James L Bromley
Office:
One Liberty Plaza
10006
City:
New York
State:
New York
Country:
USA
Tel:
+1 212 225 2264
Fax:
+1 212 225 3999

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Restructuring

Jim Bromley’s practice is focused on restructuring and litigation advice to creditors, debtors, strategic investors, and government actors. He has been involved with the financial services, telecommunications, shipping, automotive, manufacturing, energy, mining, and retail industries, among others. Jim has played a leading role in some of the highest-profile restructurings around the world. He has been recognised by the business and legal press. Jim joined the firm in 1989.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

I have spent my entire career with Cleary Gottlieb, starting as a summer associate in 1988, when I worked on the Aeromexico section 304 proceeding. As a young lawyer, I spent several years representing Pan Am in Chapter 11 and subsequent litigation. Working with George Weisz and Tom Moloney, I fell in love with the practice, particularly the sense of urgency that requires imaginative solutions to pressing problems. I have an eclectic practice. Much of my work has been on large debtor cases, usually with cross-border elements, including Nortel, Daewoo, and Overseas Shipholding. I also had several major matters during the financial crisis, representing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Lehman Brothers collapse and the United Auto Workers (UAW) in General Motors and Chrysler.

WHICH SECTORS DO YOU EXPECT TO BE BUSY FOR RESTRUCTURINGS APPEARING OVER THE COMING YEAR?

The sea change we are seeing in retail will continue to unfold for several years, with knock-on effects on commercial real estate. With rising interest rates, you are also likely to see highly leveraged companies have difficulty in refinancing that has not been seen in nearly two decades. Also, cross-border matters will continue to grow.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES CURRENTLY FACING RESTRUCTURING PRACTITIONERS IN THE US?

The substantial expense of drawn-out restructurings creates enormous pressure on professionals to be fast and effective. Distressed investors are keenly aware of the professional fee burn rate, which means we have to continue to become more commercial and more efficient.

WHAT IMPACT DO YOU SEE THE RECENT TAX REFORM IN THE US HAVING ON DISTRESSED COMPANIES?

The biggest impact of the tax legislation is that investors will have more money to put to work. $1.5 trillion of fiscal stimulus, the first real fiscal stimulus in decades, in a 4% unemployment environment will lead to higher interest rates and riskier investments – and more restructurings.

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER YOU HAVE DEMONSTRATED A STRONG COMMITMENT TO PRO BONO WORK. WHY DO YOU FEEL THIS IS IMPORTANT?

Pro bono is critically important to my happiness as a lawyer. It reminds me why I became a lawyer and the power of our legal system to help others. If you have not done it recently, get back into it. If you have never done it, do it now. You will never regret it.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS WHO HOPE ONE DAY TO BE IN YOUR POSITION?

Be confident, work hard, build your reputation and take care of yourself. Every senior lawyer once stood in your shoes – scared, overwhelmed, and intimidated. This is still an apprenticeship profession and it takes time to learn the trade. Do not be cowed or give up. You will be running the calls and meetings before you know it. Build and guard your reputation. Your credibility is your strongest asset. Finally, it is a cliché, but your career is a marathon, not a sprint. It will have its ups and downs, so learn to live and work within yourself.

LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE MATTER YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

The highlights of my career were delivering closing arguments in two major matters. The first was a 2015 pro bono jury trial that dealt with the subject of “conversion therapy”, a bogus pseudo-science that purports to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. We partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center in suing a New Jersey organisation that provided conversion therapy by filing a complaint on behalf of a group of individuals who purchased these services, alleging violations of New Jersey’s consumer protection law. After a three-and-a-half-week jury trial, with gut-wrenching testimony from our clients, I handled the closing argument. The jury came back with unanimous verdicts in our clients’ favour after only a few hours. The joy and tears of our clients were beyond description. The second was in 2009, representing the UAW in Chrysler’s bankruptcy, arguing to protect the medical benefits of hundreds of thousands of retired union members. After three 14-hour trial days, at about 9pm on a Friday evening, in my closing argument, I urged the bankruptcy court to approve the sale of substantially all of Chrysler’s assets to a new company owned by FIAT and the retiree medical trust. The sale was approved and the benefits survived. As the son of a union household, it was an issue near to my heart and I was honoured to be part of that team.

HOW DO YOU AIM TO DEVELOP YOUR PRACTICE IN THE FUTURE?

The restructuring practice is constantly evolving. To stay on top of it, you need to be a vigilant macroeconomic observer and keep watch for warning signs of distress. I am constantly reading, whether it is the business press or books on behavioural economics (a current favourite) as well as talking to colleagues in finance, politics and the law. Market distress can sneak up on you, so staying well informed is essential.

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