What Will Happen to My Stock or Bond?
A company's securities may continue to trade even after the company has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. In most instances, companies that file under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code are generally unable to meet the listing standards to continue to trade on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange. However, even when a company is delisted from one of these major stock exchanges, their shares may continue to trade on either the OTCBB or the Pink Sheets. There is no federal law that prohibits trading of securities of companies in bankruptcy.
Note: Investors should be cautious when buying common stock of companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is extremely risky and is likely to lead to financial loss. Although a company may emerge from bankruptcy as a viable entity, generally, the creditors and the bondholders become the new owners of the shares. In most instances, the company's plan of reorganization will cancel the existing equity shares. This happens in bankruptcy cases because secured and unsecured creditors are paid from the company's assets before common stockholders. And in situations where shareholders do participate in the plan, their shares are usually subject to substantial dilution.
If the company does come out of bankruptcy, there may be two different types of common stock, with different ticker symbols, trading for the same company. One is the old common stock (the stock that was on the market when the company went into bankruptcy), and the second is the new common stock that the company issued as part of its reorganization plan. If the old common stock is traded on the OTCBB or on the Pink Sheets, it will have a five-letter ticker symbol that ends in "Q," indicating that the stock was involved with bankruptcy proceedings. The ticker symbol for the new common stock will not end in "Q". Sometimes the new stock may not have been issued by the company, although it has been authorized. In that situation, the stock is said to be trading "when issued," which is shorthand for "when, as, and if issued." The ticker symbol of stock that is trading "when issued" will end with a "V". Once the company actually issues the newly authorized stock, the "V" will no longer appear at the end of the ticker symbol. Be sure you know which shares you are purchasing, because the old shares that were issued before the company filed for bankruptcy may be worthless if the company has emerged from bankruptcy and has issued new common stock.
During bankruptcy, bondholders will stop receiving interest and principal payments, and stockholders will stop receiving dividends. If you are a bondholder, you may receive new stock in exchange for your bonds, new bonds, or a combination of stock and bonds. If you are a stockholder, the trustee may ask you to send back your old stock in exchange for new shares in the reorganized company. The new shares may be fewer in number and may be worth less than your old shares. The reorganization plan will spell out your rights as an investor, and what you can expect to receive, if anything, from the company.
The bankruptcy court may determine that stockholders don't get anything because the debtor is insolvent. (A debtor's solvency is determined by the difference between the value of its assets and its liabilities.) If the company's liabilities are greater than its assets, your stock may be worthless. Contact your local Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office or call 1-800-829-1040 for information about how to report worthless securities as a loss on your income tax return. If you don't know whether your stock has value, and you can't find a stock or bond price in the newspaper, ask your broker or the company for information.