S.D.N.Y. Holds that Avoidance Powers Can be Applied Extraterritorially

By Fredric Sosnick, Douglas P. Bartner, Joel Moss, Solomon J. Noh and Ned S. Schodek of Shearman & Sterling LLP

On January 4, 2016, in one of the recent decisions In re Lyondell Chemical Company, et al., the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York deviated from S.D.N.Y. precedent and held that, despite the absence of clear Congressional intent, the avoidance powers provided for under Section 548 of the Bankruptcy Code can be applied extraterritorially. As a result, a fraudulent transfer of property of a debtor’s estate that occurs outside of the United States can be recovered under Sec. 550 of the Bankruptcy Code.

The lack of clear Congressional intent that avoidance powers apply to foreign transactions was the basis for prior decisions in the S. D. N. Y., which took the opposite view and held that the avoidance powers only apply domestically.  Those courts reasoned that if Congress intended for the avoidance powers to have extraterritorial reach, it could have so stated either the relevant statutory provisions governing avoidance actions under the Bankruptcy Code or in Sec. 541 itself.  In the current decision In re Lyondell, judge Gerber expressed his respectful disagreement to the extent that his decision is inconsistent with prior decisions recognizing the general presumption against extraterritoriality absent explicit language to the contrary. This ruling furthers uncertainty in the S. D. N. Y. as to whether transfers that occur abroad may be avoided in a Chapter 7 or 11 case.

The full memo is available here.

Second Circuit Says Section 546 of Bankruptcy Code Preempts State Law Constructive Fraud Claims

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Donald Bernstein, Elliot Moskowitz, Damian Schaible, Eli Vonnegut, Alicia Llosa Chang, and Tina Hwa Joe of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

On March 29, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an important opinion that limits the ability of creditors to assert constructive fraudulent transfer claims in major bankruptcy cases.  In a unanimous opinion, the Circuit held that in circumstances where Section 546 of the Bankruptcy Code bars estate representatives from asserting constructive fraudulent conveyance claims under state law, the statute likewise prevents individual creditors from bringing those claims after the estate’s time to do so expires.  In several recent Chapter 11 cases, individual creditors argued that the statute should only preclude a “trustee” – the term used in the statutory text – from bringing such claims, not individual creditors.  The Circuit’s ruling in In re: Tribune Company Fraudulent Conveyance Litigation, No. 13-3992, and summary order in related case Whyte v. Barclays Bank, 13-2653, were the first decisions from a circuit court on the issue and settled a conflict among its lower courts.  In a 53-page decision, the Circuit rejected the argument that the text of the statute only bars constructive fraud claims brought by a trustee or other estate representative, instead holding that the doctrine of implied preemption protects settlement payments and swap transactions from constructive fraud claims brought by any party.  The decision may put an end to recent attempts by creditors to circumvent Section 546(e) and related provisions in bringing such claims.

The full memo is available here.

Tighter Standards Emerge For Pleading Intentional Fraudulent Transfer Claims

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Mark Chehi, Robert Weber and Stephen Della Penna of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York recently dismissed intentional fraudulent transfer claims asserted against former shareholders of Lyondell Chemical Company. Weisfelner v. Fund 1 (In re Lyondell Chemical Co.), 541 B.R. 172 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2015) (“Lyondell II”). The Bankruptcy Court opinion adopts a strict view of what constitutes “intent,” and thereby tightens pleading standards applicable to complaints asserting intentional fraudulent transfers.

The intentional fraudulent transfer claims at issue focused on Basell AFSCA’s 2007 leveraged acquisition of Lyondell Chemical Company. As is typical in LBO transactions, Lyondell itself borrowed money to finance the LBO and pay its former shareholders for their Lyondell shares. Just 13 months later, Lyondell filed a voluntary chapter 11 petition.

A bankruptcy trustee subsequently asserted fraudulent transfer claims against the former Lyondell shareholders to recover the LBO payments received by them. The litigation asserted that the 2007 LBO transaction was avoidable as an intentional fraudulent transfer. The Bankruptcy Court dismissed the claims and adopted a restrictive pleading standard that requires an intentional fraudulent transfer plaintiff to plead facts that show “actual intent, as opposed to implied or presumed intent.” The plaintiff must allege some sort of “intentional action to injure creditors.” Alleging “[o]ther wrongful acts that . . . may be seriously prejudicial to creditors” – such as negligence or a breach of fiduciary duty – will not support an intentional fraudulent transfer claim.

The full article is available here.

The Abolition of Dysfunctional Contracts in Bankruptcy Reorganizations

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Jay Lawrence Westbrook and Kelsi Marie Stayart, University of Texas at Austin School of Law

A traditional case law test has limited the application of bankruptcy contract rules to contracts that have a certain nearly mystical quality of “executoriness.” Contracts that fail the “Countryman” test are deemed not subject to those value-maximizing rules. Courts treat these contracts in a variety of ways, but often these contracts are removed entirely from the bankruptcy estate, destroying value and crippling reorganization efforts. These effects are especially serious with regard to less-traditional types of contracts, including IP licenses, options, and LLC operating agreements. The application of the test undercuts almost every policy underlying the Bankruptcy Code, including the fresh start and equal treatment of creditors. The test also gives judges an unpredictable and nearly unlimited discretion in resolving contracts often worth huge amounts of money.

Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code allows a trustee or debtor-in-possession to assume or reject “executory contracts.” Assumption permits the estate to take on profitable contracts and make the contract counterparty perform, while elevating the counterparty to an administrative claimant. Rejection permits the bankruptcy estate to escape unprofitable or ill-advised contracts, leaving the contract counterparty with a damage claim payable in small Bankruptcy Dollars. The effect is to spread losses among all unsecured creditors while minimizing the overall loss. The existing approach prevents the achievement of these important results.

We propose an abolition of the requirement of “executoriness,” thus subjecting virtually all contracts to Section 365. In its place, we offer a simple approach to analyzing contracts in bankruptcy that aligns with and advances the fundamental principles of bankruptcy reorganization.

For the full article, see here.

10th Circuit Holds That First Time Transaction Falls Within 11 U.S.C. 547 (c)(2), Ordinary Course of Business Defense

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Purvi Shah and Michelle McMahon of Bryan Cave

In re C.W. Mining. Co., the United Stated Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower courts’ decisions holding that in a proceeding seeking to avoid and recover a payment made on account of a first time transaction between a debtor and creditor such payment can be defended under the ordinary course of business defense provided in 11 U.S.C. § 547(c)(2). In reaching its decision, the Tenth Circuit focused on the language of the statute and held that 11 U.S.C. § 547(c)(2) protects payments made in the ordinary course of business or financial affairs of the debtor and the transferee, not between the debtor and transferee. With this decision, the Tenth Circuit joined the Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuits that have held first time transactions defensible under 11 U.S.C. § 547(c)(2). In this context, the Ninth Circuit previously explained that “[a] first-time debt must be ordinary in relation to this debtor’s and this creditor’s past practices when dealing with other, similarly situated parties.” Wood v. Stratos Prod. Dev., LLC (In re Ahaza Sys. Inc.), 482 F.3d 1118, 1126 (9th Cir. 2007).

The full article is available here.

Earth to Creditors: Triangular Payment Arrangements May Constitute “Reasonably Equivalent Value”

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Bryce Suzuki and Amanda Cartwright of Bryan Cave

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently clarified the meaning of “reasonably equivalent value” in a complex fraudulent transfer case. In In re PSN USA, Inc., Case No. 14-15352 (11th Cir. Sept. 4, 2015), the Court found that payments made to fulfill contractual obligations of third parties were not fraudulent transfers where an economic benefit was directly or indirectly conferred upon the transferor.

This decision provides particular insight into fraudulent transfers in the context of parent-subsidiary and other triangular payment arrangements. Even though the debtor, a cable television channel, was not a party to the underlying satellite services contract at issue, the Court held that payments made from the debtor to the satellite services company pursuant to its parent company’s contracts constituted “reasonably equivalent value” and could not be avoided as constructive fraudulent transfers.

The Court’s opinion hinged on benefits derived by the debtor from those contracts.  Specifically, the satellite services contracts, to which the debtor was not party, permitted the debtor to operate a television channel and earn a service fee from that operation. The indirect benefit to the debtor through the contracts was sufficient to satisfy the “reasonably equivalent value” requirement, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s order that the transfers were not avoidable.

The full article is available here.

Rights of Creditors Will be Determined by Contract Terms and Fraudulent Conveyance Statutes—Quadrant v. Vertin

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Abigail Pickering Bomba, Steven Epstein, Arthur Fleischer, Jr., Peter S. Golden, Brian T. Mangino, J.Christian Nahr, Philip Richter, Brad Eric Scheler, Robert C. Schwenkel, Gail Weinstein of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

In Quadrant Structured Prods. Co., Ltd. v. Vertin, No. 6990-VCL, 2015 WL 6157759 (Del. Ch. Oct. 20, 2015), the Delaware Court of Chancery emphasized that creditors’ rights will flow from the contractually agreed terms of the debt, and that creditors’ derivative claims for breach of fiduciary duty will rarely succeed.

Fried Frank discusses whether there are circumstances under which a creditor’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty might succeed. Based on Vertin and a prior opinion in the case, it can be argued that a creditor’s fiduciary duty claim regarding a company’s post-insolvency adoption of an equity value maximization plan can succeed only if the directors were so uncareful or disloyal in formulating the plan, or the plan was so patently flawed, that the plan would not pass muster under the business judgment rule. Moreover, although the transactions in Vertin did not support a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, the opinion leaves open whether affiliated transactions may give rise to a creditor’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty.

For the full memo, please click here.

The Problem With Preferences

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Daniel J. Bussel, UCLA School of Law

BusselBrook Gotberg in Conflicting Preferences does a great service in lucidly identifying the problem with preference law as currently configured. But she errs in diagnosing the cause and prescribing the treatment. As to cause, preference law is not and should not be a single-minded pursuit of equality of distribution without consideration of complementary, and even countervailing policies. To the contrary, the recent arc of preference law is strongly driven by refocusing on culpable opt-out behavior, and the goal of ratable distribution has been sharply subordinated to other objectives.

Repealing preference law in Chapter 11 would be counterproductive. Blanket repeal of preference law in Chapter 11, while simultaneously enhancing preference recovery in Chapter 7, insulates, indeed rewards, affirmative pre-bankruptcy opt-out behavior by insiders and creditors with superior knowledge or leverage, while undermining the reorganization objectives of Chapter 11. It will encourage, and in some instances require, liquidations that would not otherwise be necessary or desirable. Raising (not abandoning) the floor on preference recovery, bolstering (not eliminating) trade creditors’ ordinary course and new value defenses, and limiting or eliminating the safe harbors for financial contracts, all without discriminating between Code chapters, would reduce arbitrariness and unfairness in preference law. These more modest reforms would enable preference law to continue to police the most extreme forms of opt-out behavior, while fostering reorganizations where such reorganizations remain viable and desirable notwithstanding eve-of-bankruptcy opt-out actions by creditors and insiders.

For the full article see The Problem With Preferences, 100 Iowa L. Rev. Bull. 11, available here.

Conflicting Preferences: Avoiding Proceedings in Bankruptcy Liquidation and Reorganization

posted in: Avoidance | 0

By Brook Gotberg, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

GotbergThe law of preferential transfers permits the trustee of a bankruptcy estate to avoid transfers made by the debtor to a creditor on account of a prior debt in the 90 days leading up to the bankruptcy proceeding.  The standard for avoiding these preferential transfers is one of strict liability, on the rationale that preference actions exist to ensure that all general creditors of the bankruptcy estate recover the same proportional amount, regardless of the debtor’s intent to favor any one creditor or the creditor’s intent to be so favored.  But preference law also permits certain exceptions to strict preference liability and gives the estate trustee discretion in pursuing preference actions. This undermines the policy of equal distribution by permitting some creditors to fare better than others in the bankruptcy distribution.  However, these practices are arguably necessary to promote the conflicting bankruptcy policies that seek to maximize the value of the estate for the benefit of creditors and also encourage the survival of struggling businesses.

As a result, the law of preferences is internally inconsistent and controversial, attempting unsuccessfully to serve multiple policy masters simultaneously.  Much of the analysis on preferences up to now has proposed amending preference law generally in an attempt to satisfy these often conflicting demands.  This article recommends a more dramatic approach; returning preference law to a mechanism of equal distribution in liquidation proceedings (Chapter 7) by eliminating true exceptions to the rule, and doing away with preference law in the context of bankruptcy reorganization (Chapter 11).

For the full article see here.

Next week we will be featuring another article on this topic, Professor Daniel J. Bussel’s The Problem with Preferences.

Delaware District Court Affirms Order Approving Gifting In Chapter 11 Case

posted in: Avoidance | 0

Author: Mindy Mora of Billzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, LLP

In an unusual but practical decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware affirmed a bankruptcy court order which approved both a sale of the debtors’ assets and the establishment of an escrow account to provide a “gift” to fund a distribution to the debtors’ unsecured creditors.  What is significant about this decision is that it approved the use of gifting in a chapter 11 bankruptcy case.  LCI Holding Company, Inc., civ. no. 13-924 (D. Del. March 10, 2014).

The concept of gifting in a bankruptcy case allows a secured creditor or purchaser to overcome objections to a sale of assets interposed by the debtor’s unsecured creditors.  Often, the gift consists of a pool of funds for distribution to the debtors’ unsecured creditors, and bypasses the claims of priority creditors with more senior claims.  See In re SPM Mfg. Corp., 984 F.2d 1305 (1st Cir. 1993).

A distribution that bypasses priority claims raises the issue of whether gifting is permissible in a chapter 11 case, based upon the requirement that distributions under a plan of reorganization must comply with the Bankruptcy Code, including the priority scheme for distributions to creditors and the absolute priority rule set forth in Bankruptcy Code § 1129(b)(2)(B).  This type of compliance is not mandated in chapter 7 cases, in which bankruptcy courts have authorized gifting more regularly.  See id.  Apparently in Delaware, gifting is permitted in a chapter 11 case, so long as the sale of assets is followed by a dismissal of the case without the confirmation of a plan.

Link to full articlehttp://www.financeandrestructuringblog.com/2014/06/delaware-district-court-affirms-order-approving-gifting-in-chapter-11-case/

1 2 3