Our May 23, June 28, July 13 and August 3 posts discussed the First Circuit’s January 12 decision in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC. and, most recently, the pending petition for certiorari. Since our last post, the respondent filed its response to the petition in opposition to granting cert., giving several reasons why cert. should be denied.
We generally advise clients to think carefully before commencing an involuntary bankruptcy petition against an alleged debtor. One of the primary reasons for our caution is section 303(i) of the Bankruptcy Code, which provides that “(i) If the court dismisses [an involuntary] petition under this section other than on consent of all petitioners and the debtor, and if the debtor does not waive the right to judgment under this subsection, the court may grant judgment—(1) against the petitioners and in favor of the debtor for—(A) costs; or (B) a reasonable attorney’s fee; or (2) against any petitioner that filed the petition in bad faith, for—(A) any damages proximately caused by such filing; or (B) punitive damages.” A recent unreported decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals underscores the serious consequences that can flow from an adverse judgment under this section of the Code.
Third Circuit Enforces Plan Releases Against Later-Purchasing Shareholders Bringing Claims Concerning Post-Confirmation Conduct
Bankruptcy plans often include provisions releasing debtors and their officers and directors from certain potential liability. In Zardinovsky v. Arctic Glacier Income Fund, No. 17-2522 (3d Cir. Aug. 20, 2018), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that such a provision bound shareholders who purchased the shares after confirmation, as to post-confirmation claims including securities fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. Because this decision was at the motion to dismiss stage, what follows are the court’s characterization of the facts as alleged in the complaint.
In January 2014, Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. (“Lehman”) settled claims filed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac arising out of each of their purchases of mortgage loans from Lehman and its affiliates. Lehman then sought to recoup the amounts paid to Fannie and Freddie by way of third-party indemnification claims brought in the Bankruptcy Court against financial institutions that it alleges sold or submitted the defective mortgage loans into Lehman’s loan sale and securitization channels in the first place. A number of the financial institutions moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Earlier this week, Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman held that the Bankruptcy Court has “related to” jurisdiction over the indemnification claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334(b) and therefore denied the motions to dismiss.
The Bankruptcy Court in Delaware recently denied a request for an administrative expense claim to an entity that tried but failed to buy a debtor’s key assets. The decision arises out of the first of three attempts by entities to purchase Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC (“Oncor”) in the complex Energy Future Holdings Corp. bankruptcy cases. In re Energy Future Holdings Corp., 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 2257 (Bankr. D. Del. Aug. 1, 2018).
Our July 13 post stated that the deadline for the respondent in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC, 879 F.3d 389 (1st Cir. 2018), petition for cert. filed, No. 17-1657 (June 11, 2018), to submit a reply to the petition for certiorari seeking reversal of the First Circuit’s 2-1 decision had been extended to August 8. The respondent sought an additional extension to September 7, and, on July 24, its request was granted. We continue to monitor developments in what could become one of the most consequential Supreme Court cases on bankruptcy in decades.
In the era that preceded the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 and its enactment of the Bankruptcy Code, bankruptcy estates often lost the value of leases and other contracts that could have been realized for creditors by use or sale as a result of termination provisions (either discretionary or ipso facto), limitations or outright prohibitions on assignment, and counterparty self-help. The Code sought to preserve that value for creditors by a skein of related provisions that (among other things) greatly strengthened the automatic stay, rendered bankruptcy termination provisions unenforceable, and constrained provisions that limit the assignment of contracts for value by bankruptcy estates.
In 2010, Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc. (“Lehman”) commenced an adversary proceeding against Shinhan Bank (“Shinhan”) to avoid and recover pre-bankruptcy transfers made to the South Korean bank. In 2015, while a motion to dismiss the case was pending, a mediator proposed a resolution to both sides at a settlement conference. Two weeks later, counsel for Shinhan emailed the mediator that “Shinhan has agreed to accept” the settlement, whereupon the mediator notified both parties that a settlement was reached.
An accounting firm in the United States must produce workpapers to a chapter 15 foreign representative even if the law where the foreign main proceeding is pending would not permit such production. CohnReznick LLP v. Foreign Representatives of Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund L.P. (In re Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund L.P.), No. 18-5176 (DLC), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109684 (S.D.N.Y June 29, 2018).
Our June 28 post discussed the petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the First Circuit’s January 12 decision in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC. We noted that the respondent’s response to the petition was due on July 12.
The respondent’s response to the petition was not filed on July 12, and its time to do so has apparently been extended to August 8. In the meantime, however, an amicus curiae brief in support of the petition was filed by the International Trademark Association (INTA) on July 11. The INTA brief makes two major points--
Section 327(a) of the Bankruptcy Code imposes restrictions on the employment of professionals to assist a trustee, requiring that such professionals “not hold or represent an interest adverse to the estate” and be “disinterested persons.” Section 363(b) permits the trustee, after notice and a hearing, to “use, sell, or lease, other than in the ordinary course of business, property of the estate,” and does not impose restrictions on employment comparable to those of section 327(a). On Monday, in In re Nine West Holdings, Inc., Case No. 18-10947 (SCC), Judge Shelley C. Chapman of the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York considered the relationship between those provisions in deciding on an application to retain a management consultancy firm that had already been assisting the debtors prior to the bankruptcy petition. Judge Chapman held that the application was properly considered under section 363(b) rather than section 327(a). Applying the business judgment standard under 363(b) rather than the more stringent standard under 327(a), Judge Chapman approved the application.
Our January 22 post discussed “a long-running issue concerning the treatment of trademark licenses in bankruptcy” and its resolution in the January 12 decision of the First Circuit in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC. Mission Product Holdings filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court on June 11.
Courts in the Fourth and Seventh Circuits have disagreed whether objection and attendance at a hearing are prerequisites for satisfying the “person aggrieved” requirement for appellate standing. Compare In re Schultz Mfg. Fabricating Co., 956 F.2d 686, 690 (7th Cir. 1992) (attendance and objection at a bankruptcy court proceeding are requirements for appellate standing) with In re Urban Broad. Corp., 401 F.3d 236, 244 (4th Cir. 2005) (attendance and objection are not necessary for standing to appeal a bankruptcy court order).
Supreme Court Resolves Circuit Split on the Dischargeability of Debts Obtained by Oral Misrepresentations
On June 4, the Supreme Court decided Lamar, Archer & Cofrin, LLP v. Appling, No. 16-1215, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Sotomayor. The Court affirmed the Eleventh Circuit and resolved a circuit split about the meaning of “statement respecting the debtor’s . . . financial condition” in section 523(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code.
Judge Martin Glenn granted recognition to a UK scheme of arrangement with third-party releases that lacked full creditor consent. In re Avanti Communs. Grp., PLC, No. 18-10458, 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 1078 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Apr. 9, 2018). While stating that “granting third-party releases in chapter 11 cases is controversial,” Judge Glenn noted that courts will more willingly enforce third-party releases in chapter 15 cases, given the importance of comity and respect for foreign proceedings.
Bondholders announce framework for Commonwealth-COFINA Settlement; Oversight Board and Government say the deal is “Not Acceptable.”
On May 14, a large coalition of stakeholders in the COFINA-Commonwealth litigation, which we previously reported on here, announced a proposed settlement outline to resolve the long-running dispute over who owns the sales and use taxes pledged by COFINA to secure COFINA bonds. The proposed settlement is supported by the Ad Hoc Group of Puerto Rico General Obligation Bondholders, the COFINA Senior Bondholders Coalition, and certain monoline insurers. But while this is an important step forwards, the settlement does not yet have the support of the two agents appointed by the Oversight Board, the only parties with authority to settle the dispute.
Our January 22 post discussed “a long-running issue concerning the treatment of trademark licenses in bankruptcy” and its resolution in the January 12 decision of the First Circuit in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC. On May 17, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut came down on the Sunbeam side of the issue and rejected the holding and reasoning of Tempnology. It may therefore become the vehicle for the Second Circuit to speak on the question upon which the First, Third, Fourth and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have spoken.
Bankruptcy Remoteness Going to a Court of Appeals--Fifth Circuit Issues Speedy, Focused Affirmance of the Dismissal of the Petition
Our February 22 post (with updates on March 19, April 17 and April 25) reported on a bankruptcy court decision dismissing a voluntary corporate Chapter 11 petition that had not been approved by a preferred stockholder of the debtor whose approval was required by the debtor’s certificate of incorporation that was on track for a direct and expedited appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the first case squarely dealing with bankruptcy remoteness, in my memory, to reach a Court of Appeals on the merits. Last night, about three weeks after oral argument, the Court issued its unanimous opinion--clear, careful, thorough, but materially more limited than the questions that were certified to it by the Bankruptcy Court--affirming the Bankruptcy Court’s dismissal of the voluntary petition.
In a recent decision, In re B.C.I Fins. Pty Ltd. (In Liquidation), No. 17-11266, 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 1217 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 2018), Judge Sean Lane granted a chapter 15 petition after rejecting a challenge to jurisdiction in the Southern District of New York. He held that, under Bankruptcy Code section 109(a), jurisdiction was established in the district because the debtors had a retainer payment there and claims against corporate directors for breaching fiduciary duties.
Bankruptcy Court Holds That Transferee Not Liable For Intentional Fraudulent Transfer Where Funds Were Returned To Debtor
Section 544 of the Bankruptcy Code permits a bankruptcy trustee to avoid any transfer that would be avoidable by creditors under state fraudulent transfer law. Section 550 of the Bankruptcy Code permits the bankruptcy trustee to recover from the transferee the transferred property in a fraudulent transfer avoided under section 550. Where funds were transferred in an intentional fraudulent transfer, but subsequently an equal or greater quantity of funds were transferred back to the debtor from the transferee, can the trustee still recover from the transferee? The Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently considered this question in In re Incare LLC, Adv. No. 14-0248, 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 1339 (E.D. Pa. May 7, 2018), and held that the answer was no, the trustee cannot recover.
This week Dan Lowenthal and Taylor Kirklin published an article in The Bankruptcy Strategist: “SCOTUS Recap: What Lies Ahead for the Lower Courts’ Tests for ‘Non-Statutory Insiders.’” The article examines the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. Village at Lakeridge, LLC, 200 L.Ed.2d 218 (U.S. 2018), in which the Court clarified the standard of review for appellate courts to apply when reviewing a bankruptcy court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The article proposes a solution to a question that the Court’s majority opinion left unanswered: the appropriate test for determining whether an individual is a “non-statutory insider” under the Bankruptcy Code.
To read the full article, click here.
In BFP v. Resolution Tr. Corp., 511 U.S. 531 (1994), the Supreme Court held that a mortgage foreclosure sale conducted in accordance with state law was shielded from avoidance under the Bankruptcy Code’s fraudulent conveyance provision, 11 U.S.C. § 548. In the wake of BFP, the federal courts have wrestled with the question of whether tax sales—distinct from foreclosures, but similar in concept—may be avoided in bankruptcy. Two strands of analysis have emerged: whether tax sales may be set aside as a fraudulent conveyance under section 548, and whether tax sales may be attacked as a preferential transfer under section 547. In both strands, the federal courts have continued to reach divergent, and often contradictory, results.
Our February 22 post reported that the Franchise Services of North America, Inc. decision of Bankruptcy Judge Edward Ellington of the Southern District of Mississippi dismissing a Chapter 11 petition because a shareholder had not approved the filing as required by the debtor’s charter was going directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on an expedited basis. It is the first case concerning the merits of contractual or structural bankruptcy-remoteness in my memory to reach a Court of Appeals since the adoption of the Bankruptcy Code in 1978. We promised to report on developments as they occur and reported on the filing of the debtor-appellant’s brief on March 19 and the appellees’ brief on April 16.
Check Pleas: Reimbursement Check Delivered to Employee Pre-Petition is Unauthorized Post-Petition Transfer
Section 549 of the Bankruptcy Code permits a trustee or debtor in possession to avoid (and ultimately recover) a transfer of the debtor’s property “that occurs after the commencement of the case” and “is not authorized under this title or by the court.” 11 U.S.C. § 549. This sensible provision safeguards property of the estate for ratable distribution to creditors in accordance with the priorities established by the Bankruptcy Code and provides the Trustee with the necessary authority to pursue transferees that receive property of the estate without Court approval.
Our February 22 post reported that the Franchise Services of North America, Inc. decision of Bankruptcy Judge Edward Ellington of the Southern District of Mississippi dismissing a Chapter 11 petition because a shareholder had not approved the filing as required by the debtor’s charter was going directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on an expedited basis. It is the first case concerning the merits of contractual or structural bankruptcy-remoteness in my memory to reach a Court of Appeals since the adoption of the Bankruptcy Code in 1978. We promised to report on developments as they occur and reported on the filing of the debtor-appellant’s brief on March 19.
Substantive consolidation is the ultimate disregard of the corporate separateness of a group of related debtors--it is “the effective merger of two or more legally distinct (albeit affiliated) entities into a single debtor with a common pool of assets and a common body of liabilities,” but without the actual de jure merger of the debtors. All of the assets of the several debtors are thrown into a single (metaphorical) pot, and all of the liabilities of the several debtors are combined (with intercompany debts and multiple claims for the same underlying liability, such as parent or subsidiary guaranties, eliminated) against that pot of assets. The substantive consolidation of entity debtors is not mentioned anywhere in the Bankruptcy Code and rests entirely on judge-made law with its origins predating the adoption of the Code in 1978.
Delaware District Court Dismisses Appeal by Creditors’ Committee After Case is Converted from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7
The Bankruptcy Code provides for the appointment of a creditors’ committee in chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. See 11 U.S.C. § 1102. There is no parallel provision applicable to chapter 7 cases. When a bankruptcy case is converted from chapter 11 to chapter 7 while the creditors’ committee is pursuing an appeal, what happens to that appeal? In In re Constellation Enterprises LLC, Civ. No. 17-757-RGA, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47153 (D. Del. Mar. 22, 2018), the United States District Court for the District of Delaware held that such an appeal should be dismissed because the appellant, the creditors’ committee, had been dissolved by the conversion.
This post reviews some concepts concerning executory contracts. The ground covered will be familiar to insolvency experts and should be insightful for readers who don’t specialize in U.S. bankruptcy law.
The springboard for the overview is an opinion issued last week, In re Cho, Case No. 17-22057, 2018 LEXIS 700 (MMH) (Bankr. D. Md. Mar. 13, 2018). Before the chapter 11 case was filed, Chong Ok Lim and Young Jun (“Plaintiffs”) owned a dry cleaning business that was later owned and operated by Byung Mook Cho (“Cho”). The parties had a dispute that led to lawsuit and a judgment for the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs later alleged that Cho and He Sook Paik (“Paik“) “conspired to fraudulently convey” the dry cleaning business to Cho.
Our February 22 post reported that the Franchise Services of North America, Inc. decision of Bankruptcy Judge Edward Ellington of the Southern District of Mississippi dismissing a Chapter 11 petition because a holder of “golden share” stock had not approved the petition as required by the debtor’s charter was going directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on an expedited basis. It is the first case concerning the merits of contractual or structural bankruptcy-remoteness in my memory to reach a Court of Appeals since the adoption of the Bankruptcy Code in 1978. We promised to report on developments as they occur.
In “Non-Statutory Insider” Case, Supreme Court Clarifies the Standard of Review for Mixed Questions of Law and Fact
In U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Village at Lakeridge, LLC, No. 15-1509, 2018 U.S. LEXIS 1520 (Mar. 5, 2018), the Supreme Court analyzed the appropriate standard of review for appellate courts reviewing a bankruptcy court’s determination of a “mixed question” of law and fact. But the Court did not address whether the lower courts’ various “non-statutory insider” tests should be refined—although the concurrences strongly suggest that issue may be ripe for increased scrutiny.
On March 7, 2018, Journal of Corporate Renewal featured an article written by Daniel A. Lowenthal, Chair of Patterson Belknap’s Business Reorganization and Creditors' Rights Practice, entitled “Venezuelan Debt Crisis Intensifies as Its Leaders Ponder Responses.” Mr. Lowenthal discusses Venezuela's current debt crisis and the uncertainty of how it will unfold and how long it will take to resolve.
To read the full article, click here.
In September, we reported on the possible bankruptcy of Connecticut’s capital city and questioned whether anything short of a State-led bailout could save the City from its crippling deficit and mounting debt service payments.
Our post last year concerning “[t]he long-running litigation spawned by the leveraged buyout of Tribune Company . . . and the subsequent bankruptcy case” described a case--FTI v. Merit--that was then pending in the Supreme Court. In that case, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had construed the safe harbor provided in Section 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code in conflict with its construction by the Second and Third Circuits (among others). On February 27, the Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision affirming the Seventh Circuit.
Bankruptcy court holds that state consumer fraud claims against corporations are dischargeable in bankruptcy
Section 1141(d)(6)(A) and section 523(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code together provide that debts owed by a corporation to a government entity are not dischargeable if such debts were obtained by false representations. Does this rule apply to claims by government entities seeking to enforce consumer fraud laws, where the government entities were not themselves the victims of the fraud? On February 14, 2018, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware held that it does not, ruling that such claims against corporations brought by states on behalf of their citizens are dischargeable in bankruptcy. In re TK Holdings Inc., Case No. 17-11375, 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 414 (Bankr. D. Del. Feb. 14, 2018).
Back in the day--say, the last two decades of the twentieth century--we bankruptcy lawyers took it largely on faith that the right structural and contractual provisions purporting to confer bankruptcy-remoteness were enforceable and likely to be successful in preventing an entity from becoming, voluntarily or involuntarily, a debtor under the Bankruptcy Code. During the latter part of the first decade of the twenty-first century, however, that faith began to erode as bankruptcy court case law began to accumulate which denied motions to dismiss petitions based upon remoteness provisions.
The Second Circuit recently issued an important decision on a “related to” jurisdiction case arising out of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. SPV Osus, Ltd. v. UBS AG, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 3088 (2d Cir. Feb. 9, 2018).
One and Done. Cramdown Requirement for an Impaired Assenting Class Applies on a Per-Plan, Not a Per-Debtor, Basis.
Confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization generally requires the consent of each impaired class of creditors. But, upon satisfaction of additional statutory requirements, a plan proponent can obtain confirmation of a “cramdown” plan over the dissent of one or more classes of creditors as long as “at least one class of claims that is impaired under the plan has accepted the plan.”
In Dahlin v. Lyondell Chemical Co., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1956 (8th Cir. Jan. 26, 2018), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an argument that bankruptcy debtors were required by due process to provide more prominent notice of a case filing than they did, such that the notice might have been seen by unknown creditors with claims to assert.
A long-running issue concerning the treatment of trademark licenses in bankruptcy has seen a new milestone with the January 12 decision of the First Circuit in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC.
Third Circuit Holds Transfer from Non-Debtor Precludes Liability Under Delaware Fraudulent Transfer Law
In Crystallex Int'l Corp. v. Petróleos de Venez., S.A., Nos. 16-4012, 17-1439, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 95 (3d Cir. Jan. 3, 2018), the U.S. Court of Appeals held there could be no fraudulent transfer liability under the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“DUFTA”) where the transfer was made by a non-debtor entity—even where the debtor exercised complete control over the non-debtor and allegedly orchestrated transfers through the non-debtor to frustrate creditors.
In this post, we return to cross-border insolvencies and examine one of the first decisions issued in 2018 by a bankruptcy court in a chapter 15 case: In re Energy Coal S.P.A., No. 15-12048 (LSS), 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 10 (Bankr. D. Del. Jan. 2, 2018), where the court allowed a creditor to liquidate its claim in a lawsuit brought against a debtor in the U.S., but required the creditor to seek collection from the debtor in the country where the foreign main proceeding was filed. The upshot of the decision is that respect for the foreign main proceeding and the concept of comity trumped contractual choice of law and venue provisions.
Dispute Evolution: A bona fide dispute regarding claim amount may disqualify creditor from maintaining an involuntary case.
Section 303(b)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code generally requires three petitioning creditors to join an involuntary petition, each of which must hold claims against the debtor that are not contingent as to liability and are not the subject of a bona fide dispute as to liability or amount.
Bankruptcy courts lack the power to impose serious punitive sanctions, a federal district judge ruled recently in PHH Mortgage Corporation v. Sensenich, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207801 (D. Vt. Dec. 18, 2018). Judge Geoffrey Crawford reversed a bankruptcy judge’s ruling that had imposed sanctions against a creditor based on Rule 3002.1(i) of the Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the bankruptcy court’s inherent authority, and Bankruptcy Code section 105.
This post examines an interesting intersection between bankruptcy and tax laws: if a corporation terminates its Subchapter S status pre-bankruptcy, can a bankruptcy trustee bring fraudulent transfer claims against the corporation’s shareholders to recover resulting tax refunds they receive? One bankruptcy court recently dismissed such fraudulent transfer claims on the ground that the corporation’s S status wasn’t property of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate, and thus the trustee couldn’t pursue the claims. Richard Arrowsmith v. United States (In re Health Diagnostic Lab., Inc.), 2017 LEXIS 4148 (Bankr. ED Va. Dec. 6, 2017). This decision adds to a split of authority on this issue.
When the fallout from failed intellectual-property litigation collides with bankruptcy, the complexities may be dizzying enough, but when the emerging practices and imperatives of litigation financing are imposed on those complexities, the situation might be likened to three-dimensional chess. But in the court of one veteran bankruptcy judge, the complexities were penetrated to reveal that elementary errors and oversights can have decisive effects.
Forum Selection Clause in an Unsigned Pre-Petition Engagement Letter is Binding on Chapter 11 Trustee.
Every lawyer knows that it is important to enter into a signed engagement letter with a client before commencing legal representation. But, as one law firm recently discovered, even an unsigned engagement letter is better than none at all. The decision of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Glass v. Miller & Martin, PLLC addresses this plus several other key concepts for Bankruptcy Court litigants.
On November 9, responding to a request from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Solicitor General filed a brief at the Court recommending that the petition for writ of certiorari in Lamar, Archer & Cofrin, LLP v. Appling, No. 16-11911, be granted. The petition, seeking review of a unanimous panel decision of the Eleventh Circuit, presents the question of “whether (and, if so, when) a statement concerning a specific asset can be a ‘statement respecting the debtor's . . . financial condition’ within Section 523(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code.” There is a circuit split on this question, though the parties dispute its extent and its ripeness.
Perhaps this is one of the first articles you’re reading about the debt crisis in Venezuela. It won’t be the last. The situation there is bad and will get worse.
A recent decision of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York provides important guidance on the limits of nonconsensual third-party releases in the Second Circuit. SunEdison, Inc. sought confirmation of a plan for itself and its affiliated debtors. The plan included releases of claims against non-debtor third parties by any creditor that was entitled to but did not cast a vote on the plan. No party objected to the release at the confirmation hearing, but Judge Bernstein asked sua sponte whether he had authority to bind non-voting creditors to broad releases of claims against third parties.
It is a unique characteristic of debt restructuring under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code that a majority of a class of creditors can accept a modification of the terms of the debts owed to the class members, as provided in a plan of reorganization, and thereby bind non-accepting class members. The ordinary route to confirming a Chapter 11 plan is to obtain its acceptance by a majority of every impaired class of creditors and equity holders.
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