Settlement Perspectives

Thoughts on how to resolve disputes and get your deal done.


4 PerspectivesFebruary 21, 2009

Negotiating a Debt Restructuring: The Out of Office AutoReply

As I write this I’m on yet another plane ride, but this one’s different. I’m flying home following some of the most intense, important negotiations I’ll ever be a part of. This isn’t a post about the details of our negotiations, since it’ll never be appropriate to write about most of those. Today I write simply to ask for your patience, because I won’t be posting much for the next month or two.

The Plan and the Filing

In case you haven’t heard, my company, BearingPoint, Inc., reached an agreement in principle with its senior secured lenders to restructure the Company’s debt on Wednesday. The Company’s press release with further details can be found here and the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the story can be found here, but the high points are:

  • BearingPoint has reached an agreement on a pre-arranged restructuring plan with its senior secured lenders;
  • BearingPoint, Inc. has filed a voluntary Chapter 11 Petition before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to implement the plan, which will involve BearingPoint, Inc. and 23 of its US subsidiaries;
  • BearingPoint has requested, and received, relief from the Court that addresses the immediate needs of BearingPoint’s people and its clients; and
  • We have begun our efforts to bring this debt restructuring to a close on an accelerated basis.

While a more complete discussion of the Company’s history, its situation and the plan going forward can be found in the attached declaration, the important point is that we have reached an agreement that provides a clear path for the Company’s 15,000+ employees, its clients and its creditors.

That Conference Room at Weil Gotshal

This site is about how to “get your deal done” in a number of contexts, and over the past few weeks I have seen a team at work around the clock to do just that. From Marcia Goldstein, who leads our team and is no stranger to the blogosphere, to Alfredo Perez (who hasn’t escaped the the Law Blog’s notice, either) to AlixPartners’ Ken Hiltz, who serves as our CFO and has clearly done this before, to rising star Ronit Berkovich, I have watched some of the best in the business in front of an overworked speakerphone morning, noon and night for days on end to get a deal done.

During these negotiations I saw the same lessons in play that every lawyer should know, from the fact that you can’t “Just Send Them a Message” to lessons in Trust and Managing Expectations and The Most Important Word in Negotiation — not to mention The Sid Hill Rule. It’s good to know that the fundamentals apply no matter how much is at stake.

A Brief Timeout

Someday it’ll be nice to take a deep breath, reflect on this experience, and go from there. But for now, I’m mindful of what one smart client told me years ago: “Time kills deals.” Therefore, please indulge me for the next month or two as we work night and day to close our deal on the accelerated basis that our people, our clients and our creditors deserve.

I believe you’ll be glad you did.

Categories: Fundamentals,Miscellaneous,Negotiation

4 Perspectives:

Alan — Saturday, February 21, 2009 5:34 pm

John, best of luck to you and your team. I look forward to reading about your experiences. Speaking about fundamentals, I was just at a mediation last week where I suggested a direct face to face meeting between the parties at the end of the day rather than the mediator communicating the last line in the sand for each side. RIsky move but it resulted in the parties understanding and trusting each other more which ultimately resulted in the case being resolved.

John DeGrooteSaturday, February 21, 2009 8:40 pm


Thanks for your comment; as you know from my prior post on the topic, there are more than a few reasons you might want to use a mediator to help resolve your dispute. That said, a “walk down the hall” with no one but the decisionmakers can be one of the most powerful ways to break an impasse. As you say, it can be risky, but it can work. I’m glad you tried it.

Thanks again for reaching out–


ChrisSunday, February 22, 2009 9:58 am


It sounds like you and your company have assembled a bang-up team of experts who will work with to solve this problem and come through on the other side. I’m sure the hard work will pay off.

In many ways, I don’t envy you or the task. I do envy your having the knowledge of exactly what you will be doing for the next few months though.


MikeTuesday, February 24, 2009 12:06 pm

I hope the restructuring leads to a promising outcome for you and your core legal team. I’ll send over some more coffee.

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Settlement Perspectives
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of John DeGroote.

I created this site to help clients and their counsel navigate the challenges that inevitably result from disputes, settlement efforts, impasse, and negotiation in general. The perspectives I bring are based on my experience, summarized in this abbreviated bio. If you have any questions or thoughts about this site, or an issue you’d like to see addressed, please email me at:


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