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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    Posts Tagged ‘Goldman Sachs’

    The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

    Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

    Squeaky WheelAn old and well-known proverb warns:  “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”  Over against this timeless advice, however, a very recent Second Circuit offers more specific guidance for creditors of a bankrupt debtor:

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    In Adelphia Recovery Trust v. Goldman, Sachs & Co., et al., a creditors’ trust established to recover transfers under Adelphia Communications’ confirmed Chapter 11 plan of reorganization sought unsuccessfully to recover “margin call” payments made to Goldman, Sachs & Co.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower courts in determining that the commingled funds used to make the payments had been taken from a “concentration account” scheduled as property of one of Adelphia Communications’ subsidiaries; consequently the funds were not Adelphia Communications’ to recover, and the trust could not belatedly be re-characterized them as such.  A copy of the decision is available here.

    In 2002, Adelphia Communications Corporation and related subsidiaries entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy following the disclosure of fraudulently concealed, off-balance sheet debt on Adelphia Communications’ books.  The companies were ultimately liquidated and their secured creditors paid in full.  In addition, all of the unsecured debt of Adelphia Communications’ subsidiaries was paid in full, with interest, and Adelphia Communications’ general creditors were paid in part.  Under Adelphia Communications’ Chapter 11 Plan (confirmed in early 2007 – about 2½ years after the company entered bankruptcy), those same unsecured creditors were to receive the proceeds of the Adelphia Recovery Trust.  The Trust was charged with recovery of, among other things, fraudulent transfers made by Adelphia Communications prior to the commencement of the Adelphia cases.

    It was not until 2009 that the Trust identified as funds belonging to Adelphia Communications certain commingled funds held in a “concentration account” of one of Adelphia Communications’ subsidiaries.  Those funds, it was alleged, were used to cover “margin calls” made by Goldman Sachs & Co. in connection with margin loans previously made to Adelphia Communications’ founders and primary stockholders and collateralized by Adelphia Communications stock.  Goldman Sachs had issued the margin calls as the value of Adelphia Commutations stock declined amidst revelations of Adelphia Communications’ off-balance sheet debt.

    Goldman Sachs sought, and obtained, summary judgment in the District Court on the basis that the funds in question had been paid by Adelphia Communications’ subsidiary – and not by Adelphia Communications.  The Recovery Trust appealed, arguing that the funds in question were, in fact, owned by Adelphia Communications.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the District Court’s ruling.

    The Second Circuit explained that the commencement of a bankruptcy case triggers a number of requirements for a debtor.  Among these is the mandatory requirement that the debtor must submit a schedule of all its interests in any property, wherever situated.  Ultimately, the debtor must propose a plan which distributes this property within a defined priority scheme, and in the manner most advantageous for the greatest number of creditors.

    The plan must also designate classes of claims and classes of interests and specify how the debtor will attend to these classes.  Once the relevant parties, including the creditors, approve the debtor’s plan, the court confirms the plan and binds all parties.  It is therefore crucial that all claims and interests must be settled before the plan is finalized and within the time frame allotted by the Bankruptcy Code.

    The Second Circuit found that the commingled funds sought by the Adelphia Recovery Trust were claimed by one of Adelphia Communications’ subsidiaries during the bankruptcy proceeding.  Those claims were asserted without objection from Adelphia Communications’ creditors.  The Trust’s subsequent claim to those assets in a subsequent proceeding was therefore inconsistent with creditors’ earlier stance.  Under the doctrine of judicial estoppel, parties (and their successors) cannot be allowed to change their positions at their convenience.  Consistent with this doctrine, disturbing claims and distributions at such an advanced stage of the proceedings to address the creditors’ changed position would undermine the administration of Adelphia Communications’ and its subsidiaries’ related cases.  It would also threaten the integrity and stability of the bankruptcy process by encouraging parties to alter their positions at their whim, as and whenever convenient.

    Adelphia Recovery Trust highlights three important realities of bankruptcy practice:

    First, the filing of a debtor’s bankruptcy schedules is more than a merely a perfunctory act.  It is a preliminary statement, made to the best of the debtor’s belief and under penalty of perjury, of the debtor’s assets (including all of its ownership interests in any property, anywhere) and its liabilities.  Ultimately, creditors and other interested parties – and the court itself – rely upon those schedules in determining the debtor’s compliance with the reorganization requirements of Bankruptcy Code section 1129.

    – Second, related debtors are commonly related in much more than name or ownership.  In addition to inter-company transfers and claims between debtors, it is common for such enterprises to separate functional asset ownership from legal asset ownership.  This distinction may be an important one for various groups of creditors seeking additional sources of recovery.

    – Third (and finally), creditors – and the professionals who represent them – should thoroughly investigate any and all “control,” commingling, and other aspects of the relationships between related debtors which may give rise to indirect ownership of assets.  Where doubt or conflicting claims exist as to specific assets, it is important for parties with competing claims to reserve their rights early and clearly – thereby making themselves the “squeaky wheel” in the event of any future “grease.”

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    . . . But Will It Work?

    Monday, January 31st, 2011

    The 2008 financial crisis sparked a vigorous debate over how the financial problems of troubled financial institutions ought to resolved.  Ultimately, Congress’ answer to this (and a host of other regulatory matters involving financial institutions) was the Dodd-Frank Act.

    But is Dodd-Frank the best answer to resolving the distress of financial insitutions?  In a paper forthcoming in the Seattle Law Review, Seton Hall Professor Stephen J. Lubben discusses The Risks of Fractured Resolution – Financial Institutions and Bankruptcy.  According to Professor Lubben:

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    Under Dodd-Frank, “[a]ll large bank holding companies, which now include former investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, and many other important institutions, with more than 85% of their activities in ‘finance,’ will be subject to a new resolution regime controlled by the FDIC and initiated by the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve.  But by developing a new system for addressing financial distress, instead of integrating the new system into the existing structure of the Bankruptcy Code, the financial reform act simply recreates the prior problem in a new place.  The future Lehmans and AIGs will be covered by the new procedure, but other firms that have 84% of their activities in finance will not.  In short, the disconnect between bankruptcy and banking has moved to a different group of firms.  And we may have done nothing but protect ourselves against an exact repeat of the financial crisis.

           . . . .

    I use this paper to argue that there are significant gaps in the federal system for resolving financial distress in a financial firm, even after passage of the Dodd-Frank bill.  These gaps represent potential sources of systemic risk – that is, risk to the financial system as a whole.   They must be fixed.  But I should make clear at the outset that I do not argue that these gaps must be filled with the Bankruptcy Code.  Rather, the point is that the various systems for resolving financial distress among financial firms – including the FDIC bank resolution process, the new resolution authority, state insurance resolution proceedings, and the SIPC process for broker-dealers, as well as chapter 11 of the Code – must be integrated so that the result of financial distress is clear and predictable.  Integrating all under the Bankruptcy Code is an option, but not the only way to achieve such clarity.”

    Lubben’s work provides an insightful perspective on Dodd-Frank’s effectiveness, at least as it regards the resolution of financial institution insolvency.

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    Chapter 15 Round-Up

    Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

    Continued global economic uncertainty and an impending 3d quarter slow-down in the US have translated into active global restructuring in recent months. Some of the 2d and 3d quarter’s more newsworthy cross-border filings include:

    Compania Mexicana de Aviacion – Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, generally known as Mexicana, filed for insolvency in Mexico City and Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in New York on August 2.

    The airline reportedly made its move after failing to reach a new cost-cutting deal with its unions – it claims Mexicana’s labor costs “are well above the average for the industry at the global level, so a leveling is essential for achieving a restructuring with creditors and the company’s viability.” Mexicana claims it will have to slash 40 percent of pilot and flight attendant jobs, with those remaining with the carrier being asked to take 40 percent pay cuts.

    At the time of filing, the company also reported three of Mexicana’s 64 aircraft already had been seized by the leasing companies that own them.

    Fairfield Sentry Ltd., Fairfield Sigma Ltd. and Fairfield Lambda Ltd. – Three financial services companies, established in 1990 as “feeder funds” for the purpose of investing in Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, received joint recognition in Manhattan on July 22 in connection with their respective British Virgin Islands insolvency proceedings.

    As reported by the Daily Deal on July 27, all three entities sold shares to individuals who were neither residents nor citizens of the United States. Such investors also included pension and profit-sharing trusts, charities and other tax-exempt entities. Fairfield Sentry, the largest of the feeder funds, offered its shares in U.S. dollars, while Fairfield Sigma offered shares in Euros and Fairfield Lambda provided them in Swiss francs.

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    Fairfield Lambda was placed into liquidation by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the High Court of Justice in British Virgin Islands in April 2009 upon application by Commerzbank AG, then known as Dresdner Bank AG. Fairfield Sentry’s and Fairfield Sigma’s liquidations were approved by the same court in July following similar creditor requests.

    Cozumel Caribe SA de CV – The Mexico City-based operator of the 348-room Hotel Park Royal Cozumel resort sought recognition for a previously-commenced concurso mercantil proceeding (filed in the Third District Court of the Mexican State of Quintana Roo) on July 20 in Manhattan.

    Cozumel Caribe blamed its financial woes on declines in Mexican tourism, which has been beleaguered of late by a weak Mexican peso, the outbreak of H1N1 flu virus, and State Department advisories regarding increased crime in Mexico. Cozumel Caribe’s own cash woes were allegedly further compounded by lender CT Investment Management Co.’s alleged failure to withhold tax receipts and funds to cover daily operations.

    Minster Insurance Co. Ltd. – The London insurer and its affiliate, Malvern Insurance Co. Ltd., sought recognition on July 19 in furtherance of its previously-approved solvent scheme of arrangement, made pursuant to Part 26 of the U.K. Companies Act 2006. A hearing to consider the recognition is scheduled for Aug. 27.

    Controladora Comercial Mexicana SAB de CV – The operator of Costco Wholesale Corp. outlets in Mexico, and the country’s third-largest retailer, sought recognition in New York on July 16 in furtherance of its prenegotiated concurso mercantil proceeding in Mexico City.

    As reported by the Daily Deal, CCM will restructure a total of $3.3 billion through its prenegotiated bankruptcy filing, including approximately $2.2 billion worth of derivative obligations owed to J.P. Morgan Chase NA, Barclays Bank plc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Banco Santander (Mexico) SA, Banco Nacional de Mexico SA and Citibank NA, and $99.4 million in unsecured debt owed to seven unspecified Mexican commercial banks. The restructuring is purportedly supported by 85% of its debt holders.

    CCM’s prenegotiated plan follows an earlier, failed 2008 concurso bid, which subsequently drove the parties to the bargaining table.

    ABC Learning Centres Ltd. – The Australian childcare center operator sought recognition of its voluntary winding up proceeding over the objection of RCS Capital Development LLC.  ABC and RCS are involved in litigation over the development of child care centers in Arizona and Nevada.  In addition to opposing recognition, RCS sought relief from the automatic stay to enter judgment upon a jury verdict rendered in its favor in Arizona, and to assert that judgment as an offset against claims made by ABC in Nevada.

    At a hearing held August 9, Delaware Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross took both matters under advisement. As of the date of this writing, no decision has been rendered.

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