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(This report contains items about companies both in bankruptcy and not in bankruptcy. Adds Solyndra as first item; Washington Mutual, Sbarro and Taylor Bean in Updates; William Lyon Homes and Kodak in Watch List; and Dune Energy in Prepack or Exchange Offer.)
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Solyndra LLC didn’t file papers by yesterday’s deadline opposing a request by the U.S. Trustee to appoint a Chapter 11 trustee. Instead, the bankrupt solar-panel maker sought authorization to hire R. Todd Neilson as chief restructuring officer.
Neilson will “effectively replace the debtor’s CEO, Brian Harrison, who left the company as scheduled on Oct. 7,” Solyndra said in court papers.
The U.S. Trustee filed a motion for appointment of a Chapter 11 trustee one week after Harrison and Chief Financial Officer Wilbur G. Stover Jr. invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions posed by a congressional committee.
Neilson served in a similar capacity in the Chapter 11 case of beverage maker Le-Nature’s Inc., whose former chief executive officer pleaded guilty to charges of masterminding an $800 million fraud.
Solyndra’s creditors’ committee did file papers opposing appointment of a trustee, who would supplant management. The committee argued in papers to the bankruptcy judge in Delaware that a trustee would “not benefit the sale process” and would have a “likely negative impact.”
The committee contended that there have been “no substantiated claims of any wrongdoing,” although Solyndra has “been the subject of highly publicized political discussion and negative press.”
The hearing where the judge will decide on appointing a trustee is set for Oct. 17. Bankruptcy law calls for a trustee on a showing of “cause,” including gross mismanagement or fraud by current management. By replacing Harrison with a restructuring officer, Solyndra may be laying the groundwork for an argument that any arguably culpable officers are no longer with the company, thus removing the basis for a trustee.
In September, the bankruptcy judge authorized Solyndra to auction the business on Oct. 27. Bids were to be due Oct. 25, with a hearing to approve the sale on Nov. 2. In yesterday’s court filing, the committee said it is negotiating with the company for a “brief extension of the sale timelines.”
For details on the U.S. Trustee’s motion for a trustee, click here for the Oct. 3 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.
Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on Sept. 6 and was raided two days later by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Operations halted in late August. The startup business was financed in part with a $535 million loan guaranteed by the U.S. government.
Based in Fremont, California, Solyndra said assets were $859 million while debt totaled $749 million as of Jan. 1. When the petition was filed, Solyndra said secured debt was $783.8 million. The business was financed in part with $709 million from eight issues of preferred stock, plus $179 million in convertible notes.
Construction of the plant began in September 2009. Production commenced in January 2011 and halted in late August when new financing failed to materialize. Revenue in 2010 of $142 million resulted in a net loss of $329 million.
The case is In re Solyndra LLC, 11-12799, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Dodgers, Commissioner Disagree at Length on TV Sale
The Los Angeles Dodgers and the commissioner of Major League Baseball between them filed more than 130 pages of papers yesterday further detailing arguments they previously made about why the team can or can’t auction television broadcasting rights beginning with the 2014 season.
The team and Commissioner Bud Selig did reach common ground on one issue. At the urging of the mediator, Selig withdrew his motion to disqualify the two law firms representing the Dodgers. The commissioner alleged that the firms were working in the interests of Frank McCourt, the club’s owner, and not the best interests of the team.
Under the terms of the agreement dropping the disqualification motion, Selig can’t try to force the firms out again.
The Dodgers yesterday attempted to rebut the commissioner’s argument that McCourt took $180 million out of the team to fund a “lavish lifestyle.” While the papers say there was no misappropriation, drawing conclusions is difficult because many of the underlying facts are blacked out.
The team said it’s solvent and that a sale of telecasting rights will allow for confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan paying creditors in full.
The commissioner said no reorganization plan can be confirmed and no sale approved. Selig contended that a “substantial portion” of proceeds from the sale wouldn’t go to the Dodgers. Rather, he said, they would be used to satisfy McCourt’s “personal obligations.”
In addition, Selig said the sale would entail an “excessive upfront payment,” having the effect of “mortgaging the Dodgers’ future” and decreasing the value of the team if it were sold.
Given his objections, the commissioner said he won’t approve a sale of media rights. Should the team proceed with a TV-rights sale, the franchise could be terminated, Selig said.
The “only path to emergence from bankruptcy is a sale of the club, which will benefit everyone,” Selig said.
The bankruptcy judge scheduled a trial to begin Oct. 31 over whether TV rights can be sold. The judge will also decide whether the commissioner can file a reorganization plan to sell the team out from under McCourt.
For a discussion of the questions to be decided at the trial, which is to run through Nov. 4, click here for the Oct. 3 Bloomberg bankruptcy report. The issues include whether the bankruptcy court has power to override provisions in the existing telecasting agreement with Fox Entertainment Group Inc. and whether the bankruptcy judge can overrule Selig’s determination of what’s in the best interests of baseball.
The Dodgers filed under Chapter 11 in late June when faced with missing payroll because the commissioner refused to approve an agreement to sell Fox an extension of the existing broadcasting license.
The case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11-12010, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Trenton Judge Named to Mediate WaMu Plan Compromise
Raymond T. Lyons, a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in Trenton, New Jersey, was named yesterday to serve as mediator for Washington Mutual Inc. Lyons is charged with helping the contending parties hammer out a revised Chapter 11 plan that can be confirmed without objection.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath, who appointed Lyons officially yesterday, wrote a 139-page opinion in September finding defects and refusing for a second time this year to approve WaMu’s proposed reorganization plan.
Walrath asked Lyons to file a status report by Nov. 4 recommending whether mediation should continue. Walrath will hold a status conference Nov. 7. Walrath didn’t want to begin a new confirmation battle without at least attempting to craft a consensual plan.
Noteholder Aurelius Capital Management LP is no long alone in attempting to appeal Walrath’s Sept. 13 ruling. In addition to other noteholders, WaMu and the creditors’ committee filed cross-appeals yesterday along with the official equity committee.
No one has a right to appeal, since the Sept. 13 ruling was a so-called interlocutory order that didn’t wrap up the entire dispute. Everyone is therefore asking for permission to appeal.
While Aurelius doesn’t like the portion of Walrath’s opinion allowing the equity committee to sue for alleged trading on non-public information, WaMu and the creditors want reversal of the opinion insofar as it allows the equity holders to sue noteholders.
For details on Walrath’s opinion rejecting the plan a second time, click here for the Sept. 14 Bloomberg bankruptcy report. For details on Walrath’s opinion earlier this year rejecting the prior version of the plan, click here for the Jan. 10 Bloomberg bankruptcy report. For details on the plan as revised after the January ruling, click here for the Feb. 14 Bloomberg bankruptcy report. For details on later changes, click here for the March 21 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.
The WaMu holding company filed under Chapter 11 in September 2008, one day after the bank subsidiary was taken over. The bank, once the sixth-largest depository and credit- card issuer in the U.S., was the largest to fail in the country’s history.
The holding company filed formal lists of assets and debt showing property with a total value of $4.49 billion against liabilities of $7.83 billion.
The holding company Chapter 11 case is In re Washington Mutual Inc., 08-12229, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Evergreen Technology Sale Challenged by U.S. Government
Evergreen Solar Inc.’s reorganization could become a test for whether companies in Chapter 11 can freely sell technology developed with U.S. government subsidies.
This week the U.S. Energy Department filed papers with the bankruptcy court in Delaware claiming Evergreen, a Marlboro, Massachusetts-based maker of solar panels, didn’t abide by the Bayh-Dole Act, thus giving the government an ownership interest in some of the company’s technology.
The filing, to be the subject of a Nov. 4 hearing, said the act requires recipients of federal funding to disclose inventions to the Energy Department within two years. The department said it provided Evergreen with $3 million.
Because the company never notified the department, the act allows the government to demand title to the technology, according to the filing.
Anticipating arguments Evergreen can make, the department said giving the required notice now that the government claims an ownership interest isn’t a violation of the so-called automatic bankruptcy stay because the U.S. interest in the technology already exists. The government also said the government would be acting in furtherance of its police and regulatory powers, which aren’t halted by the automatic stay.
The Energy Department’s request will be up for hearing at the same time Evergreen will be seeking bankruptcy court approval for a sale of the assets. Bids are due Oct. 26, followed by an auction on Nov. 1.
Evergreen filed under Chapter 15 on Aug. 15 intending to sell the entire business quickly and listing assets of $424.5 million and debt of $485.6 million. Liabilities include $165 million on senior secured notes and about $208.3 million on two issues of convertible debt.
The case is In re Evergreen Solar Inc. 11-12590, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Disclosure Approved, Sbarro Sets Nov. 17 Plan Confirmation
Sbarro Inc., an operator and franchiser of fast-food Italian restaurants, set up a Nov. 17 confirmation hearing for approval of the Chapter 11 plan when the bankruptcy judge in Manhattan signed an order yesterday approving the explanatory disclosure statement.
The plan gives nothing to unsecured creditors with as much as $173 million in claims. First-lien lenders, owed $176.2 million, would end up with the new stock and debt. For details on the plan, click here for the Oct. 10 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.
On filing for Chapter 11 protection in April, Sbarro already had negotiated terms of a Chapter 11 plan. In May, the company dropped the prepackaged plan, saying it had a more valuable offer from what it called a “qualified bidder.”
MidOcean Partners acquired Sbarro in January 2007 for $417 million. Ares Corporate Opportunities Fund II LP was the largest holder of senior notes, according to a court filing.
The petition listed assets of $471 million and debt totaling $486.6 million. Assets on the balance sheet as of Sept. 26 included $352.2 million of goodwill and trademarks.
Sbarro, based in Melville, New York, owned or franchised 1,045 restaurants in 42 countries when the bankruptcy began. Of the total, 472 were owned at the time.
The case is In re Sbarro Inc., 11-11527, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Rakoff May Rule on Madoff Trustee’s Lawsuit Against AMB Amro
U.S. District Judge Red Rakoff will decide whether the lawsuit by the trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities Inc. against ABN Amro Bank (Ireland) Ltd. belongs in federal district court rather than bankruptcy court.
On Sept. 29, ABN Amro filed papers to remove the case from bankruptcy court. Deciding the lawsuit was related to those he has already taken under his wing, Rakoff accepted the case and will determine if it’s proper to remove from the grasp of the bankruptcy judge.
ABN Amro asked to move the suit from bankruptcy court two days after Rakoff ruled, in a case involving the owner of the New York Mets, that the so-called safe harbor in bankruptcy law bars all lawsuits except claims for money received through actual fraud within two years of bankruptcy.
The Dutch bank said the suit must be removed because it requires consideration of non-bankruptcy federal law relating to limitations on a bankruptcy court’s powers. The bank also said the Securities Investor Protection Act is a non-bankruptcy law the court must consider in passing on the merits of the lawsuit.
The Madoff firm began liquidating in December 2008 with the appointment of the trustee under the Securities Investor Protection Act. Bernard Madoff individually went into an involuntary Chapter 7 liquidation in April 2009.
His bankruptcy case was consolidated with the firm’s liquidation. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence following a guilty plea.
The lawsuit in district court is Picard v. ABN Amro Bank (Ireland) Ltd. (In re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC), 11-06877, U.S. District Court, Southern District New York (Manhattan). The lawsuit in bankruptcy court is Picard v. ABN Amro Bank (Ireland) Ltd. (In re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC), 10-05355, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
The Madoff liquidation case is Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, 08-01789, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The criminal case is U.S. v. Madoff, 09-cr-00213, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Taylor Bean Workers Settle WARN Suit for $15 Million
Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. is an example of how failure to give the required 60-day notice of mass firings can result in an expensive loss for creditors.
When Taylor Bean filed under Chapter 11, almost 3,000 workers lost their jobs. A class-action lawsuit followed, and a $21.4 million claim was filed for members of the class.
Because sought-after wages would have been earned during the Chapter 11 case, the lost compensation was claimed to be an expense of the bankruptcy required to be paid in full.
Meanwhile, Taylor Bean confirmed and implemented its Chapter 11 plan in August. Since then, a settlement was reached regarding the so-called WARN Act claims.
Assuming the bankruptcy judge approves, the creditors’ trust will set aside $15 million to be paid to the former workers as a priority claim arising during the Chapter 11 case. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say the settlement represents a 70 percent recovery for the priority portion of the claim.
In addition to creating the creditors’ trust, the plan ultimately is to administer $322 million to $521 million, according to the disclosure statement. Once claims with higher priority are paid, between $264 million and $354 million would remain for unsecured creditors with claims totaling more than $8 billion, according to the disclosure statement.
Unsecured creditors were expected to have a distribution between 3.3 percent and 4.4 percent, the disclosure statement said. The largest claim, $3.25 billion, belongs to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Taylor Bean filed under Chapter 11 in August 2009, three weeks after federal investigators searched the offices of the Ocala, Florida-based company. It managed an $80 billion mortgage-servicing portfolio. Assets and debt both exceed $1 billion, according to the Chapter 11 petition.
The case is Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., 09- 07047, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville).
Garlock Allowed to Terminate Loan With $100 Million in Bank
Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC, with $100 million cash in the bank, was authorized by the bankruptcy judge at a hearing last week to terminate a $10 million loan from Bank of America NA, according to court records.
In seeking to terminate the loan, Garlock explained how it took the loan immediately after the Chapter 11 filing in June 2010 to assure customers and suppliers of the company’s liquidity. The company never made any draws on the loan.
Garlock filed under Chapter 11 to address 100,000 asbestos claims. Non-bankrupt affiliates are defendants on 30,000 claims.
Garlock, a Palmyra, New York-based gasket maker, is a subsidiary of EnPro Industries Inc. It said it intends to pay all asbestos claimants in full while using bankruptcy law so EnPro and all subsidiaries will have releases. There is $194 million of insurance remaining, according to a Garlock court filing.
EnPro had assets of $1.18 billion and liabilities of $678.4 million on the March 31 balance sheet. Net income was $15.2 million in the first quarter on sales of $270 million. For 2010, net income was $155.4 million on sales of $865 million.
EnPro makes engineered products including diesel and natural-gas engines. It has 44 plants in the U.S., plus operations in 10 other countries.
The case is In re Sealing Technologies LLC, 10-31607, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte).
Perkins & Marie Callender’s Seeks More Plan Exclusivity
Perkins & Marie Callender’s Inc. moved this week for an extension of its exclusive right to propose a reorganization, just in case the restaurant owner isn’t able to win approval of the Chapter 11 plan at an Oct. 31 confirmation hearing.
If approved by the bankruptcy court in Delaware, the new plan-filing deadline would be pushed back 90 days to Jan. 9. For details on the plan, click here for the July 18 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.
Assets were $290 million while debt totaled $440.8 million, according to court papers. When the bankruptcy began, the company owned 85 Marie Callender’s stores in nine states and franchised 37 in four states. It owned 160 Perkins stores in 13 states and franchised 314 in 31.
During bankruptcy, the company closed 72 locations, leaving 130 Perkins stores and 46 Marie Callender’s, according to court papers. The company was acquired in 2005 by Castle Harlan Inc. for $245 million in cash.
The case is In re Perkins & Marie Callender’s Inc., 11- 11795, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Internet Provider Xanadoo’s Units Seek Exclusivity Extension
Units of Xanadoo Co., a 4G wireless Internet service provider, for the first time are asking for an extension of their exclusive right to propose a Chapter 11 plan.
If approved by the bankruptcy court in Delaware at an Oct. 25 hearing, the deadline would be pushed back four months to Feb. 7.
The companies filed for Chapter 11 protection on June 10 and soon faced an effort by the agent for secured noteholders to appoint a trustee or dismiss the case. The companies called the trustee motion a distraction that hindered them from moving the case more quickly.
As part of an agreement for the use of cash, the companies must report to the lender by Dec. 2 about indications of interest in buying the business. Court papers said initial proposals aren’t expected before mid-November.
The Chapter 11 filing followed the maturity in May of almost $60 million in secured notes owing to Beach Point Capital Management LP. On the eve of bankruptcy, the agent contended that Xanadoo created a new intermediate holding company to hinder and delay creditors by taking over ownership of the operating companies.
The Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania-based companies provide service to 10,000 customers in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. They have said their licenses are worth more than $200 million.
The companies said their total current liabilities are $66.3 million. The parent isn’t in Chapter 11.
One of the petitions said assets and debt both exceed $100 million.
The case is In re Pegasus Rural Broadband LLC, 11-11772, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Lowenstein Sandler Law Firm Lands Second Case in a Week
Lowenstein Sandler PC, for the second time in a week, landed the job of providing legal counsel for a company in Chapter 11 reorganization.
The newly appointed committee for Graceway Pharmaceuticals LLC selected the Roseland, New Jersey-based firm. The Graceway committee has three members, including 3M Co. and Value Recovery Fund.
The firm had been selected to represent Hussey Copper Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 27. Graceway took the bankruptcy plunge two days later.
The Graceway bankruptcy judge set an Oct. 17 hearing to approve auction and sale procedures. Switzerland’s Galderma SA already agreed to pay $275 million cash. The company told the judge at a hearing that there should be more than one bidder.
Graceway proposed Nov. 3 for the auction, saying holders of 40 percent of the first-lien debt consented to the sale.
Debt of the Bristol, Tennessee-based company includes $430.7 million owing on a first-lien revolving-credit and term loan.
Second-lien debt is $330 million, with mezzanine debt totaling another $81.4 million. Trade suppliers are owed $30 million.
Sales in 2007 of $314 million dropped to $220 million in 2010. In the first half of 2011, net sales were $65.5 million. The decline largely resulted from the expiration of the patent for the drug Aldara in February 2010.
The case is In re Graceway Pharmaceuticals LLC, 11-13036, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Homebuilder William Lyon Misses Interest Payment
William Lyon Homes Inc., a homebuilder in California, Nevada and Arizona, didn’t make a $7.5 million interest payment due Oct. 1 on $138.8 million in 10.75 percent senior notes maturing in 2013.
The company said it would “make use of the 30-day grace period provided by the indenture.”
Standard & Poor’s said yesterday it believes the “company will fail to meet its remaining obligations as they come due.” S&P said it expects the recovery on the notes will be 10 percent or less.
The notes traded on Oct. 7 for 18.25 cents on the dollar, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
In August, closely held William Lyon missed a $2.9 million interest payment on $77.8 million in 7.5 percent senior notes due in 2014. The interest payment was made on Sept. 14, just before the grace period ran out. The 7.5 percent notes traded yesterday at 14 cents on the dollar, according to Trace.
William Lyon, based in Newport Beach, California, reported a $22.4 million net loss for the six months ended June 30 on revenue of $101.9 million. The operating loss for the half year was $12.5 million.
Kodak Bondholders Aiming to Profit from Asset Sale
Investors acquired second-lien debt of Eastman Kodak Co., aiming for the maker of imaging products to file for bankruptcy, according to a Bloomberg News report today. To read, click here.
The story explains how the second-lien debt holders want intellectual property sold, with assets distributed to creditors before the proceeds are eroded through operating losses.
The stock closed yesterday at $1.41, unchanged in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. In the past three years, the closing high was $13.70 on Oct. 13, 2008.
The $250 million in 7.25 percent senior unsecured notes due November 2013 traded yesterday at 47 cents on the dollar, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. As recently as Sept. 27, they fetched 63 cents.
The $500 million in 9.75 percent second-lien bonds due March 2013 were bid yesterday at 70.625 cents on the dollar.
Kodak, based in Rochester, New York, had sales of $7.2 billion last year. Sales declined by 24 percent since 2008. The net loss last year was $687 million. The loss from continuing operations was $875 million.
During the first half this year, the net loss was $425 million on sales of $2.81 billion. Gross profit in the half was $336 million.
Prepack or Exchange Offer
Dune Energy to Swap or Prepack for Notes, Preferred
Dune Energy Inc., an independent oil and natural-gas exploration and production company, announced an exchange offer last week that it will complete as a prepackaged Chapter 11 filing if there aren’t enough acceptances to complete the swap outside of bankruptcy court.
The exchange is supported by holders of 90 percent of the $300 million in 10.5 percent senior secured notes due 2012 and by a holder with 64 percent of the convertible preferred stock.
The offer would swap the secured notes for 97.25 percent of the new common stock and a combination of cash or secured notes for $50 million. The existing secured notes traded yesterday for 54.505 cents on the dollar, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The existing preferred stock would exchange for 1.5 percent of the common stock, leaving existing shareholders with 1.25 percent of the equity.
The company said it will begin the exchange offer by Nov. 1.
The balance sheet was upside down on June 30, with assets of $274.2 million and total liabilities of $369.7 million.
For the first half of 2011, the Houston-based company had a net loss of $32.2 million on revenue of $33.3 million. The operating loss in the period was $2.2 million. Interest expense was $20 million.
Dodgers, Hussey Copper, ‘Stern’ Opinions: Bankruptcy Audio
The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club may have been establishing the basis for an appeal as opposed to hoping the bankruptcy judge would change his mind, for reasons explained in the bankruptcy podcast with Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia and Bloomberg News bankruptcy columnist Bill Rochelle. Hussey Copper Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 27, found itself in the unenviable position of having to sue a member of the newly appointed creditors’ committee. The podcast ends by discussing two new cases from bankruptcy judges concluding that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t end their ability hear cases involving fraud or counterclaims based on state law. To listen, click here.
Missing Note Trips Up Mortgage Lender in St. Louis Ruling
A lender who couldn’t produce the original mortgage note wasn’t entitled to judgment from the bankruptcy court allowing enforcement of the mortgage.
The case involved a mortgage where the original lender went into Chapter 11 and sold the assets. The buyer later purportedly assigned the mortgage and note to the creditor, who opposed the individual bankrupts’ lawsuit to void the mortgage.
At a hearing, the chain of assignments of the mortgage seemed proper. The note was a different story.
The note was originally endorsed in blank. Consequently, state law required possession of the original note before the purported secured creditor could foreclose.
The purported secured creditor could only produce a copy of the note. The U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the 8th Circuit said in an opinion yesterday that there was nothing in the record to show the “location of the note.”
The St. Louis panel reversed the bankruptcy court, saying it wasn’t proper to rule that the mortgage was enforceable until the original note was produced.
The case is another holding that a properly assigned and recorded mortgage by itself is essentially worthless unless the creditor can also prove ownership of the mortgage note.
The case is Banks v. Kondaur Capital Corp. (In re Banks), 11-6025, U.S. 8th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (St. Louis).
--With assistance from Dawn McCarty and Michael Bathon in Wilmington, Delaware. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Mary Romano
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