The South Bay Law Firm Law Blog highlights developing trends in bankruptcy law and practice. Our aim is to provide general commentary on this evolving practice specialty.
 





 
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      Insolvency News and Analysis - Week Ending October 24, 2014
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    Insolvency News and Analysis – Week Ending October 17, 2014

    Friday, October 17th, 2014

    English: Woolworth's, Banbridge (3of3) See 110...

    Involuntary Petitions

    LLP: When Is A Partnership Not a Partnership (And Who Cares)?

    Sales

    Fiduciary Considerations for Pre-Bankruptcy Transactions

    In re NE Opco, Inc: Section 363(f) Bars Pre-closing Claims Arising from Purchaser’s Alleged Wrongdoing Occurring After Entry of Sale Order

    Claims

    Environmental Claims: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

    Dismissal

    #Hashtag: Thinking of Starting Your Own Marijuana Business?

    Cross-Border

    Second Circuit Fails to See the Comity in Chapter 15

     

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    Insolvency News and Analysis – Week Ending October 10, 2014

    Friday, October 10th, 2014

    Current Events

    Commercial Restructuring and Bankruptcy News (ReedSmith, LLP)

    Venue

    The Short Case for Venue Reform

    Procedure

    Proposed Bankruptcy Rule and Official Form Changes

    Secured Claims

    Just When You Thought You Were Out, They Pull You Back In

    Credit bidding challenges in bankruptcy

    Administrative Claims

    When Are Goods “Received” by the Debtor? Establishing International Suppliers’ Entitlement to 503(b)(9) Administrative Expense Claim

    Executory Contracts, IP, and Licensing

    Questioning the Executoriness of Trademark Licenses in Integrated Agreements

    Avoidance and Recovery Actions

    Dilution Of Corporate Stock As A Fraudulent Transfer In Antonello

    R-E-C-O-V-E-R: Find Out What It Means to the Third Circuit

    Strong Arm Powers: What Can Be Done With An Avoided Lien?

    Uniform Voidable Transactions Act Approved by Uniform Law Commission to Replace UFTA

    Subordination and Recharacterization

    Focusing on Intent in Recharacterization Analysis, Delaware Bankruptcy Court Ruling Indicates that Creditors Seeking Derivative Standing Face High Hurdle

    Bankruptcy Sales

    Opportunistic Acquisitions: Buying Assets Through Bankruptcy

    Sales Free and Clear: What About Restrictive Covenants?

    Conversion and Dismissal

    Taking a Stand Where Few Have Trodden: Structured Dismissal Held Clearly Authorized by the Bankruptcy Code

    Cross-Border

    Brazilian Reorganization Plan: Fundamentally Fair or Wholesale Trampling of Creditors’ Rights?

    U.S. Causes of Action and Attorney Retainer Fund Sufficient Assets for Chapter 15 Recognition

    A “Second Bite” from the Second Circuit: Revisiting Section 363 Review of Transfers in Chapter 15 Bankruptcy Cases

    Second Circuit Holds That a Sale by a Chapter 15 Debtor in a Foreign Main Proceeding of a Claim Against an Obligor Located in the U.S. Must Be Reviewed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Under Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code

    Related articles

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    Insolvency News and Analysis – June 20, 2014

    Friday, June 20th, 2014
    Alphabetical by Author

    Alphabetical by Author (Photo credit: woohoo_megoo)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Bankruptcy and Insolvency News and Analysis – Week of June 16 – 20, 2014:

    Confirmation:

    Prevalence and Utility of Roadmap Decisions in Mega-Cases

    No Confirmation Without Representation: New Test Is Proposed for Approval of a Debtor’s Proposed Slate of Post-Confirmation Officers and Directors

    Bankruptcy Sales:

    Bankruptcy Sale: No Stay Pending Appeal, Then No Appeal?

    Secured Lending and Claims:

    An L of a Mess: Perfecting Against LLP’s

    Equity Begets Flexibility: Valuing a Secured Creditor’s Claim in Bankruptcy and Allocating Post-Petition Interest

    Avoidance Actions:

    Seventh Circuit Reads Bankruptcy Safe Harbor Broadly

    Defending Preference and Claw-Back Actions in the Wake of the Supreme Court’s Bellingham Decision

    Executory Contracts and Intellectual Property:

    Contract Remedies in the Face of Imminent Default – What Happens to State Law Adequate Assurance and Anticipatory Breach in Bankruptcy?

    Eighth Circuit reconsiders trademark licenses in bankruptcy

    Cross-Border:

    Comity and drama: current trends in cross-border insolvencies

    Jurisdiction and Bellingham Analysis:

    Supreme Court’s decision in Bellingham leaves key Stern v Marshall questions unanswered

    And Still More:

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    Bankruptcy News and Analysis – June 13, 2014

    Friday, June 13th, 2014
    Newspaper

    Newspaper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Asset Ownership

    Bankruptcy Estate: When Is A Joint Venture A Partnership (And Who Cares)?

    Secured Claims

    –  Circuit Court Affirms Bankruptcy Court’s Broad Discretion to Re-Value Collateral in Determining Creditor’s Entitlement to Post-Petition Interest

    Sales

    –  Liens and Interests Jettisoned [In] Asset Sales “Free and Clear”

    Avoidance Actions

    –  Did the Second Circuit Get SLUSA Right in the Madoff Ponzi Scheme Case?

    –  LLC Membership Transfer: Is Expulsion of a Member a Preferential Transfer?

    –  How Safe Is the Section 546(e) Safe Harbor?

    Cross-Border

    –  Limits of the Bankruptcy Code: Foreign  Restructuring Tools in a Czech Environment

    Environmental

    –  Clean Up for What?! After Enough Time, You Can Leave Your Mess Behind

    Tax

    Partnership Bankruptcy Tax Issues

    SCOTUS Rulings

    –  Did Law v. Siegel Sound the Death Knell for the Equity Powers of the Bankruptcy Court?

    –  Breaking News: Unanimous Supreme Court Closes Statutory Gap, Leaves Other “Core” Stern Questions For Another Day (Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison)

    –  Applying Its Stern v. Marshall Ruling On The Power Of Bankruptcy Courts, The U.S. Supreme Court Issues A Narrow Decision In Executive Benefits Case

    Other Stories

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    Recent Insolvency and Bankruptcy Headlines – June 6, 2014

    Friday, June 6th, 2014

    Some of the week’s top bankruptcy and restructuring headlines:

    English: Part of Title 11 of the United States...

    English: Part of Title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code) on a shelf at a law library in San Francisco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

    Trends

     

    Business Bankruptcy Filings Off 21% Year-Over-Year

     

    Less Than 1M Filings This Year?

     

    – LBO Defaults Set to Reach A High This Year, Fitch Says

     

    The Changing Nature of Chapter 11

     

    Cross-Border

     

    Cross-Border Issues: Misconduct No Grounds for Termination of Chapter 15

     

    – Liquidators urge speedy action on Hong Kong corporate rescue bill

     

    Financing

     

    DIP Dimensions: Energy Future Intermediate Holding Co. LLC”s Financing Fracas

     

    Avoidance Actions

     

    Avoidance Actions: Subsequent New Value Defense, Good Faith Defense, and Section 546(e) Safe-Harbor

     

    Ponzi Schemes:  11th Circuit Opines on “Property of the Debtor”

     

    – Thelen Ruling Highlights Evidentiary Issues in Fraudulent Transfer Case

     

    Bankruptcy Sales

     

    Limits On Credit Bidding and Section 363(k):  Another Court Follows Fisker

     

    – Successful Bidder Must Pay Damages (In Addition to Forfeiting Deposit) After Backing Out of Sale – At Least in Certain Circumstances

     

    – Upsetting a Bankruptcy Auction: Money Talks

     

    Never Do This: A Lesson On What Not To Do In a Section 363 Auction

     

    Confirmation

     

    Plan Confirmation:  The Tax Man Cometh . . . And Getteth Impaired

     

    Claims

     

    Debt Recharacterization: In re Alternate Fuels: Tenth Circuit BAP Holds Recent Supreme Court Decisions Do Not Limit Power to Recharacterize Debt to Equity

     

    – . . . And More Debt Recharacterization: In re Optim Energy: Court Denies Creditor Derivative Standing to Seek Recharacterization of Equity Sponsors’ Debt Claims

     

     

     

    And Still More:

     

    Related articles

     

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    An Unexpected Tribute to Émile Zola

    Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
    Portrait of Émile Zola (1848), by Édouard Manet

    Portrait of Émile Zola (1848), by Édouard Manet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    “The humorist Douglas Adams was fond of saying, ‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’ But the law more often follows Benjamin Franklin’s stern admonition: ‘You may delay, but time will not.’ To paraphrase Émile Zola, deadlines are often the terrible anvil on which a legal result is forged.”

    With these words, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week declined to retroactively extend Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 4007(c)’s deadline to file a non-dischargeability complaint.  That deadline permits creditors only 60 days following an individual debtor’s initial meeting of creditors (otherwise known as the debtor’s “section 341(a) meeting”) to file a complaint to have certain types of debt determined non-dischargeable, unless a request for extension of the deadline is filed within the same, initial 60-day period.

    The case before the 3-judge panel involved a creditor who had, in fact, previously obtained an extension to file a non-dischargeability complaint – but who, due to internal word-processing difficulties with conversion to the “Portable Document Format” (*.pdf) format now required for electronic filings with federal bankruptcy courts, missed the extended deadline by less than an hour.

    The brief, 14-page decision (available here) upheld prior rulings in the same matter by both the Bankruptcy Court and the District Court.  It raised, but did not answer, the question of what happens when a missed deadline is due to external problems (e.g., technical difficulties with the Bankruptcy Court’s filing system), rather than problems with counsel’s IT configuration or office procedures.  But it also declined to recognize an “equitable exception” to the rule in the absence of a Supreme Court directive to the contrary:

    We acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court has not expressly addressed whether FRBP 4007(c)’s filing deadline admits of any equitable exceptions and that lower courts are divided on the issue. See Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443, 457 & nn.11–12 (2004) (declining to decide question and noting circuit split).  We need not, and do not, reach the question of whether external forces that prevented any filings—such as emergency situations, the loss of the court’s own electronic filing capacity, or the court’s affirmative misleading of a party—would warrant such an exception.  See, e.g., In re Kennerley, 995 F.2d at 147–48; see also Ticknor v. Choice Hotels Intern., Inc., 275 F.3d 1164, 1165 (9th Cir. 2002). . . .  In short, absent unique and exceptional circumstances not present here, we do not inquire into the reason a party failed to file on time in assessing whether she is entitled to an equitable exception from FRBP 4007(c)’s filing deadline; under the plain language of the rules and our controlling precedent, there is no such exception.

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    When Speaking Up Isn’t Enough

    Monday, May 16th, 2011

    When a retailer becomes insolvent, suppliers or vendors who have recently provided goods on credit typically have the ability to assert “reclamation” rights for the return of those goods.  Retailers may respond to these rights by seeking the protection the federal bankruptcy laws – and, in particular, the automatic stay.

    When a retailer files for bankruptcy while holding goods which are subject to creditors’ “reclamation” rights, what should “reclamation” creditors do?

    Logo of Circuit City, now-defunct US retail chain

    Image via Wikipedia

     

    The Bankruptcy Code itself provides some protection for “reclamation” creditors by providing such creditors additional time in which to assert their claims, and by affording administrative priority for a certain portion for such claims even when they are not formally asserted.

    But is merely asserting a reclamation claim under the Bankruptcy Code sufficient to protect a supplier once a retailer is in bankruptcy?  A recent appellate decision from Virginia’s Eastern District serves as a reminder that merely speaking up about a reclamation claim isn’t enough.

    When Circuit City sought bankruptcy protection in 2009, Paramount Home Entertainment was stuck with the tab for more than $11 million in goods.  Though it didn’t object to blanket liens on Circuit City’s merchandise which came with the retailer’s debtor-in-possession financing, and stood by quietly while Circuit City later liquidated its merchandise throug a going-out-of-business sale, Paramount did file a timely reclamation demand as required by the Bankruptcy Code.  It also complied with what it understood to be the Bankruptcy Court’s orders regarding administrative procedures for processing its reclamation claims in Circuit City’s case.  It was therefore unpleasantly surprised when Circuit City objected to Paramount’s reclamation claim – and when the Bankruptcy Court sustained that objection – on the grounds that Paramount hadn’t done enough to establish or preserve its reclamation rights.

    Paramount appealed the Bankruptcy Court’s ruling, claiming that it complied with what it understood to have been the Bankruptcy Court’s administrative procedures for processing reclamation claims.  Paramount argued that to have done more (i.e., to have sought relief from the automatic stay to take back its goods or commenced litigation to preserve its rights to the proceeds of such goods) would have disrupted Circuit City’s bankruptcy case.

    In affirming the Bankruptcy Court, US District Judge James Spencer held that the Bankruptcy Code, while protecting a creditor’s reclamation rights, doesn’t impose them on the debtor.  Instead, a reclaiming creditor must take further steps consistent with the Bankruptcy Code and state law to preserve the remedies which reclamation claims afford.  Merely asserting a reclamation claim under the Bankruptcy Code – or under a Bankruptcy Court’s administrative procedure – isn’t enough:

    “Filing a demand, but then doing little else in the end likely creates more litigation and pressure on the Bankruptcy Court than seeking relief from the automatic stay. . . or seeking a [temporary restraining order] or initiating an adversary proceeding.  In this case, Paramount filed its reclamation demand, but then failed to seek court intervention to perfect that right.  As the Bankruptcy Court held, the Bankruptcy Code is not self-executing.  Although [the Bankruptcy Code] does not explicitly state that a reclaiming seller must seek judicial intervention, that statute does not exist in a vacuum.  The mandatory stay as well as the other sections of the Bankruptcy Code that protect and enforce the hierarchy of creditors create a statutory scheme that cannot be overlooked.  Once Paramount learned that Circuit City planned to use the goods in connection with the post-petition [debtor-in-possession financing], it should have objected.  It didn’t.  To make matters worse, Paramount then failed to object to Circuit City’s liquidation of its entire inventory as part of the closing [going-out-of-business] [s]ales.”

    Let the seller beware.

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    Finding New Ways to Sell Troubled Assets “Free and Clear” of Liens

    Sunday, April 24th, 2011

    One of the most effective vehicles for the rescue and revitalization of troubled business and real estate to emerge in recent years of Chapter 11 practice has been the “363 sale.”

    Seal of the en:United States Court of Appeals ...

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    Named for the Bankruptcy Code section where it is found, the “363 sale” essentially provides for the sale to a proposed purchaser, free and clear of any liens, claims, and other interests, of distressed assets and land.

    The section has been used widely in bankruptcy courts in several jurisdictions to authorize property sales for “fair market value” . . . even when that value is below the “face value” of the liens encumbering the property.

    In the Ninth Circuit, however, such sales are not permitted – unless (pursuant to Section 363(f)(5)) the lien holder “could be compelled, in a legal or equitable proceeding, to accept a money satisfaction of such interest.”

    A recent decision issued early this year by the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Panel and available here) provides a glimpse of how California bankruptcy court are  employing this statutory exception to approve “363 sales.”

    East Airport Development (EAD) was a residential development project in  San Luis Obispo which, due to the downturn of the housing market, never came completely to fruition.

    Originally financed with a $9.7 million construction and development loan in 2006, EAD’s obligation was refinanced at $10.6 million in mid-2009.  By February 2010, the project found itself in Chapter 11 in order to stave off foreclosure.

    A mere  two weeks after its Chapter 11 filing, EAD’s management requested court authorization to sell 2 of the 26 lots in the project free and clear of the bank’s lien, then to use the excess proceeds of the sale as cash collateral.

    In support of this request, EAD claimed the parties had previously negotiated a pre-petition release price agreement.  EAD argued the release price agreement was a “binding agreement that may be enforced by non-bankruptcy law, which would compel [the bank] to accept a money satisfaction,” and also that the bank had consented to the sale of the lots.  A spreadsheet setting forth the release prices was appended to the motion.  The motion stated EAD’s intention to use the proceeds of sale to pay the bank the release prices and use any surplus funds to pay other costs of the case (including, inter alia, completion of a sewer system).

    The bank objected strenuously to the sale.  It argued there was no such agreement – and EAD’s attachment of spreadsheets and e-mails from bank personnel referencing such release prices ought to be excluded on various evidentiary grounds.

    The bankruptcy court approved the sale and cash collateral use over these objections.  The bank appealed.

    On review, the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellant Panel found, first, that the bankruptcy court was within the purview of its discretion to find that, in fact, a release price agreement did exist – and second, that such agreement was fully enforceable in California:

    It is true that most release price agreements are the subject of a detailed and formal writing, while this agreement appears rather informal and was evidenced, as far as we can tell, by only a few short writings. However, this relative informality is not fatal. The bankruptcy court is entitled to construe the agreement in the context of and in connection with the loan documents, as well as the facts and circumstances of the case. Courts seeking to construe release price agreements may give consideration to the construction placed upon the agreement by the actions of the parties. . . . Here, the parties acted as though the release price agreement was valid and enforceable and, in fact, had already completed one such transaction before EAD filed for bankruptcy. On these facts, [EAD] had the right to require [the bank] to release its lien on the two lots upon payment of the specified release prices, even though [the bank] would not realize the full amount of its claim. More importantly, [EAD] could enforce this right in a specific performance action on the contract. For these reasons, the sale was proper under § 363(f)(5).

    The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel‘s East Airport decision provides an example of how bankruptcy courts in the Ninth Circuit are creatively finding ways around legal hurdles to getting “363 sales” approved in a very difficult California real estate market.  It likewise demonstrates the level of care which lenders’ counsel must exercise in negotiating the work-out of troubled real estate projects.

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    Nobody Does It Better . . . Than Government Regulators

    Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

    Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act provides “the necessary authority to liquidate failing financial companies that pose a systemic risk to the financial stability of the United States in a manner that mitigates such risk and minimizes moral hazard.”

    Under this authority, the government would have had the requisite authority to structure a resolution of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. – which, as readers are aware, was one of the marquis bankruptcy filings of the 2008 – 2009 financial crisis.

    Readers are also aware that Dodd-Frank is an significant piece of legislation, designed to implement extensive reforms to the banking industry.  But would it have done any better job of resolving Lehman’s difficulties than did Lehman’s Chapter 11?

    The New York Stock Exchange, the world's large...

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    Predictably, the FDIC is convinced that a government rescue would have been more beneficial – and in “The Orderly Liquidation of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. under the Dodd-Frank Act” (forthcoming in Vol. 5 of the FDIC Quarterly), FDIC staff explain why this is so.

    The 19-page paper boils down to the following comparison between Chapter 11 and a hypothetical resolution under Dodd-Frank:

    [U]nsecured creditors of LBHI are projected to incur substantial losses. Immediately prior to its bankruptcy filing, LBHI reported equity of approximately $20 billion; short-term and long-term indebtedness of approximately $100 billion, of which approximately $15 billion represented junior and subordinated indebtedness; and other liabilities in the amount of approximately $90 billion, of which approximately $88 billion were amounts due to affiliates. The modified Chapter 11 plan of reorganization filed by the debtors on January 25, 2011, estimates a 21.4 percent recovery for senior unsecured creditors. Subordinated debt holders and shareholders will receive nothing under the plan of reorganization, and other unsecured creditors will recover between 11.2 percent and 16.6 percent, depending on their status.

    By contrast, under Dodd-Frank:

    As mentioned earlier, by September of 2008, LBHI’s book equity was down to $20 billion and it had $15 billion of subordinated debt, $85 billion in other outstanding short- and long-term debt, and $90 billion of other liabilities, most of which represented intracompany funding. The equity and subordinated debt represented a buffer of $35 billion to absorb losses before other creditors took losses. Of the $210 billion in assets, potential acquirers had identified $50 to $70 billion as impaired or of questionable value. If losses on those assets had been $40 billion (which would represent a loss rate in the range of 60 to 80 percent), then the entire $35 billion buffer of equity and subordinated debt would have been eliminated and losses of $5 billion would have remained. The distribution of these losses would depend on the extent of collateralization and other features of the debt instruments.

    If losses had been distributed equally among all of Lehman’s remaining general unsecured creditors, the $5 billion in losses would have resulted in a recovery rate of approximately $0.97 for every claim of $1.00, assuming that no affiliate guarantee claims would be triggered. This is significantly more than what these creditors are expected to receive under the Lehman bankruptcy. This benefit to creditors derives primarily from the ability to plan, arrange due diligence, and conduct a well structured competitive bidding process.

    Convinced?  You decide.

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    The Year in Bankruptcy: 2010

    Saturday, February 12th, 2011

     

    Jones Day’s Charles Oellerman and Mark Douglas have just issued The Year in Bankruptcy: 2010.  It is a (relatively) concise, thorough (81 pages), and useful compendium of bankruptcy statistics, trend analyses, case law highlights, and legislative updates for the year.

    What to expect for 2011?  According to the authors:

    [M]ost industry experts predict that the volume of big-business bankruptcy filings will not increase in 2011.  Also expected is a continuation of the business bankruptcy paradigm exemplified by the proliferation of prepackaged or prenegotiated chapter 11 cases and quick-fix section 363(b) sales. Companies that do enter bankruptcy waters in 2011 are more likely to wade in rather than freefall, as was often the case in 2008 and 2009. More frequently, struggling businesses are identifying trouble sooner and negotiating prepacks before taking the plunge, in an effort to minimize restructuring costs and satisfy lender demands to short-circuit the restructuring process.  Prominent examples of this in 2010 were video-rental chain Blockbuster Inc.; Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.; and newspaper publisher Affiliated Media Inc. Industries pegged as including companies “most likely to fail” (or continue foundering) in 2011 include health care, publishing, restaurants, entertainment and hospitality, home building and construction, and related sectors that rely heavily on consumers.  Finally, judging by trends established in 2010, companies that do find themselves in bankruptcy are more likely to rely on rights offerings than new financing as part of their exit strategies.

    Happy reading.

    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

    Image via Wikipedia

     

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