In this, my final JCR column, I will forego a sentimental retrospective of my time as TMA Global President, now Chairman. Make no mistake, my time in TMA Global leadership has been a singularly exciting and rewarding experience—truly a career opportunity. But I much prefer to look forward through the windshield, not backward through the rearview mirror.
So, what do I see ahead? More challenges in an industry that has yet to settle in completely to its “new normal.” Certainly, the restructuring industry has contracted somewhat. High-yield maturities have decreased over recent years, pushing out the maturity wall, postponing the need for more restructurings, and intensifying the competition for restructuring business. It has been reported recently that global mergers and acquisitions are occurring at a record pace. Interest rates are expected to climb. The distressed debt industry appears quite active and is itself changing. It has been reported that some hedge funds may become lenders of first resort.
The unemployment rate remains in a downward trend, but GDP growth, while steady, continues to start and stop. What will be the long-term effect on the economy of the growth in the retiree population?
Business bankruptcy filings continue their downward trend, yet July 2015 commercial Chapter 11 filings were up 77 percent from July 2014. Is this a spike or a trend? Public companies continue to struggle, although SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) continue to account for most business bankruptcies. The energy sector, particularly oil and gas; healthcare; and higher education all face immediate challenges.
So what does all of this mean for TMA members? Whatever the direction of the industry, TMA Global continues its tireless efforts to aid chapters in their own efforts to maintain and grow membership by expanding who should be underneath the “TMA tent.” A Private Equity Task Force is studying how to attract more members from that sector of the industry, while our new website, which provides chapters with flexibility for telling their stories, has been unveiled. A new mobile membership app is also in the works.
TMA Global’s attention is not confined to North America, but stretches across continents. In 2015 alone, in my role as TMA Chairman, I have been to London, Bucharest, Zagreb, Stockholm, and Melbourne, with trips planned, as I write, to London for the TMA UK Annual Conference and to Singapore for the TMA’s first Asia Pacific Conference. TMA is now an established global brand.
International travel, however, has not substituted for my efforts to attend regional events. In July, I participated in the TMA Western Regional Conference in Carlsbad, California, near San Diego. As for individual chapter events, I attended the Chesapeake Chapter’s Annual Crab Feast in Baltimore in July and plan to attend an Alabama Chapter event in Birmingham in October.
One very bright note comes from my teaching role at two law schools, Temple University Beasley School of Law and St. John’s Law School. While it is true that law schools, too, face their own challenges, I continue to have students who are keenly interested in careers in restructuring and bankruptcy.
The judicial branch of the federal government also faces challenges. The availability of funds for new courthouse construction and maintenance of existing facilities is limited. The Third Branch continues to implement cost reductions and find new efficiencies. One major initiative of the Judicial Conference of the United States, led by the Space and Facilities Committee, of which I am a member, aims to reduce the federal judiciary’s space footprint by 3 percent by the end of fiscal year 2018. The judiciary’s annual rent budget exceeds $1 billion. The footprint reduction is an enormous undertaking, but one which has already yielded millions of dollars in rent savings and is expected to net still more millions of dollars in savings.
And what about future challenges for me on the bench? Well, I hope that they just keep coming!