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Bankruptcy Update Blog provides current news and analysis of key bankruptcy cases and developments in US and cross-border matters. Patterson Belknap’s Business Reorganization and Creditors’ Rights attorneys represent creditors’ committees, trade creditors, indenture trustees, and bankruptcy trustees and examiners in US and international insolvency cases. Our team includes highly skilled and experienced attorneys who represent clients in some of the most complex cases in courts throughout the US and elsewhere.

Crypto Exchange Platforms Grapple with Consequence of Filing Bankruptcy

In the world of cryptocurrency, exchange platforms act as intermediaries allowing investors to buy and sell assets while making money through commissions and transaction fees.  Any assets purchased may be held in either non-custodial or custodial wallets.  If a customer chooses a custodial wallet, the platform holds and manages the assets through a private key, which is a string of characters that serves as a password.  If a key is lost or forgotten, it may be impossible to recover, resulting in the permanent loss of the asset.  In contrast, assets held in non-custodial wallets remain under the customer’s control with a private key.

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear a Case About the Scope of the Fraud Exception to Discharge

A discharge in bankruptcy usually discharges a debtor from the debtor’s liabilities.  Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code, however, sets forth certain exceptions to this policy, including for “any debt . . . for money, property, services, or an extension, renewal, or refinancing of credit, to the extent obtained by . . . false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud. . . .”  11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A).  (We have previously written about this provision in the context of statements respecting a debtor’s financial condition.)  There is a split among the courts of appeal as to whether this provision applies only to a debtor who has some level of knowledge of the fraud, or whether the bar on discharge applies also when the debtor is liable only by imputation for a fraud committed by an agent or partner of the debtor.  On May 2, the Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari in Bartenwerfer v. Buckley, No. 21-908, a case presenting this question.

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Equitable Mootness Applied Again: The Fifth Circuit Refuses to Hear an Appeal

The Fifth Circuit recently dismissed an appeal of a confirmation order as equitably moot.  The decision was based on three key factors: the appellant hadn’t obtained a stay pending appeal, the plan had been substantially consummated, and practical relief couldn’t be fashioned if the plan was unwound.  Talarico v. Ultra Petro. Corp. (In re Ultra Petro. Corp.), Case No. 21-20049, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 8941 (5th Cir. Apr. 1, 2022).  

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Releases: How Did We Get Here and What is Next?

As a result of Purdue Pharma’s proposed plan of reorganization, and the ongoing opioid epidemic that continues to grip the nation, the debate over non-consensual third-party releases has gone mainstream despite being a popular tool for debtors for decades.

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Supreme Court to Consider Constitutionality of Chapter 11 Fees

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to “establish . . .  uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.”  While Congress has general authority to establish a bankruptcy system, bankruptcy laws must be “uniform.”  But not every aspect of the bankruptcy system is the same across every judicial district.  For instance, while most judicial districts have United States Trustees, which are funded by a special fee charged to debtors, the judicial districts of Alabama and North Carolina instead have Bankruptcy Administrators, which are funded by general appropriations to the judiciary.  These different funding systems have sometimes resulted in differences in fees imposed on debtors between different judicial districts, raising the question of whether different fee obligations for debtors in different judicial districts is consistent with the uniformity requirement.  In Siegel v. Fitzgerald, No. 21-441, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider this question.

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Bankruptcy Court Won’t Dabble in Case Concerning a Marijuana Business

“[E]nsnared between his involvement in a business that is legal under the laws of Arizona but illegal under federal law,” one debtor’s chapter 13 petition was recently dismissed due to his undisputed violations of the Controlled Substances Act.

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Fireworks in the Sky but not in Court: Bankruptcy Judge Takes a Practical Approach to the Ordinary Course of Business Defense

A recent decision applied the ordinary course of business defense to a preferential transfer claim where the parties had engaged in only two transactions.  In re Reagor Dykes Motors, LP, Case No. 18-50214, Adv. No. 20-05031, 2022 LEXIS 70 (Bankr. N.D. Tex. Jan. 11, 2022).  The court took a practical approach to the defense, given the absence of a detailed history of invoicing and payments between the parties.

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Considering the Conduct of Two PPP “Fraudsters,” Bankruptcy Court Shows Its Teeth but Declines to Bite (For Now)

“Messrs. Woods and Wu are fraudsters,” Judge Christopher S. Sontchi declared in the opening salvo of his scathing opinion.  According to the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, Woods and Wu fraudulently obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan on behalf of Urban Commons Queensway, LLC, which indirectly operates the Queen Mary, a cruise ship turned hotel docked near Long Beach, CA.  Woods and Wu then “absconded with the proceeds, leaving either the Debtor or the United States to pay back the lender.” 

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One Bankruptcy Court’s Analysis of a Motion to Dismiss Avoidance Claims: The Analytical Framework

A federal judge recently allowed a trustee’s preferential transfer claim against a law firm to proceed but dismissed a constructive fraudulent transfer claim.  The decision highlights the pleading standards and analytical framework for motions to dismiss such claims.  Insys Liquidation Trust v. Urquhart (In re Insys Therapeutics Inc.), Case No. 19-11292, Adv. No. 21-50359, 21 Bankr. LEXIS 2965 (JTD) (Bankr. D. Del. Oct. 28, 2021).

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Recent Decision on Derivative Standing by a Creditors’ Committee to Challenge a Lender’s Liens

In many chapter 11 cases, creditors’ committees play a vital role in maximizing the recoveries of unsecured creditors. But the powers of creditors’ committees are circumscribed by both the Bankruptcy Code and case law.

One way committees try to enhance recoveries is by seeking “derivative standing” to commence adversary proceedings challenging the validity of a secured lender’s pre-petition liens. A recent decision shows how one court analyzed if a committee had standing to bring such actions.  In re Platinum Corral, LLC, No. 21-00833-5-JNC, 2021 WL 4695327 (Bankr. E.D.N.C. Oct. 7, 2021).

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Unqualified CARES Act Funds Can't Be Used To Pay Creditors

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig A. Gargotta rejected a debtor’s attempt to use “CARES Act” funds, which it did not actually qualify for, to pay creditors in its chapter 11 case.  BR Healthcare Solutions (the “Debtor”) operated a nursing home under the name Karnes City Health & Rehabilitation Center near San Antonio.  But in January of 2020, the Debtor’s principal “decided to close the nursing home [] due a sustained period of net operating losses.  By February 4, 2020, all of the remaining patients were transitioned out of the nursing home to other providers.”  In March of 2020, the Debtor filed for chapter 11. 

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Bankruptcy Courts Must Independently Assess Chapter 13 Plans

In a recent decision, a district court reversed the decision of the bankruptcy court and clarified the independent obligation of the Bankruptcy Court to ensure that a Chapter 13 Plan satisfies the necessary requirements of the Bankruptcy Code, irrespective of the parties’ conduct.  In re: BRUCE D. PERRY, Debtor. KRISTA PREUSS, Standing Chapter 13 Tr., SDNY, Appellant, v. BRUCE D. PERRY, Appellee., No. 20-CV-4617 (CS), 2021 WL 4298192 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2021)

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Above-Board: Officers of a Corporation Not Entitled to Key Employee Retention Plan Payments

A key goal of the Bankruptcy Code is to prevent corporate insiders from profiting from their employer’s misfortune. Section 503(c) of the Code makes clear: “there shall neither be allowed, nor paid... a transfer made to, or an obligation incurred for the benefit of, an insider of the debtor for the purpose of inducing such person to remain with the debtor's business” absent certain court-approved circumstances.

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Critical Vendors Aren’t Immune from Lawsuits to Recover Preferential Transfers

Some courts permit debtors to designate vendors crucial to their business as “critical vendors.”  These are vendors that supply debtors with necessary goods or services.  With court permission, debtors are allowed to pay critical vendors amounts owing when a bankruptcy case is filed.  Accordingly, critical vendors often recover more on their pre-petition claims than other unsecured creditors.  In other words, critical vendors could receive a full recovery, while other creditors only receive a fraction of what they are owed.

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New Court Ruling on Whether Avoidance Powers Require Benefit to Creditors

The Bankruptcy Code grants the power to avoid certain transactions to a bankruptcy trustee or debtor-in-possession.  See, e.g., 11 U.S.C. §§ 544, 547–48.  Is there a general requirement that these avoidance powers only be used when doing so would benefit creditors?  In a recent decision, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Mexico addressed this question, concluding, in the face of a split of authority, that there was such a requirement.  In re U.S. Glove, Inc., No. 21-10172-T11, 2021 WL 2405399 (Bankr. D.N.M. June 11, 2021).

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Executory Contracts: Third Circuit Does Not Recognize the Doctrine of Implied Assumption

A recent case before bankruptcy judge Karen B. Owens of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, In re Dura Auto. Sys., LLC, No. 19-12378 (KBO), 2021 WL 2456944 (Bankr. D. Del. June 16, 2021), provides a cautionary reminder that the Third Circuit does not recognize the doctrine of implied assumption (i.e., assumptions implied through a course of conduct as opposed to those that are assumed pursuant to a motion and court order).

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Which Procedural Rules Apply to Non-Core, “Related-To” Matters in Federal District Court?  Another Circuit Court Addresses the Issue

At stake in a recent decision by the First Circuit was this:  when a bankruptcy matter is before a federal district court based on non-core, “related to” jurisdiction, should the court apply the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure?  The First Circuit ruled that the former apply, and in so doing joined three other circuits that have also considered this issue.  Roy v. Canadian Pac. Ry. Co. (In re Lac-Megantic Train Derailment Litig.), No. 17-1108, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 16428 (1st Cir. June 2, 2021).[i]

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New Bankruptcy Court Ruling on When a Creditor Can File a Late Proof of Claim

A creditor in bankruptcy must normally file a proof of claim by a certain specified time, known as the bar date, or have its claim be barred.  Bankruptcy Rule 3002(c)(6)(A) provides a narrow exception to this rule when a creditor files a motion and “the notice was insufficient under the circumstances to give the creditor a reasonable time to file a proof of claim because the debtor failed to timely file the list of creditors’ names and addresses required by Rule 1007(a).”  Courts have disagreed about the meaning of this rule when a debtor timely files a list of creditors’ names and addresses (known as a creditor matrix), but improperly omits the creditor in question.  Can the creditor then take advantage of this provision, or does it only apply when the creditor matrix is not timely filed at all?  On May 25, 2021, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in line with the former approach, holding that a known creditor omitted from a creditor matrix can take advantage of Bankruptcy Rule 3002(c)(6)(A) because when the creditor matrix omits a known creditor, it is not “the list of creditors’ names and addresses” that Rule 1007(a) requires.

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Bankruptcy Court Dismisses NRA’s Ch. 11 Petition

United States Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale recently dismissed the National Rifle Association’s Chapter 11 petition as not filed in good faith.  The decision leaves the 150-year-old gun-rights organization susceptible to the New York Attorney General’s suit seeking to dissolve it.

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Appeals Court Rules That a Discharge Injunction Bars a Fraudulent Transfer Claim Based on a Non-Dischargeable Debt

A discharge of debt in bankruptcy “operates as an injunction against the commencement or continuation of an action, the employment of process, or an act, to collect, recover or offset any such debt as a personal liability of the debtor. . . .”  11 U.S.C. § 524(a)(2).  Certain debts, however, including debts “for violation of . . . any of the State securities laws,” are not subject to discharge.  See 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(19).  A discharge injunction does not bar the collection of such debts.  Does a discharge injunction bar a fraudulent transfer action, when that action is brought based on an underlying non-dischargeable debt?  In a recent decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit considered this issue, and concluded that the discharge injunction barred a fraudulent transfer action under the Alabama Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“AUFTA”), because the fraudulent transfer claim gave rise to a separate liability from the underlying non-dischargeable debt.  SuVicMon Development, Inc. v. Morrison, 991 F.3d 1213 (11th Cir. March 25, 2021).

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The Final Say: Conversion from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 is Not a Given

It is well-settled that if you are a debtor in chapter 11, you do not have the unfettered right to convert the case to a chapter 7 liquidation.  A recent 10th Circuit decision shows why. Kearney v. Unsecured Creditors Committee et al., BAP No. 20-33, 2021 WL 941435 (B.A.P. 10th Cir. Mar. 12, 2021).

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Consider Skipping the “Certified” Option When Serving Pleadings

When serving pleadings in an adversary proceeding, you may want to skip the certified option and go with regular first-class mail, or do both.

Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7004 governs service of process in adversary proceedings.  The statute specifically provides for service by first class mail. And while some courts will also permit service of pleadings by certified mail, other courts forbid the use of certified mail.

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Debtor Alleges Thirteenth Amendment Violation; Court Says Debtor Has Standing to Assert the Claim; Decision on the Merits to Follow

It’s rare for a debtor in bankruptcy to raise allegations of involuntary servitude and a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.  But one debtor did just that in a recent chapter 11 case.  The court had appointed a trustee to take over the debtor’s bankruptcy estate.  This prompted the debtor to assert a violation of his constitutional rights, arguing that he would be involuntarily forced to work for his creditors.

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Section 1126 of the Bankruptcy Code and the Dangers of Sleeping on Your Rights as a Creditor

A seat at the table: this is what you likely want when your financial interests are drawn into a bankruptcy court proceeding.  You’ll seek to be heard and do what you can to maximize your recovery. This is especially true if you’re a creditor in a chapter 11 case.  Yet a recent decision shows what can happen if you do the opposite and choose to “sit one out” rather than have a say in the outcome of a chapter 11 case. In re Fred Bressler, No. 20-31023, 21 WL 126184 (Bankr. S.D. Tex. Jan. 13, 2021).

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Delaware Bankruptcy Court Issues Decision on Whether a Debtor Can Be a “Financial Participant”

We have blogged previously about section 546(e), the Bankruptcy Code’s safe harbor for certain transfers otherwise subject to avoidance as preferences or fraudulent transfers.  See 11 U.S.C. § 546(e).  Among the transfers protected by the section 546(e) safe harbor are transfers by or to a “financial participant” made “in connection with a securities contract.”  Id.  The Bankruptcy Code in turn defines “financial participant” to mean an entity that has certain financial agreements or transactions of “total gross dollar value of not less than $1,000,000,000 in notional or actual principal amount outstanding” or “gross mark-to-market positions of not less than $100,000,000 . . . in one or more such agreements or transactions.”  11 U.S.C. § 101(22A)(A).  In both cases, the “agreements or transactions” must be “with the debtor or any other entity.”  Id.  Since an entity cannot engage in an agreement or transaction with itself, does the language providing that such agreements and transactions must be “with the debtor or any other entity” mean that the debtor cannot be a financial participant”?  On December 23, 2020, Judge Shannon of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware ruled that debtors could be financial participants, disagreeing with a previous decision from the Southern District of New York.

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The Importance of Loan Underwriting When Restrictions on Bankruptcy Cannot Singlehandedly Save the Day: Sutton 58 Associates LLC v. Phillip Pivelsky, et al.

In sophisticated real estate financing transactions, most prudent lenders attempt to deter borrowers from filing for bankruptcy before loans are paid in full by providing in loan documents that such a filing constitutes an event of default. Many lenders will insist that their borrowers remain “bankruptcy remote” in the form of a so-called “single asset real estate” entity during the term of the loan.

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Bankruptcy Court Denies Section 546(e) Safe Harbor Protection in Fraudulent Transfer Action

The Bankruptcy Code enables a trustee to set aside certain transfers made by debtors before bankruptcy.  See 11 U.S.C. §§ 544, 547, 548.  These avoidance powers are subject to certain limitations, including a safe harbor in section 546(e) exempting certain transfers.  Among other things, section 546(e) bars avoidance of a “settlement payment . . . made by or to (or for the benefit of) . . . a financial institution [or] a transfer made by or to (or for the benefit of) a . . . financial institution . . . in connection with a securities contract.”  The Bankruptcy Code in turn defines a “financial institution” to include not only financial institutions as conventionally understood, such as “a Federal reserve bank, or an entity that is a commercial or savings bank, industrial savings bank, savings and loan association, trust company, federally-insured credit union, or receiver, liquidating agent, or conservator for such entity,” but also a customer of such institutions when such institutions are “acting as agent or custodian for [such] customer . . . in connection with a securities contract.”  11 U.S.C. § 101(22)(A).  Because a transfer to a “financial institution” in connection with a securities contract is shielded by section 546(e) from avoidance, the question of which “customers” of financial institutions qualify as financial institutions under this definition has become highly litigated.  On October 22, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued a new decision on this question, ruling that the recipients of an alleged fraudulent transfer did not qualify as “financial institutions” under the Bankruptcy Code because the bank that transmitted the payments was not acting as an “agent or custodian” for the recipients.

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The Best Laid Plans: How a Proposed Sale of NYC Real Estate Under Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code Went Awry

There are several ways in which property owners can advantageously use the Bankruptcy Code to effectuate strategic dispositions of assets.  But the bankruptcy process can be fraught with uncertainty that can upend the best laid plans. The matter of In re Wansdown Properties Corp. N.V., No. 19-13223 (SMB), 2020 WL 5887542 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Oct. 5, 2020) provides an instructive and cautionary example.

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Delaware Bankruptcy Court Rejects Late Filings of Asbestos Claims

Last February, we blogged about the Third Circuit’s decision in In re Energy Future Holdings Corp, No. 19-1430, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 4947 (Feb. 18, 2020).  The Third Circuit approved a process for resolving asbestos claims in which a bar date was imposed on filing the claims, but late claimants who were unaware of their asbestos claims would be allowed to have the bar date excused through Bankruptcy Rule 3003(c)(3).  (A bar date is a date set by the court by which all claims against the debtor must be filed.  Rule 3003(c)(3) permits such time for filing to be extended “for cause shown,” and has been held, based on Rule 9006(b), to permit late filing upon a showing of “excusable neglect” by a claimant.)  In a recent decision, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware rejected an effort by two late claimants to make use of this process, reasoning that the claimants had failed to meet Rule 3003(c)(3)’s “excusable neglect” standard because they had participated in the bankruptcy case for years without seeking to file claims.

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Computing Time for a Filing Deadline: Should You Count a Day When a Clerk’s Office is Closed?

This post concerns computation of time under Bankruptcy Rule 9006.  The specific issue addressed is whether a bankruptcy court — when computing a filing deadline — should count a day when its clerk’s office is closed, even if the electronic filing system is available.  In a recent case, a federal district judge explained why in his view the day shouldn’t be counted.  Labbadia v. Martin (In re Martin), No. 3:20-cv-939, 2020 WL 5300932, (SRU) (D. Conn. Sept. 4, 2020).

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District Court Addresses “Straddle Year” Treatment for Federal Income Tax in Bankruptcy

In an appeal of a bankruptcy court’s decision, a district court judge recently addressed the treatment of the “straddle year” for federal income tax under the Bankruptcy Code, which “does not appear to have been decided by any appellate court.”  In re Affirmative Ins. Holdings Inc. United States v. Beskrone, No. 15-12136-CSS, 2020 WL 4287375, at *1 (D. Del. July 27, 2020).

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New Appeals Court Ruling on the Scope of Subsequent Transferee Liability Under Section 550

Section 550 of the Bankruptcy Code provides that, when a transfer is avoided under one of several other sections of the Code, a trustee may recover “the property transferred, or, if the court so orders, the value of such property” from “the initial transferee of such transfer,” “the entity for whose benefit such transfer was made,” or “any immediate or mediate transferee of such initial transferee.”  11 U.S.C. § 550(a).  (Transferees in the last category are known as subsequent transferees.)  For example, if an entity receives a fraudulent transfer of cash, and then passes on the cash to a third party, the third party can be liable under section 550.[1]  But what if the transfer is of a non-cash asset?  To qualify as an “immediate or mediate transferee” under section 550, is it necessary to receive the actual asset, or does it suffice to receive funds derived from the asset?  The Tenth Circuit addressed this question in its recent decision in Rajala v. Spencer Fane LLP (Generation Resources Holding Company, LLC), 2020 WL 3887850 (10th Cir. July 10, 2020).  The Tenth Circuit held that, to qualify as a “transferee” under section 550, a party must have received the actual “property transferred."

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A Primer On Administrative Expense Claims From An Oil And Gas Bankruptcy Case

This post provides a quick primer on administrative expense claims.  These claims are entitled to priority for actual and necessary goods and services supplied to a debtor in bankruptcy.  For a claim to qualify for administrative expense status, a debtor must request that the claimant provide goods and services post-petition or induce the claimant to do so.  The goods or services must result in a benefit to the bankruptcy estate.  And the claimant bears the burden of proof that a claim qualifies for priority treatment under 11 U.S.C. § 503(b)(1)(A).

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Bankruptcy Sales Under Section 363: The Business Judgment Test That Judges Often Cite Isn’t Always the One They Use

This post originally appeared in Norton Journal of Bankruptcy Law and Practice.

Bankruptcy court approval is required when a debtor wants to sell property outside the ordinary course of its business. Courts will allow transactions that reflect a debtor’s informed business judgment. When courts consider the rationale and evidence a debtor submits, they will sometimes cite the business judgment test as it has been articulated by the Delaware Supreme Court in cases involving consideration of corporate officers’ fiduciary duties. But, in practice, bankruptcy courts apply a different bankruptcy law business judgment standard when reviewing a debtor’s proposed sale of estate property. In the corporate law context, judges will not question a board’s decision if there is no evidence of flaws in the decision making process. But in the bankruptcy context, judges will make sure a debtor has a valid business reason for the proposed sale of estate property.

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Federal Appeals Court Addresses Equitable Mootness Doctrine

Courts reviewing a bankruptcy court’s decision to approve a chapter 11 reorganization plan over the objections of an interested party must consider not only the merits, but also (if implementation of the plan was not stayed) potential injury to the reliance interests of other parties relying on the plan. These issues are confronted in Drivetrain, LLC v. Kozel (In re Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas), 2020 WL 2121449 (10th Cir. May 5, 2020), a recent Tenth Circuit decision holding, based on circuit precedent, that an objector’s challenge to a chapter 11 plan that had already been implemented was barred under the doctrine of equitable mootness. Nonetheless, the decision noted that the doctrine is controversial and open to question.

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Fraudulent Transfers and Constructive Fraud in the Contracts and Torts Contexts

A recent decision, In re: Grandparents.com, Inc.., et al., Debtors. Joshua Rizack, as Liquidating Tr., Plaintiff, v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Company, Defendant, Additional Party Names: Grand Card LLC, provides insight on the intersection between and among contract, tort, and fraudulent transfer theories of recovery.

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Bankruptcy Considerations in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is taking an alarming and unfortunate toll on our country’s population. Each day, we collectively face daunting health risks, and the economic cost to individuals and businesses alike has already been, and will continue to be, staggering. Accordingly, more than at any point in the past decade, both debtors and creditors should consider the potential benefits of the bankruptcy process. This post discusses four basic bankruptcy concepts that always merit consideration, especially in these trying times.

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Bankruptcy Court Closes Chapter 11 Cases Even with an Appeal Pending and Over the Objection of the U.S. Trustee.

Debtors in chapter 11 cases are required to make quarterly payments to the United States Trustee’s Office.  These fees support the UST Program that serves in all districts but those in two states.  Quarterly fees must be paid until cases are closed.  And cases are closed when they are “fully administered,” a term that isn’t defined in the Bankruptcy Code or Rules.

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Third Circuit Addresses the Due Process Rights of Asbestos Claimants

When there are large numbers of substantial individual tort claims against a debtor, potentially involving claimants unknowable to the debtor who themselves may not know they have a claim, the bankruptcy process faces special problems.  One objective of bankruptcy is to afford final relief to the debtor from the debtor’s debts, but discharging the claims of those unknown claimants without notice and a hearing poses due process problems.  A standard way to address this issue, which has arisen prominently in asbestos cases, is for the debtor to create and fund a trust to provide for tort claims brought in the future, with the court issuing an injunction channeling such claims to the trust rather than the reorganized entity.  See, e.g., 11 U.S.C. § 524(g) (providing for such trusts for asbestos-related litigation).  But are such trusts the only way to resolve such claims?  This question is raised by the Third Circuit’s recent decision in In re Energy Future Holdings Corp, No. 19-1430, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 4947 (Feb. 18, 2020).  The debtor instead devised a process reliant on Rule 3003(c)(3) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which authorizes a court to extend the time for filing a claim “for cause shown.”  In the circumstances of that case, and with publication notice to potential claimants, the Third Circuit held that this approach comported with due process.

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Bankruptcy Appellate Practice: The Entry of Bankruptcy Court Orders and the 14-Day Period to Appeal

An appeal from a bankruptcy court’s final judgment must be filed within 14 days of when an appealable order is entered on the docket.  Parties should not delay past the 14 days even if, for instance, the bankruptcy court must still decide a related request for an award of attorneys’ fees.  Otherwise, an appeal will be untimely under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8002(a)(1).

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Supreme Court Resolves the Appealability of Orders Denying Relief from the Automatic Stay

When a debtor files for bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Code provides for an automatic stay of almost all proceedings to recover property from the debtor.  See 11 U.S.C. § 362(a).  A party in interest can seek an order exempting it from the automatic stay for cause.  11 U.S.C. § 362(d).  A creditor that fails to obtain relief from the stay is limited to the claim-adjudication process in bankruptcy court.  What happens if the bankruptcy court rules against a creditor seeking relief from the automatic stay, and the creditor seeks to appeal?  Can the creditor appeal immediately or must it wait until its claim is fully adjudicated in bankruptcy court?  The question turns on the interpretation of the federal statute governing bankruptcy appeals, which provides that appeals may be taken from “final judgments, orders and decrees . . . entered in cases and proceedings.”  28 U.S.C. § 158(a) (emphasis added).  An automatic stay does not finally resolve a bankruptcy “case,” but does it finally resolve a bankruptcy “proceeding”?  On January 14, the Supreme Court resolved that question affirmatively in an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, ruling that a creditor who is denied relief from the automatic stay may appeal immediately.

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