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This Symposium marks the fortieth anniversary of the enactment of the 1978 Bankruptcy Code (the “1978 Code” or the “Code”) with an extended look at seismic changes that currently are reshaping Chapter 11 reorganization. Today’s typical Chapter 11 case looks radically different than did the typical case in the Code’s early years. In those days, Chapter 11 afforded debtors a cozy haven. Most everything that mattered occurred within the context of the formal proceeding, where the debtor enjoyed agenda control, a leisurely timetable, and judicial solicitude. The safe haven steadily disappeared over time, displaced by a range of countervailing forces and a cooperative bankruptcy bench. Lenders, especially debtor-in-possession (DIP) financers, gradually began to shape the trajectory of many proceedings. They today determine the course of most of the cases. More recently, additional players such as hedge funds and equity funds have also entered the scene, altering the bargaining dynamic. New financial instruments complicate debtors’ capital structures and creditor incentives. Even the sites and modes of decisionmaking have shifted, as today’s key decisions are negotiated and embedded in contracts concluded even before the debtor files for bankruptcy. The changes, which continue to accumulate, are fundamental. Some of the most important and controversial of these new developments, such as the use of restructuring support agreements to lock up votes for a potential reorganization, will likely have seen further evolution by the time this Foreword appears in print.

This Foreword provides context for the Symposium’s academic contributions by recounting the historical developments that have brought us where we are. After chronicling the origins, New Deal redirection, and recent evolution of corporate reorganization, we describe some of the remarkable and often counterintuitive insights the articles in this Symposium offer for the current moment. We conclude by venturing a few thoughts about the future. As we shall see, the Nietzschean vision of history as eternal recurrence has surprising explanatory power in the bankruptcy context.


Bankruptcy law, legal history, corporate reorganization, financial distress, 1978 Bankruptcy Code, Trust Indenture Act, Chapter 11, receivership, debtor in possession, securities, judges, judicial oversight, consensual agreements

Publication Title

University of Pennsylvania Law Review

Publication Citation

166 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1571 (2018)