Judge Drain is not "on the take".
All the parties got together. They squeezed as much $ as they could out of Uniti, which was a lot given that Uniti had a strong legal case. The problem for Uniti was that Windstream and its creditors had nothing to lose whereas Uniti had to worry that there was always a small chance they could lose in a trial. So Uniti settled. More likely, had the lease gone to trial, Uniti would've won and Windstream would have been stuck with nothing from them.
Management pay packages:
The creditors could have objected to these and probably won. They went along with them, though, because they didn't want to risk further chaos by losing the management team during all this. Folks here might think it would have been better to take that risk but to an outsider with less information, management probably just looked weak - not downright abysmal.
The money and value that's left in Windstream goes:
• 1st to the post-petition lenders and vendors that kept the company alive during all this. (Post-petition = folks who extended credit after bankruptcy started). All the lawyers and consultants, too. They'll all get cash. This included Citibank who extended the $1 billion loan to keep things going.
• 2nd to the senior secured creditors. They'll get a mix of new bonds and new stock. Right now, the value of all that is less than 100% of what they were owed.
• 3rd to the junior secured creditors (similar to a 2nd mortgage). There's not enough to even fully pay off the senior secureds so junior secureds get nothing.
• 4th to the unsecured creditors (including pre-bankruptcy vendors). Nothing - you'd have to fully pay off the people ahead in line.
• 5th - shareholders. Deep zero. The old stock will be cancelled.
This is standard bankruptcy. If it's unfair, unjust and bad, well, don't blame the judge – blame the people that got us to this point.
The Uniti deal is an improvement over the deal Windstream had before.