The request from Allied Universal to its lenders last month seemed innocuous and logical enough.

With the deadline rapidly approaching to phase out LIBOR as the benchmark for trillions of dollars of floating-rate debt, the provider of security guards and janitors wanted to start using a replacement to set the rate on more than $4 billion of loans. Under the terms of its credit agreement, the company didn't even need its debt holders to formally sign off on the plan; it just needed more than half of them to refrain from objecting.

It couldn't even manage that.

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