Women in Credit

In Conversation With Rachel Albanese (DLA Piper), Jennifer Marines (MoFo), Amy Caton (Kramer Levin) & Jennifer Selendy (Selendy Gay)

We are truly excited to ask these industry veterans their take on the latest industry trends, how they have navigated all the twists and turns of their careers, and what they see looking into the crytsal ball.

CRC: Let’s get to know each other. What was your favorite TV show growing up?

Rachel Albanese: Growing Pains. It had the best storylines, plus Kirk Cameron.

Amy Caton: L.A. Law was a big favorite.  I admit it: I wanted to be Grace Van Owen (Susan Dey). 

Jennifer Marines: A consistent favorite was Beverly Hills, 90210 â€“ cheesy dialogue, teen angst, epic love triangles.  
Jennifer Selendy: When I was about 10 years old, I saw and fell in love with a series called The Paper Chase.

CRC: How did you find your way into restructuring? Was it predestined or it just happened that way. Any twists and turns along the way?

Rachel Albanese: After law school, I clerked for a US district judge, and I found the bankruptcy appeals I worked on among the most interesting. I also enjoyed my law school bankruptcy classes with David Skeel (Penn professor and chairman of the Federal Oversight and Management Board in Puerto Rico). Those two things suggested I would enjoy working in restructuring—and I was right.

Amy Caton: I found bankruptcy in law school through Professor Jay Westbrook (co-writer of The Law of Debtors and Creditors, with Elizabeth Warren).  I took three classes with Professor Westbrook, and was hooked. 

Jennifer Marines: No one says, “I want be a bankruptcy lawyer when I grow up.† At least not unless you are a child of a Bankruptcy great.  Fortunately, I fell into restructuring when offered a summer internship clerking for Judge Bernstein during his tenure as Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Court for the SDNY.  Following that, everything fell into place. 

Jennifer Selendy: As a young partner at Kirkland, I found my way to bankruptcy litigation and have enjoyed having all sorts of bankruptcy-related litigation as part of my practice since then.

CRC: Tell us about someone influential in your career. How did you develop that relationship, what did you learn from that person and how did it prepare you for the path you took?

Rachel Albanese: Judge Lisa Beckerman. She and I worked together at Akin, where we shared an office wall for almost five years. She is an encyclopedic bankruptcy resource and a thoughtful mentor. 

Amy Caton: My client Sue Rhudy, who was the co-head of research on the municipal desk at Citibank.  I first worked with Sue on Northwest Airlines.  Everyone loves Sue – she is smart, humble, and so complimentary of others. I hope I picked up Sue’s generosity of spirit, and her desire to match good people with good people.  

Jennifer Marines: My mother had the most influence over my career path.  Growing up, I watched her succeed in a predominately male-driven industry, in a job that required extensive hours and frequent travel.  My mother was passionate about her career and thrived in fast-paced, high-pressure environments.   

Jennifer Selendy: Looking back, I realize my husband, Philippe Selendy, has been extremely influential.  He always supported my career and never treated my work as less important than his. He and Faith Gay finally persuaded me to start Selendy Gay with them and while I only reluctantly agreed, it turned out to be a transformational step.  The last six years have been the most fun of my career.

CRC: How do you stay grounded in the world of (dis)stressed? Morning routine? Exercise? 

Rachel Albanese: Kickboxing (bags, not people).

Amy Caton: I’ve gotten into HIIT weightlifting workouts recently.  My teenager daughters also keep me grounded – they are so fun to be around (really), and they keep me up to date on the latest trends and slang, even if they won’t let me use them.  And I prefer a glass of Cornas.

Jennifer Marines: Make a solid group of friends in the industry. Having a network of trusted friends and colleagues isn’t just critical to succeeding in a relationship-driven industry, it’s essential to maintaining one’s sanity.

Jennifer Selendy: My family keeps me grounded.  The remote waters of coastal of Maine help me to relax and spend much-needed time outdoors.  A nice Bordeaux or a Pappy 23 doesn’t hurt.  Karaoke with my SG team exercises my inner rock star.

What’s your learned advice for up and comers?

Rachel Albanese: Confidence is key whether you’re advising clients or making investments. Do the work to get smart on the situation but be confident in your advice and decisions.

Amy Caton: Think of yourself as a firm of one.  No one is going to mentor you better than you.  If you are doing great work, you are an asset, and you will have more latitude than you may realize to specialize, but you have to both speak up for yourself and be flexible (and keep doing great work). 

Jennifer Marines: see above! 

Jennifer Selendy: Do what you love. There are so many things one can do with a law degree, if you really love what you are doing, it will not feel like work.

CRC: Commercial real estate? Big Thud or Small Dud?

Rachel Albanese: TBD. The day of reckoning is coming, but it’s not clear when. Many lenders don’t want to own the distressed assets, so they may agree to amend and extend. Some CRE landlords may decide to give the keys back rather than deal with the problem. In particular, NYC, Chicago and San Francisco have a lot of CMBS distress that needs to be addressed.

Amy Caton: Something in between. There still seems to be a workout cycle coming for commercial real estate that has been postponed due to the numerous amends and extends.  But now we finally have an extended period of higher interest rates that make refinancings more difficult.  

Jennifer Marines: Big Thud.  Underutilization and over-leverage will keep the distressed real estate market busy for quite some time. 

Jennifer Selendy: Maybe somewhere in between.  I think there will be winners and losers as the sector transforms and innovates to respond to new ways of living and working with technology. 

CRC: When we look back on 2024:

What will be the biggest restructuring controversy of 2024:

Rachel Albanese: Venue.

Amy Caton: The Supreme Court rendering a decision on third party releases.  If the Supreme Court rules against third party releases, it’s going to be messy.

Jennifer Marines: Non-consensual releases of direct third-party claims against a non-debtor.

What will be the biggest restructuring theme of 2024?

Rachel Albanese: Liability management exercises (LMEs).

Amy Caton: I don’t know if it will hit in 2024, but I continue to think natural disasters will continue to roil large utility companies.  That, and more creditor-on-creditor violence.    

Jennifer Marines: The use of bankruptcy protections to address mass-tort liability.

Who will be some of winners?

Rachel Albanese: NJ bankruptcy practitioners; lenders on the right side of the LMEs; lawyers challenging and defending LMEs.

Amy Caton: Gibson Dunn, apparently.   Large and active investors.  Equitization through DIPs.  And new money in general is more of a winner than ever.

Jennifer Marines: Strategic and financial purchasers looking to pick up assets on the cheap.

And losers?

Rachel Albanese: Lenders on the wrong side of the LMEs.

Amy Caton: Postpetition interest at the federal judgment rate in a solvent debtor case. Equity should not receive a distribution before unsecured creditors are paid what they are contractually owed unless the class votes to receive otherwise.  Let’s hope this issue is put to bed.

Jennifer Marines: Regional banks, commercial real estate, health care, retail.

Responses have been edited for brevity and consistency.