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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      Bankruptcy and Insolvency News and Analysis Week Ending August 14, 2015
    Bankruptcy and Insolvency News and Analysis Week Ending August 7, 2015
    Bankruptcy and Insolvency News and Analysis Week Ending July 31, 2015
    Debt Equity: Recharacterization of Debt in Bankruptcy Proceedings And What To Do About It
       

    Posts Tagged ‘creditor’

    Bankruptcy and Insolvency News – Week Ending May 1, 2015

    Friday, May 1st, 2015

    gran_depresion

    Trends

    March 2015 Bankruptcy Filings Down 12 Percent

    Bankruptcies Drop: ‘The Worst I’ve Seen in 30 Years’

    SINGLE ASSET REAL ESTATE DEBTORS ACCOUNT FOR 19 PERCENT OF ALL CH. 11 CASES TO DATE

    The American Bankruptcy Institute’s Recommendations for Chapter 11 Reform

    Out-of-Court Workouts

    RECENT DECISIONS CONCERNING THE TRUST INDENTURE ACT UNDERLINE THE LIMITS ON OUT-OF-COURT RESTRUCTURINGS

    Avoidance and Recovery

    The Fraudulent Transfer Laws Do Indeed Apply To Future Creditors

    Liability for Preferential Transfer May Be Reduced by Subsequent New Value

    Fraudulent Transfer Damages: Creditor Windfall, Creditor Claims Cap, or Equitable Determination by the Court?

    Leases and Executory Contracts

    Filene’s Basement Decision Interprets Lease Rejection Damages Statute

    Intellectual Property and Social Media

    Texas Bankruptcy Court ‘Likes’ Facebook and Twitter Accounts as Property of the Reorganized Debtor

    Cross-Border

    Reorganization By Foreign Debtors In The US And UK

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    Insolvency News and Analysis – Week Ending April 17, 2015

    Friday, April 17th, 2015
    Trade Off theory diagram

    Trade Off theory diagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Trends

    Corporate bankruptcies are on the rise in America

    U.S. public companies seek bankruptcy at fastest 1st-qtr rate since 2010

    Q1 Bankruptcy Filings Fall 15%

    Dr. William Rule (AOUSC): When Will Bankruptcy Filing Trends Change Course?

    The $12,473 Corporate Reorganization

    Current Developments

    Bankruptcy Year In Review 2014

    Corporate Governance

    Corporate Governance In Chapter 11 – Business As Usual, With Possible Exceptions

    Administrative Claims

    Reclamation, Administrative Claims and Other Possibilities for Recovery When a Factor Has Not Approved Orders

    Unsecured Claims

    Mandatory Subordination: How Even A Money Judgment Can Be Treated Like Equity In Bankruptcy

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    Insolvency News and Analysis – Week Ending April 10, 2015

    Friday, April 10th, 2015

     

    Pigs Get Fat

    Trends

    Q1 Distressed debt & bankruptcy restructuring review: Thomson Reuters

    ABI Commission’s Plan Process and Confirmation Recommendations: A Mixed Bag for Secured Creditors

    Weil’s Bankruptcy Blog: 2014 Annual Review

    Out-of-Court Restructuring

    Recent Case Law Impacting Debt Transactions

    Sales and Distressed Investing

    Distressed debt: Loan to own investment strategies after Fisker

    Hedge Funds and Distressed Debt Investing Program – Summary

    Avoidance and Recovery

    9th Circ. Panel Bolsters Trustees’ Reach-Back Powers

    Secured Claims

    Have Courts Left The Pinegate Open?

    Confirmation

    Tipping Point: Plan Clarification or Plan Modification? Third Circuit Denies Bankruptcy Court’s Use of Its Plan Clarification Powers to Circumvent Plan Modification Requirements of Section 1127

    Non-Consensual Third-Party Releases: Eleventh Circuit Joins “Pro-Release” Majority

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    Insolvency News and Analysis – Week Ending April 3, 2015

    Friday, April 3rd, 2015

    Bank Run

    Trends

    Q1/15 Commercial Bankruptcy Filings Down 19%

    Peer-to-peer lending is surging in the US, and it could hurt big banks

    Case Commencement

    Involuntary Bankruptcy Petitions: A Powerful Weapon, But Beware Of The Downside Risks

    Secured Claims

    Lender Beware: The Pitfalls of Narrowly Defined Secured Obligations

    Unsecured Claims

    Creditors’ Rights in Chapter 11: Use Them or Lose Them

    Avoidance and Recovery

    Reforming Preference Law

    Confirmation

    Third Circuit Finds Settlement Agreement to be Plan Modification

    Cross-Border

    Centre of Main Interest (COMI) and Jurisdiction of National Courts in Insolvency Matters (Insolvency Status)

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    Paid in Full

    Sunday, August 10th, 2014
    American National Bank AD

    American National Bank AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    One of the fundamental functions of any bankruptcy proceeding is the establishment of an amount and priority for each creditor’s claim against the debtor. A short, 5-page decision issued late last month by the Nebraska Bankruptcy Court in two related Chapter 11 cases (Biovance and Julien) serves as a reminder that although creditors are not permitted a “double recovery” on their claims, they are nevertheless permitted to assert the full value of their claims until those claims are paid in full.

     
    In the US, it is common for creditors to mitigate credit risk through two primary means: Taking a security interest in the debtor’s collateral, and/or securing a guaranty of payment from a [non-debtor] third party. Further, and in the event of a payment default, courts frequently recognize a creditor’s right to pursue simultaneous collection activity for the entirety of the debt against the debtor, the collateral, and the guarantor. In a recent decision involving two related Chapter 11 debtors, a Nebraska Bankruptcy Court was asked by the debtors to limit the amounts claimed by a creditor as the creditor had already received a portion of the payments owed to it.

     
    In this case, a business debtor (Biovance) had leased equipment from American National Bank (ANB), collateralizing one of the leases with a certificate of deposit held by that debtor.  The other lease was protected by a guarantee issued by the individual debtor (Julien) to ANB.  ANB had obtained permission to collect its collateral with respect to the first lease, and to liquidate its claims in Nebraska state court with respect to the second (which claims were subsequently settled).  The debtors argued, among other things, that as the confirmed bankruptcy plan provided for payment in full of all claims, the creditor was therefore obligated to immediately credit the amounts it had received.  ANB argued that a proof of claim filed under 11 U.S.C. § 502 need not be reduced by amounts recovered from a third party unless it stood the chance of a double recovery.

     
    The Bankruptcy Court of Nebraska agreed with ANB, noting that the confirmed plan is neither a recovery nor payment in full. It is only a promise to pay. The Court went on to hold that until such time as ANB had actually received its payment in full, it was entitled to assert the balance due against all concerned parties – including the debtors.

     
    Establishing the amount and priority for each creditor’s claim against the debtor fixes the limit of recoveries available to a creditor from the debtor’s estate. Such claims are, in the aggregate, an important factor in the creditors’ assessment of the feasibility of a debtor’s proposed reorganization – and in determining whether liquidation offers them a preferable recovery.

     
    The Biovance decision, though not surprising, nevertheless reminds creditors and their counsel to preserve all of the value of their claims, even if paid partially, until the claims are paid in full.

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    Intercreditor Agreements: How Far Can They Reach?

    Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
    Creditor's Ledger, Holmes McDougall

    Image by edinburghcityofprint via Flickr

    Can a senior secured lender require, through an inter-creditor agreement, that a junior lender relinquish the junior’s rights under the Bankruptcy Code vis á vis a common debtor?

    Though the practice is a common one, the answer to this question is not clear-cut.  Bankruptcy Courts addressing this issue have come down on both sides, some holding “yea,” and others “nay.”  Late last year, the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court sided with the “nays” in In re SW Boston Hotel Venture, LLC, 460 B.R. 38 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2011).

    The decision (available here) acknowledges and cites case law on either side of the issue.  It further highlights the reality that lenders employing the protective practice of an inter-creditor agreement as a “hedge” against the debtor’s potential future bankruptcy may not be as well-protected as they might otherwise believe.

    In light of this uncertainty, do lenders have other means of protection?  One suggested (but, as yet, untested) method is to take the senior lender’s bankruptcy-related protections out of the agreement, and provide instead that in the event of the debtor’s filing, the junior’s claim will be automatically assigned to the senior creditor, re-vesting in the junior creditor once the senior’s claim has been paid in full.

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    A Lesson In Vocabulary: “Indubitable Equivalence”

    Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

    Chapter 11 practice – like so many other professional service specialties – is regrettably jargon-laden.  Businesses that need to get their financial affairs in order “enter restructuring.”  Those that must re-negotiate their debt obligations attempt to “de-leverage.”  And those facing resistance in doing so seek the aid of Bankruptcy Courts in “cramming down” their plans over creditor opposition.

    Likewise, the Bankruptcy Code – and, consequently, Bankruptcy Courts – employ what can seem an entirely separate vocabulary for describing the means by which a successful “cram-down” is achieved.  One such means involves providing the secured creditor with something which equals the value of its secured claim: If the secured creditor holds a security interest in the debtor’s apple, for example, the debtor may simply give the creditor the apple – or may even attempt to replace the creditor’s interest in the apple with a similar interest in the debtor’s orange (provided, of course, that the orange is worth as much as the original apple).

    The concept of replacing something of value belonging to a secured creditor with something else of equivalent value is known in “bankruptcy-ese” as providing the creditor with the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim – and it is a concept employed perhaps most frequently in cases involving real estate assets (though “indubitable equivalence” is not limited to interests in real estate).  For this reason, plans employing this concept in the real estate context are sometimes referred to as “dirt for debt” plans.

    A recent bankruptcy decision out of Georgia’s Northern District issued earlier this year illustrates the challenges of “dirt for debt” reorganizations based on the concept of “indubitable equivalence.”

    Map of USA with Georgia highlighted

    Image via Wikipedia

     

    Green Hobson Riddle, Jr., a Georgia businessman, farmer, and real estate investor, sought protection in Chapter 11 after economic difficulties left him embroiled in litigation and unable to service his obligations.

    Mr. Riddle’s proposed plan of reorganization, initially opposed by a number of his creditors, went through five iterations until only one objecting creditor – Northside Bank – remained.  Northside Bank held a first-priority secured claim worth approximately $907,000 secured by approximately 36 acres of real property generally referred to as the “Highway 411/Dodd Blvd Property,” and a second-priority claim secured by a condominium unit generally referred to as the “Heritage Square Property.”  It also held a judgment lien recorded against Mr. Riddle in Floyd County, Georgia.

    A key feature of Mr. Riddle’s plan involved freeing up the Heritage Square Property in order refinance one of his companies, thereby generating additional payments for his creditors.  To do this, Mr. Riddle proposed to give Northside Bank his Highway 411/Dodd Blvd Property as the “indubitable equivalent,” and in satisfaction, of all of Northside’s claims.

    Northside Bank objected to this treatment, respectfully disagreeing with Mr. Riddle’s idea of “indubitable equivalence.”  Bankruptcy Judge Paul Bonapfel took evidence on the issue and – in a brief, 9-page decision – found that Mr. Riddle had the better end of the argument.

    Judge Bonapfel’s decision highlights several key features of “indubitable equivalent” plans:

    –         The importance of valuation.  The real challenge of an “indubitable equivalence” plan is not its vocabulary.  It is valuing the property which will be given to the creditor so as to demonstrate that value is “too evident to be doubted.”  As anyone familiar with valuation work is aware, this is far more easily said than done.  Valuation becomes especially important where the debtor is proposing to give the creditor something less than all of the collateral securing the creditor’s claim, as Mr. Riddle did in his case.  In such circumstances, the valuation must be very conservative – a consideration Judge Bonapfel and other courts recognized.

    –       The importance of evidentiary standards.  Closely related to the idea of being “too evident to be doubted” is the question of what evidentiary standards apply to the valuation.  Some courts have held that because the property’s value must be “too evident to be doubted,” the evidence of value must be “clear and convincing” (the civil equivalent of “beyond a reasonable doubt”).  More recent cases, however, weigh the “preponderance of evidence” (i.e., does the evidence indicate something more than a 50% probability that the property is worth what it’s claimed to be?).  As one court (confusingly) put it: “The level of proof to show ‘indubitably’ is not raised merely by the use of the word ‘indubitable.’”  Rather than require more or better evidence, many courts seem to focus instead on the conservative nature of the valuation and its assumptions.

    –       The importance of a legitimate reorganization purpose.  Again, where a creditor is receiving something less than the entirety of its collateral as the “indubitable equivalent” of its claim, it is up to the debtor to show that such treatment is for the good of all the creditors – and not merely to disadvantage the creditor in question.  Judge Bonapfel put this issue front and center when he noted, in Mr. Riddle’s case:

    [I]t is important to recognize that § 1129(b), the “cram-down” subsection, “provides only a minimum requirement for confirmation … so a court may decide that a plan is not fair and equitable even if it is in technical compliance with the Code’s requirements.” E.g., Atlanta Southern Business Park, 173 B.R. at 448. In this regard, it could be inequitable to conclude that a plan provision such as the one under consideration here is “fair and equitable,” if the provision serves no reorganization purpose. See Freymiller Trucking, 190 B.R. at 916. But in this case, the evidence shows that elimination of the Bank’s lien on other collateral is necessary for the reorganization of the Debtor and his ability to deal with all of the claims of other creditors who have accepted the Plan. No evidence demonstrates that the Plan is inequitable or unfair

    In re Riddle, 444 B.R. 681, 686 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 2011).

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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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    When Equitable Subordination Isn’t Equitable.

    Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

    Most insolvency practitioners are familiar with the fighting which often ensues when creditors jockey for position over a troubled firm’s capital structure.  From Kansas, a recent decision issued in February highlights the standards which apply to claims that a senior creditor’s claim ought to be “subordinated” to those of more junior creditors or equity-holders.

    The Great Seal of the State of Kansas

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    QuVIS, Inc. (“QuVIS”), a provider of digital motion imaging technology solutions in a number of industries, found itself the target of an involuntary Chapter 7 filing in 2oo9.  The company converted its case to one under Chapter 11 and thereafter sought to reorganize its affairs.

    QuVIS ’ debt was structured in an unusual way.  When presented with some growth opportunities in the early 2000’s, the company issued secured notes under a credit agreement that capped its lending at $30,000,000.  “Investors” acquired these notes for cash and received a security interest, evidenced by a UCC-1 recorded in 2002.  One of QuVIS’ “investors” was Seacoast Capital Partners II, L.P. (“Seacoast”), a Small Business Investment Company (“SBIC”) licensed by the United States Small Business Administration.  Between 2005 and 2007, Seacoast lent approximately $4.25 million through a series of three separate promissory notes issued by QuVIS.  In 2006, and consistent with the purposes of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, under which licensed SBICs are expected to provide management support to the small business ventures in which they invest, Seacoast’s Managing Director, Eben S. Moulton (“Moulton”), was designated as an outside director to QuVIS’ board.

    In 2007, it came to Seacoast’s attention that, despite its belief to the contrary, a UCC-1 had never been filed on Seacoast’s behalf regarding its loans to QuVIS.  Nor had the earlier (and now lapsed) UCC-1 filed regarding QuVIS’ other “investors” ever been modified to reflect Seacoast’s participation in the company’s loan structure.  Seacoast immediately filed a UCC-1 on its own behalf in order to protect its position.  Some time after QuVIS found itself in Chapter 11 in 2009, the Committee of Unsecured Creditors (and other, less alert “investors”) sought to subordinate Seacoast’s position.

    The Committee’s argument was based exclusively on 11 U.S.C. § 510(c), which provides, in pertinent part:

    Notwithstanding subsections (a) and (b) of this section, after notice and a hearing, the court may— (1) under principles of equitable subordination, subordinate for purposes of distribution all or part of an allowed claim to all or part of another allowed claim …

    “Equitable” subordination is based on the idea of “inequitable” conduct – such as fraud, illegality, or breach of fiduciary duties.  Where an “insider” or a fiduciary of the debtor is the target of a subordination claim, however, the party seeking subordination need only show some unfair conduct, and a degree of culpability, on the part of the insider.

    Seacoast sought summary judgment denying the subordination claim.  In granting Seacoast’s request, Judge Nugent of the Kansas Bankruptcy Court distinguished Seacoast’s Managing Director from Seacoast, finding that though Moulton was indeed an “insider,” Seacoast was not.  Therefore, Seacoast’s claim was not subject to subordination for any “unfair conduct” which might be attributable to Moulton.  To that end, Judge Nugent also appeared to go to some lengths to demostrate that Mr. Moulton’s conduct was not in any way “unfair” or detrimental to the interests of other creditors.

    Subordination claims are highly fact-specific.  With this in mind, the facts of the QuVIS decision afford instructive reading for lenders whose lending arrangements may entitle them to designate one of the debtor’s directors.

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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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