Felix Salmon at Reuters caught something interesting:
[T]he facts of the case are pretty clear. The relationship between JP Morgan and Televisa goes back decades, and so JP Morgan was the natural choice for Televisa to turn to when it decided to buy a fiber-optic cable company called Bestel for $325 million, $225 million of which was to come from Televisa subsidiary Cablevisión.
JP Morgan intended to syndicate the loan, but the timing was bad: the deal closed in 2008, when credit markets were all but closed, and as a result JP Morgan ended up owning all of it. After an attempt by Televisa to help JP Morgan syndicate the loan fell through, JP Morgan then turned to Inbursa, Carlos Slim’s bank.
This was not an obvious choice from the point of view of serving one’s client. Slim and Cablevisión compete fiercely in the telecommunications space, where Slim is the dominant monopolist and Cablevisión is selling telephony and internet access in competition with him. And the rivalry is all the tougher due to the history between the two groups: Slim used to be a major shareholder in Televisa, and to this day Inbursa owns a 22% stake in Cablevisión.
Now there were two ways of selling this loan: JP Morgan could either assign it to Inbursa, which would require Cablevisión’s permission, or else it could participate it to Inbursa, which would not. At first, JPM tried to assign the loan, but unsurprisingly Cablevisión refused to grant their permission for that deal to happen.
You can imagine what happened next: JP Morgan dressed up the "assignment" as a "participation." As Judge Rakoff described it in his order,
JP Morgan, acting in bad faith, used the guise of a purported “participation” to effectuate what is in substance a forbidden assignment, with unusual provisions demanded by Inbursa that are calculated to give Inbursa exactly what the assignment veto in the Credit Agreement was designed to prevent. JP Morgan thereby violated, at a minimum, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing automatically implied by law in the Credit Agreement…
Televisa’s request for a preliminary injunction halting the agreement was thus granted.
Salmon wonders what JPMorgan’s response to all these allegations is:
So for JP Morgan’s side of the story, all I have to go on is their 40-page memorandum of law in the case, which is quite narrowly legalistic, which was roundly rejected by Rakoff, and which obviously can’t respond to Rakoff’s ruling since it was filed before Rakoff made his ruling.
Since JPMorgan moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, they, like Televisa, were entitled to submit affidavits in support of their position, and it appears they submitted declarations from "Sheldon L. Pollock" and "Jaquelina Truzzell." Both declarations have been unsealed by Judge Rakoff’s order, but neither is on the docket.
I doubt the declarations say much; JPMorgan’s memorandum of law primarily references the Pollock and Truzzell declarations when discussing side matters, like telephone calls and Televisa’s motives for opposing the assignment / participation. Truzzell apparently affirms there are "no side agreements" with Inbursa and that JPMorgan would not release "confidential" information, but that’s it. There’s nothing about how JPMorgan came to participation terms with Inbursa that, at least on their face, entitle Inbursa to a treasure trove of information about Televisa, far more than provided by JPMorgan’s standard participation agreement.
Which I find telling. Though the standard response of most defendants is — for tactical reasons like avoiding getting pinned down to a particular version of events — to "deny and delay" rather than to come forth with an affirmative opposition, under the facts here, JPMorgan really needed to make a better showing. Here’s the full quote (excerpted above) from Judge Rakoff’s order:
In opposing a preliminary injunction, JPMorgan argues that the Participation Agreement is technically consistent with the Credit Agreement. Superficially, this may be correct. For example, with respect to Cablevisión’s concerns about confidential information, the Credit Agreement permits disclosure of information about the borrower, not just to assignees (who can be vetoed) but also to participants (who cannot), provided that such information is given on a confidential basis. Credit Agreement § 9.16(f)(i). This includes “all information received from the Borrower . . . relating to the Borrower, any of its Related Parties or their respective businesses.” Id. § 9.16. Similarly, there is no express restriction in the Credit Agreement on providing a participant with its pro-rata share of fees received by the lender or an option of first refusal for any further transfer of the loan. Finally, under the Credit Agreement, assignment of the loan without borrower consent is expressly permitted when there is an Event of Default. Id. § 9.04(b)(i).
But this narrow focus obscures the gist of Cablevisión’s argument, which is that JPMorgan, acting in bad faith, used the guise of a purported “participation” to effectuate what is in substance a forbidden assignment, with unusual provisions demanded by Inbursa that are calculated to give Inbursa exactly what the assignment veto in the Credit Agreement was designed to prevent. JPMorgan thereby violated, at a minimum, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing automatically implied by law in the Credit Agreement.
The Court agrees.
JPMorgan could have done more factually, rather than just legally, to rebut the appearance of bad faith. But they didn’t; they just argued that they were entitled to do what they did, rather than show that their conduct with Inbursa was appropriate.
Such silence could be, in part, an attempt by JPMorgan to protect Inbursa’s confidences, which arguably would have been appropriate. (I say "arguably" because the totality of the circumstances here — primarily Inbursa’s attempt to negotiate terms more favorable than those typically provided by a participation agreement — imply that Inbursa has waived its right to keep those discussions confidential from Televisa.) But there’s nothing on the docket reflecting an attempt to have Judge Rakoff review any pertinent materials in camera, and so there’s no reason for us to speculate that JPMorgan’s silence was a product of confidentiality.
It thus may be more appropriate to speculate that JPMorgan’s silence was the product of not having a good defense. Again: facts win cases. "Technically consistent" legal arguments don’t.