Elizabeth J. Futrell
Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights; Insolvency and Reorganization Law Jones Walker LLP
“MY TOUGHEST CASE”
The Entergy New Orleans Bankruptcy Case
Lisa Futrell is a partner at Jones Walker, practicing in bankruptcy, restructuring, and creditors’/debtors’ rights. She represents creditors as well as debtors. When representing the creditor outside of a bankruptcy case, her job includes obtaining proper information so the creditors can make the appropriate decisions regarding an adjustment of a debt. Futrell also handles cases involving allegations of fraud or breach of fiduciary duty, such as when a creditor alleges that someone is guilty of gross mismanagement or has stolen money.
“Proof is very difficult; it involves motive, money tracing, and figuring out what happened,” she says. Futrell stresses that every case is different. Following bankruptcy, a business will reorganize and continue, or liquidate and cease operations. When a bankruptcy results in liquidation, the situation can be sad, she says, because “the business is no longer viable, creditors will receive little distribution and employees lose jobs.”
Of all of the cases that she has handled, Futrell believes that the toughest one was the Entergy New Orleans bankruptcy case – not because of the complexity of the law, but because of the dire circumstances that surrounded the case. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, esteemed practitioner Futrell was just as devastated as her peers, her clients and the city itself. Her home was flooded, as was the city, and she was displaced to Baton Rouge along with numerous others. At the time that Entergy New Orleans engaged Jones Walker to represent it in its bankruptcy case, she was living in Baton Rouge, and she wasn’t alone. “Eighty percent of the utility’s customers were displaced because of flooding,” she says. “With the city and the customers under water, Entergy had to rebuild.”
Futrell and her coworkers had the know-how, but the logistics and personal tragedy were hard to surmount. “That was probably the most difficult case I’ve worked on because it was a very important case, and so many people’s lives were impacted.” Everyone was displaced: Futrell, her coworkers, Entergy’s people and for a time even the judge assigned to the case. “It was a very important case because of the circumstances; it was stressful,” she says. Futrell recalls the day the firm filed the bankruptcy paperwork with the court: “We were literally driving down the interstate with Hurricane Rita hitting Baton Rouge, trying to get papers filed. The electricity went out at Jones Walker’s Baton Rouge office and we were driving around trying to find a building with power.”
Futrell particularly enjoys writing reorganization plans, a plan for the business to continue after it exits bankruptcy. Futrell and her team wrote the reorganization plan for Entergy New Orleans, and when the creditors cast their vote, they selected Entergy New Orleans’ reorganization plan. Despite the circumstances, Futrell and the team at Jones Walker and the people at Entergy New Orleans were able to reach a very successful outcome. All creditors were paid in full within a year, and Entergy New Orleans successfully reorganized itself according to the plan. She felt very rewarded by the outcome. “It was a big effort because we were all suffering through the same experience together and then moving back to New Orleans and trying to rebuild the city together,” she says.
Futrell enjoys that she’s constantly learning about new types of businesses. “When I worked on the Entergy case,” she says, “I learned about the energy business; when I represented a hotel business, I learned about the hotel business. I’m able to learn about many industries, and it’s very interesting.”
Over 30 years in practice
J.D. University of Mississippi School of Law – 1981
Native of Tennessee