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Judge to reopen Alpha's bankruptcy case amid conflicts of interest allegations

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Judge to reopen Alpha's bankruptcy case amid conflicts of interest allegations

A federal judge will reopen Alpha Natural Resources Inc.'s bankruptcy case after allegations that its management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. had a conflict of interest during the case, a McKinsey spokesperson confirmed Jan. 9.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va., reopened the case "on a limited basis" to look into allegations made by Jay Alix, founder of competing firm AlixPartners, which the spokesperson called "inflammatory." The court did not make any conclusions about the alleged conduct or order any discovery into the allegations.

McKinsey will stand by its disclosures and is "confident that Alix’s fraud claims will be exposed as completely meritless," the spokesperson said.

"In reaching this decision, the judge specifically stated that he was not crediting Alix's claims and recognized McKinsey's strong denial," the spokesperson said. "... The court will first decide whether the special purpose vehicle Alix created specifically to buy claims in bankruptcies in which [McKinsey Recovery & Transformation Services U.S., LLC] has advised in fact has any standing to sue. Finally, the court today granted McKinsey leave to respond to the U.S. trustee's motion."

A U.S. trustee said in a Dec. 14, 2018, filing that a Texas bankruptcy court should deny Westmoreland Coal Co.'s request to employ McKinsey through its bankruptcy proceedings, saying the firm "patently lacks disinterestedness."

Contura Energy Inc., the coal producer that merged with Alpha in November 2018, said in a statement that it was reviewing the court's ruling but understood that the judge was only considering re-examining the "ongoing dispute between two parties unrelated to Alpha's assets or the outcome of its Chapter 11 restructuring process."

"While the company will of course comply fully with any informational requests from the court," Contura said, "at this time we do not expect this ruling to have any material impact on our business going forward.”