A Chapter 11 filing, on the other hand, is an attempt to stay in business while a bankruptcy court supervises the “reorganization” of the company’s contractual and debt obligations. The court can grant complete or partial relief from most of the company’s debts and its contracts, so that the company can make a fresh start. Often, if the company’s debts exceed its assets, then at the completion of bankruptcy the company’s owners (stockholders) all end up with nothing — all their rights and interests are terminated — and the company’s creditors end up with ownership of the newly reorganized company, in the hopes that it will eventually succeed financially as compensation for their losses.
All creditors who register with the court can be heard by the court, which is responsible for determining whether the plan of reorganization complies with the purposes of the bankruptcy law and provides for fair and equitable treatment of all parties in interest. Priority of claims is determined by Section 507 of the Bankruptcy Code, but as a general rule secured creditors, such as some banks and bondholders, have a higher-priority claim on the proceeds of the sale of corporate assets than unsecured creditors, such as vendors who have not been paid for products they previously delivered to the company (and who don’t have any collateral for their claim).
Once a business files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, its creditors are not allowed to attempt to collect previously incurred debts except through the bankruptcy court. Under some circumstances, the creditors or the United States Trustee can ask the court either to convert the case to a liquidation under Chapter 7, or to appoint a trustee to manage the debtor’s business. The court will grant a motion to convert to Chapter 7 or appoint a trustee if either of these actions is in the best interest of all creditors (appointment of a trustee also requires some wrongdoing or gross mismanagement on the part of existing management, and is relatively rare).
Typical debts and contracts cancelled in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy include unsecured loans and, if cancelling them would be financially favorable to the company, union contracts, supply or operating contracts (with both vendors and customers) and long-term real estate leases.