On March 27, 2013, Judge Sean Lane of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York approved the $11 billion merger of US Airways Group and AMR Corporation effective upon confirmation of the AMR debtors’ chapter 11 plan. Upon completion of the merger, a new entity – “Newco,” for present purposes – will survive. In his March 27 ruling, Judge Lane declined to approve a proposed $20 million severance payment by Newco to Thomas Horton, the current Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation. Shortly thereafter, Judge Lane issued a written opinion explaining his reasoning for denying the proposed severance payment and in it, foreclosed an attempt to approve a severance package free from the strict standards of Section 503(c) of the Bankruptcy Code.
In connection with the proposed merger, the AMR debtors sought Bankruptcy Court approval of employee compensation and benefit arrangements (the “Employee Arrangements”) falling into three categories (i) Ordinary Course Changes; (ii) Employee Protection Arrangements; and (iii) the CEO severance payment. Though the US Trustee initially objected to all three Employee Arrangements, she eventually withdrew her objections to all but the CEO severance payment.