Jacques El-Chayeb 3L Wins National Bankruptcy Writing Competition

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Jacques El-Chayeb

Jacques El-Chayeb 3L won first place in the ninth annual American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) Law Student Writing Competition for his paper on environmental issues in bankruptcy.

El-Chayeb’s paper, “Caught in a Vicious CERCLA: GM’s Environmental Turnaround,” focuses on the environmental challenges facing General Motors’ late 2000s bankruptcy reorganization—one of the largest in American history. The paper received the highest overall score from a panel of judges that included top bankruptcy practitioners and a bankruptcy judge.

“Enthused by discussions in courses led by Professors Melissa B. Jacoby, C. Steven Mason and Jonas J. Monast, I crafted the paper in part to bring the complexities of overlapping legal frameworks into fuller view,” El-Chayeb says. “GM’s reorganization provided an outstanding opportunity to evaluate the intersection of bankruptcy and environmental laws within our nation’s broader legal system.”

El-Chayeb receives a $2,000 prize and his paper will be published in the June issue of ABI Journal.

At the time of reorganization, GM was the third-largest owner of industrial property in the United States, with most of its properties contaminated. Such environmental liabilities posed a major challenge to the company’s ambition to continue operations and return to profitability.

The paper notes that GM’s argument for reorganization regularly referenced the stability of American working communities as a main reason for its survival, but environmental legislation also emphasizes American endurance by fighting against actions that would otherwise pollute populations.

“The most pressing question then becomes how, if at all, to reach a consensus on American values to make these seemingly divergent ends meet,” El-Chayeb says. “My paper assesses the series of court decisions comprising the GM reorganization, and the advanced risk management and remedial cost estimation methods bridging this ostensible gap.”

With a background in property acquisition, development and management, El-Chayeb plans to advise on an array of complex issues throughout the real estate industry after graduation.

The 2017 judging panel included Ira Herman (Blank Rome LLP), Vincent Lazar (Jenner & Block LLP) and the Honorable Kevin Carey (U.S. Bankruptcy Court - D. Del).

“To win this prize from the American Bankruptcy Institute, the largest association of restructuring professionals and leading provider of continuing legal education, is a huge honor,” says Jacoby, Graham Kenan Professor of Law, who teaches bankruptcy. “The ABI Journal is read by thousands of people across the country and, indeed, around the world. I am thrilled to see this level of recognition given to Jacques’ work. Attention to the clash between financial distress and other policy priorities, such as in environmental law, is precisely the kind of challenging but essential work we hope Carolina Law students and alumni will tackle.”

-April 26, 2017

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