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Executive Summary: COVID-19 Pandemic Spurs Wave of Mega Corporate Bankruptcies

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global economy and triggered a wave of large corporate bankruptcies. In particular, the number of mega bankruptcies (over $1 billion in reported assets) increased dramatically in the second and third quarters of 2020.

This report examines trends in Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings between January 2005 and September 2020 by companies with over $100 million in assets.[i]

In the first three quarters of 2020, 34, 55, and 49 companies with over $100 million in assets filed for bankruptcy, respectively, compared to the quarterly average of 19 for the 2005–2019 period. The 55 bankruptcy filings in Q2 2020 was the second-highest total for any quarter since 2005, only behind the 65 bankruptcies in Q1 2009.

A total of 138 companies with over $100 million in assets filed for bankruptcy in the first three quarters of 2020. This number is 84 percent higher than the number of bankruptcies (75) filed during the same period last year.

There was a substantial increase in the number of “mega bankruptcies” (i.e., those filed by companies with over $1 billion in reported assets) in Q2 2020. In Q2 and Q3 2020, there were 31 and 15 mega bankruptcies or roughly six and three times the quarterly average (five) during the 2005–2019 period, respectively.

Mega bankruptcies were concentrated in two industries: Mining, Oil, and Gas; and Retail Trade. These two industries accounted for 58 percent of the mega bankruptcies in Q1–Q3 2020.

The largest bankruptcy in the first three quarters of 2020 was filed by The Hertz Corporation, which had an estimated $25.84 billion in assets at the time of filing.

Figure 1: Key Trends in Bankruptcy Filings

2005–Q3 2020

 

2005–2019
Quarterly Average

Q1 2020

Q2 2020

Q3 2020

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filings

18

33

54

49

Chapter 11 Mega Bankruptcies

5

6

31

15

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filings by Public Companies

11

8

34

26

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filings by Private Companies

7

25

20

23

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Filings

1

1

1

0

Average Asset Value at Time of Filing (Billions)

$2.21

$0.66

$3.01

$1.52

Source: BankruptcyData

Note: Only Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings by companies (both public and private) with over $100 million in reported assets are included. For companies where exact assets are not known, the lower bound of the estimated range is used. Asset values are not adjusted for inflation. Mega bankruptcies are defined as those for companies with over $1 billion in reported assets at the time of their bankruptcy filings.

Read COVID-19 Pandemic Spurs Wave of Mega Corporate Bankruptcies

Read the report, Trends in Large Corporate Bankruptcy and Financial Distress: 2005–Q3 2020.

 

[i]      This report relies on data obtained from BankruptcyData. It focuses on asset values at the time of bankruptcy filings due to the higher prevalence of missing information on liabilities in BankruptcyData. Some other publications have focused on liabilities due to potential concerns over whether book values of assets overstate valuations for bankrupt firms (see, e.g., Edward Altman, “COVID-19 and the Credit Cycle,” Journal of Credit Risk 16, no. 2 (2020): 1–28 at 13–14). Using available data on liabilities in this report would not meaningfully change any of the findings.

Copyright ©2020 Cornerstone ResearchNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 309
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About this Author

Allie Schwartz Financial Attorney Cornerstone Research New York, NY
Principal

Allie Schwartz specializes in the valuation of securities and financial derivatives in the context of securities litigation, bankruptcy, and regulatory disputes. She also works extensively on issues affecting financial institutions, such as addressing allegations of anticompetitive behavior, insider and disruptive trading, hedging and risk management, and issues in consumer finance.

Dr. Schwartz has more than a decade of experience supporting experts through multiple stages of litigation, such as deposition, domestic and international arbitration, and trial. She has also provided...

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JB Doyle Cornerstone Securities Analysis
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J.B. Doyle consults on litigation and regulatory matters related to financial institutions and securities. In these areas, he has extensive experience with advanced statistical modeling and large datasets. Dr. Doyle has presented to regulators, and works with clients in all stages of commercial litigation, including class certification, affirmative and rebuttal reports, depositions, arbitration, and trial.

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