Creditors have endorsed a plan for liquidating 20,000 houses owned by the bankrupt real estate partnerships set up by Equity Programs Investment Corp., but the proposal still faces last-minute opposition from investors in the partnerships.
The approval of creditors was critical to the success of the proposal for reorganizing the 350 EPIC partnerships. A federal bankruptcy judge in Alexandria also must approve the plan, and a hearing on it is scheduled for today.
If approved, the plan would end eight months of wrangling over the EPIC real estate empire, which is based in Falls Church, and would enable the partnerships to resume payments on $1.4 billion worth of defaulted mortgage debt. Without a reorganization of the partnerships, more than 100 thrift institutions could have to write off their EPIC mortgage loans.
The plan also would reimburse the State of Maryland as much as $60 million for losses it may incur from having taken over EPIC and its failed affiliate, Community Savings & Loan of Bethesda, in the fall. EPIC's troubles at that time triggered the collapse of Community, and without a plan of reorganization, state officials have estimated the state's potential losses at between $120 million and $150 million.
Under the reorganization plan, as previously disclosed, the EPIC houses would be sold over five to seven years, and the proceeds would be used to retire the debt. The companies that insured the mortgages would provide cash advances so the partnerships could make mortgage interest payments.
Lawyers who support the plan said it received widespread support in a recent vote among the creditors. Only a handful of more than 100 secured creditors, for instance, objected to the reorganization plan, the lawyers said.
"The vote was gratifying. It is really pretty unusual to have this degree of support for a plan this complicated," said William J. Perlstein, a lawyer for a group of large creditors that made the proposal.
The reorganization plan, however, fared less well among more than 6,000 limited partners who invested in the EPIC partnerships. Under the plan, these people generally would recover their investment only if there were money left after the creditors were paid off.
Lawyers involved with the case said the vote was running about 50-50 among the limited partners. However, the reorganization plan can be approved over their objections under certain conditions, and backers of the proposal said they are cautiously optimistic these conditions will be met.
A major stumbling block expected today for proponents of the plan is the continuing objections of lawyers for the limited partners, who have contended that the plan violates various provisions of the federal bankruptcy laws.
A lingering source of contention is the plan's provision for all parties to cede their right to sue former EPIC executives to the state agency that is overseeing EPIC's affairs.
Maryland officials said the provision is necessary to enlist the support of the executives in the reorganization plan, but lawyers for the limited partners contend the assignment of claims is beyond the scope of the bankruptcy court.
In recently filed court papers, lawyers for some limited partners who have sued the EPIC principals contended that the plan is designed to benefit only secured lenders, the mortgage insurers and Maryland.