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Canadian Commercial Paper Plan Likely to Be Approved

 

By Joe Schneider

 

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- A Canadian judge will probably approve a plan to convert C$32 billion ($31.8 billion) of frozen commercial paper to new notes by the end of the week, though court appeals may keep investors waiting months to get their money back.

 

``I will have a decision with reasons by Friday,'' Ontario Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell said at the end of a hearing in Toronto today. ``I'll approve,'' unless there's something in his notes that convinces him to change his mind, the judge said.

 

Lawyers representing some of the noteholders have already indicated they plan to appeal Campbell's ruling once it comes out. Some investors object to the plan's limitations on lawsuits targeted at the banks and brokers that sold the paper, which hasn't traded since August.

 

James Woods, who represents 18 companies that want to sue including pharmacy chain Jean Coutu Group Inc., said if the judge rules as he indicated, his group will likely file to the Court of Appeal.

 

``If we find fraud against banks that are not ABCP dealers, there is no recourse,'' Woods said, urging the judge to reject the proposal at today's hearing. ``It's inconceivable.''

 

New notes may be issued as early as the end of June if there are no appeals, said Purdy Crawford, a lawyer who led a group of foreign and Canadian banks and pension funds that drafted the proposal. All appeals must be exhausted before the notes are issued, he said.

 

Quick Appeal

 

``We can't close until we get the sanction,'' Crawford told reporters. ``I am assured by our lawyers that the Court of Appeal will agree to an expedited hearing.''

 

The insolvent asset-backed paper hasn't traded since August, when investors shunned the debt on concerns about links to high-risk mortgage loans in the U.S.

 

A group of foreign banks as well as Canadian lenders and pension funds led by Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec negotiated the so-called Montreal Proposal in August. The plan would convert the insolvent 30- to 90-day debt into new notes maturing within nine years.

 

Banks agreed to provide funding to back the new notes on the condition that they be given immunity from any lawsuits stemming from the sale of the notes.

 

Campbell said in a May 16 ruling he wasn't satisfied protection from lawsuits over potentially criminal conduct such as fraud was fair, and he delayed approval. The banks agreed to change the plan to allow limited suits under certain conditions within nine weeks following the plan's approval.

 

Possible Fraud

 

Campbell criticized the lawyers opposing the plan for failing to provide examples of potential outstanding fraud.

 

``So we defeat the plan on the off chance that there is something out there?'' Campbell asked.

 

Once the new notes are issued, investors can hold them to maturity or try to trade them in the secondary market. Some clients of Canaccord Capital Inc. will be paid in full for their debt, under an agreement announced by the Vancouver-based brokerage in April.

 

The case is Between the Investors Represented on the Pan- Canadian Investors Committee for Third-Party Structured Asset- Backed Commercial Paper and Metcalfe & Mansfield Alternative Investments II Corp., 08-CL-7740, Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Toronto).

 

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Schneider in Toronto at [email protected].

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/index.html?Intro=intro3

 

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