the SPARC Group, including Lucky Brand denim and Forever 21, leveraging the combination of Authentic Brands’ expertise in licensing famous brand names in various lucrative and creative (and some say equity-destructive) ways and Simon’s real estate portfolio.

At the time of the Brooks Brothers purchase, SPARC committed to keep operating at least 125 Brooks Brothers retail locations, compared with 424 retail and outlet stores globally before the pandemic.

Under the new owners, Brooks Brothers switched to wire transfers instead of checks, but kept paying rent on the warehouse through November, sending even more goods there as it closed dozens of stores and shuttered its three American factories, Mr. and Ms. LaBonte said. But after Thanksgiving, it sent a letter to the couple rejecting the lease as well as the contents of the warehouse. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, the warehouse and its contents had not been part of SPARC’s purchase of Brooks Brothers. As a result, said Mr. Van Horn said, the new owner most likely has no legal responsibility to the LaBontes.

A representative for SPARC stopped returning requests for comment.

“They used it for all of their store fixtures, so tables, props, fishing poles, canoes, everything you would see that would go in and out of a store to decorate it,” Mr. LaBonte said. “There’s probably 20,000 square feet of Christmas trees — everything except the actual merchandise.”

As to who would want it now: Customers have included local clothing makers looking for mannequins and a set designer from an upcoming HBO series called “The Gilded Age.” Last Monday, an older couple wandered through the space, looking at the Christmas decorations and empty gift boxes. Habitat for Humanity has been looking at the haul for several days and is taking some of the goods. Still, Mr. LaBonte estimated that somewhere around 30 percent of the leftovers have been sold.

The liquidator paid the LaBontes approximately $20,000 to sell what they can through mid-April or so. The couple will not receive a cut, and will deal with what’s left. When junk removal specialists assessed the cost of clearing the space in December, one quote was around $243,000 while the other was closer to $290,000.

“We’re just another Covid casualty to them, we get that,” Ms. LaBonte said of Brooks Brothers. “But I also don’t think they realized how much stuff was there.”

The junk removal firms, which confirmed the prices with The New York Times, said that it was expensive to remove the volume of goods. The costs included labor, multiple trips to dumps, donation and recycling centers, and the use of specialized equipment such as a forklift, large dumpsters and an 18-foot box truck.

“I’ve been doing this for seven years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Rick McDonald Jr., the owner of EastSide Junk, which provided the $243,000 quote to the couple. “They left an astronomical amount of stuff.”

When Authentic Brands, the licensing firm, announced the purchase of Brooks Brothers out of bankruptcy last year, Jamie Salter, the company’s chief executive, spoke about the retailer’s legacy and its “incredible history.”

The LaBontes, confronting a warehouse full of some of that history, were unhappy to see those comments.

They put out a statement recently asking: “What kind of heritage can they claim when they operate like low-rent, fly-by-night bullies?”

Contact Sapna Maheshwari at or Vanessa Friedman at

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Greensill Capital: The Collapse of a Company Built on Debt

LONDON — The courthouse should have already been closed for the day.

At a hearing that began at 5 p.m. on March 1, lawyers for Greensill Capital desperately argued before a judge in Sydney, Australia, that the firm’s insurers should be ordered to extend policies set to expire at midnight. Greensill Capital needed the insurance to back $4.6 billion it was owed by businesses around the world, and without it 50,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, they said.

The judge said no; the company had waited too long to bring the matter to court. A week later, Greensill Capital — valued at $3.5 billion less than two years ago — filed for bankruptcy in London. An international firm with 16 offices around the world, from Singapore to London to Bogotá, was insolvent.

Greensill’s dazzlingly fast failure is one of the most spectacular collapses of a global finance firm in over a decade. It has entangled SoftBank and Credit Suisse and threatens the business empire of the British steel tycoon, Sanjeev Gupta, who employs 35,000 workers throughout the world. Greensill’s problems extend to the United States, where the governor of West Virginia and his coal mining company have sued Greensill Capital for “a continuous and profitable fraud” over $850 million in loans.

At the center of it is Lex Greensill, an Australian farmer-turned-banker, who in 2011 founded his company in London as a solution to a problem: Companies want to wait as long as possible before paying for their supplies, while the companies making the supplies need their cash as soon as possible.

The Australian newspaper that he did the same for President Barack Obama in the United States.

Eventually, Mr. Cameron would become an adviser to Greensill. Julie Bishop, Australia’s former foreign minister, also joined the company as an adviser.

Greensill Capital’s defining year was 2019, when SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle built to make huge bets on disruptive technology companies, invested $1.5 billion. On the day the first of two SoftBank investments was announced, Mr. Greensill told Bloomberg TV that his company would have “multiple opportunities” to work with SoftBank and the other companies in their portfolio.

Mr. Greensill had become a billionaire.

Carillion in 2018 and the Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa, which filed for insolvency in February. Abengoa, an early customer of Greensill, narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2015 when its huge debt load — billions of euros — was revealed.

Regulators, auditors and ratings agencies have grown concerned about the lack of transparency that can make company balance sheets look stronger than they are. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked Coca-Cola to provide more details about whether it was using supply chain finance after noticing an increase in its account payables of $1.1 billion.

After pleas from accounting companies, the rules might be tightened in the United States. In October, the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board said it would start developing stronger disclosure requirements, though two months later, an international accounting board decided not to do the same.

For Greensill Capital, signs of trouble began appearing in 2018, the year before SoftBank made its big investments.

GAM, the Swiss asset manager, rocked the London financial community when it suspended one of its top fund managers, Tim Haywood. He later lost his job for “gross misconduct,” Bloomberg reported, after an internal investigation raised questions about investments he made in companies tied to Mr. Gupta, who was fast-becoming a steel and metals tycoon. The middleman in the deals, Bloomberg said, was Mr. Greensill.

The next year, Mr. Greensill’s debt funds were attracting unusual interest from SoftBank. Even as the Vision Fund was investing in Greensill, a different arm of SoftBank poured hundreds of millions into the Credit Suisse funds, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. That arrangement put SoftBank in a complex position: One division was Greensill’s largest shareholder and another was a lender to Greensill, via the Credit Suisse funds.

BaFin said it had uncovered evidence that assets linked to Mr. Gupta listed on the bank’s balance sheet did not exist.

insolvency proceedings for Greensill Bank.

an 18 million euro state-backed loan in December from Greensill Bank. But two days later, the bank abruptly pulled back the funds, said Jean-Philippe Juin, a member of the Confédération Générale du Travail labor union representing the factory, where 600 people work.

While GFG said it had “strong cash flows” across the group, the workers at the Poitou plant were warned last week that there might not be enough money to pay their salaries for March, Mr. Juin said.

“Mr. Gupta presented himself to us as a savior, with hopeful words and many promises,” Mr. Juin said. “In the end, he turned out to be an empty shell.”

Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, Matthew Goldstein and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.

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Live-event businesses will be able to apply for a relief grant program starting April 8.

A $16 billion federal relief fund for live-event businesses like music clubs, theaters, museums and concert promoters will start taking applications on April 8, according to the Small Business Administration.

“Help is here,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, the agency’s administrator, who took office this week. “This vital economic aid will provide a much-needed lifeline.”

Applicants are eligible for grants of up to $10 million from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant fund, which Congress created in the economic relief bill passed in December. Applications will be taken in phases, starting with a two-week period exclusively for businesses that lost at least 90 percent of their revenue after the pandemic took hold last year.

Groups that lobbied for the relief money are desperate for it to start flowing, but also nervous about how long it will last. With an estimated 30,000 or more businesses eligible for the grants, those in the industry fear the available funding will quickly be consumed.

many bumps along the way.

The program for shuttered venues will be the first large-scale grant program the agency has ever run, which has made creating the program’s rules and technology systems a complicated and prolonged effort.

“We realize this is an enormous undertaking for the S.B.A., and we appreciate everything the agency is doing to ensure this program is administered as Congress intended as expeditiously as possible,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the venue association. “The opening can’t come soon enough.”

And this grant fund will not be the agency’s last: The $1.9 trillion relief package passed last week included $28 billion for grants through a program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, that the S.B.A. will also create and manage.

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Fed Projects Patience Even as Economic Outlook Brightens

Federal Reserve officials signaled on Wednesday that they are in no rush to dial back support for an American economy still struggling amid the pandemic, releasing a fresh set of projections that showed the central bank’s policy interest rate on hold at near-zero for years to come even as growth is expected to pick up considerably in the near term.

The Fed slashed its policy interest rate — which guides borrowing costs throughout the economy — to rock bottom in March 2020 and chose to keep it there Wednesday, an effort to keep credit cheap and continue stoking growth. Analysts had expected the steady outcome, but were closely watching the central bank’s fresh set of economic projections, which show officials’s anonymous estimates of how conditions will evolve through 2023 and in the longer run.

The new release showed that officials have become more optimistic about the outlook for growth, unemployment, and inflation since their December estimates came out — but not to the point that they anticipate a wild overheating of the economy or expect to remove policy support rapidly. Most officials still see rates at rock-bottom over the next three years, meaning they are not penciling in a rate increase until at least 2024.

“No one should be complacent,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, noting that “the path ahead remains uncertain” and highly dependent on the virus.

post-meeting statement, noted that some parts of the economy had improved and Mr. Powell noted that participants pointed to vaccines and fiscal stimulus in revising up their economic expectations. But he noted that the unemployment rate remains elevated, and that millions of jobs are still missing.

“Indicators of economic activity and employment have turned up recently, although the sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic remain weak,” the Fed said in its policy statement, reiterating that it is “committed to using its full range of tools” to bolster growth.

The Fed’s inflation estimates now suggest that price gains will pop this year, with the headline inflation index temporarily reaching 2.4 percent before easing to 2.1 percent by the end of 2023, at the same time as unemployment falls further and more quickly.

The improving job market will come alongside a rapid rebound in overall growth. Officials see economic output growing by 6.5 percent in the final three months of 2021 versus the same period the prior year, up from 4.2 percent growth in their December projections.

“You look at their economic forecasts, they are all better,” said Priya Misra, head of rates strategy at TD Securities. “They’re telling the market that they will let inflation go above 2 percent.”

last updated its economic projections, Congress and the White House have passed two large spending packages — a $900 billion bill in December and another $1.9 trillion earlier this month. That huge infusion of government cash will put money in consumer bank accounts and could help to avert economic damage that Fed officials had worried about, like bankruptcies and evictions.

Americans are also receiving vaccinations at a steady pace, spurring hope that the pandemic might abate enough to allow hard-hit service industry companies to more fully reopen at some point this year.

To add to those positive developments, coronavirus cases themselves have eased, and the unemployment rate suggests that the economy continues to slowly heal. Joblessness fell to 6.2 percent in February, the latest Labor Department data showed, down from a peak of 14.8 percent last April.

Still, there’s a long way to go before the economy returns to full strength. A broader measure of joblessness that Fed officials often cite is around 9.5 percent, and America has about 9.5 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic took hold.

The Fed is trying to guide the economy back to full employment and stable price gains, its Congress-given goals.

Mr. Powell his colleagues have been clear that they want to see a job market that is back at full employment and inflation that is slightly above 2 percent and expected to stay there for some time before lifting interest rates.

In fact, there seemed to be a lot of consensus around leaving rates very low for a long time. Just seven officials penciled in rate increases by the end of 2023, while 11 saw that policy tool remaining on hold.

record highs.

The yield on 10-year government bonds, a closely-watched security, had jumped earlier on Wednesday.

Investors have come to expect that the Fed will not be quite as patient as they had previously anticipated against the brightening backdrop, pulling forward estimates of when the Fed might lift interest rates.

Markets are penciling in slightly higher inflation, and consumer inflation expectations have also risen mildly.

Some prominent economists and commentators have warned that the government’s big spending — which dwarfs the response to the 2008 crisis — risks pushing prices much higher by pumping so many dollars into an already-healing economy.

consistently downplayed those concerns, pointing out that the problem of the modern era has been weak prices — which could risk destabilizing outright price declines, and which saps the Fed’s ability to cut inflation-inclusive interest rates in times of trouble. If prices do take off, officials often say, they have the tools to deal with that.

Price gains are broadly expected to pop in the coming months as the data are measures against very weak readings from last year, but Mr. Powell and his colleagues draw a distinction between a temporary jump and a sustained move higher.

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Were the Airline Bailouts Really Needed?

A year ago this week, Doug Parker, the chief executive of American Airlines, flew to Washington to begin what became a yearlong lobbying campaign for a series of taxpayer-funded bailouts during the pandemic.

He wasn’t alone. The campaign also included leaders from Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Southwest Airlines — all with their hands extended. The flight attendant and pilot unions were also part of the lobbying.

A year later, as the stock market cruises to new heights, questions should be asked about the $50 billion in grants that were used to prop up the airline industry. Was it worth it? And was it necessary?

The good news is that the rescue money likely saved as many as 75,000 jobs, most remaining at full pay. And that money also kept the airlines from filing for bankruptcy, and in a position to ferry passengers all over the country to jump start economic growth as the health crisis subsides.

throw money at everything these days, from celebrity-backed blank-check companies with no profits to troubled video game retailers, Bitcoin and digital art. Why not airlines?

Even during the depths of the pandemic, in April last year, Carnival Cruise Line managed to raise $4 billion in debt from private investors, just as the airlines were still negotiating their first rescue deal with the government. That said, Carnival had to pay dearly for the money, with an interest rate of around 12 percent.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package

The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

Airline chiefs and labor union bosses convinced Congress that the industry was different — and more indispensable. They made the case that if airlines were to fall into bankruptcy, there would be no planes ready to help revive the economy when the time came. They argued that pilots couldn’t be laid off and quickly rehired, since they need to be in flight regularly or training on simulators to be certified to fly.

Would airlines have stopped flying in bankruptcy? Nope. In previous airline bankruptcies — and there have been dozens — the companies kept operating. The government could have provided financing under that scenario, similar to the way it did when it rescued General Motors in 2009, taking a major equity stake in the company so that taxpayers could share in the upside when it recovered.

the company will issue warrants that are worth about $230 million today — a small fraction of the $4 billion that the taxpayers bequeathed the carrier’s shareholders in the first round of bailouts.

Of course, we’ll never know what would have happened to the industry had it been forced to raise money on its own.

“Congress has saved thousands of airline jobs, preserved the livelihoods of our hard-working team members and helped position the industry to play a central role in the nation’s recovery from Covid-19,” Mr. Parker and a top lieutenant at American Airlines said in a statement after the latest round of bailouts last week. “Lawmakers from both parties have backed legislation that recognizes the dedication of airline professionals and the importance of the essential work they do.”

After the banking crisis of 2008 led to bailouts, the recriminations began when firms like Goldman Sachs had a banner year in the aftermath — and paid bankers record bonuses.

Will the same thing happen to the airlines? Under the terms of their bailouts, the chief executives’ compensation this year and last was capped at about half what they received before the pandemic.

Delta has already begun to issue special payments to some other managers. It says this is to compensate them in part for extra hours worked during the pandemic. “The payment of special bonuses to management while the airline is still burning cash is premature and inappropriate,” said Chris Riggins, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement this month.

The worst for the airline industry may be over, but the debate about the appropriateness of the pandemic bailouts is just getting started.

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Purdue Pharma Offers Plan to End Sackler Control and Mounting Lawsuits

In a filing that signifies the beginning of the end of the country’s most notorious manufacturer of prescription opioids, Purdue Pharma submitted its bankruptcy restructuring plan just before midnight on Monday. The blueprint requires members of the billionaire Sackler family to relinquish control of the company and transforms it into a new corporation with revenue directed exclusively toward abating the addiction epidemic that its signature painkiller, OxyContin, helped create.

The plan, more than 300 pages long, is the company’s formal bid to end thousands of lawsuits and includes a pledge from the Sacklers to pay $4.275 billion from their personal fortune — $1.3 billion more than their original offer — to reimburse states, municipalities, tribes and other plaintiffs for costs associated with the epidemic.

If the plan is approved by a majority of the company’s creditors and Judge Robert D. Drain of federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., payments will start pouring into three buckets: one to compensate individual plaintiffs, like families whose relatives overdosed or guardians of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, as well as hospitals and insurers; another for tribes; and the third — and largest — for state and local governments, which have been devastated by the costs of a drug epidemic that has only worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With drug overdoses still at record levels, it is past time to put Purdue’s assets to work addressing the crisis,” said Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors, in a statement. “We are confident this plan achieves that critical goal. ”

filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019.

pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in November for defrauding health agencies and violating anti-kickback laws.

Individual members of the Sackler family agreed to pay the federal government $225 million in civil penalties, but said in a statement that they had “acted ethically and lawfully.” Although the Sacklers were not charged criminally, the Justice Department reserved the right to pursue criminal charges later.

recent public health principles that were signed by at least two dozen major medical, drug policy and academic institutions and that include attention to drug prevention, youth education, racial equity and transparency.

The plan will be voted on by tens of thousands of parties. Confirmation hearings will ensue, and a conclusion is expected in a few months. From the start of the bankruptcy proceedings 18 months ago, leaders of a major bloc of municipalities signaled their support, as did 24 states.

Lloyd B. Miller, who represents numerous tribes including the Navajo Nation, said his clients were on board.

“It’s critical that more opioid treatment funding starts flowing into tribal communities, all the more so given the extraordinary devastation tribes have suffered during the Covid pandemic,” he said.

But since 2019, when Purdue filed for bankruptcy, 24 other states — some controlled by Democrats, others by Republicans — and the District of Columbia have opposed the move, noting that Purdue has continued to profit from its OxyContin sales.

Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, who was the first to sue individual members of the Sackler family, contended that under this plan, the Sackler payments would come from their investment returns rather than from principal.

“The Sacklers became billionaires by causing a national tragedy,” Ms. Healey said in a statement. “They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it by paying a fraction of their investment returns over the next nine years and walking away richer than they are today.”

Attorneys general for the opposing states said that although the plan was an improvement over earlier proposals, they still found it disappointing for several reasons. Among those, they said, the plan should be amended to establish “a prompt and orderly wind-down of the company that does not excessively entangle it with states and other creditors.”

Two branches of the Sackler family — heirs of two of the brothers who founded the company — said: “Today marks an important step toward providing help to those who suffer from addiction, and we hope this proposed resolution will signal the beginning of a far-reaching effort to deliver assistance where it is needed.”

The eldest brother, Dr. Arthur Sackler, sold his shares before OxyContin was introduced and his relatives are not part of the litigation.

A forensic audit of the Sacklers’ finances, commissioned by Purdue in the course of the bankruptcy investigations, determined that from 2008 to 2017 the family earned more than $10 billion from the company. Lawyers for the family said that the full amount was not liquid: More than half went toward taxes and investments in businesses that will be sold as part of the bankruptcy agreement.

Although states and other blocs of creditors have vociferously objected to elements of the plan for 18 months, many factors seem to favor the likelihood of approval: the duration of the litigation, the exorbitant cost to all parties, the urgency of the worsening opioid crisis and the overall depletion of public health resources by the coronavirus pandemic.

The new company would continue to sell OxyContin, a painkiller that is still approved by the Food and Drug Administration under limited circumstances. But it would diversify its products to include generics and a drug to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as set aside new drugs to reverse overdoses and treat addiction, to be distributed on a nonprofit basis as a public health initiative.

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Paper Source Files for Bankruptcy, Frustrating Cardmakers

“Hell hath no fury like a stationer scorned.”

That was the opening salvo of an Instagram post last week from Lisa Krowinski, founder of Sapling Press, a letterpress design and print shop in Pittsburgh. Ms. Krowinski was reeling after Paper Source, the stationery chain with 158 stores, abruptly filed for bankruptcy on March 2. Her five-person business had fulfilled big orders from the chain in January and February, and was owed more than $20,000 for items like Father’s Day cards and tea towels.

The post attracted a slew of comments from other frustrated cardmakers — a niche industry dominated by female entrepreneurs — who were also concerned about whether they would get paid. Paper Source sent an email to vendors a day after it filed for bankruptcy, saying they would be paid in full for goods provided on or after March 2, and to file claims to retrieve the rest.

“As a community, we feel that we’ve been taken advantage of in a way that no small business should have been, especially coming off a pandemic,” said Ms. Krowinski, 46, who sold goods to Paper Source for nine years. “It hurt extra hard.”

Paper Source, founded in 1983, is the latest national retailer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection during the pandemic, a process that companies from J.C. Penney to J.Crew have used to keep their brands alive while getting out of store leases and cutting debt.

Ms. Velencia said most of what she was owed came from orders this year. Sapling Press said it received its biggest order in months from Paper Source at the start of February. Steel Petal Press, a Chicago stationery and gift shop, said that it was waiting on five outstanding payments from Paper Source, including three orders made before the bankruptcy that it was asked to rush out.

“There was no reason to rush through a $7,000 Father’s Day order — those cards were not going on the shelf in the middle of February,” Ms. Krowinski of Sapling Press said.

to lenders by the end of May. Paper Source declined to comment on specific costs tied to its debt.

Many vendors said they understood that Paper Source was challenged by the pandemic. But while Paper Source can restructure, there is no guarantee of when or how much its suppliers will get paid.

“I don’t think anyone’s mad at Paper Source for filing for bankruptcy,” said Kyle Durrie, who owns Power and Light Press in Silver City, N.M., and is owed about $8,000 from Paper Source. “Where I think this is really hitting a lot of us hard is just feeling like we’re being taken advantage of, and we have no rights or recourse because of how small we are.”

While some vendors said that they would not work with Paper Source anymore, Ms. Park said she was optimistic that relations would improve with more education.

“Bankruptcy is a well-worn path for those professionals who engage in it and do it every day,” she said. “For a community like Paper Source that’s never been through it, or our makers who have never been through it, it is confusing.”

Gillian Friedman contributed reporting.

Contact Sapna Maheshwari at

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Annmarie Reinhart Smith, Who Battled for Retail Workers, Dies at 61

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Annmarie Reinhart Smith had worked for Toys “R” Us for nearly three decades when the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017, leading to store closings and the layoffs of 33,000 workers, including her. Left without severance pay, she vented her frustration on a Facebook page called the Dead Giraffe Society, named after the store’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe.

A labor advocacy group that was helping Toys “R” Us workers mobilize to demand compensation, like severance and back pay, took notice and recruited her.

Mrs. Reinhart Smith was soon on Capitol Hill, chasing down legislators and meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Cory Booker, among others, to ask for their support. She joined with other former employees to march in protest through Manhattan, shouldering a mock coffin for Geoffrey.

recent profile, like one who threw a Power Ranger figurine at her, leaving a scar on her forehead.

In 2005, the private equity firms Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the real estate firm Vornado Realty Trust took control of the company with a leveraged buyout that left it burdened with $5 billion in debt.

Terrysa Guerra, the political director of United For Respect, the group that recruited Mrs. Reinhart Smith, credited her with helping push Bain and K.K.R. to create the hardship fund. “People saw her as a leader and a trusted voice,” Ms. Guerra said.

On the Dead Giraffe Society’s Facebook page, people who once mocked Mrs. Reinhart Smith’s seemingly futile battle thanked her and the other labor leaders for winning the payouts, even if it was only enough to buy a week of groceries or pay a month’s rent.

While Mrs. Reinhart Smith called the subsequent $2 million bankruptcy settlement “a slap in the face,” the case was considered precedent-setting. Former employees at Shopko and Art Van Furniture, which both also recently filed for bankruptcy protection and closed, have since followed a similar playbook in fighting for hardship funds and severance, Ms. Guerra said.

Mrs. Reinhart Smith remained involved in labor advocacy — helping workers from other retailers organize, pushing for Congress to pass a bill called the Stop Wall Street Looting Act aimed at private equity, and campaigning for a $15 minimum wage.

“If she thought people were being stepped on, she would just step up and be the spokesman, whether that person wanted it or not,” Mr. Smith, her husband, said. “She was just that type of person.”

She continued to work in retail, most recently at a Belk department store in Durham. Belk, also heavily burdened with debt after a leveraged buyout, filed for bankruptcy protection in February but quickly emerged after a reorganization of its finances.

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