Goosmann Law Firm represents many national, regional and local lenders. After many years of low interest rates, a strong economy and easier lending standards, we are starting to see signs of stress in the economy. A check of any local news feed reveals many large regional and local bankruptcies in the news - Gordmans and Shopko among them. Our Banking and Bankruptcy Practice Group believe we are seeing the beginning of a new trend, and potentially just the tip of the iceberg. With $3 trillion of corporate debt coming due in the next 4 years, and relatively easy lending standards, potential trouble is looming on the horizon.
Goosmann Attorney Elizabeth Lally has presented on the “Domino Effect” that these distressed retailers are having on commercial real estate. In her view, the future of traditional brick and mortar is not bright. Just look around to the local malls and big box stores. Malls are shrinking at an alarming rate, and their footprints will continue to shrink with online shopping becoming the new frontier.
Action Plan: Goosmann Law Firm is advising its lender clients to review all their commercial real estate loan documents to ensure adequate protection. The firm is performing loan and collateral reviews for many of our clients. It is no longer enough to fall back on an assignment of rents. Goosmann is ensuring proper cross collateralization and reviewing personal guarantees to ensure our clients are in the best collateral position possible, as soon as possible. Even if loans are not showing signs of stress, now is the time to review to ensure we secure collateral positions as soon as possible to avoid any clawback attempts by the bankruptcy court if borrowers become insolvent.
Agriculture Loans: For Agriculture Loans we stress the same document and loan reviews, but further, now is the time to enforce financial and reporting covenants. Many farmers have depleted their financial reserves, and now is the time to review those loans to ensure leases have been renewed and that all UCCs have been reviewed to ensure priority collateral position. Equipment loans are coming due as the equipment spending spree is starting to wane. Legal reviews give piece of mind by providing another level of independent third-party review to ensure proper collateral lien protection.
Trust but Verify: When times are lean for borrowers, even good businessmen can be loose with their financial reporting. Look closely at financial statements. If something looks inaccurate, unrealistic or incomplete, ask for more information and clarifying documentation. Rather than merely checking the box, take the next step and do more than take borrower’s words for their condition. Make site visits and make sure things are as they seem on paper.
Enforcement of Noncompete Agreements: Unemployment in the United States is at a near 50-year low. In today’s tight job market, retaining top talent is a major concern. Many financial institutions have their top employees sign non-compete and/or non-solicitation agreements as a way to try to keep talented individuals within the organization. Goosmann’s talented attorneys help banks and other institutions craft enforceable agreements on the front end and protect their rights when employees leave for the competition. See our website for our Quick Guide to Non-Compete Agreements in the Midwest.