As the saying goes, “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.”
At this point, apparently, she’s not yet begun, although she is “in the house.”
And, from our “WTF?!?” files, comes this item:
In early February, Hostess had asked the bankruptcy judge to approve a sweet new employment deal for Driscoll. Its terms guaranteed him a base annual salary of $1.5 million, plus cash incentives and “long-term incentive” compensation of up to $2 million. If Hostess liquidated or Driscoll were fired without cause, he’d still get severance pay of $1.95 million as long as he honored a noncompete agreement.
The committee representing Hostess’s unsecured creditors alleges that information it has gathered suggests “the possibility” that the company converted a chunk of its top executives’ pay from performance-based bonuses to salary, “at least in part to sidestep” rules designed to ensure that companies in bankruptcy aren’t enticing their employees to stay on board with the promise of cash, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y.
This solitary example is a wonderful one for illustrating what is WRONG with corporate governance and corporate operations in the United States. It’s an even more sad commentary that laws must be enacted to require people to do the right thing. At this juncture, the judge overseeing the Hostess Brands Inc. bankruptcy is doing precisely that.
Hostess and Bakers Union Asked Accept Strike Mediation
The judge overseeing Hostess Brands Inc. declined to approve the company’s liquidation today and asked management and the bakers’ union to enter mediation tomorrow to resolve the strike that the maker of Twinkies and Wonder bread said forced it to shut.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain said at a hearing in White Plains, New York, that there are “serious questions as to the logic behind the decision to strike.” Hostess and the bakers’ union agreed to Drain’s request to enter confidential mediation under his supervision.
“To me, not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark over this case which I think will only be answered in litigation,” Drain said. “My desire to do this is prompted primarily by the potential loss of over 18,000 jobs, as well as my belief that there is a possibility to resolve this matter, notwithstanding the losses the debtors have incurred over the last week or so.”
Hostess hasn’t spoken with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union since August, said Heather Lennox, a lawyer for the company. Hostess is seeking permission from Drain to pay bonuses to key managers while closing operations that will leave most of its 18,500 workers unemployed. Any agreement arising from the mediation would probably come too late to save the company, Lennox said.
“Things have gone too far to repair themselves under the current form,” Lennox, a partner at Jones Day, told Drain. “It would be very hard for us to recover from this damage even if there were to be an agreement in the near term.”
“Our best shot is to see what we can sell as going concerns and have the company continue that way,” she said. The hearing to consider Hostess’s request to wind down was postponed until Nov. 21.
Hostess said Nov. 16 that it would shut, claiming that a weeklong strike by the bakers’ union forced liquidation. The union blamed management’s concession demands, while some employees blamed both sides. Strikers were still outside the company’s facilities today, Hostess’s lawyers said.
Corrina Christensen, a spokeswoman for the bakers’ union, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the mediation.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, whose members distribute Hostess products, had ratified a new contract with 8 percent in wage concessions and 17 percent in benefit reductions.
“The Teamsters will closely monitor the mediation between the BCTGM and Hostess management and assist in any way we can to help the two sides reach an agreement that keeps the company’s doors open,” Ken Hall, the Teamsters general secretary- treasurer, said today in a statement.
The judge may be creating risk for both sides that encourages them to reach a deal, Ken Russak, a bankruptcy attorney at Frandzel Robins Bloom & Csato in Los Angeles, said today in an interview. “The bankruptcy judge would much prefer to have the parties work something out than having to Read the rest of this entry »