The Puerto Rico Oversight Board’s Title III cases got new case numbers as Judge Laura Taylor Swain prepared to hear the record-setting municipal restructuring.

Swain filed a “notice of transfer of docket” in the cases on Thursday and announced new bankruptcy case numbers for each of the existing district court cases. “All further filings in the above-captioned cases must only be made in the Case Management/Electronic Case Files system of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico,” Swain wrote.

Puerto Rico Title III bankruptcy Judge Laura Swain introduced Chief Mediator Barbara Houser on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico Title III bankruptcy Judge Laura Swain introduced Chief Mediator Barbara Houser on Wednesday. U.S. Courts

The first Title III case, for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, was filed on May 3 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. The second Title III case, for the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp. (COFINA), was filed May 5 in the same court.

The first Title III case will now have the case number 17-bk-3283. The COFINA Title III case will now have the case number 17-bk-3284. Together the cases affect at least $30 billion of bond debt.

The order said the shift in case numbers from district to bankruptcy court case numbers was “for administration purposes only.” It indicates that the case will continue to be considered a District Court case.

The board’s May 3 filing in the first case didn’t explicitly identify what debt it was covering, except to say that the filing was for the commonwealth proper and not any of its instrumentalities. Based on that, The Bond Buyer reported that the filing applied to $52 billion of debt, consistent with figures in the fiscal plan for the commonwealth.

On May 4 the El Vocero news website reported Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the previous day’s Title III filing was primarily for GO debt and commonwealth-guaranteed Public Building Authority debt.

Moody’s Investors Service senior credit officer Ted Hampton said in a release May 8 that he believed the filing affected the commonwealth’s $13 billion general obligation debt, pointing to the list of creditors in the filing. The list included only one bond-related claim, the trustee for the GO bonds, Banco Popular, in an amount ($12.1 billion) is consistent with the amount of GO debt outstanding, Hampton said.

The board has since revised this page to replace Banco Popular with “Cede & Co. as nominee of the Depositary Trust Company.” DTC is the electronic repository for U.S. municipal bonds. The same $12.1 billion is attributed to Cede & Co. as had been attributed to Banco Popular in the original filing.

The COFINA Title III case, filed two days later, applied to $17.9 billion of bonds.

Additional Title III filings may come in the next few weeks for other Puerto Rico instrumentalities.

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