfully opposed the appointment of Mr. Zamot as CEO of PREPA. He, as all attorneys, however, is bound by his client’s desires and as long as the proper warnings are issued, it is totally ethical to continue with a case that is not likely to succeed. The Governor’s motivations, however, are quite different. She has been a petty and supercilious politician all of her career in the Government. She, as all PR politicians, believe that the voter wants them to oppose the Board and since in the past she had been quoted as cooperating, this is, in her view, a necessary change. Also, the challenged laws are populistic in nature and she wants to be able to claim she tried her utmost to have them put into effect, but the evil Board” prevented her. Since Judge Swain is not likely to decide the issues before August 9, the day of the PNP primaries, she can claim the high ground against Pedro Pierluisi who, irrespective of what he says, is viewed as pro-Board and is (or was) related to one of its members. Also, if she were to win the PNP nomination, even if Judge Swain dismisses the complaints before the November election, she will appeal and still claim the high ground.


The sad part of this is that the Puertorrican taxpayer will pay the Commonwealth and the Board’s lawyers in these SIX CASES, money better put to use in other, more important endeavors. But that is the way the Puertorrican politicians operate.

That is why we are in Bankruptcy.


Let’s see what happens.