A group of investment funds is aiming to cut off a risky path out of bankruptcy for troubled banks.

Lenders that default on trust-preferred debt usually have no choice but to file for bankruptcy, then sell their bank to pay the parent company's debts. Recently, however, several lenders have tried the unusual — and legally uncertain — strategy of recapitalizing or selling their banks separate from their holding companies, leaving the parent, and its debt, behind.

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