Judge denies hiring financial advisor in church bankruptcy case

CATHEDRAL-BASILICA: The Dulce Nombre De Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña photographed on Feb. 25. A federal judge on Wednesday denied an application to hire a financial advisor, which would have cost up to $75,000 a month, in the Archdiocese of Agana's two-year-old bankruptcy case. Post file photo

A federal judge on Wednesday denied the hiring of a financial advisor, which would have cost up to $75,000 a month, in the Archdiocese of Agana's two-year-old bankruptcy case.

The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which includes survivors of child sexual abuse by dozens of Catholic priests on Guam, filed the application to hire a financial advisor last year.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood's March 31 decision denies the committee's application to employ Ankura Consulting Group LLC as their financial advisor.

The judge said the denial is based on the same reasons stated in her April 24, 2020 order in which she reminded the parties in the bankruptcy case "that the Debtor here is not Lehman Brothers," referring to a global financial services firm.

At the time, the judge was already inclined to deny the application, saying the debtor, or the archdiocese, "simply cannot afford it."

"It has nothing to do with Ankura's qualifications or expertise, or the Committee gathering assistance from a financial advisor. The bottom line is, even with the proposed cap of $75,000 per month for the next four months, such fees are exorbitant," the judge wrote last year.

The judge had said the more money spent on professional fees means less money for each survivor.

The creditors committee said the archdiocese's refusal to release pertinent documents related to its finances and property assets prompted them to seek a financial advisor. The committee said the advisor will also investigate discrepancies in the archdiocese's financial reports.

While the archdiocese has yet to pay any of the nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse claimants, it has already paid or was ordered to pay more than $4.3 million in legal fees and other professional fees since 2019.

The archdiocese sought bankruptcy protection in January 2019 to try to compensate abuse claimants while keeping all Catholic parishes and schools open. 

The archdiocese disclosed in early 2020 a $21 million restitution plan for the abuse claimants that the survivors' attorneys said has little hope of confirmation. The U.S. Trustee, under the U.S. Department of Justice, said there's not much progress in the archdiocese bankruptcy case two years on.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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