Jared Ellias has been named to the American Bankruptcy Institute’s “40 Under 40” list for his study of the epic PG&E bankruptcy in California and leadership in how Congress should respond to the pandemic-induced economic crisis.
Ellias, the Bion M. Gregory Chair in Business Law and Faculty Director of UC Law SF’ Center for Business Law, was one of only two academics named to the list. A past recipient of the UC Law SF Foundation Faculty Award for Faculty Scholarship, the highest research award given by the college, he was an easy pick by almost any measure.
Ellias specializes in the study of corporate bankruptcies. “Jared’s work is an evidence-based approach to some of the most important questions facing Chapter 11 practice,” said Prof. Robert Lawless of the University of Illinois College of Law, who is among those who nominated Ellias for the honor.
“This is a well-deserved award for Jared,” said Harvard Law Prof. Mark Roe, who teaches corporate and bankruptcy law and is a recent co-author with Ellias of scholarly work. “He has delivered excellent scholarship, as well as leadership in finding ways to get consensus and unanimity among a wide group of bankruptcy academics in recommending bankruptcy fixes to Congress for dealing with the COVID-19 economy.”
Seemingly tireless, Ellias recently published Bankruptcy Hardball, co-authored with Robert J. Stark, in the California Law Review. He also has two forthcoming publications: Estimating the Need for Additional Bankruptcy Judges in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic (with Benjamin C. Iverson and Mark J. Roe) and Delaware Corporate Law and the ‘End of History’ in Creditor Protection (with Robert J. Stark).
PG&E Bankruptcy Work
Ellias is called frequently to advise state and federal lawmakers. He testified twice before the California legislature in connection with the PG&E bankruptcy, the largest utility bankruptcy in U.S. history. “While the legislators knew they wanted to help fire victims,” he said, “they needed help in understanding in the intricacies of the bankruptcy system.” Ellias explained the process in this video.
Lawmakers remain grateful for his guidance. “Prof. Ellias’ incisive analyses of the impact of PG&E‘s bankruptcy filing in 2019 and its aftermath were key to policy I proposed and to policy California lawmakers and leaders considered in order to better position our state for safety and security moving forward,” State Sen. Jerry Hill said. As an Assemblymember, Hill represented California’s 19th District, which includes the city of San Bruno, where in 2010 a faulty PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded, killing eight people and leveling a neighborhood.
“Prof. Ellias was generous with his time and in sharing the impressive depth and breadth of his knowledge and experience in the field of bankruptcy law,” Hill said. “I cannot think of anyone more fitting to be included among ABI’s honorees.”
Guidance for Washington Lawmakers
Ellias has also urged Congress to appoint more bankruptcy judges to handle pandemic-related filings, and has written about what kind of recovery financing should be available to distressed companies. He is the chair of the Large Corporate Bankruptcy Scholars COVID-19 Committee, one of four committees that make up a larger working group of scholars studying financial distress related to COVID-19. The committee Ellias chairs includes nearly two dozen top scholars from multiple institutions.
Ellias is widely quoted, including by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, Bloomberg News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Recently, his commentary has focused on “retention bonuses” that troubled companies pay to top executives, often millions of dollars doled out months or even weeks prior to filing for bankruptcy, which currently are not subject to “clawback” provisions in the bankruptcy court. “This doesn’t feel right,” he told the New York Times, “and it doesn’t instill public confidence in the bankruptcy system.”
Ellias recently released a new working paper, “Bankruptcy Process for Sale,” co-authored with Ken Ayotte, that discusses debtor-in-possession loan agreements and recovery financing. Lawless said that Ellias’ work strives to create a more equitable process.
UC Law SF Center for Business Law
In addition to his teaching, research, and advisory pursuits, Ellias founded the UC Law SF Center for Business Law, a hub for leading scholars, business leaders, practitioners, regulators, and students to engage on cutting-edge topics in business law. The center recently brought on Evan Epstein as executive director. The Center for Business Law Webinar Series engages top scholars and key regulators from around the country to discuss current issues in the economy, including compliance, enforcement, bankruptcy law, and venture capital.
Ellias is a key organizer of the annual UC Law SF/UCLA Anderson Forecast, which assesses the regional and national economic outlook. He spoke at the most recent program, on Nov. 12, about how COVID-19 has affected bankruptcy, business law, and corporate practices.
Not only a scholar, Ellias is an inspiring mentor for students.
“Prof. Ellias believed in me before I believed in myself,” said Danisha Brar ’16, who recently concluded a clerkship with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali, who oversaw the PG&E bankruptcy case. She is now working at Keller Benvenutti Kim, a corporate bankruptcy, restructuring, and crisis management law firm based in San Francisco.
“He extends this level of support to each of his students,” Brar said. “It does not matter if you perform well in his classes or if you come from a financial/business studies background—he is happy to engage with any of his students if they show interest in bankruptcy. This is why Prof. Ellias produces confident and curious attorneys: He voraciously supports his students and ensures that each one has a path to the opportunity they seek.”